The

S ecret

A merican

Revolution

 

The Sheladar Affair

 

by Robert Lukens

 

 

Copyright 2011 by Robert Lukens

 

 

 

Prolog

Florida may have been designed with boaters in mind, or vice versa. Not only is it nearly surrounded by water, but along much of its coast, long narrow, littoral islands are separated from the mainland by waterways which provide boaters with miles and miles of protected, subtropical waters for their enjoyment. These littoral islands and the mainland side of the waterways are home to many thousands of those whose desire to live on or near the water is stronger than their fear of the occasional hurricanes.

On the eastern or mainland side of the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, three people stood in the wide, semi-circular driveway in front of a sparkling white house. They were obviously waiting for something or someone, and their demeanor indicated it was a happy occasion. When a shiny, white Lexus rolled slowly up the driveway toward the house, the only sound it made was the crunching of the snow-white stones under the tires. It was obvious this was what they had been waiting for. They were smiling, and their bodies came alive with the little random movements of joyful anticipation, as they moved to make way for the Lexus. The Lexus stopped at the base of the wide steps leading up to the house's front door. A tall, middle-aged man, in a charcoal gray suit, jumped out, ran around to the other side, opened the door, and helped a considerably older woman out of the car.

"It looks like everyone is waiting for you, Mother," he said.

As the waiting trio gathered around her, the elderly woman looked up at them and smiled broadly. One by one, they embraced her frail body.

"Martha," said the older woman, to a middle-aged woman who was hugging her gently, as if she might break.

"We were expecting you sooner, Valerie," said Martha.

"I needed to be alone with my memories for a while after the funeral," said Valerie. "I doubt I would have been good company. I wanted to spend some time in the West Virginia cabin, where we fell in love. When the weather started getting cold, my arthritis kept reminding me how much warmer it would be down here in Florida."

"Well, you’re here now," said Martha, "and we’re glad."

"Hello, Grandma," said a tall, lanky, dark-haired young man.

"Andre, you are starting to look a lot like your grandfather when I first saw him," said Valerie, giving him a hug. "Maybe you are even more handsome, if that's possible."

Last in line was a pretty, young woman, who hugged Valerie for a long time, saying nothing.

"Victoria," said Valerie. "Let me take your arm. You can help me into the house. With no handrail, those steps may present a bit of an obstacle for me. "

The man who had arrived with her took her other arm and said, "Let me help you too. I know you wouldn't admit it, Mother, but you must be a little tired from the trip. Do you want to rest a while?"

"I am a little tired, Brett," said Valerie, "but I'll just take it easy for a while. Maybe I'll rest later on. I’m too excited to rest now." She looked up at the house, as they started up the steps. "What a beautiful house."

"We have been so anxious for you to come and see it," said Brett. "I knew you would love it. As you know, we redecorated the guest house especially for you and --" His voice broke off.

"Oh, how I know that feeling," said Valerie, with a sigh. "It happens to me all the time. I finally gave up catching myself. I just go ahead and say it. I don't really think he hears me, but I talk to my memories of him. They can never die, not until I do."

As they entered the house, the older woman stopped abruptly. "What a house you have here,” she exclaimed. “I can't believe how beautiful it is." She put her hand over her face and cried. They gathered around her. "God, how he would have loved this," she said. "What a shame he never got to see it. He was so anxious to get down here. Of course, he mostly wanted to see you all. He called his family his blessing. He was always praising you and your success, Brett, and saying what an ideal son you were and how lucky you were to have found a woman like Martha and to have the two best children he had ever heard of. Right after you told him you were fixing the guesthouse for us, he began suggesting we were getting too old for the cold, northern winters. He wanted to be down here with you so badly, but it happened so fast. If only we hadn't put off coming down here for so long. We should have come to visit you and then gone back to put things in order, instead of vice versa. I can't help thinking my being so 'practical' kept him from ever seeing this beautiful house and having one more visit with the people he loved the most. Now that it’s too late, I see things so differently."

"When you have rested a little, I'll give you a tour of the house," said Martha. She turned away, lifted her glasses and wiped her eyes with her fingertip. "We can sit outside. Can I get you something to drink, Valerie?"

"In this tropical paradise, I think a rum and Coke would be appropriate," said Valerie. "Go easy on the rum, though. I may want another one later."

 

Later that evening, the family sat in the same outdoor living area to enjoy a glorious sunset, to sip their cocktails, and to watch the occasional boat go by.

"You must spend a lot of your evenings here," said Valerie, "especially when you have beautiful sunsets like this. I love it out here. It's like a living room without walls. The sky is incredible, and the water glows with the colors of the sky. Now, the lights are starting to go on across the water, and I know it’s going to be beautiful after dark too."

"We haven't been here all that long ourselves," said Martha. "Sometimes, we wonder if we will ever get so used to it we no longer enjoy it the way we do now. I hope not."

"I don’t think that will ever happen," said Brett. "I've been with you for a long time, Martha, and I enjoy you more than ever."

"You always know the right thing to say," said Martha, "and you say it, which is even better."

"You know, Brett," said Valerie, "if you think about it, your father isn't completely gone. Half of your genes are his, and a quarter of Andre's and Victoria's. He and I always said we were a part of each other, and surely, you are a part of Martha. A part of him is in each of us. So, in a mystical, way, he’s here, in us, enjoying all of this beauty and love. At least, it's comforting to think that, and it should motivate us to get our priorities straight and get the maximum enjoyment out of every minute."

Everyone agreed with her, and they drank a toast to the group’s mystic member.

"However," said Valerie, "now that he is physically gone, there is something I promised him I would take care of. It’s a major task, and I could use the help of at least one of you."

"What is this major task?" asked Brett.

"Just about everyone in America, if not everyone on earth, is familiar with the story of The Sheladar Affair," said Valerie. "However, they only know the story in general. They know what happened, but they don’t really know how or why it happened. I have the task of putting together a book telling the complete story of the TSA.”

“How do you know all these details about The Sheladar Affair,” asked Victoria.

“I was a part of it, from start to finish,” said Valerie.

"Are you telling us you were somehow directly involved in The Sheladar Affair, Mother?" asked Brett. "There have been a lot of people who claimed to have been indirectly involved, but each of them knew something about one single incident. I think we can say that more people know about The Sheladar Affair than anything that happened on this planet in recorded history. True, many aspects are a bit sketchy. If you know these details, how is it you never told us about it before? Such a book would sell billions of copies around the world."

"I’m going to ask everyone to hold all questions about the TSA until we have it organized in book form," said Valerie. “Martha, you majored in English literature, and you have done a bit of writing. You, Victoria, are a professional writer. Obviously, you don't have to do it if you don't want to, but I’m sure it would be a much more professional job with your help."

Both Martha and Victoria quickly said they would be glad to do whatever they could to help Valerie.

"There is one important detail," said Valerie. "Once we have finished, we can't publish the book, and you have to swear not to let anyone outside of the family know anything at all about the contents. We will just write the book, encrypt it, make several copies of it on CD's, and save it for some possible time in the future, when it is appropriate to let the story be known."

"How tantalizingly mysterious," said Martha. "Why the secrecy? If you don't want anyone to know about it, why write it down in the first place?"

"When you know the story," said Valerie, "you will know why, and I'm sure you will agree that it must be kept secret for now. Perhaps it can be told someday, but not for some time. I think you will also agree it is important there be a record of it."

"Doesn't anyone else know this secret?" asked Victoria.

"I’m sure quite a few are still around that know little bits and pieces of the events story," said Valerie, "but they only know about the parts they were involved in, nothing more, and they only know what happened, not why. No one still alive knows the real background story as I do, and that is the part that has been and will continue to be kept secret. There were a few others who knew it as well as I do, but they are no longer with us. I was closely involved with them the whole time.  As soon as it was over, I set about compiling a history of the events. I have hundreds of pages of records and notes, but they need to be organized and turned into a book. The purpose of the book is to record the unknown background story, not so much the individual events, which are already well known. In case you haven't noticed, I'm not so young, anymore, and if something happened to me, the story would be lost forever."

She paused, and then added, "Remember, you won't be able to tell anyone outside the family. If I thought for a minute that one of you might tell someone, I couldn't let you know about it. I would let the story die with me, before I would risk it becoming public prematurely. You have to give me your solemn oath never to divulge it without my permission while I'm alive, and after I'm gone, only if you unanimously agree it is prudent to do so."

"Victoria would be better for the job," said Martha. "She's a better writer, but we can both work on it to save time. She can do the polishing up."

For the next half hour, they discussed how they might go about creating the book. In the end, it was agreed they would record the story as Valerie dictated it to them from her notes and memory, and then Martha and Victoria would compose a rough draft of the book, using the recording, their notes, and Valerie's assistance. Then they would polish the rough draft into its final form. The rest of the family was anxious to hear the story, but agreed to wait and read the book when it was finished.

It was getting dark, and Brett turned on a few lights. With the matter of the book settled, the conversation drifted from topic to topic, until Valerie, said, “I think my long day has caught up with me. I’m about to fall asleep in this comfortable chair.”

“Of course, you have to be tired,” said Martha, standing. “I’ll walk with you to the guest house.”

“Goodnight, everyone,” said Valerie, slowly rising to her feet. “It has been so wonderful to be here with you all.”

They all gathered around her, bidding her goodnight, and assuring her that they, too, were glad that she was with them. They called their goodnights again as Martha led her away.

 

 

The days and the weeks turned into months, and the months slipped by. After almost a year, the final draft of the book was complete. It was a Saturday morning. In the shaded area of the outdoor living area, Victoria sat before a small table. On the table were a laptop computer, a glass, and a pitcher of water. Anxious to hear the story they had waited so long for, the rest of the family had drawn their chairs in a semi-circle around Victoria.

"I'll read until I get tired," said Victoria, "and then Mother can take over and read for a while. Is everyone ready?" They assured her they were more than ready. Adjusting the tilt of the laptop's screen for the best display, she began to read.

 

Chapter 1

Early 21st Century

In Central America

 

"Major," called a voice from high in a tree, where a soldier was perched among the branches, taking his turn at watch.

"What is it, Tony?" asked Major Rhett Bartlett, who, along with three other men, had been resting on a bed of giant leaves spread on the ground at the base of the tree.

"A bunch of them are leaving," said the man in the tree.

"How many?" asked Rhett, as he got to his feet.

"Can't tell yet," came the answer. "Fourteen, so far. They're still dribbling out."

"Come on, guys," said Rhett, nudging the other men with the toe of his boot. "Showtime."

The men jumped up and began gathering their equipment, preparing to leave. They had been waiting since early the day before. Down in the valley below lay their target, a guerrilla camp with three American prisoners they had been sent to free. According to intelligence sources, the guerrillas were going out on a mission, leaving a minimal force in the camp. They had been waiting for the guerrillas to leave for that mission. There were only five men in the rescue team, and they had seen approximately twenty men in the camp.

"Well, Tony," called Rhett. "Got a count yet?"

"Twenty-one," called Tony. "Looks like that's it. I’m coming down."

 

Slowly, the five men worked their way down the steep hillside, through the tropical rainforest. Rhett was in no hurry. He wanted the guerrillas to have time to get far enough away that they couldn't rush back if they heard shooting in the camp. It was surprising and a little disturbing, he thought, how natural it felt, being here and doing this. It had been almost a year since his last mission. In a way, it felt good to be once again in a strange place, on his way to face danger. The excitement that comes with danger was growing within him. The irksome thought that he was possibly once again risking his life in the service of a system he had come to detest totally kept surfacing. After years in Special Forces, he had gradually and increasingly become fed up with the government in general and the military in particular.

That he had agreed to come out of early retirement for this mission was hardly due to the General's pleas, but because one of the prisoners was a female hostage, and all the information he could find about her on the Internet told him she was someone worth rescuing. Since his reasons for wanting to save her should have been reasons for the government to want to get rid of her, he wondered why the government wanted her rescued, although he had long ago given up looking for logic in anything the government did.

The other two prisoners were Blackhawk mercenaries, survivors of an earlier, unsuccessful rescue mission. Rhett's opinion of the Blackhawk mercenaries that had taken over much of the work formerly performed by Special Forces and other elite units was so low he would have been happy to leave them in the hands of their captors forever. While Blackhawk mercenaries were usually good at killing the enemy, they seemed to have problems knowing who was an enemy and who wasn't. Either that or they simply didn't care who they killed. He had seen them shoot anything that moved, including a lot of innocent women and children. Furthermore, he suspected a significant number of American soldiers had been killed by trigger-happy Blackhawks, perhaps as many as the enemy had killed, if not more. The mercenaries were paid almost as much in a month as the regular troops made in a year, and they were also free to do as they pleased, with no discipline and no rules of engagement to follow. Understandably, regular troops thoroughly resented them. He had heard the rumor that the government was moving toward an all or mostly mercenary army, primarily because the American people, already apparently comfortable with continuous war, as long as it was anywhere but on U.S. soil, would be completely oblivious to it if the Americans dying were mercenaries.

To a majority of Americans, the cost of war and the deaths of innocent foreign civilians and misguided American soldiers were evidently of little or no importance. One of the reasons Rhett had left the military had been that he couldn't see risking his life, ostensibly to defend his country, while the government and the people back home were trashing it. Moreover, it was exceedingly difficult to find anything the military had done in his lifetime that could be construed as being in defense of America. Little by little at first, then more and more, he had come to see the U.S. military he had once been so profoundly proud to be a member of as being a combination goon squad and death squad in the service of a corrupt establishment. Finally, he could no longer, in good conscience, remain a part of it, and he quit.

They took close to half an hour to reach the guerilla camp. Slowly circling the small clearing with its cluster of bamboo huts, they saw only one person, but knew there might be more inside the huts. The one person was a gray-haired man sitting on the ground, leaning against the door of one of the huts. He appeared to be asleep, with his weapon on the ground beside him.

"That's probably where the prisoners are," said Rhett. "It's the only place with a guard." He sent two men to take care of the guard. One went around each side of the hut, quietly approaching the guard, who never moved until an instant before he was knocked back into unconsciousness. Rhett left one man in the trees, while the rest of them rushed into the hut, SWAT-style.

Inside the hut, they found an empty room with three closed doors with little openings in them, through which they could see the prisoners. They easily smashed down the doors and freed the prisoners.

"I'm not complaining, but this is almost too easy," said Tony, as they led the two men and the one woman out of the building into the sunlight.

"I might as well be armed too," said the woman, as she reached down and grabbed the machine gun lying beside the unconscious guard.

Surprised, Rhett looked at her. That was something he might have expected from one of the Blackhawk mercenaries, but not from this slight, female office worker—and she was kind of pretty, too. He took her hand. "This way," he said, pulling her toward the jungle, where the sentry was keeping them covered. The others had already disappeared into the bush.

Suddenly, two trucks full of uniformed men pulled noisily into the opposite side of the compound. The soldiers jumped out and started moving through the camp, rifles at the ready, looking for something to shoot at. One of them fired toward Rhett and the woman. The lone sentry Rhett had left in the jungle opened fire, downing several of the soldiers and causing the others to scurry for cover. Rhett and the woman ran toward the sentry and into the jungle. There was a lot of shouting in Spanish, and several troops followed them.

They ran as fast as they could through the dense vegetation. Pulling the woman behind a huge banyan tree, Rhett looked at her. He guessed her to be in her early thirties. She looked fairly fit. "What kind of shape are you in?" he asked her. "Can you keep this up?"

"I think so," she said. "I worked out every day in the cell. I wanted to be ready, if I ever got a chance to run."

"Do you know how to use that thing?" he said, nodding at the machine gun.

"I think so."

He pulled off his bulletproof vest and handed it to her. "Put this on. It might save your life."

"You keep it."

"We're not moving until you put it on. They're more likely to shoot their prize hostage than me."

"Okay. You talked me into it," she said, grabbing the vest. She slipped it on quickly.

"Let's go," he said. "Follow me."

"The others are way ahead of us now," she gasped, as they raced ahead.

"We'll catch them," he said. "

They came up on the top of a ridge.

"See that clearing over there, across the river?" he asked, pointing.

"Yes," she said. "Looks like a mile and a half or maybe three quarters."

"That's where the chopper will pick us up. They will have already called for it. If anything happens to me, head for that clearing as fast as you can. Remember that stand of tall trees beside it. They make a good landmark."

"Got it," she said.

"It's going to be okay, Lisa." he called to her, as they ran through the dense foliage under the tall trees.

"You know my name. What's yours?" she called back.

"Rhett. Rhett Bartlett."

"Rhett, as in Rhett Butler?"

"Yeah. That's what everybody says."

They came to a waterfall. At the bottom of the waterfall was a large pool with a wide stream heading away, down the valley.

"Our guys got this far," he said, pointing to the footprints on the shore of the stream. "There's a shallow, crossing point just around that bend." He led her downstream. "See."

Just then, there was the sound of gunfire not far behind them. "We'll be out in the open, crossing here," he said. "Run across, and I'll cover you."

She took off, running in the shallow water. Another burst of gunfire came from a rocky outcrop downstream. She made it across the stream, threw herself behind a boulder, and crawled into the jungle.

As Rhett raced toward some big rocks, a bullet struck his gun, ripping it from his hand. He dived behind a boulder, just able to squeeze between it and the hillside behind it. Now, I'm in a hell of a spot, he thought. If I stick my head out, I'm done for. Maybe one of his men would come back for him, but he doubted it. He looked at his weapon on the ground. It looked like it might be ruined anyway. He still had his sidearm, but that wasn't enough for a shootout with an automatic rifle. It probably wouldn't be long before a flock of the bad guys would be there, and it would be all over. "You go ahead, Lisa," he called out. "I'll catch up with you." The guerilla fired a burst at the boulder. Rhett took careful aim at the source of the bullets and fired two rounds. The firing stopped. Then came another short burst. Rhett guessed that the guerilla was just going to hold him there until someone came to help.

Crouched in heavy underbrush, Lisa had seen what had happened and realized what Rhett’s predicament was. Frantic, not sure what to do, she raced back upstream and around the bend. Holding her gun over her head, she crossed in water that came up under her arms. Then she climbed up the ridge and came up over Rhett. Lying hidden in the thick foliage, she whistled softly. He didn't seem to hear her. She tried a little louder. He looked up.

"Throw a couple of rocks to distract him," she said in a loud whisper.

Rhett tossed a few stones onto the rocky beach. When the soldier fired at the sound, Lisa dropped her gun down to Rhett. Unfortunately, it struck a rock jutting out from the side of the hill and was deflected enough to make it land on a ledge, six or seven feet from the ground, but so far out he would have to stand in the open and reach up and grab the gun.

"Oh, shit," he cried.

"Hang in there," she called, and she vanished.

He settled down, wondering what she had in mind now. Every once in a while, the guerrilla would fire a shot or two. Rhett toyed with the idea of throwing something into the bushes and making a run for his gun. What if, as he suspected, it wouldn't fire. It was a bad idea. Maybe Lisa had a better idea. He would wait just a little longer. If he waited much longer, a bunch of bad guys might show up, and he would have no chance at all.

He heard her, back on the other side of the stream, calling out in Spanish to the soldier. They had quite a conversation, shouting back and forth. Rhett had no idea what they were saying. Then he saw her walk out of the jungle with her hands over her head. He noticed she had put the bulletproof vest under her blouse. It made her look a lot older and a lot heavier. Smart thinking, he thought.

She walked toward the water, stopping beside a large, fallen tree trunk. "You can go, my darling," she called out to him. "He will let you go, if I surrender. Go, and make the most of it. Tell the kids I love them. Better one of us makes it back, than both of us die here. If you have a pistol, throw it out. He will let you go."

The guerrilla stepped out into the open, with his machine gun pointed at Lisa.

Rhett stepped out with his hands held high. He was standing under the ledge where her gun rested. If he could just turn around.

"Da una vuelta. Turn around," she called to him. "Para que vea que no estás armado. Let him see you are unarmed."

He turned slowly. His hands were a few inches from the gun. He looked back over his shoulder. Lisa let out a blood-curdling scream, as she dived behind the fallen tree and rolled up against it. The startled guerrilla started shooting, the bullets chewing up the side of the fallen tree. Rhett grabbed the gun and spun around, firing as he turned. He cut the stunned guerrilla almost in half.

Lisa was up. She crossed the stream and stood looking at the dead guerrilla. Rhett reached out and touched her. She was shaking.

"That was close," she said.

"Lisa, you are some kind of woman," he said. He picked up the dead man's gun and handed it to her. "Let's get going. We have a ride to catch."

 

Late That Night

Over a California Desert

 

The old C5 cargo plane circled the runway they could barely see in the darkness below. There were no runway lights, just the headlights of a couple of cars and the intermittent moonlight from a half moon.

Rhett Bartlett stuck his head in the cockpit. "Why are we landing out here, in the middle of nowhere?"

"Orders," said the pilot. "Why else?"

"Where are we?"

"Somewhere east northeast of Barstow, near some wide spot in the road called Essex. 34.77 North and 115.22 West if that means anything to you."

"Not much," said Rhett. "All I remember east of Barstow is desert."

"The Mojave Desert," said the pilot. "Nice and quiet, which is most likely why we are landing here. Better go sit down. This landing could be a rough one. Some of these old strips are full of potholes."

Rhett joined the others. One of his men said they were probably landing out in the middle of nowhere because their mission was illegal, and they didn't want any record of their landing.

"At least, this time, it didn't seem to be what you would call anti-American," Tony said. "We get so damned much of that kind of stuff lately. I'm getting sick and tired of it. I might be following your example pretty soon, Major."

Rhett didn't say anything. He had handpicked the men for this mission. They were friends as well as colleagues, and they all knew more or less why he had quit. He, too, had gotten sick and tired of doing things he felt ashamed of.

When the plane came to a stop after a landing any pilot would be proud of, they dropped a slide out the door and slid down one at a time. A jeep with three men pulled up beside the plane. A large van parked a few yards behind it.

"Looks like it went well, Rhett," called a man in an overcoat with two gold stars on each shoulder. "I see you got them all and all your men are here too."

"Yes, Bernie," said Rhett. General Bernard Coleman was his old commanding officer and the one who had convinced him to come out of his early retirement to rescue Lisa. "It was a cakewalk. Funny thing though, a bunch of soldiers hit the camp as we were leaving. They looked like regular army, definitely not guerrillas. Do you know anything about that?"

"No, I don't," said the general. "But you made it okay."

"They damned sure weren't expecting any resistance," said Rhett. "They just rolled right into the camp, like they were going to a picnic. They started shooting at us. I had left a sentry in the bush, and he probably got half of them. It just looked a little strange. I got the impression they knew the guerillas were gone, and they were just there to get us."

"The regular army is always hitting the guerrillas down there," said the general. "So, this is Lisa Simmons," he said. When Lisa smiled wearily and nodded, he reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a .45 caliber automatic, and shot her three times, point blank. She went reeling backward and fell to the ground. "She was a traitor," he explained. "An active spy for a major terrorist organization. She was responsible for the death of several of my best men."

Behind his stony facade, Rhett was stunned. That woman had risked her life to save him. Maybe it was out of gratitude, since he had saved her, but she hardly seemed a traitor. What happened to trial by jury? Wasn't that in the Constitution? Wasn't this the USA? He glanced at his men. They seemed unaffected, as were the men that had come with the general He wondered if things had gotten so bad that something like this no longer bothered them, or were they wisely hiding their feelings, as he was. When Lisa had been shivering in the plane, the co-pilot had found an old jacket for her. Rhett knew that, under that, she still wore his body armor. She might not be dead, but only stunned and bruised.

"Better make sure she's dead," said the general.

"I'll do it," says Rhett. "You know, I kept thinking that there was something strange about her. I couldn't figure out what it was. Something just didn't feel right. Now, I know. Sometimes, I seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to spies. It’s saved my skin more than once. You should have told me you wanted her taken out. I would have shot her there. As it was, I came close to being killed trying to save her." Standing with his back to the general and the others, he fired two shots into the ground beside Lisa's still form. In the light of the gun's flash, he thought she appeared to be bleeding from her arm. "Should we dispose of the body?" he asked.

"Leave her," said the General. "Nobody comes out here. This is government land. My guess is that there are a lot of coyotes in the area. Let them take care of her."

Everyone was getting into the waiting van. Rhett and the general got into the backseat of the car that suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

"I don't understand why you pulled me out of mothballs to take this assignment," said Rhett. "It was pretty routine. If you don't have dozens of people who could have handled it, you are in serious trouble. Besides, you go to all the trouble to rescue this broad, then you shoot her. It would have been so much easier to take her out down there and come home."

"We sent in four Blackhawk guys to do just that, and they obviously couldn't handle it. We didn't know what the problem was, only that they had failed. Two of them were killed and two captured. I had to know that she was really dead."

"Well, don't come knocking at my door again," said Rhett. "I'm really out of this business—for good this time. I like my quiet life, and I want it to last a long time. In this business, people often die, even in routine operations like this one. I’m getting older and slower, and that is dangerous."

"I'll do my best to respect your wishes," said the General.

"Anything else will be a total waste of your time and mine," said Rhett. "The answer is and always will be, 'No.'"

 

Six hours later

 

The soft glow of dawn was just appearing on the horizon when Rhett pulled up alongside the old, abandoned runway. It was cold in the high desert, and he had the heater on low. Lisa's body didn't appear to have moved at all. He jumped out and bent over her, anxiously. He was glad to see she was still breathing regularly. When he rolled her over gently, she panicked. "Easy," he said. "It’s me, Rhett. I'm here to help you." She groaned a few times, as he picked her up and put her in the back of his rented station wagon.

"They obviously wanted you out of the way," he said. "I figured I owed you one. Besides, I wouldn't exactly call your execution due process. Here, have a swig of water." He held a plastic bottle to her lips, and she drank. "I don't think you are hurt bad. The bleeding seems to have stopped. It's a good thing you had the body armor under your blouse. Obviously, I can't take you to a hospital, because you're supposed to be dead. If they find out you’re alive, they will really finish the job, and they'll get me for helping you. I'm taking you to someone who will fix you up." He spread his jacket over her. "Just lie still and try to hold on, Lisa. We have a pretty long ride."

As he closed the tailgate of the station wagon, he heard the sound of a car. He latched the tailgate, went to his glove compartment, got his .45 automatic, and slipped it into his belt behind him.

A red pickup truck was coming toward him. His hand was poised to reach for the pistol if necessary. If they caught him coming back for Lisa, they wouldn't hesitate to shoot him. However, a red pickup truck was hardly standard issue, making it unlikely it was anything serious.

The pickup truck pulled up behind his station wagon, and Tony jumped out. "Hello, Major," he said. "Fancy meeting you here."

"What the hell are you doing here, Tony?" asked Rhett.

"I imagine I came for the same reason you did," said Tony. "Did you get her already?"

"Yes," said Rhett.

"What shape is she in?"

"Not very good. But I think she'll make it. She had a bullet proof vest on."

"I know," said Tony. "Otherwise, I wouldn't have come back for her. I also know you fired into the ground beside her. If you had shot her, her body would have jerked with impact of each shot. I know you live way back east, Major, and you can't take her to an ordinary doctor. Do you have a closer place to take her?"

"Yes," said Rhett. "I've made arrangements. I know I don't have to tell you not to mention this to anyone. You know what they would do to me."

"Don't worry. I didn't know you were coming back here. I was ready to risk what you are risking, so you know I won't tell anyone. We'd both best get the hell out of here. Good luck, Major, and good luck to the lady."

"Thanks, Tony," said Rhett, shaking his hand. "Let's keep in touch."

"When I get out of this man's army, we'll go fishing together. You told me there's some good fishing in your neck of the woods. Lord knows, I'm about ready. I keep in touch with guys I've served with that are spread all over the world. I know that in the last year or so, we've had operations in almost every country in South America, trying to overthrow their governments. I'm talking about democratically elected governments, probably in elections a lot less fraudulent than our own. While we are running around the globe wasting people, overthrowing elected governments, supposedly spreading democracy, democracy is destroying our country. The idiots we are supposedly protecting won't take the time to even pay attention to what is happening to their country. They won't lift a finger or get up off their dead asses to keep their country free. I really think most of them are numb from the neck up. They keep electing the scum of the earth. I think last night moved me closer to the conclusion we have been shooting the wrong people for years. I felt like fragging the General, right then and there. One hundred and three days left in this hitch, and I'm out."

"Not that you are counting the days."

"Yeah. Who's counting?"

"Goodbye, Tony. I have to go. I've got a doctor waiting for her."

"So long, Major," Tony said, saluting as he turned to go to his truck. "Maybe you can let me know if she makes it," he called, as he got into the truck.

"It’ll have to be indirect, but will do," called Rhett.

“Just say the weather is better or worse than usual. I’ll understand,” called Tony.

“Will do,” said Rhett. He jumped into the station wagon, started the engine, turned up the heater, and was on his way.

 

Two and a Half Hours Later

 

Rhett pulled off the paved road onto a gravel road. After a mile or so of winding through tall pine trees, the gravel turned to dirt. The road finally ended at a clearing around an A-frame cabin with a white Jeep Cherokee parked beside it. When, the station wagon pulled up, a man came out of the A-frame.

"How's she doing, Rhett?"

"She's still alive, Barry. You'll have to tell me how she's doing."

The two of them carried Lisa into the cabin and put her on a bed.

"Help me get this jacket off her," said Barry. "You said she was wearing body armor."

"Under her blouse," said Rhett. 

"Lisa, this is Barry Baldwin," Rhett told her. "This is his cabin. He'll take care of you. You're in good hands. I'll be close by."

"Hit the light switches by the door, Rhett, and bring me the black bag on the table by the front door," said Baldwin. To Lisa, he said, "Just take it easy, Lady. It's important that you try to relax and let me patch you up. I'm going to give you a shot to help you relax.

 

"She seems to be in pretty fair condition, Rhett," said Baldwin after checking Lisa over, listening to her heart, taking her blood pressure, and cleaning and dressing the wound on her arm. "She has lost some blood. Any idea how much she lost?"

"Not a large pool, Barry," said Rhett, "but it was on the ground. It could have soaked in."

"How are you feeling, Lisa?" asked Rhett.

"Weak and sore," said Lisa.

"You have some serious bruises from where the bullets hit your body armor," said Baldwin. "Be grateful you were wearing it, or you'd not be breathing. You may have a cracked rib or two. They don't feel broken. I can't x-ray you to find out. I could tape you up, just in case, but I'd rather wait a day or so and see how it goes. If it doesn't feel better in a few days, we can tape you up then. A bullet made a pretty good nick in your arm, and caused you to lose some blood. I gave you an antibiotic, just in case. My advice is to eat a lot of good solid food for a few days and get plenty of rest. I'm not far away, if you need me. Rhett can call me, if you have any problems or questions."

"Thank you, Doctor," said Lisa.

Baldwin looked at Rhett, who shook his head. "Just close your eyes and get some sleep, Lisa," he said. "It is the best thing you could possibly do."

"Rhett," said Baldwin, walking to the living area. "There's not a lot of food here. There's plenty of meat in the freezer and some canned stuff in the pantry. You might want to leave something out. You will probably want to run to the store. You remember where it is, don't you?"

"Oh, yes," said Rhett. "I'll run down there a little later. Right now, I'm bushed. I've had a couple of busy days and a long night. I think I'd better crash for a couple of hours. You think she'll be okay, then?"

"I think so. Unfortunately, there could be things wrong that you can't see without an x-ray. I take it that's out of the question, or I wouldn't be here."

"Right."

"Just keep an eye on her. If anything looks weird, call me. I'll be on my way now. I'm late for an appointment as it is."

"Thanks a million, Barry," said Rhett, walking outside with his friend. "I really appreciate it."

"You're probably right to let her think I'm an M.D. Psychologically, it might help her get better faster. Actually, for what is wrong with her, there is little difference between her and a lot of animals. Any veterinarian could have handled it."

"Especially one who had been a medic and patched up hundreds of soldiers in combat," said Rhett.

"These days, they get wounded in ways that you can't patch up," said Baldwin. "That damned depleted uranium. I can't, for the life of me, understand us using that shit. It's as deadly for our guys as it is for the enemy. Its worst effects come long after any strategic benefit. It is dangerous practically forever. There will be millions of terribly deformed kids because of it, both over there and over here. The only possible reasons I can see for using it are population reduction and making bucks off the nuclear waste. Our old buddy, Greg Paxton is dying from it."

"Oh, no. I recently tried to get in touch with Greg, but he wasn’t on active duty, and I couldn’t locate him. I'd been meaning to call him. Somehow, you just put things off."

"I’ll get you his phone number and e-mail address,” said Baldwin. “Don't put it off too long though."

"Our government, right or wrong," said Rhett.

"Yeah, sure. Our murderous, tyrannical government, right or wrong. What, me worry?"

Rhett smiled. "You have to joke about it to keep from crying."

After seeing Baldwin on his way, Rhett went back into the cabin and walked over to Lisa. She opened her eyes. "Can I get you anything?" he asked.

"A little water would be nice," she said.

He brought her a glass of water and held her up while she drank half of it.

"I think I'll get some sleep," she said.

"Me too," said Rhett. "There's a bed up in the loft, but I'll be over there on the sofa, if you need me."

"Thanks for coming back for me, Rhett," she said.

"I owed you," he said, "but I probably would have come back anyway. Get some sleep. We'll have plenty of time to talk later."

He put a log on the fire in the big fireplace and headed for the sofa. As he stretched out and pulled a cushion under his head, he told himself he would sleep a couple of hours and then go to the store. No sooner did he close his eyes than he was sound asleep. It would be four hours before he would wake up.

 

Chapter 2

The Regnant Home

 

The three Regnant brothers, seated around a heavy, mahogany table, jumped to their feet when their father entered the library of the principal family residence. Although they were members of that segment of the upper class often called the Power Elite, they had been brought up to be respectful of their parents, especially their father, Claude Regnant, the patriarch of the Regnant family.

The Regnants may not have been in the same class as the Redsons and the Rockefelds, but in addition to being extremely rich, Claude Regnant had been director of the CIA. Rumors abounded of his continued involvement with that organization, and as he did nothing to dispel them, most people assumed they were true. He knew people believed he could have anyone eliminated, anywhere, anytime, without any trace of a connection to him. Given his reputation for taking no nonsense from anyone, no one crossed him if they could possibly avoid it.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," said the elder Regnant. "Your mother isn't feeling well. I'm afraid she may be catching something."

"Did you call a doctor for her?" asked Michael Regnant, the eldest of the three sons. Until Michael was thirty years old, his father had been somewhat disappointed in him. Claude Regnant knew Michael was exceptionally bright and capable of much more than either of his two brothers, but for years, his high ideals caused him to oppose many of the routine activities of the Regnant dynasty. Gradually, Michael had managed to repress his troublesome beliefs, and they generally stayed repressed, except for increasingly infrequent lapses. Michael worked hard at controlling those flare-ups of morality, and his father was there to assist him, if necessary. Once he had gotten his ideals and his conscience out of the way, Michael quickly became a driving force in the advancement of the Regnant empire. Even so, those occasional lapses into traditional morality were still enough to cause his consistently amoral brothers to view Michael as a family anomaly.

"I suggested calling a doctor, but you know your mother," said Claude. "Just the same, if she isn't better tomorrow, the doctor is coming, whether she wants it or not."

"What's up, Father? Why the meeting?" asked Albert Regnant, the youngest of the three brothers.

"Kirk Denton," said Claude. The venom in his voice as he spat out the name left no doubt about his contempt for the man who bore it.

"What has that miserable bastard done now?" asked Gerald, the middle brother.

"He claims to be onto some evidence, which, if it pans out, will ruin us," said Claude.

"What kind of evidence?" asked Michael.

"He didn't say," said Claude. "He just went on and on about it being high time we Regnants were put away for good, every last one of us, especially me."

"He could be just bluffing," said Michael.

"Yes," said Claude. "He could be. What if he isn't?"

"I wonder what it could be," said Albert.

"Just about anything," said Gerald. "You can't move without breaking some law, and if you don't move, you will surely break some other law. I read the other day that every American commits an average of three federal felonies every day."

"I doubt it is anything trivial, if he thinks it would ruin us," said Michael. "He knows we can easily squelch anything short of a truly major scandal. Even so, there must be a number of things that could make life very unpleasant for us, if they came out."

"This guy has been a pain in the rear ever since I can remember," said Claude. "He's obsessed with us. He attacks us every chance he gets. I got him fired from his TV job, thinking that would shut him up. That turned out to be a bad move, because he started a web site that became extremely popular. Now, he's more of a problem than ever. At the TV network, they managed to keep him off our backs, at least part of the time. Now, he has no limitations at all and says anything he pleases."

"What do you think we should do about him?" asked Albert.

"I talked to some people about sabotaging his web site," said Claude. "They said we could knock it out, but it would be right back in no time. It looks like the only sure way to get him off the air permanently is to get rid of him permanently. Any kind of legal action would end up putting it all in the news for as long as it took to get the courts to shut him down, which could be quite a long time."

"I'm not crazy about getting rid of problems that way," said Michael, "but this is self-defense. If we don't put him away, he could put us away. Better him than us."

"That’s the way I see it," said Claude. "I'll take care of it. I just wanted to kick it around a little."

"When did he come out with this bombshell?" asked Michael.

"This morning," said Claude. "I got a call about it a few minutes before I asked for this meeting."

"We should let a little time go by," said Michael. "If he turns up missing or dead right after announcing this, it will have our name written all over it.”

"I agree," said Claude. "We can't wait too long though, or he might get us before we get him."

"I guess that's that," said Michael. "Unless you have something else, I need to go. I'm meeting Alan Stockman at the Country Club."

"The guy with the super car?" asked Albert.

"That's the one," said Michael.

"That's all I have," said Claude, pushing his chair back and standing up. "If Stockman's coming out to the club to meet you on a Saturday, Michael, I’d say he must be getting desperate."

"I think he is desperate," said Michael. "I had a meeting scheduled with him yesterday. I canceled it to see if that might get rid of him. I told him to put it off until Monday. He said he could meet me anywhere today. He said he could come to the house. I said the country club is better and is only a few minutes away. So, I'll hear what he has to say."

"He is struggling to raise the money to produce his car," said Claude.

"I know," said Michael.

 

The Country Club

 

Michael intentionally arrived a few minutes late. As the valet drove his car away, he looked up at the sparkling glass facade of the fashionable Claude Regnant Country Club. It was perfect for impressing people, most of whom would assume the Regnants owned it or had paid for it, neither of which was true, although both could easily have been true. The Regnants had made up a significant shortfall in funds when the construction had run considerably over budget. A name change had been one of several conditions for their donation.

Stockman was standing inside the door, waiting. When Michael entered, he rushed forward and extended his hand. "Thank you for agreeing to meet with me like this, Mister Regnant."

"No problem, Mister Stockman."

"Please call me ‘Alan.’"

"We have a suite upstairs, Alan. We'll have complete privacy there. No need to have people speculating about what we're up to." On their way, they stopped at the desk, and Michael said, "Charles, will you send a waiter up to our suite, please?"

"With pleasure, Mister Regnant," said the middle-aged man behind the desk.

As they climbed the wide, curved stairs, Stockman said, "This is a beautiful country club. Do you play here often?"

"I don't play golf," said Michael. "I come here now and then to eat and drink or to meet with people, like today. I tried golf several times, but I simply haven't the necessary coordination. I soon realized that without a massive effort, I could never be more than a mediocre golfer. I don't have time for the massive effort, and mediocrity never appealed to me. Otherwise, I know I would have enjoyed it very much." He stopped before a door with a shiny brass plate engraved with the name ‘Regnant.’ Unlocking the door, he said, "We were a major contributor to the building of the country club, and we got this suite. It comes in handy sometimes, like now."

Inside the spacious, well-appointed suite, Michael opened the French doors to the balcony. "One day, a golf ball came right through these doors into this room,” he said. “It smashed a lamp a couple of feet from my father. We enclosed the balcony with shatterproof glass because of that. You will be safe in here now."

"I would imagine if a golf ball hit you just right, it could kill you," said Stockman.

"That's what we thought. A lot of people live around golf courses though, and I've not heard of any of them being killed by a golf ball, but why take chances. The Regnants don't take unnecessary chances."

"So I've heard," said Stockman.

"Have a seat, Alan, and let's get down to business. Oh, there's the waiter. I'll let him in."

Their drinks ordered; they sat down in two massive easy chairs.

"I know you know why I'm here," said Stockman.

"Of course," said Michael. "You've got the best car in the world, and you can't get the money to produce it."

"Exactly," said Stockman. "Everyone knows if I build this car, I'll own the market. The pressure from the auto industry is enormous. The Department of Transportation said I have to give them two hundred and fifty free cars for testing before they will allow me to sell one. Their testing is expected to take at least a year and could take longer, much longer. I know the other car makers don't have to give them two hundred and fifty free cars. They are just trying to squeeze me out."

"Of course they are," said Michael. "That is the way you meet competition these days, by keeping it off the market. Otherwise, you would have to make a superior product yourself, which has become a primitive concept. It is far cheaper to buy the necessary politicians and crush your competition with tailor-made regulations than to develop a superior product."

"I know you are right," said Stockman. "It makes me want to take out contracts on them, not that I really would, but I would like to. I figured that if the Regnants were behind me, I could make it. Only the Rockefelds have more pull."

"Or more push," said Michael. "I know how much you are asking for. That is a lot of money. Personally, I think you will probably need more like twice what you have been asking for. But apart from that, what is in it for us?"

"A percentage of the company, of course."

"Ninety percent," said Michael, "if we do it at all."

Stockman choked.

Just then, the waiter knocked on the door, and Michael let him in. He took the two drinks and handed one to Stockman, who took a healthy sip of it, before sitting back down.

"Ninety percent. You're joking," said Stockman.

"I never joke about money," said Michael.

"That would leave me and those who have helped me get where I am with only ten percent. I would only have a little over four percent."

"That is your problem," said Michael. "Four percent of something is better than a hundred percent of nothing. We would insist on the option to manufacture and sell the cars outside the United States and perhaps only there. I don't think you are going to sell them here. Not for a long, long time, if ever."

"Why do you say that?"

"Even the Regnants can only do so much. The federal government is subsidizing your incompetent competition. They may be able to sell cars below cost because the government will make up the difference and throw in some money for profit. I don't know how long that will go on. It might go on until the government goes under, which may or may not be very long. Given the current economic situation, it may be silly to begin manufacturing anything but cheap coffins, something on the order of black Tupperware."

"I don't think I'm ready to give up ninety percent," said Stockman.

"No problem," said Michael. "If you change your mind, you obviously know how to reach me, since you did it before."

"You are tough, Mister Regnant."

"Yes, but I never lie to you. I am as honest as I am tough. If you do business with me, you should know that. I would expect the same from you, and I get very upset when people try to put something over on me. I will tell you up front, before I even considered putting together funding for you, we would know more about you than you do. If we didn't think you can cut the mustard, we wouldn't hesitate to send you home and make the cars our way, without you. Be aware of that."

Stockman picked up his glass and gulped down most of the remaining liquid. "Thank you for seeing me, Mister Regnant. I know you are a busy man. I can't say I won't change my mind, because you never know, but I seriously doubt it." He stood up and extended his hand.

Michael stood up and shook Stockman's hand. They walked to the door. Michael paused, with his hand on the doorknob. "Don't take my position too hard, Alan," he said. "You know or should know that in order to get this thing off the ground, we would have to lay out about as much in those ubiquitous bribes known as contributions, as we would for setting up the manufacturing facility. It’s tough, I know, but that is the way it is these days. So, your return on investment is closer to half what your business plan forecasts. I'm guessing you didn't count on millions for bribes in your business plan."

"No. I didn't allow anything for bribes."

"For one thing, you would have to out bribe the auto industry, which now can use taxpayer money to fight you. You will need money to pay off not only the crooks in the federal government's regulatory agencies, but the state and local guys wherever you want to set up business. In your case, since you are talking about a car that gets sixty some miles per gallon, you will have the oil industry fighting you too. That means the Rockefelds. You don't just want to make a better car, Alan, you want to put a lot of parasites and crooks out of business or, at least, reduce their cash flow. They don't take kindly to that. That is why I don't think you will be selling your cars here in the land of the free, any time soon. Even the Regnants might not be able to pull that off. Shoot for the rest of the world, but write off the USA for now."

"I will ponder your advice, Mister Regnant," said Stockman. "Thank you for it."

"I sincerely wish you luck, Alan," said Michael, as they walked down the stairs. "Unfortunately, you need a lot more than luck. I looked into your car. It would be a universal blessing were you allowed to produce it. Universal blessings tend to be frowned upon and firmly suppressed by those in power. Again, I wish you luck. I hope that, by some miracle, you make it, with or without us. I don't think I've seen such a positive advancement in my lifetime as it would be to see your car on the roads throughout the world. Sometimes, I get so frustrated. Things are in such a mess and getting worse so rapidly. Sure, my family does well by playing the game. There may be a lot of money in playing with a loaded deck, but there is damned little satisfaction. Not only that, it often leaves such a rotten taste in your mouth. Most of the money made today, in America, in anything related to industry is made at the expense of progress and innovation. Every penny of taxpayer's money the government throws at some outdated, incompetent organization is money that could have gone to competent and innovative producers like you. They aren’t content to take every citizen's money and waste it. They have to mortgage the labor of future generations, generations which may never see the light of day. The bailouts of the financial industry have set a new low. What a joke to call that mafia an industry. I always thought of an industry as producing something of value. They produce nothing of value. It is just the old story of the moneychangers in the temples. If they even think you might disrupt their schemes, they nail you to the cross, so to speak. Things haven't changed all that much in the last two thousand years. The moneychangers are still in the temples. By proxy, they are in the White House, the Capitol, in all the positions of power, and it is damned near impossible to throw them out." He paused a moment and shook his head, as if to clear it. "Sorry to get carried away like that, Alan. It just breaks my heart to see something like your car not make it, while the government subsidizes the unsafe plastic, cardboard, and tinfoil crap that passes for cars these days. With your car, the money people saved on gasoline alone could help kick-start a recovery from the mess we are in. If we were in a free nation, I'd put up the money for your car in a heartbeat, for five or ten percent of the company. Investors would beg you to take their money. As it is, because of the extreme risk of never overcoming the barriers to inventions of great merit, we need to mitigate the risk by taking a huge percentage. Merit has become an historic concept in just about every facet of our lives."

Stockman looked at him as the valet parking girl brought his car up to the front door. "You really amaze me, Mister Regnant," he said. "You are not at all what I expected."

"On the other hand," said Michael, "you are exactly what I expected. I knew you would turn down my offer, but I wanted to meet the man that could have done so much for the world, had they let him. I thank you for coming, Alan. Meeting you was a distinct pleasure."

"Maybe we'll meet again, Michael," said Stockman, as he stood by the open door of his car. "I really hope so."

 

 

When Michael got home, he went up to his mother's room and rapped gently on her door.

"Come in," called his mother.

The curtains were drawn and the large room was dimly lit. "How are you feeling?" asked Michael. He stood beside her bed. She looked like a little girl lying on the huge four-poster bed. His father had remembered that, on their honeymoon, his mother had expressed her admiration of the gigantic Great Bed of Ware in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It was a bed made famous by William Shakespeare and Ben Johnson who mentioned it in their plays. For a twenty-fifth anniversary present, Claude had commissioned a copy of the massive eleven feet long and ten feet wide bed. The final assembly had been done in the bedroom, since the assembled bed would be too large to get through the doors and halls. Furthermore, it would have been too wide for transporting on the highway, except on its side, which could have been risky. Everyone in the family knew that story. It provided them a rare glimpse of a romantic core beneath Claude Regnant's rather acerbic exterior.

"Much better. Thank you," she said. "I just got a little dizzy for a while. It could be almost anything. Maybe I went too long without eating. I feel fine now."

"Good. If you don't wake up feeling well tomorrow, you need to have a checkup. I know you haven't had one for over a year."

"You keep better track of those things than I do," she said.

"I think I must have inherited that from Father," said Michael. "He is usually better at remembering what other people are supposed to do than they are."

Adele Regnant smiled at her son. "I appreciate your concern, and I will make an appointment for a checkup. You are right. It is about time."

"Of course, I'm right," said Michael. "Are you coming down for dinner later?"

"Oh, yes. I'm quite hungry already."

"Can I have them bring you something to tide you over?"

"No, thank you. I can hold out until dinner."

"Okay. I'll see you at dinner."

 

Adele Regnant did go downstairs for dinner that evening. She said she felt fine, just a little tired. She went to bed early. When Claude Regnant woke up the next morning, he found his wife cold and dead beside him. She had died in her sleep.

For an hour, he lay there, in that huge bed, holding her dead body in his arms, crying and kissing her dead face. When it did occur to him to notify the family, he placed her neatly in the center of the huge bed, her head on the pillow. He arranged her hair and put her arms down to her side. He dragged all the covers from the bed and piled then in a corner. He stood at the foot of the bed and looked at her for a long time, and then he went downstairs to tell the children.

When he went out on the patio where the rest of the family was having breakfast, dressed in his pajamas, his eyes swollen and red, so grief-stricken he couldn't speak, everyone jumped to their feet. Finally, through his sobs, he managed to get it out, "your-sob-mother-sob-is-sob-dead." He let out a long, primal cry of agony, dropped to his knees, and cried like a baby.

No one in the Regnant family had ever seen Claude Regnant cry. They had never seen him exhibit any intense emotion, save an occasional outburst of anger. For a moment, seeing him like that stunned them as much as the news of their mother's death. However, as that terrible fact quickly sunk in, so did the terrible grief.

 

The funeral was simple. At least, it was simple for a funeral of a Power Elite family like the Regnants. Michael had arranged the funeral, but Claude had handled the flowers. There were flowers everywhere, thousands of them. Adele Regnant had always loved flowers, and he saw to it that she had a record amount of them at her funeral. As ranking members of the Power Elite, the Regnants’ lifestyle differed considerably from the average. However, the Regnants' grief was indistinguishable from that of the rest of us. Grief and its architect, death, are most egalitarian.

 

Three days later

 

Claude walked out onto the back patio, where he found Michael sitting at the table, holding a cup of coffee with both hands, staring into space, and lost in thought.

"Are you okay?" asked Claude.

"Not really," said Michael. "I was thinking of all the breakfasts I had here with Mother and how there will never be another one, here or anywhere else--not with her."

"They say you get over it," said Claude, his lower lip quivering. "I don't really want to get over it. I don't want to stop hurting."

"You know people always get over it, to some extent. You may never get over it completely, but quite a bit. Although, right now, I must admit it doesn't seem like it. A few minutes ago, I was thinking of all the people everywhere that have lost a mother, husband, child, whatever. If you think about it, the total amount of grief on this earth in any one day must be awesome. Those pictures we've seen of Iraqis, Bosnians, and Palestinians, holding the bloody, mangled body of a loved one in their arms; how must they feel? Do they hurt like I do? They might even feel worse. Mother was hardly elderly, but she had a good life. She died in her sleep. To hold the mangled body of your dead child in your arms, one who has not really begun to live, who will never grow up, never love, never have children, never anything, has to be so horrible. No wonder they hate us. They should hate us. We should hate ourselves, if only for making millions of people hurt that way, that terrible way that we hurt at our loss, if not worse."

"We don't make them hurt that way. Our government makes them hurt that way," said Claude.

"You know our government is only carrying out orders,” said Michael. “You know that as well as anyone and better than most people. Why do we do the obscene things we do? Why do they want to kill four or five billion people? Why do we in the Power Elite want to control the remaining fifteen or twenty percent? Will we really enjoy controlling them? Will it make us feel good? What do you think?"

"I don't know," said Claude. "I don't think much about it. I just do what needs to be done."

"Father, please don't say that. That is something we would expect the so-called mindless robots to say. We are the Power Elite. If we want to rule the world, shouldn't we know why we want to rule it? Shouldn't we imagine ourselves sitting around a huge, solid gold table, ruling the world? How exciting do you suppose that will be? Imagine the remaining twenty percent of the people that the Power Elite let live, with chips in them, monitored and controlled by our computers. They will all be super happy because we will put happy juice in their water supply. We won't be able to drink the water, or we would become like them. What will we do for fun, Father? There won't be much challenge will there? We will have control of all the money in the world, every business in the world, and every person in the world. Won't we be bored to tears? Will we end up drinking the happy water, so we, too, can be deliriously happy all the time? I wonder. I wonder if we aren't the dumbest of the dumb. Hundreds and thousands of the Power Elite have labored for generations to achieve the combined power and wealth we have now. Right now, we pretty much have the entire world at our beck and call, even if we can't openly boast about it. No emperor ever had it any better than even we Regnants have it, and we are hardly at the top of the pyramid. Since we have it so good now, why do we go along with those of us who want to turn this current world on its ear and create a new world order? You admitted you don't think about the consequences. Can that be wise? If we charge off without knowing where we are going or why, are we acting more intelligently than the so-called excess population they want to exterminate? What if we make it worse than what we have now? As members of the Power Elite, shouldn't we do our best to avoid adverse unintended consequences? On something of such import, shouldn't we have an extremely good idea of exactly what we are creating and how it will affect us in the near term and our descendants in the long term? There is an old Polish expression: ‘Don't piss in the soup.’ That sounds like very good advice to me. We might very well be pissing in our soup, ruining ourselves, by not paying attention to what we are doing or the long term consequences of our actions. We might have the power, but I am not sure how elite we are."

"Wow,” exclaimed Claude. “I've never heard you on a soapbox like that, Michael. It’s quite a surprise. I must admit I don't have satisfactory answers to your questions. I'll have to think about what you’ve said. I have great respect for your analytic ability, and I would be foolish not to seriously consider your remarks."

"While you are at it," said Michael, "think what will happen if and when the Power Elite get their one world government and start ruling the world. Surely, most of the army of supporting personnel needed to achieve that goal will suddenly become superfluous. We Regnants are fairly high up in the pecking order, but we aren’t that close to the top. When our contribution is no longer needed, will we still be afforded the privileges we now enjoy? Might we, too, find ourselves with chips in our heads and dumb genes injected into our blood? We know there will be two classes: those at the top and everyone else. How many do you suppose will be allowed at the top? How much confidence do you have we won't be cast off, that we will retain our position of privilege?"

"Now, you are making me nervous," said Claude, grimly. "Something like that has crossed my mind a few times in the past, but I never spent much time thinking about it. It is also how much do they trust us—especially me. Given my background, they might figure I have the know-how and maybe the wherewithal to eliminate them. If they suspected there was the slightest chance of that happening, I'm certain they wouldn't hesitate to eliminate me. They could decide to eliminate me, just to be on the safe side. Knowing their past history, they wouldn't even think about it twice. They would just do it."

"It gets interesting, doesn't it, Father?"

"Yes, it certainly does."

 

 

 

Chapter 3

Baldwin's Mountain Cabin

 

“I feel better, but I’m still a long way from feeling good,” said Lisa. It was a little before noon, and she was on her second walk around the cabin. Rhett was getting her up every couple of hours and making her walk a little. “I guess I’m in bad shape, but I am going a lot longer than that first time.”

"I had to almost carry you that first time,” said Rhett. “Already, you’re on your own and not even wobbly. You may feel like you're in bad shape, but I’d say you look pretty good, considering it is all over the Internet that you’re dead."

"Are they saying who killed me, or tried to?" asked Lisa.

"You know better than that," said Rhett.

"Of course I do."

"The story is the evil guerrillas did it," he said. "I saw that you are survived by a sister. Too bad you can't let her know you are alive. It would save her a lot of grieving."

"Poor Lynn," said Lisa. "I can imagine how I would feel to hear she was dead. Can't we call her or something?"

"Are you kidding? That is the last thing you could do," said Rhett. "For all you know, the spooks have her under around the clock surveillance."

"Why would they have Lynn under surveillance? She has nothing to do with anything."

"They might be afraid you left some evidence for her to make public in case something happened to you? Your sister would be a logical person to leave it with. Maybe you left her an envelope to open and read if you died under mysterious circumstances. I would think that would be common practice with whistle blowers. I don't think I would ever blow the whistle on the government unless I made it clear the world would know everything if anything happened to me."

"I thought the higher ups would be wearing white hats and would go after the bad guys," she said, easing down onto the sofa. "Stupid, wasn't I?"

"I would say you were pretty naive for thinking there would be a good guy higher up. If there are any good guys, you probably have to go lower, not higher to find them. In my humble opinion, the good guys in government never get promoted or appointed."

"Won't I ever be able to tell Lynn?" she asked.

"It depends on what kind of a person she is; what she does; how savvy she is; and so on. No matter how good she is or how much she cares for you, if she ever slipped up and said the wrong thing around the wrong people, you could be very dead, very quickly. She and I would probably be dead too, and I'd never forgive you for that. You have some time before you are going to be able to go anywhere. We'll have plenty of time to talk about contacting your sister."

"I wonder if I'll ever be completely back to normal,” she said. “Physically, probably, but I'm not so sure about the rest of me. I don't think I'll ever be a flag-waving patriot again."

"Sure you will," he said. "If you think about it, you never stopped being a patriot. Like so many decent words, these days, the word 'patriot' has been corrupted. Basically, a patriot is someone who loves or defends his country. All the bad interpretations have been foisted on us by those against patriotism: the very people the country most needs defending from. The things you've said and done prove you still love America. But America isn't its government. Nobody with a speck of decency could love the anti-American monster our government has become. America isn't even her people. It especially isn't the blockheaded majority that lets our government get away with all the crimes it commits. America isn't the land it rests on either. The America you love is an abstraction we see with our minds and we hold in our hearts. The America you love is the land of the free and the home of the brave, that land of dreams people used to come to because it offered them the magic of freedom, freedom to be as successful as they had the drive to be, freedom to raise their families in peace and tranquility, and that freedom from tyranny that was invented here and once was the symbol of America. Today, we live in an occupied America, taken over and occupied by crooks and tyrants. Our government is one of military occupation. It was taken over without a shooting war, because the Americans rolled over and groveled. Now, we are free to do only what they say we can do. Do otherwise and the equivalent of the Gestapo and the SS are all over you. Go to an airport and watch the people line up like cattle. Go to a political demonstration and see those protesting the conquest of America herded into a corral, a 'free-speech zone.' You and I know all of America, from sea to shining sea, is supposed to be a free speech zone. What a tragedy. It breaks my heart. God damn to Hell every single person that supports the downfall of our beloved America. Our America still exists; it just needs to be liberated."

"How and by whom?"

"Good question, Lisa. I wish I had an answer. All I can say is, if America is ever liberated, you will have a perfect, shining example of what true patriots are. They will be the ones that liberated her."

 

A few days later, Lisa was up and walking outside. It still hurt when she took a deep breath, and she tired quickly, but she was greatly improved. She avoided taking deep breaths, and she rested most of the time. As she recuperated, she and Rhett spent a lot of time talking. She told him she had worked as a translator for the National Security Agency, the NSA, where she translated recordings of conversations, some of which covered things the government apparently didn't want to come out. From his research of her on the Internet, he already knew much of what she told him, but he let her talk, thinking it would do her good. He also wanted to hear her version of her story, to see if it agreed with what he had read which, so far, it seemed to do.

One afternoon, Lisa was on the porch, sitting in a high-back rocker, basking in the warm sun. Rhett sat down on the steps, not far from her.

"How are you doing, Lisa?" he asked.

"As well as can be expected," she said. "Better than yesterday and worse than tomorrow. I hope."

"You are looking a lot better," he said. "You were pretty pale there for a while. It was probably the loss of blood. I checked on the Internet. When you give a pint of blood, the volume of your blood is back to normal in twenty-four hours. That’s just from water or serum. The red blood cells, though, take three to four weeks to replace, and the iron isn't back to normal for six to eight weeks. You have been here two weeks today. I'm guessing you are about half of the way to having your red blood cells replaced, but you need another four  to six weeks to get back to normal. I’m sure you lost more than a pint, but there is no way to know how much. So I don’t know if those numbers are low for you."

"I noticed you have been feeding me a lot of red meat," she said. "I thought you might have something like that in mind."

He grinned.

"I never did anything wrong," she blurted out. "I was just doing my job. Some of the conversations I was given to translate appeared to incriminate people in the higher echelons of our government. Instead of going after the criminals, they want to kill me."

"Wanted to kill you," he said. "They did kill you. You're dead, remember. You will have to become someone else. If they find out you're alive, they'll kill you, and this time, they'll make sure."

She sat silently for a while. "I hadn't really thought much about that," she said. "That is really going to mess up my life, but it's still far better than what they had in mind for me."

"You've got that right," said Rhett.

"What is really hard to understand," said Lisa, "is how these people are able to use the United States Army as their hit man. Is our entire government just a big club for crooks?"

"I don't know," said Rhett. "It may very well be. When I was in Special Forces, I was always asking myself questions like, why was I doing what I was doing. How could some of the things we did possibly be construed as constitutional? In the end, I just walked away from it all. I let myself be coaxed back in as a civilian, just long enough to get you out of the jungle."

"I'm glad you did," she said.

"So am I," he said, "but I told them not to come calling again."

They sat quietly for a while. Rhett broke the silence. "You didn't tell me what you heard," said Rhett. "It must have been pretty serious. What was it?"

"I can't tell you," she said. "It's top secret." She paused and then burst out laughing. "Yeah, I have to keep my mouth shut and live up to my oath, so I can protect the criminals who tried to kill me. What a stupid thing to say. If it were really a question of national defense, maybe. I don't think I have any obligation to protect traitors and murderers who illegally classify any evidence of their crimes as top secret. Apparently though, there must be thousands of people working in so-called 'law enforcement' and in the so-called 'Justice' Department that don't have a problem with that. 'Give me a paycheck,' they say, 'and you can kill, rape, commit genocide, and rob people blind, and we will do our best to protect you.' Well, not me. I may be old-fashioned, but I have standards, and I'm not going to abandon them for a paycheck and benefits."

"In my book, that's enough to make you worth saving," said Rhett. "That is precisely the kind of thinking that made me quit working for those creeps. So, what did you discover that makes you such a threat to the powers that be?"

"Probably the most important thing was that the nineteen guys that supposedly hijacked the four planes on 9/11 were apparently being run by the CIA. They were just patsies, groomed to provide a cover for the project, meaning they were set up to take the blame. I guess it’s possible the poor souls may have actually believed they were involved in a great earth-shaking attack on the bad Americans, but they were just for show. Ditto for the subway bombings in London. Those guys believed they were part of a test of the security in the subway stations. Their backpacks were full of explosives that were set off by remote control. The poor fools thought they were carrying dummy bombs. Ditto again for the train attack in Madrid. They were all false flag attacks."

"Nearly everybody suspects something along those lines," said Rhett. "The usual thing when anyone mentions something like that is for the government and the media to scream 'conspiracy theory' and hope the idea dies of shame."

"But," went on Lisa, "you probably also know about the Israeli "magazine salesmen" that were living as close as they could get to the alleged hijackers."

"Sure."

"Well, they were either in on it or they must have bugged the patsies’ houses and their cars. They filmed or recorded a lot of meetings of the CIA with the patsies. They have more than enough evidence to sink dozens of people in the U.S. government, put a lot of people in the electric chair, and who knows how many behind bars."

"That would explain the famous 'dancing Israelis,' dressed like Arabs, filming the planes smashing into the twin towers on 9/11," said Rhett. "They had their cameras set up, trained on the twin towers, long before the planes arrived. They had to have known the planes were coming and where they were headed. They were picked up by the local police, but the feds stepped in and let them go. The Israelis probably let the feds know they had la megaton of evidence back in Israel, and if the feds didn't toe the line, the whole world would know who was really responsible for 9/11."

"I don't know about the dancing Israelis," she said, "but the Israelis have been blackmailing the hell out of our government. They get what they want, when they want it, or they blow the whistle on the crooks in our government for causing 9/11. God knows what the people would do if they found out for sure their own government pulled off 9/11. I suppose they did it to have an excuse for war and legislation they probably could never have foisted off on us otherwise."

"Why doesn't any of this surprise me?" he asked.

"Probably because it is no worse than a lot of other things you already knew about and even more you suspected," she said. "I suppose it’s possible that a big part of the government is just as much in the dark as the people are. Several conversations I heard made it look like the CIA is doing a lot of things on its own, without any consent or even knowledge of their superiors in government. It looks like the CIA and the Mossad overlap, if you know what I mean."

"Some people belong to both?"

"Right. Dual citizenship in more ways than one. There is more I can go into later, but that is the biggest component.

"That is certainly enough for them to want to get rid of you," said Rhett. "More than enough." He heaved a deep, heartfelt sigh. "You know, it has gotten to the point that hardly a day goes by I don't learn of at least one more horrible thing our government has done, is doing, or is planning to do. The people doing it to us are the people we pay to protect us. We Americans actually pay people to steal our money, kill our kids, and take away our freedom. What in the hell is wrong with us?"

They were quiet for a while, and then Rhett said, "We can't stay here in Barry's place indefinitely. You seem to be coming along pretty well. In a couple of days, we can head out for my place. It will take us about three days, taking it slow and easy."

"I can make out on my own," she said. "I appreciate all you have done for me, Rhett, but you needn't be saddled with me much longer."

"If I were in your place," he said, "I'd want to have a whole new identity set up and ready before I went out on my own. You must know you can't go home."

"I have a lot of things there," she cried. "Do I have to let them all go?"

"Maybe we can think of a way for you to get some of them," he said. "It would have to be a roundabout way. Maybe we could make it look like someone broke in and stole them, but I don't know that they would fall for that. If you know precisely what you want, and it's not too much, you might be able to sneak it out in the middle of the night."

"This sucks," she said.

"Beats being dead."

"I guess you’re right about that," she said. "I suppose that means my bank account is lost to me too. That really sucks."

"Maybe we can find a friend of mine to sell you something and you can pre-date the check to sometime before your death, and he can cash it and give you the money."

"Good idea," she said. "What can I buy?"

"You don't want to have to take delivery of anything worth what you are paying," he said. "What about a non-refundable deposit on a piece of property? That way your disappearance or death can be the excuse for the forfeiture of the deposit. How much are we talking about?"

"Not a fortune, about thirty-two thousand. I was concerned about the economic crisis, and I didn't roll my CD's over the last time they came due. I have around a hundred thousand in equity in my apartment. Will I have to lose that, too?"

"I doubt if they will be watching your bank or your account, other than their blanket monitoring of all accounts in the country, if not in the world," he said. "We'll try to figure a way to get all your money to you without exposing yourself. Right offhand, the apartment seems pretty difficult."

"And my car,” she cried. “What a disaster."

"Could be worse, much worse."

"If I can get my money, maybe I should really buy a piece of property and become a hermit, at least for a while," she said. "Possession of over ten thousand in cash is now a felony in these united states. And Americans think they are free. They are free to do what they are allowed to do, which is getting to be less and less. Even slaves are allowed to do what their master allows them to do.” She shook her head. “Do you know how I can go about getting a new identity?"

"I know a few people that can help you with that. You might find some property near me. I'm out in the boondocks myself. It might be too isolated for you, but it is certainly private."

"Where do you live that is so far out?"

"Actually, it's' not all that far out. It isn't sheer distance that makes it isolated, but the long, narrow, beat-up, winding road and the fact that it is a dead end. I live in West Virginia, in that panhandle that sticks up between Ohio and Pennsylvania. I have the advantage of being a little over an hour from Pittsburgh, which I like very much."

"Isn't Pittsburgh sooty and dirty?" she asked.

"It used to be," he said. "That was a long time ago. It's clean and modern, now. Maybe not all of it, but enough of it. Come with me and check it out. It's spring, and it's beautiful there."

"Sounds very appealing, but are you sure you don't mind having me around?"

"I'm sure. Don't worry. I'm not coming on to you, Lisa. I have room to spare, and while I love the solitude, it can get a little lonely at times. You would be a nice neighbor to have Sunday dinner with now and then."

"Your army 'friends' must know where you live," she said. "If they should pay you a visit and find me there, you would be in deep stuff."

"I really don't think they will be coming to see me again," he said. "I think I made it pretty clear they would be wasting their time if they called me again. I let him know I was pissed that I risked my life to save someone for them to kill. Some rescue mission. He told me you were an enemy of the state. Hell, according to Homeland Security, everybody you could possibly call a patriot is an enemy of the state."

"Isn't that the truth," she said. "They say they have over a million on their list of terrorist suspects. Actually, I don’t think I would trust anyone who wasn't on their list. I read somewhere that someone who worked for Homeland Insecurity said when they can't come up with enough new names to meet their quota, they pick people at random from the phone books. The whole terrorist scare is a farce."

"Well, I guess you don't have to worry about getting on their list," he said with a laugh. "In fact, they have probably erased you from it."

"If it hadn't been for you, I'd be erased from the face of the earth. When I think of that, I realize how good it is to be alive. Sure, I am frustrated and angry, but I am alive. As bad as things are, it's still good to be alive."

"Think how good it would be if things weren't bad," he said.

"Mmmmmmmm. Wouldn't that be wonderful?"

 

The Regnant Home

 

"She probably set it up when I was a baby and an only child," Michael said. "Of course, I'll divide it up among the four of us."

Bryan Holmes, the family lawyer, who, as he was not shy about reminding everyone, was a descendant of Oliver Wendell Holmes, had come to the Regnant house to read Adele Regnant's will. The trust she had inherited from her parents, with a current value approaching a hundred million dollars had been bequeathed to Michael alone. The amount was unimportant, since it was dwarfed by each Regnant’s share of the gross family fortune.  Even so, Michael was embarrassed that it had been left to him alone.

"For goodness sake," said Gerald. "Don't bother, Michael. While it isn't exactly peanuts, we all have so much more than that. If you take it out of the trust to divide it up, a major chunk of it will end up with Uncle Sam. Just leave it for now. If any of us should ever need a little cash, we'll know where to turn."

The others agreed, and it was settled. The attorney told Michael that once a year he needed to have a meeting, and keep minutes, even if he were the only trustee. Michael said he was aware of that, and he told the attorney to remind him when it was time to have a meeting and to prepare the minutes ahead of time.

Adele also left all her personal belongings, except her jewelry, to Michael. The jewelry went to her daughter, Alice. To Michael and everyone else, that bequest of her personal belongings seemed very strange. Michael asked if this provision had been added recently.

"No," said the lawyer. "She had that in the original version, forty years ago. The clause took effect only after you reached the age of twenty-one. Until then, her mother was nominated."

"Then it seems even stranger," said Michael. "But, if that is what she wanted, I'll do it."

 

Later that afternoon, Michael walked into that section of the master bedroom suite, which included his mother’s dressing room, and her array of closets and cabinets. It felt strange. At the same time, there was something familiar and comfortable about it. He missed her terribly. He started to leave, not sure he was ready to go through her personal things. Maybe he would feel better about it later. No. His mother had wanted him to do this. She must have had some reason. Perhaps there was something she wanted him to see.

There was a huge closet, full of designer clothes. He considered giving the clothes to the servants, but wondered how the family would feel seeing his mother's clothes on the maid or the cook. Would that be hard to take, not because the servants were in any way inferior, but because it would remind them of her absence? His mother liked the servants, and he thought she would probably have liked for them to have her clothes.

He opened drawer after drawer. Not much of interest, just belts, scarves, purses, and such. Then it happened. One of the bottom drawers was full of books that turned out to be diaries--his mother's diaries. As each diary had a year stamped on its front cover, he quickly determined they covered the forty-two years from when his mother was eighteen, until the time of her death. He put them back in the drawer and covered them with the same few lacy pieces of lingerie. What was he to do with them, he wondered. I'll burn them, he thought. Diaries contain private thoughts; I can't imagine she would want anyone to see them.

When he had finished browsing through her rooms, he sat on a bench in front of her vanity. There was nothing out of the ordinary, except, perhaps, the diaries. What had been her motivation in giving him her personal belongings? He thought about it a while. There must be something in there he hadn't seen or had overlooked. Was there a drawer with a false bottom? Was there a secret panel somewhere, like in the B movies he had seen as a kid? He didn't think his mother would do that sort of thing. Didn't people tape things under the drawers? He pulled out each drawer and felt under it. Nothing. He looked behind all the pictures. He didn't look under the mattress, because the maid would have seen anything there. There was nothing at all. He gave up.

As he was leaving, his mind returned to the diaries. Since before he was born, she had kept a diary. Her private thoughts were in them. Was there something there? She might have wanted them destroyed, and that was why she left them to him. Then, too, there might be something in them that she wanted him to know. She had put the provision in her will forty years ago. That meant her reason existed forty years ago. She hadn't taken it out, so her reason still existed. If it were something in the diaries, it had to have been in the first three years.

He went back and found the first diary and skimmed through it. It was that of a college girl, interested in boys and dating. The entries were brief, about boys she dated, notes about school, difficult exams, and such. In the second volume, he could see her growing up. Her entries were a little more serious, less flighty. Then she met a man. All the others, she had called boys. This one was a man. Apparently, it became serious. From early that year, she had gone steady with him. He gathered, although she didn't say so explicitly, that she was intimate with him. They wanted to get married, but he was so poor. Her parents would never consent, and she wouldn't marry without their consent. He flipped the pages and was skimming through them, when he stopped cold. Graduation was over. She went home. She had discovered she was pregnant. She knew it had to be one of her last meetings with Kirk. She was frantic. Her parents would kill her. What was she to do? There was nothing she could do, she concluded. She told her mother, who was devastated. Her mother wanted to know who the father was. Adele wouldn't give his name, but said he was a penniless student, going to school on a scholarship. She told her mother she knew he would marry her. Her mother, however, was dead set against her marrying a penniless nobody. Her mother prepared a list of the young men they knew and decided on Claude Regnant. He was from a very respectable family, had plenty of money, and had a great future ahead of him. Best of all, he was obviously crazy about Adele. The trap was set, and Claude Regnant fell right into it, jumping at the chance to marry the lovely, witty, Adele.

His mother never saw Kirk again. The night before her wedding, she wrote in her diary, "I suppose I should consider myself lucky. Claude is a very nice man. He is crazy about me. I shall be a good wife to him. He will never know my baby is not his. However, even though I will never see him again, my heart will always belong to my baby's real father, Kirk Denton."

Michael dropped the book like a hot coal. Kirk Denton, the man the Regnants were planning to have eliminated. Kirk Denton, the bitter enemy of the Regnant Family, was his father.

 

The next few days went by slowly and difficultly. Michael's life was turned upside down. He had struggled with doubts all his life. Now, he wondered if he hadn't been right to doubt. As he read more of the diaries, he discovered his mother had never stopped caring for Denton, although she had grown to love her husband. She had followed Denton's career and read everything he wrote. She had acquired every book he had written and put them in the Regnant library. Michael resolved to get one of those books and read it. That evening, on his way to his room, he stopped in the library. It took him a few minutes to find the collection of Denton's books. There were quite a few of them.

At first, he thought it strange no one wondered about a collection of books by this enemy of the family. On the other hand, apart from his mother, and on rare occasions, his sister Alice, he had never seen anyone in the library for a book. They had meetings there, but the books seemed to be for decoration, not for reading. Cautiously, he left the library with three of Denton's books. What would he say if someone saw him and asked what he was reading and then, why? But no one saw him, and he arrived at his room, got ready for bed, and settled down with his first book by his real father.

Michael was favorably impressed by Denton's writings. In them, he saw references to other authors he had never heard of. He wanted to read them, and he wanted to read more of Denton's work too. He realized he hadn't read for pleasure or personal reasons since he was in high school. He had almost no time for reading. He pictured his family finding him sitting under a tree, reading a book. Imagining the startled reaction they would surely have amused him.

That first night and many subsequent nights, Michael would read from Denton's books. He read them randomly. He would pick up three and take them to his room and read them. In a little booklet of Denton's verse, he recognized what had to be references to his mother in the love poems. Several poems were written to a woman with auburn hair and green eyes. Even her name was almost the same, "Adela" instead of "Adele."

He had begun reading Denton to satisfy his curiosity and his desire to know something about his biological father. What he found satisfied a lot more of his needs. Michael was in his thirties before he had stopped seeing himself as inferior to his father and his brothers. He spent years striving to better himself; to be more like they were; to be strong; to ignore the feeling he and they were often doing things that were immoral, even evil. He hadn't realized it at the time, but he had been questioning the philosophy he was trained to live by.

Reading his father's books, particularly those on philosophy and politics, he came face to face with the articulation of the very feelings or beliefs that had taken him so many years to hammer into submission. Now, they sprang back to life within him, stronger than ever, reinforced with the arguments Denton presented, both his own and those of other writers. Michael couldn't read fast enough, although he was fairly adept at speed reading. He tried to read faster, but he kept pausing to turn a fascinating thought in his mind, to admire it, to absorb it, and to make it his own. He felt he was getting to know his real father, and he liked him. It occurred to him he might go visit Denton under some pretext. He dismissed the thought, but it kept coming back. The more he read, the more often it returned.

It was hard for Michael to turn his mind away from this new cataclysmic upset in his world, even enough for the most basic activities. When he talked to Claude Denton and addressed him as "Father," the realization this was not his father rose up before him. He clearly realized it was not in his best interests to let anyone else know about this. While he couldn't be absolutely certain how Claude Regnant would react to such news, there was an extremely high probability his share of or his access to the Regnant fortune would be severely reduced, if not eliminated completely. Even more important, the power and privilege to which he was pleasantly accustomed would be likely to vanish. From what he knew of the man he had called Father all his life, Michael knew Claude Regnant would not make the news public, as that would embarrass him. He would more likely work slowly and methodically to cut every tie between Michael and the Regnant family and its fortune.

His thoughts of the practical aspects of his new situation alternated with his emotional reaction. He loved his family. While they were not a closely knit, fairy tale family, there was a strong bond of mutual respect with a measure of love and affection. All the things that contributed to that were unchanged. There was only this newly discovered genetic technicality. Even Claude Regnant might eventually see things that way, but not for a long time, if ever. Michael was firmly resolved to keep this secret to himself.

What about the little matter of my real father's pending execution, thought Michael. He had never been an advocate of the violent way of settling scores, but had long ago decided since he was always going to be outvoted in such family decisions, he might as well appear to agree, instead of always being a dissident. In this particular case, he now had a greater reason to object than mere moral persuasion. The term patricide was an ugly one. He had to do something to stop the hit on Kirk Denton. He would start to work on that the next morning.

 

The Next Morning

 

"Father, I've been thinking about the Denton matter," said Michael, as he walked out onto the patio, where Claude sat with a cup of coffee and the Wall Street Journal.

"I thought that was settled, or to be settled in the near future," said Claude.

"I know. I was thinking about it last night. It kept me awake for quite a while. I felt there was something we were overlooking. You know how I am." He truly had been awake until late, but he had been reading more of his mother's diaries, which he had taken to his room for safekeeping.

"Well, what did you conclude?"

"As you know, most of the public sees us as robber barons, at best. I doubt one percent of the people are aware of Denton's inference we could be put in prison. Yet, we know we have done countless things, which, theoretically, could put us there. What if Denton really has the evidence he claims to have, and what if he has arranged for it to be made public if anything happens to him? I wouldn't find that an unreasonable precaution on his part."

Claude Regnant frowned. "No. It would be just like the little weasel."

"If he is killed and out comes this evidence, maybe along with it a letter by the victim blaming us for his death, we could be in deep stuff. The investigation into his death would be far more thorough, due to the public outcry, which you know would be loud and strong."

"I understand that," said Claude. "On the other hand, if we don't take him out, and he reveals the evidence, the stuff we are in might not be all that shallow."

"Can't we convince him releasing the evidence would not be in his best interest?"

"You mean make him an offer he can't refuse," said Claude with a grin.

"Something like that."

"It would have to be very convincing. He would have to think the next step would be terminal as well as inevitable, if he didn't clam up."

Michael had a vision of his real father getting both his legs broken. It was still better than being killed. Broken legs knit. Dead people stay dead.

"Good thinking, Michael, as usual. You are the analyst, and your analysis generally pays off."

"What is good thinking?" asked Albert as he pulled out a chair and sat down.

"Wait 'til Gerald gets here, and I'll tell you both," said Claude.

Chapter 4

West Virginia

 

Rhett slowed as he drove up to a large, swinging gate of galvanized, steel bars at the entrance of his West Virginia home. He jumped out, opened the gate, and went back to the Jeep Cherokee.

"It's probably nothing," he said, opening the door for Lisa and offering his hand to help her out, "but you had better get in the back. Someone has been here while I was gone."

"How can you tell?"

"I close the gate a certain way, like in the movies when they put a thread in the door, so they can tell if it has been opened because the thread will have fallen. The thread has fallen. Not only that, but the pin that holds the gate shut wasn’t put back in place. Someone just swung it closed. I don't have many friends out here, but some just come in and knock or blow their horn. It could have happened days ago, or just a minute ago. Just in case, you better crawl in the back and get under cover. It is better to be safe than sorry. We don't want anyone to see you, at least until you are well."

"Just so it isn't your commanding officer, here to see why you were so long getting home," she said. She swung her legs out. "Oh boy," she moaned. "I think my legs have set like concrete."

"Can I help you? Maybe I should leave you here and go in and see if the coast is clear."

"I have to get out of the car someday," she grinned. "I can do it."

When he had her in the rear of the vehicle, covered and hidden from casual view, he drove the last fifty yards to his cabin. "It's my neighbor," he called back to her. "Just hang in there, Lisa. I'll get rid of him. It shouldn't take long."

"Don't worry," she said. "I'll be here."

He parked at the opposite end of the porch from the battered pickup truck. He got out and waved to his neighbor, as he walked toward him.

"Hello, Barney," he called. "How's it going?"

 

Lisa was on top of something pressing into her ribs, which were still fairly sore. She tried to adjust her position, but she didn't want to make the car move. "Damn," she gasped. She rolled over on her back a little and was able to work the thing away from her. Its size and shape told her it was a lug wrench. There. That was better, she told herself, as she rolled back on her side to wait for Rhett.

 

"Lisa. Wake up, Lisa," called Rhett, shaking her gently by the shoulder.

She opened her eyes. "I guess I fell asleep," she said.

"Barney, my neighbor, is gone. Wouldn't you know that he would come just now? He just wanted to borrow something. Out here, the nearest store isn't just a stroll down the street, and the nearest one happens to be out of what he needed. "

"A cup of sugar?" she asked, trying to get out with his help.

"Shotgun shells. He said the store in town is out, and their shipment is already ten days late. I've heard there is a shortage of ammunition lately because people are afraid the government is going to set aside the second amendment. A lot of them are stocking up." He lifted her out of the car and put her on her feet. "I could carry you in," he said.

"I need to move," she said. "I think I'll feel better afterwards."

He helped her up the two steps and onto the porch. "Are you okay, if I let go of you?"

"Yes. Okay enough. You really do live in a log cabin."

He unlocked the door and swung it open. "Welcome to my log cabin."

"Wow. This is incredible," she said, stepping inside and looking around the spacious cabin. "I was expecting something much more like those the pioneers had in the cowboy movies. This could be showcased in Better Homes and Gardens. No wonder you love living out here. The farther we went, the more ramshackle some of the few houses were and the lower my expectations became. This is beautiful, Rhett."

"It's not much, but it's home," he said. "I consider myself a hill-William."

She looked at him, as if not understanding what he meant.

"That's meant to be a joke," he said. "I have become a West Virginian, but I'm still too citified to be a hillbilly, so I call myself a hill-William. You sit down and relax a bit. I'll bring our things in."

He went to the car and returned with a suitcase and some groceries. They had bought some clothes for her on the way. Knowing every credit card transaction is registered and recorded by the government, he withdrew money from an ATM and paid for her clothes with cash. In Pittsburgh, where they had turned in his rental car and picked up his own car, they had stopped for groceries. While he was in the kitchen putting away the groceries, she came in and stood watching him.

"I feel so useless," she said. "You are doing everything."

"I'm not doing anything I wouldn't have to do if you weren't here," he said. "So don't think you are adding to my work. Besides, the long trip from California would have been a bear to drive alone. I was really glad to have you with me."

 

That evening after dinner, as they relaxed on the front porch, a choir of crickets began a serenade. An owl hooted occasionally in the distance. Apart from that, it was completely serene.

"I could get used to this kind of place," she said. "I've had enough excitement to last for quite a while."

"I know how you feel. That's why I bought this place," he said. "I hadn't planned on coming here as soon as I did, but I got really fed up with what I was doing for a living."

"You said they pulled you out of retirement to rescue me. Was that the sort of thing you did for them before?"

"That and some pretty bad things too," he said. "I did a lot of things I wish I hadn't done, things I wouldn't consider doing now, things I'm not at all proud of. I hurt a lot of innocent people, I'm sorry to say. At the time, I saw them as bad guys, and I thought I was being patriotic, gung ho, and all that sort of thing. I was just an immature, macho jock."

"Maybe you were just a little brainwashed, and that was why you did those things," she said.

"I wasn't brainwashed. I was brain-scrubbed," he said. "I believed everything they told me, no matter how ridiculously illogical it was. You know the old platitude that there has to be something they know that I don't. There were things they knew and I didn't. They knew they were crooks, and they knew I was stupid."

"You might have been misinformed and gullible," she said, "but that doesn't make you stupid. An awful lot of people are in the same condition. They aren't all stupid."

"Maybe not," he said, "but stupid is how I felt when I finally began to figure out what was going on. The truth is you never know exactly what is going on. We never know all of it. I only know things are bad and probably worse than I can imagine, and for years I was part of the problem. Perhaps I still am, because I’m not doing anything about it."

"Tell me about it," she said. "There I was, translating all these recorded conversations--most of them surely illegally recorded--thinking I was doing something patriotic and almost heroic. It never occurred to me, until much later, that the main reason for all this spying on Americans is not to catch the bad guys. It's to protect the bad guys. They want to identify any good guys that find out the truth, so they can neutralize them before they blow the whistle on them. It's also to identify opportunities to plunder more and to identify competitive plunderers so they can be dealt with. I used to be amazed at some of the conversations and thought they had been recorded inadvertently and the intention had been to get some different activity. So many of the recordings were obviously private business meetings, not in the least political or criminal. Now, I’m pretty sure they got what they were looking for. Industrial espionage has to be behind a lot of our surveillance. Why else would they be recording so many business meetings? I'm not talking about phone conversations either. There were board of directors meetings and other meetings discussing business secrets, meetings that were either bugged or the agency somehow got hold of an in-house recording. They aren't just spying on Americans either, or they wouldn't need hundreds of translators like me. They spy on everyone, our supposed friends as much as our supposed enemies. If they ever do stumble across somebody planning something really bad, I think they either use it to their advantage politically or economically, or they ignore it. Stupid me, I went to Congress with a long list of things I had found out, and I couldn't get anyone interested. The congressmen didn't want to hear it any more than my superiors did. Not only that, they sent the list to my superiors, putting me in the cross hairs. I was transferred to Central America, where they apparently hired the guerrillas to kill me. The guerrillas kidnapped me instead, apparently hoping to get more money somehow. Then, the Blackhawk guys were sent to put me out of my misery."

"When the rent-a-goons were captured, they sent in their very best," said Rhett. "So Congress turned you in. You should have known better than to go to them. They are all in it together, all three branches."

"You think the courts are in on it, too?"

"Who appoints the judges? The executive branch appoints them," he said. "Who approves them? Haven't you noticed some of the things the Supreme Court finds constitutional couldn’t be more obviously unconstitutional? ‘Congress shall pass no law’ is said to mean ‘Congress can pass any law it wants.’ Somehow, it doesn't seem very brilliant of the framers of the Constitution to let the executive branch choose the people that are supposed to protect the citizens from the executive branch. Checks and balances. What kind of checks and balances do we have?”

"It does seem kind of silly, now that you mention it," she said. "They wouldn't appoint anyone who wouldn't play ball. It's like the fox getting to appoint the hen house guard, isn't it? Sometimes, I have a problem getting away from the true blue, apple pie, Fourth of July fiction I was brought up on. In a way, I miss believing the Hollywood portrayal of America, the beautiful. It was so pleasant."

"I know how you feel," he said. "It seemed too good to be true, and it was. Unfortunately, it seems most Americans still cling to the Hollywood fiction, which is probably the reason they create it in the first place, to fool the fools. The old refrain, 'a fool and his money are soon parted,' can be extended to, 'a fool and his freedom are soon parted.' If you think about it, there is not much, if anything, that can't be easily taken from a fool. Under majority rule, if the majority of the people are fools, which seems to be the case, then anything can be taken from anyone."

There was a long period of silence, as they sat with their thoughts.

"Do you think it will ever get better?" he asked.

It was another while before she answered, "No. I don't. I don't see any hope of improvement."

"I don't either," he said. "Every day, we discover more bad things happening, and we never ever hear about any of them being corrected or even slowed down. It’s like a mountain of evil is being piled on top of us, burying us, and there is nothing we can do about it, nothing at all. It just keeps getting worse. How will it end?"

"I don't know," she said. "You know the end has to be terrible, if things don't turn around. Do you suppose it really is impossible to turn things around?"

"No. I don't think it's impossible. It is certainly possible. However, I do think it is so improbable, it might as well be impossible."

"What would it take to turn things around?"

"Wow, that is a hard question to answer, especially off the top of my head and in a few sentences," he said. "I think to answer it at all in any kind of detail would be extremely difficult. To answer it in general, might not be so hard. All you would have to do is find a way to prevent people messing things up or get rid of the people messing things up. Of course, there might not be many people left when you got through."

"Yes," she said. "That would pretty much do it. It doesn't seem like you would have to get rid of so many percentage-wise. Wouldn't it be enough to get rid of the people running and ruining things?"

"If you mean get rid of people like the President, Congress, the Supreme Court, and that sort of people, don't you think they would be replaced almost instantly with similar people? How did they get there in the first place? Even if the elections weren't rigged, the only candidates you ever get to choose from are those that will all do the same thing if elected."

"Why is that?" she asked. "Why is it always hold your nose and vote?'

"About the only explanation I’ve run across that seems at all logical," he said, "is that there is a Power Elite that determines who we get to choose from. They have the wealth and the influence. They finance the campaigns of and grease the skids for their anointed candidates, and when the candidates are elected, the payback is greasing the skids for the Power Elite. That way the Power Elite get a government that helps them get richer and more powerful, so they can use their increased wealth and influence to get even richer and even more powerful, and so on and on."

 

Over the next few days, Lisa went into more detail about a number of high crimes and misdemeanors she had come across the evidence of in her work with the NSA. Their conversations usually evolved into discussions of the overall political problems they saw around them, which made them depressed and frustrated, and they would turn to less disturbing topics. Nevertheless, as freedom was something they both felt very strongly about, they found themselves returning to those distasteful topics again and again. They surfed the Internet, looking for answers to their questions. They discovered a few web sites, which seemed to present relatively uncensored news about what was going on in the world. Most sites displayed bias of some sort, but they took that into account. They read many articles by people, who like them, were concerned about the way things were going.

One evening, as they sat before the computer monitor, scanning the latest headlines, Lisa said, "You know, for years, I knew things were bad, even terrible, but they are actually far, far worse than I could have ever dreamed. Yet, I have a gut feeling the mountain of problems we know about is only the tip of the iceberg. Keeping up with the news is so frustrating, so depressing."

"Are you suggesting we quit looking at the news?"

"Heavens, no, Rhett. It doesn't make me want to stick my head in the sand. It merely makes me wish more than ever we could do something about it. At the same time, the more we see, the more impossible it seems anything will or even can be done. It's like one of those end of the world movies, where a giant comet is headed for the earth, about to destroy it completely, and there is nothing anyone can do, except wait and wish."

"I know exactly how you feel," he said. "I feel the same way. You get so angry and so frustrated you want to blow them all away."

"The trouble is that if the people in charge even suspected we really wanted to blow them away, we would be the ones blown away. We only talk about blowing them away. We won't do it. With the powers that be, it's the other way around. They don't talk about blowing people away, they just do it. Thanks to you, I'm living proof of that."

"You might get a few before they got you," he said, "but nothing would change. There are thousands of them. You could kill hundreds of them, and nothing would change. You would have to really clean house to make any difference. That isn’t something a handful of patriots could hope to accomplish. Not only that, but the minute you started joining up with like-minded people, their surveillance is so complete that they would be on to you, and you and your associates would be history."

"Talk about compound frustration," she said. "Yet, I still hate to believe it is absolutely impossible."

"Nothing is absolutely impossible," he said. "So they say. You can be sure the establishment is working as hard and fast as they can to make it absolutely impossible for the American people to ever regain their freedom. I believe that if a majority of the American people rose up together, they could take the country back in an instant, which is precisely why we are inundated with non-stop propaganda. The propaganda and whatever chemicals they feed us or spray on us keep the large susceptible segment of the population in la la land."

"So far," she said. "So far."

 

The Regnant Building in Manhattan

Michael’s Office

 

Michael sat in his high-backed, comfortable, desk chair, looking out the window, waiting for his brother to answer.

"Hi, Gerald. Michael. Do you remember the name of the guy that handled the Luna Cay negotiations for us?" Luna Cay, which the Regnants had purchased a few years ago, was an island in the Bay Islands, off the coast of Honduras. At the time, they had plans for Luna Cay, but those plans had been pushed aside by more pressing matters.

"Are you kidding, Michael? I had forgotten about that place. Wait a minute, though. I may know where to find it. You mean the guy who greased the skids for us, not the Realtor. Right?"

"Right?"

"It's coming back to me. He was recommended by Harry Wilson, who owns a place on the big island, Guanaja. In fact, Harry was the one that told us about Luna Cay in the first place. Here it is. I had it in Harry's file. Francisco Heredia Gutierrez is his name."

"One sec," said Michael. "Okay. I found him in the database.”

“You thinking of doing something with Luna Cay?”

“Not exactly, but you know that the CIA staged a coup in Honduras recently. Imagine my shock when I just heard the new puppet government is letting the U.S. put some kind of base on Guanaja.  I was thinking that might open some opportunities for us, since we’re only a mile or so off shore from Guanaja.”

“Good thinking, Michael. No use letting that place just sit there and rot. You should look at that island we bought in the Bahamas too. We keep saying we are going to fix it up and make some money with it, but we never do.”

“I know,” said Michael. “I’ll look into it, but it isn’t a high priority right now. Too many other things are. I’ll let you know if I come up with anything. Thanks a lot, Gerald.”

"No problem. Say, did you hear about Kirk Denton? I don’t think we’ll be having any more problems with him."

"What about him?" asked Michael. The way Gerald had said it made him afraid Denton had been killed after all.

"He's in the hospital. They must have been really rough with him. That or he must have been pretty frail. His condition is guarded. They think he will pull through, but it looks like he might be paralyzed from the waist down. I imagine he got the message, loud and clear."

Michael swallowed hard. The beating must have been quite severe. He guessed they had kicked Denton as he lay on the ground, kicked him in the spine to cause such serious damage. "I'd think not," he said, "unless he runs us down in the parking lot with his wheelchair."

Gerald laughed heartily. "I will remember to run if I see an old geezer headed my way in a wheel chair. Gotta go, Michael. See you later."

"Bye," said Michael. He hung up the telephone, leaned back in his chair, and closed his eyes. He had never seen Kirk Denton. He wouldn't know him if he saw him. Yet, he felt for the man. It was conditioning, he thought. We are conditioned to feel a kinship for our parents, regardless of any reality. Kinship. He chuckled. By definition, he had a kinship with Denton. It was purely biological though. Why was he concerned about this man he had never met? Not only that, the man was a sworn enemy of the Regnant family. Of course, when his mother had walked away from the penniless Denton and almost immediately married into the enormously wealthy Regnant family, it had to make Denton bitter. That was very likely the reason for his crusade against the Regnants. His fight against the Regnants made his mother unhappy, but she understood his animosity. The hardest thing for her, as she had written repeatedly had been that she couldn't talk with anyone about her feelings. Her secret was hers alone. Fortunately, or was it unfortunately, she decided to let Michael know, after she was no longer around. She had written of her belief and her wish her son would forgive her.

Forgive her what? Michael wondered. Forgive her for being in love? Forgive her for having gotten pregnant? He saw nothing to forgive. He was infinitely grateful she hadn't had an abortion, which in her circles, wasn't out of the question, even then.

Chapter 5

Upstate New York

Not far from the Regnant Estate

 

Michael's sleek, powder-blue Mercedes SLR McLaren seemed to float along the winding road through the eastern Pocono Mountains, so effortlessly did its 617 horsepower engine push the two ton roadster around the curves. There were eight cars in the Regnant's garage, including Michael's toy, as he called his half-million dollar Mercedes. Nevertheless, Michael was the only one in his family with a driver's license. The rest of the family always used a driver, one who was armed and doubled as a bodyguard. Michael hadn't driven much lately, and he, too, seldom went out alone. Today, he had to be alone. Today was a special case. His life had been rocked to its very foundations lately, and here he was, headed toward yet another once in a lifetime event.

For days, he had toyed with the idea of going to see Denton, this stranger whom he had never seen, yet with whom he felt more in tune with than he did with Claude Regnant or any of his siblings. They were, after all, his half-brothers and half-sister. Finally, the urge had become irresistible, and here he was, on his way to see his real father for the first time, without really understanding his reasons for doing it. As he rounded a curve and saw what he thought must be the Sheridan Sanitarium, where he had found out that Denton was recuperating, he began having second thoughts. Was this a wise move? He didn't know. There was no way to know for sure and only one way to find out.

 

Moments later, Michael knocked on the door of Kirk Denton's room. When he heard a slurred response that he took to be an invitation to enter, he opened the door and went in. Denton was lying in bed, looking toward the door. When he saw Michael, he cried out in fear and attempted to move toward the far side of the bed. He was obviously terrified of Michael.

"Calm down," said Michael. "I'm not here to harm you. I'm here to talk to you about my mother, Adele."

This seemed to allay Denton's terror a bit, but he was definitely not completely convinced.

"She died a few weeks ago," said Michael. "I am the executor of her estate, and I was going through her things when I found the diaries she had kept since she was eighteen. Apparently, at one time she was quite in love with you and you with her, at least she thought you were. She read all your articles and put all your books in our library. You were apparently quite important to her until the end, and I wanted to meet the man that had earned such loyalty from my mother. That is why I am here--certainly not to harm you."

"Adele is dead?" asked Denton, collapsing back onto the bed. He now seemed convinced Michael was not a threat. "How did she die?"

It was a little difficult understanding Denton's garbled speech, but Michael managed to decipher it. "She died peacefully, in her sleep, apparently of a heart attack. She wasn't sick, not that anyone knew of."

"I'm sorry to hear that," said Denton. "Very sorry." He looked away, out the window, and Michael noticed the tears in his eyes. "That's all I needed," he muttered.

"She was very distressed about the family's feud with you," said Michael. "I can't help wondering if that didn't contribute to her heart attack."

"Your conscience bothering you?" asked Denton.

"No," said Michael. "I did everything I could to prevent what happened to you. If it hadn't been for me, you would be dead. You are an intelligent man. You had to know if you poke a hornet's nest, you are likely to get stung. If you don't act on what you know, don't be surprised when the inevitable happens."

"Why did you try to prevent it?"

"I am the black sheep of my family," said Michael. "I don't like to bother anyone who doesn't bother me first. I have all the money I could ever need, and I don't feel any urge to pillage and plunder to get more. I don't have the slightest desire to have power over people. Besides, by then I knew about you and my mother. I loved my mother very much, and I didn't think she would have wanted anything to happen to you." Denton was so pale and so frail. He hardly looked like Michael had expected, but he had been through a traumatic experience, which might explain his frail appearance.

Denton stared at Michael for some time. "Maybe they switched babies in the hospital," he said. "You don't sound like a Regnant."

"I don't think that is it," said Michael, smiling inwardly at his secret that he wasn't a Regnant. He was relaxed now, seeing Denton becoming comfortable with him.

They talked for some time, and an obvious rapport grew between them. Michael was slightly tempted to tell Denton he was his son, but he easily resisted the temptation.

"I really have to go," said Michael. "I have enjoyed talking to you. I would appreciate it if you didn't mention this visit to anyone. I can't force you to keep it to yourself, but I am asking it."

"I'll keep your secret," said Denton. "I suppose I should thank you for saving my life--most of it anyway. In case you’re wondering why I talk so funny, my broken jaw is wired shut. I only wish you had been a bit more successful in your attempt."

"The Regnants weren't the only ones wanting to get rid of you," said Michael, leaning over the bed and clasping Denton's hand. "There were interlocking interests. Needless to say, the next time, if there is a next time, they won't listen to me. I recommend you be more careful where you stick your nose."

"I'm not planning on doing much of anything in the near future," said Denton with a crooked grin.

 

Rhett Bartlett's Cabin

 

"Listen to this, Rhett," said Lisa. "This senator's wife is on dozens of big corporations’ boards,” she said, reading from her computer screen. “She gets an average of one hundred and twenty-five thousand a year from each one. She may possibly attend a few hours of board meetings a few times a year. If she goes to three two-hour meetings, she gets over twenty thousand dollars an hour from each corporation. You don't suppose those companies get any preferential voting from this senator do you?"

"Perish the thought," said Rhett, in a mocking tone. "Personally, Lisa, I would be amazed if you could find five honest people in the five hundred and thirty-five legislators.”

"I used to wonder how it is that essentially no honest people ever get elected in this country," she said, pushing her chair back from the desk. She got up and walked around the room. "That shows you how stupid I was."

"I was the same way, but when I would see a major upset in the election and the elected underdog turned out to be just like all the others, I eventually came to the conclusion everyone on the ballot is one of them."

"Precisely," she said. "It doesn't matter if you vote donkey or elephant. You get a skunk."

"I like that," he said. "That was good."

"It was. Wasn't it?" She grinned in appreciation of her own remark. "I'll have to remember that one."

"Listen to what this article says,” said Rhett. “'We are under the control of a two-headed, one party political system. Wall Street controls our financial lives; the media manipulates our minds. These systems cannot be changed from within. There is no alternative. Without a revolution, these institutions will bankrupt the country, keep fighting failed wars, start new ones, and hold us in perpetual intellectual subjugation.'"

"Wow."

"This guy has been right on most of the time, so far. It looks like he doesn't think it has to be a violent revolution, though," said Rhett. "He calls for an intellectual revolution. What a crock. How does he expect people who can't find the United States on the globe, who think Iraq destroyed the twin towers, who think little Iran is a danger to the huge United States, who think the elections in America are honest, who vote for dead candidates, and so on, to suddenly sprout wisdom and become intellectuals and join in an intellectual revolution. At least, he wants us to think he expects that. He might as well expect all the dogs and cats in America to rise up and overthrow the government."

"In some cases, I'd bet on the pets over their owners," said Lisa, pulling a chair up next to him. "Animals can't imitate humans, but humans can and often do imitate animals by not using their ability to reason. It's like being able to read and not reading. You might as well be illiterate for all the good knowing how to read does you. The people that don’t reason may not be mindless, but they may as well be. How fitting is the phrase, 'mindless robots.' Unfortunately, the mindless robots vote. If, as we suspect, they are in the majority, our existence depends on the whims of mindless robots. If we are willing to entrust our future and that of our descendants to mindless robots, what does that say about us? Are we any better?"

"What choice do we have?" asked Rhett.

"There has to be a way. We just have to find it," she said. "You would think mankind would have addressed that problem a long time ago."

"It just occurred to me," said Rhett, "the Power Elite are currently doing exactly what we should be doing and would if we could."

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"You just inferred we would be stupid to entrust our future and that of our descendants to mindless robots, people who can't or won't think. Right?"

"Right."

"Then so would the Power Elite be stupid to entrust their future and that of their descendants to those who can't or won't think. But the Power Elite aren’t like us. They take matters into their own hands and out of the hands of the so-called mindless robots. The PE don't act stupidly. They act to further their interests. We don't. We just complain, as if that would do some good. We put our trust in the ballot box, acting as if we didn't know it is a waste of time. We are acting stupidly. There is no better way to say it."

"What is the alternative?" asked Lisa. "We are a democracy."

"We aren't supposed to be a democracy," said Rhett. "Back when I went to school, we were a constitutional republic. That means there are certain things called rights that can't be voted away by a mindless majority. At least, that is or was the plan. Totally tyrannical governments call themselves the People's Democratic Republic of So and So. I assume that indicates the majority of the people everywhere are as clueless as they are here. With a background in Propaganda 101 and a little slick salesmanship, the establishments can wrap their mindless robots around their little fingers."

"I'm afraid it's true," she said. "Still, what is the solution?"

"How should I know," said Rhett. "Trying to work things out and see why we are as screwed up as we are is like trying to find your way out of an endless, impossible maze. Every avenue branches out in all directions, and any turn you take branches out the same way. It is practically impossible to comprehend the entire problem, much less solve it.”

“I know what you mean. We are attacked on every front, probably even some fronts we’re unaware of.”

“If the majority of the people are enabling the government's increasing oppression of us, then, willingly or unwittingly the majority of the people present a danger to us and our descendants,” said Rhett. “The way I see it, anyone presenting a danger is an enemy, and you do what you can to stop them. You disable them, one way or another."

"There is no way you are going to disable the majority of the people in the United States."

"Not easily and certainly not without getting a lot of innocent people."

"You’re saying the majority of the people in America are our enemies, because they are a threat to us," she said.

"Think about it," said Rhett. "What else could you call them? Decent, law abiding citizens are losing their rights, their property, and their lives. Right now it may be a minority, but it is a fast growing minority. The majority are instrumental in bringing this about. You were targeted for murder. The administration ordered your assassination. The majority that put a criminal administration in office, allowed it to stay in office, even after its criminal acts were obvious, are accessories to attempted murder in your case and murder in the case of millions around the world. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the people in that majority are accessories to mass murder, robbery, rape, and pillage of every sort. I firmly believe that, in their heart, most of them have to know it."

"They'd never admit it," said Lisa. "As you say, to admit knowing it is to admit that they, themselves, are guilty of murder.  I’m beginning to see how huge this problem is. If the President, with the explicit approval of ninety-nine members of the U.S. Senate and four hundred and thirty-three members of the U.S. House of Representatives, sends troops to attack a nation which has not attacked or in any way threatened to attack the United States, and these troops murder a hundred, a thousand, or a million, or even only one citizen in that country while doing what they were ordered to do, then the President and the members of Congress that voted to support the attack are all guilty of each and every murder committed by these soldiers. They can hardly claim self-defense or any other defense and are guilty of the premeditated murder of each and every casualty of the attack. Furthermore, the majority of the people not only failed to demand the impeachment of these criminals representing them in our representative government, but after the attack became a war, they re-elected these criminals who promised to keep on killing the innocent foreigners. Most of the people are accessories to murder and deserve being punished as such."

"Think what that means," he said. "It means that the President and every Senator and Congressman that voted to allow the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq is guilty of approximately a million and a half murders. It also means that, at the very least, every voter that voted to reelect them deserve stiff prison terms for the murder of those dying after the reelection."

"This would mean a lot of people in prison," said Lisa, "But there is no way to know who voted how, so you couldn’t possibly prosecute the guilty voters.”

“You could damned sure prosecute the politicians,” said Rhett. “Since the murders were in foreign countries, it might be wise to send them to those countries and let them take care of it. I’m sure they would be happy to mete out justice to the killers of their families and friends. Sometimes, I wonder if half of the people aren't retarded to some extent. They seem to think if enough people are for it, anything is okay, no matter how evil it is. Supposedly, you have the Christian right in America cheering on the slaughter in the Middle East, wanting all the non-Christians murdered. They don't think of themselves as criminals. Too many Americans seem to think murder is fine if enough of them support it. If I murder you, they know it's wrong, and would be for putting me in prison or executing me. If I get a friend to help me murder you, my friend and I are guilty of murder and can be put in prison or executed. The same if I get three, four, five, six, friends to help me kill you. What is the magic number of friends I need to help me kill, to make it stop being murder for those people?"

They were silent a while.

Lisa spoke first. "The government would like us to believe Iraq could have or would have attacked the United States. Now, they are saying the same thing about Iran. We know that is fear-mongering propaganda to justify the invasion of another innocent nation. Either one of these countries is no more a threat to us than little postage stamp Bermuda. We are in the big leagues. It’s silly to think any little league team poses a threat to any big league team.”

"But America is in very serious danger," he said. "Unfortunately, America's worst enemy appears to be its own citizenry. The majority of the people for whatever reason seem to be supporting the destruction of their own country."

"I'm afraid you are right," she said. "That makes restoring the American Dream much more unlikely. It appears that you would have to get rid of most of the population. At least, you'd have to reduce the number of the mindless robots until they no longer posed a threat to the people that want to live in freedom."

"That might not be necessary," said Rhett. "I would certainly hate to think it was. Besides, you said you can’t distinguish the mindless robots from the fully functional humans. Surely, there must be another way. We just need to figure out what it is.”

 

A Few Days Later

 

“Here’s lunch,” said Rhett, holding up his stringer with two fish on it.

“They look nice,” said Lisa. “What kind of fish are they? Trout?”

“Bass,” said Rhett. “Small mouth bass. These are pretty good size for small mouth bass. Do you know how to cook them?”

“I can cook them, if you get the heads and all that excess stuff off them, so they look like the fish you buy in the store.”

“No problem,” said Rhett, with a laugh. “If you want, I can teach you how to do it.”

“Maybe next time,” she said. “I’m still not a hundred percent, you know.”

“Okay,” he said, heading inside the cabin. “I’ll call you when they look like store bought fish.”

 

When they had finished lunch and were sitting on the porch, relaxing, Rhett said, “You really do know how to cook fish. I think that was as good as any fish I ever had in my life.”

“I’m glad you liked it,” she said.

“Do you like fishing?”

“I never tried it,” she said.

“I never thought about it,” he said, “but I guess a lot of people never went fishing. They don’t know what they’re missing. We’ll go fishing when you’re a little stronger.”

“Okay.”

“Fishing is a lot more than trying to catch fish, although if you are hungry, that might be foremost in your mind. When you are fishing, you can shut out the world, or you can meditate. It’s very relaxing. When I was little, my father would sometimes lean back against a tree, toss his line out in the water, with no bait on the hook, pull his cap down over his eyes and just sit there for what seemed like ages to me. I assumed he went to sleep and used no bait so the fish wouldn’t disturb him.”

“Why use the fishing pole?” asked Lisa. “Why not just lie down and go to sleep?”

“Maybe because he thought no one would notice him sleeping. Maybe he didn’t really sleep but was thinking.  Maybe the relaxation of fishing was there even without bait. I don’t know.”

“Did you get some thinking in this morning while you were fishing?”

“Oh yes. Quite a lot.”

“What did you think about?” she asked.

"The other day we were saying how complex the problems are," said Rhett, "I was trying to come up with a simple analogy that fits the situation, something a child could understand.”

“Did you come up with one?”

"To some extent," said Rhett, "It starts with Mister Crook, who wants other people's money, but doesn't want the risk involved in stealing it. Add Mister Enforcer, who is extremely well armed and powerful. He has no morals at all. Of course, we have the victims, the people, who work and make money, but are neither well-armed nor very powerful. Mister Crook hires Mister Enforcer to take the victim's money. We can crank things up a little by adding Mister Setup, whose job it is to entice victims to an appropriate spot, where Mister Enforcer can waylay them. There are a great many victims and the three conspirators do quite well in their enterprise. Mister Crook pays Mister Enforcer very well, and he and Mister Enforcer take good care of Mister Setup to ensure a steady stream of victims. The big winner, of course, is Mister Crook, the mastermind of the enterprise, who ends up with the lion's share of the victim's money."

"I think I know where you're going, but go ahead," said Lisa.

"By merely changing the names, you have an overview of the way our nation operates," said Rhett. "Mister Crook becomes the Power Elite. Mister Enforcer is, of course, the government. Mister Setup is the mainstream media and academia and the victims are still the victims or the citizens."  The Power Elite, in effect, employs the government to take the people's money, while the mainstream media and academia set them up to be fleeced."

"That’s good," said Lisa. "I like it."

"After that, you can expand on it for young people," said Rhett. "The Power Elite can be loosely defined as a group with extreme wealth and power, who also consider themselves the aristocracy of the world, and act accordingly. As with all aristocracies, there are courtiers and all sorts of hangers-on, hoping for a few crumbs from the royal table. These would be the ordinary members of the CFR, the Trilaterals, etc. in the U.S.A. and their counterparts around the world. The Power Elite used their control and influence over the government to increase their control by promoting endless legislation in their favor, until they now relatively completely control who can be a part of the government, allowing only people who will act as their Enforcer. Through legislation controlling business activity, they eliminate competition and opposition."

"That makes it easier to picture the structure," said Lisa. “You left out the citizens that support their own downfall.”

“I wasn’t fishing long enough to get into that,” said Rhett. “I could also go into how the Mister Enforcer claims to be helping the victims, Mister Setup backs him up, and most of the victims believe them. They don’t bother to take the time to think, not that it would take much thought.”

“Now you have it,” said Lisa. “I wonder how many could work their way through that.”

“Everyone could. The big question is: how many would?”

Chapter 6

Rhett's Cabin

 

Rhett Bartlett and Lisa Simmons pulled up to Rhett's cabin, after driving around for a few hours, checking out nearby places that might be for sale.

"The countryside is really beautiful here," she said, as they walked toward the cabin. "How cold does it get here in winter?"

"Cold. Damned cold," he said. "I like the fresh snow when I'm inside looking out. It can be beautiful, but sometimes it's pretty hard to get around. They don't plow these back roads. That means you can be snowbound after a big snow storm, unless you don't mind a long hike to the store."

"That would be quite a hike," she said. "It must be four or five miles, isn't it?"

He opened the front door and held it for her. "I think it's a little shorter when you walk cross country than when you drive, but walking through snow can be pretty tiring. It only takes one winter to teach you some lessons about what to stock up on before the snow comes. I have a fruit cellar, and you would be surprised how well things hold up in there."

"Are you saying you just put your fruit in this cellar and it lasts the winter?"

"A fruit cellar is for more than just fruit," he said. "Some of my neighbors were more than happy to educate me on the subject. Most of them are into canning, big time. They ‘put up’ a lot of fruit and vegetables, and different kinds of jelly. They fill shelves in the cellar with jars of these things, but they also have bushel baskets or bins of potatoes, apples, onions and such. They hold up pretty well throughout the winter. You have to go down there once in a while, inspect them carefully, and pick out any that are starting to go bad. You know that saying about one bad apple spoiling the barrel. I put away a few things last winter. This winter, I plan to do it on a much larger scale. Of course, I don't can things. I buy cans of things. If I see canned fruit or vegetables on sale, I buy a case or two.”

Lisa sat down on the sofa, stretching her legs out in front of her. “How can I get tired sitting in the car?”

“You’re still recuperating,” he said, sitting on a hassock in front of the sofa. “We don’t know how much blood you lost. It could take a bit more than a couple of months for your blood to get back to normal. Until then, you will tire easier.  I made a pitcher of tea, this morning. How about sitting on the porch for a while and having some iced tea?”

“Sounds wonderful,” she said. “I’m thirsty, even if I didn’t know it until you mentioned the tea.”

 “Go sit down. I’ll bring the tea.”

A moment later, Rhett came out with a glass of iced tea in each hand. Lisa was sitting in one of the two high-back rocking chairs on the porch. He handed her a glass of tea, and sat in the other rocker next to her. “You seem to like these rocking chairs,” he said.

“I don’t think I ever sat in one before coming here,” she said.

“Your mother didn’t rock you when you were a baby?”

“Not that I remember,” she said. “You’re right I do like them, especially when we sit out here in the evening and the crickets start to sing, and the whippoorwills call. I never felt as peaceful as I do here. If I ever manage to get my money, I hope I can find a place around here. I'll be up to the rafters with food when winter comes. Walking five miles in a blizzard doesn't appeal to me all that much. Right now, I'd be happy to be able to walk half a mile at a decent clip. By the way, speaking of getting my money reminds me: the anniversary of my mother's death is the twenty-seventh of this month. My sister and I always visited Mom and Dad's graves and put flowers on them. I imagine she will go alone this year. That might be a good time and place to meet with her. It's not very far from here."

"It sounds like an excellent place," said Rhett. "We could wait off in the distance, make sure she isn't followed, and then approach her. Where is the cemetery?"

"In Cambridge, Ohio."

"Ohio? Are you from Ohio?"

"No," she said. "But Mom and Dad were. When my mother inherited her parents’ house, she and Dad moved back there. It is a fairly small town. I think they were much happier there than in a crowded city. Come to think of it, I own half of that house with my sister. It's been rented out since Mom died. Damn. That's one more thing I've lost."

"Let me see something. I’ll be back in a minute," he said. He went inside to the bookcase beside his desk, pulled out a road atlas, laid it on the desk, opened it, stared a while at a map of the United States, and flipped to a few other pages.

"How would you feel about going to New York for a couple of days and wandering around there a little?” he asked as he sat back down beside her.

"New York. Why New York?"

"I would like to see a friend there, and I think I can get some ID for you there. I know a guy that can probably arrange that. You really should have the basic documents, like a birth certificate, a driver's license, maybe a couple of credit cards, and a social security card. You never know when you might be in a situation where they ask you for ID."

"I guess you’re right," she said. "When would we go?"

"If we're lucky, in a couple of days," he said. "I have to arrange it with my friends. In New York, we'll be closer to Columbia, Maryland. Maybe we could run down there and pick up some of your stuff. You said you have some checks there, so we can see if we can arrange for you to get your money. The twenty-seventh is on a Saturday. As long as we finish there and get back here by Friday, the twenty-sixth, we can be in Cambridge on Saturday. I don't think it's much more than an hour away, once we get on a highway. Is your sister an early bird?"

"Hardly. Just the opposite. That would be fantastic," she cried. "You said I could pick up some personal things too. Remember?"

"I said you could get some personal things as long as you don't make it look like you moved out," he said. "Remember?"

"Yes, I remember," she said. "How could I forget?"

"Do you have a key to your place?" he asked her. "I didn't notice you carrying a purse when I picked you up in the jungle."

"Damn, I forgot my purse. Can we go back for it?"

"You go. I'll wait here for you," he said.

"I have a key hidden outside the apartment," she said. "I got locked out once, and I decided to keep a key hidden outside, in case that ever happened again."

"Can you find it in the dark? We'd be wise to be there in the wee hours of the morning, when everyone is asleep. You wouldn't want anyone to see you, especially anyone who might recognize you. You don't have to go past a security guard do you?"

"No security guard," she said, "and I think I can find it in the dark. Can we have a flashlight or at least a match, just in case?"

"Sure. We just don't want to attract any attention."

"I need a screwdriver too," she said.

"No problem," he said. "Can you use a Swiss army knife?"

"That should work," she said. “The screws are small and not extremely tight.”

“I’d better take a small screwdriver, just in case,” he said. “The screwdriver on the knife is pretty broad.”

 

The Regnant Residence

 

The men of the Regnant family were having breakfast on the terrace. Claude Regnant mentioned the dollar had fallen against the Euro that week and how fortunate it was they had taken Michael's advice and transferred most of the family money out of dollars and into gold. Yesterday, gold had hit a new high, making their gold worth more than three times the dollars it had cost. Yet, it had been in gold futures they had really multiplied their money. Michael had started putting funds in long term gold futures when gold was a little under three hundred dollars an ounce, and it was now hovering above fourteen hundred dollars. There, they had done exceedingly well.

"We have made tens of billions of dollars on gold, yet the gold hasn't gone up in value any more than turnips or tin," said Claude Regnant. "It just lies there not earning a penny of interest, but the dollar is damned sure crash diving. I read somewhere that an ounce of gold, today, will buy about the same amount of rice, wheat, or olive oil it would have purchased in the time of the Roman Empire, indicating its purchasing power hasn't changed all that much. You did well, Michael. Even though the dollars are worth considerably less, we have so many more of them now."

“But you dumped much of that gold some time ago,” said Albert, “while it was still going up. We could have made even more.”

“I dumped the Comex contracts on gold,” said Michael. “There is reason to believe that only a fraction of that gold exists. Very few people have facilities for storing billions or even millions of dollars’ worth of gold, and so they don’t take delivery. The recent revelations of gold plated tungsten bars appearing around the world is making a lot of people nervous, as it certainly should. If a suitable facility for gold storage becomes available, a lot of people may call for delivery of their gold and most of them are probably going to find out they own nothing at all. I don’t want to be one of those. I’m working on a safe way to buy up more verifiable gold and store it safely. I was suspicious when the Redsons got out of the gold business a few years ago, just when gold was taking off. I suspect that they had already cleaned out most of the real gold in central banks around the world, including Fort Knox, and substituted fake gold. They didn’t want to be involved when it was discovered that all the major governments are paying many times the value of their tungsten to guard it. That is just my feeling. I have zero evidence. But the Redsons are surely involved in setting the price of gold, and they had to know it would be soaring in price and the market would explode. The fact that they got out was perplexing at the time, and now, I take it as circumstantial evidence of some sort of scam or fraud.”

“You are talking many millions of tons of gold, Michael,” said Claude. “Yet, no one is more perfectly positioned to pull off a scam like that. They are related to all the major banking families around the world through strategic marriages. They are involved in all the major central banks of the western world, and possibly, the rest of the world.”

“I would think they would leave a percentage of real gold on the outside of a pile, to pass testing,” said Michael. “An audit would probably pick a bar or two from each palette and test it. The inner bars are unlikely to ever get touched, much less tested. The gold in Fort Knox hasn’t been audited for well over fifty years, although several calls have been made for an audit. That alone, is reason to believe that either all or part of it is gone, or it is fake.”

“The Redsons couldn’t admit to having that much gold,” said Claude. “All the central banks would immediately call for a thorough audit and testing. They would have to keep it to themselves. What good would it do them?”

“It would cause an economic and political disaster when it was discovered that all the major central banks had lost trillions of dollars’ worth of gold. Real gold would climb to astronomical prices. It could be one of the arguments for calling for a world government with a world currency, backed by nothing but the government’s say and the government’s monopoly on guns. With all the world’s real wealth in their pocket, they could easily control that government. You know that everyone in any group that sets up a world government will be put there by the rulers of the Power Elite, and I don’t include small fry like us.”

"I think they are playing with fire, destroying the economy this way," said Albert, the younger of Michael's two brothers. "We know this crash is no accident, and it is no mistake. It is so obvious, even the people must suspect it. This depression was created intentionally. The last time they created a depression, it lasted about fifteen years. It took a World War to pull us out, if that is what did it."

"World War Two didn't end the depression, except indirectly," said Michael. "When the war ended, the United States was the only industrial nation with any production capacity left. The allies had destroyed all the factories and much of the population and the infrastructure in Europe, There was no fighting on our soil, so we had no damage. While the rest of the world was rebuilding, we were just about the only source for everything. The reconstruction after the World War financed our recovery and the enormous growth of our economy. Coming out of this depression will take something more like a miracle. Having sent much of our manufacturing out of the country, we don't make much of anything, anymore. In recent years, other than arms, our chief exports have been manufacturing and jobs. We have a deteriorated work ethic, and a large percentage of our workers are ill prepared for much more than manual labor, thanks to our public school system. This depression is likely to last much longer and be much worse. In a single generation, we have gone from being the largest creditor on earth to being the largest debtor. Lately, the national debt is growing like Jack's beanstalk, soaring to the sky. World war isn't going to help us this time. Furthermore, if there is one, it could easily be nuclear, and in a nuclear war, there are no winners. Even those not directly involved are huge losers. People talk about endangered species. If we have a nuclear war, which the USA seems bent on, all species will be endangered, particularly Homo sapiens. In conventional warfare, we lost two wars with countries the size of Pennsylvania and New Mexico. Now we have been fighting a weak country the size of California for twice as long as we fought in World War Two, and we are no closer to victory than we were at the end of the first month. Even using low level nukes as deadly for our own men as they are for the other side, we can't manage to win. For us, it seems the only possible way to win is to kill every living thing for miles around. If we leave any people standing, we can't beat them if they aren't willing to surrender."

"I agree with you on all counts," said Albert. "Sure, we are making a lot of money, but I'm wondering if it could get to the point money doesn't matter anymore.'

"It will never get to the point money doesn't really matter anymore," said Claude Regnant. "It may get to the point paper money doesn't matter, particularly the dollar. Until we get to a one world government and a one world currency, it is even likely paper money will become worthless, but it will never get to the point real money like gold and silver don't matter. No matter how bad it gets, we will be fine, and the worse it gets for everyone else, the better it will be for us, because we can pick up that much more at the bottom. Then, when things settle down, we'll have tens or hundreds of times as much as we have now."

"You mean our kids will have tens or hundreds of times as much," said Albert. "We will be long gone. The people planning this are probably doing it for precisely that reason, to multiply their families’ shares of the world's wealth. It's my understanding the top one percent hold some forty percent of the world's wealth, and the top ten percent hold three quarters. If that is true and if the people at the top plan to multiply their holdings, it seems like most of their new wealth will come from the top ten percent, with close to half coming from the top one percent. They might be even aiming at us."

"Come on, Albert," said Gerald Regnant, the middle brother. "Quit worrying. Even if we went to one percent of what we have, we'd be extremely well off. We have dozens of estates, hundreds of servants, farms, ranches, islands, yachts, and planes. We will always have them and more. I think we are far enough up the ladder to be safe. I don't know what you are worried about."

"For one thing," said Albert, "I can't help thinking that a few hundred million people may take up arms because of a depression. Worse yet, if they suspect it was intentionally orchestrated, they may want to slaughter the people they feel are responsible. Remember the French Revolution, when all those aristocrats lost their heads? No one was better off than the king of France, until the revolution. Then, out came the guillotine. They say history repeats itself. Don't any of you worry about a public uprising?"

Michael pushed himself away from the table and stood up. "You have a point, Albert," he said. "Actually, you made two good points there. First, the one about the most elite of the Power Elite trying to multiply their wealth when half of the wealth is held by the top one percent. Don't forget that the top one percent is sixty million people. I hadn't thought much about it, but we are surely in the top five percent of that one percent, if not higher. In the near future, I don't see too much danger for us. The lower ninety percent of those sixty million had better look out though. Eventually, I suppose it will get down to a handful of families fighting it out, but that is a long way off.  Your second point: the likelihood of the American people rising up and getting rid of the aristocrats or the Power Elite in this case, is cause for concern. Suppose we Regnants backed off right now, got out of everything, and began keeping a low profile, just being the nice, innocent Regnants, living off what we have now, which is certainly ample. Suppose it did come to a revolution like the French Revolution, and the aristocrats, as you call them, started losing their heads. Do you really think the revolutionaries will say, let's not get the Regnants because everyone knows they are good guys? Don't you think they would say because we have what we have, we have to go?"

"Michael's absolutely right, Albert," said Gerald. "If you want to be seen as a peasant, you'll have to become one. You would have to change your name, move into a tract house, get a job, and have no servants. How do you think that would go over with Eloise?"

"Okay. Okay," said Albert.

Alice Regnant, still occasionally referred to as the baby of the family, in spite of being twenty-nine years old, joined them.

"Good morning, Alice," said Michael, "I hope that's not all you're having for breakfast" he said referring to the cup of coffee she had brought with her. He had always felt protective of Alice. He was the oldest brother, and she was the youngest sibling. He knew she could be a little feisty at times, but she generally tended to be shy and introverted. She was also single, as he was. She had been courted by quite a few men with a lot going for them, but none had made the grade. He hadn’t liked any of them, himself. He figured she was looking for something better, a hero, perhaps. He often thought his own sights were set too high, as no woman ever quite met his standards either.

"I'm having a croissant," she said, "with guava jelly. It'll be here any minute."

Michael turned to the others and said, "I have to get going, but I'll think about what we might do in case of a violent revolution. I think Albert is absolutely right to be concerned about the possibility of a revolution. While it may be hard to imagine today's Americans revolting, history supports the concept. I also think Albert is wise to see the possibility we and our peers could be targeted by the big boys. For the last century or two, wealth has been rising to the top, and common sense tells us that it will come to the point the lower echelons of the top one percent will be cleaned out by the upper echelons. In the end, there will be only the top ten families, and then nine, eight, seven, until one family essentially owns the world. However, just like it is now, most people won't realize it. The masses will see the number one family as rich, lucky, and probably crooked, yet have no idea they control the world. While this may occur over several generations, we should have it in the back of our minds and either plan on being number one, which means we better start undercutting the Redsons now, or we need to find a way to  keep them from getting the Regnant fortune down the line."

"What a shame I missed the earlier conversation," said Alice. "I would have loved to hear about the coming revolution, if any. Maybe one of you can tell me about it. I might want to sign up."

"Albert can fill you in," said Michael. "He was the one that brought it up in the first place. I really have to go. I'll see you all at dinner." He left them mulling over his remarks.

In his car and headed toward the sanitarium where his real father was, he did actually think about a possible revolt of the masses for a few minutes, but his mind drifted.

 

Kirk Denton's Sanitarium

 

Michael wheeled Kirk Denton along a paved walkway that ran through the manicured grounds of the sanitarium. He turned off onto a little terrace with two benches.

"Do you want to be in the sun or the shade?" he asked Denton.

"The sun, as long as I can stand it," said Denton. "I've had my fill of shade lately. I'm surprised to see you here again, Michael. I was surprised the last time, but I think I'm even more surprised to see you a second time."

"I can understand that," said Michael. He parked Denton in the sun and sat on the bench next to him, in the shade of a stately sycamore tree. "In your place, I would be surprised too. I think it's because I have reread some of my mother's diaries more carefully, and I have read several of your books."

"What did you think of my books?" asked Denton.

"I found them enlightening, but troubling to some extent. You must know things are a lot worse now than they were when you wrote your books. They are even worse than they were when you had your 'incident.'"

"Why do you call them troubling?”

"I'll tell you why," said Michael. "There are literally thousands of books and articles pointing out the problems of the world. Thousands of websites do the same thing. So far, I don't think any of the books, the articles, or the websites have accomplished anything positive, other than letting off steam. I have yet to see anyone even suggest doing anything, other than educating everyone and complaining to our so-called representatives. There is an over-abundance of people who are great at identifying the problems, but none capable of solving them. The method universally proposed for attacking the problem is for the enlightened to discuss it among themselves and educate others, who can then discuss it. Throughout history, certainly since printing became common, more yet with the advent of radio and television, and never so much as with the Internet, people have dedicated themselves to educating the masses. Surely some are now educated, but they do nothing outside of discussing it among themselves and attempting to educate others. Any real progress is undetectable. In fact, the problems are getting progressively worse, in spite of all the educating. Is there any reason to believe educating more would provoke some sort of action? Is there some magic number that when that many have been educated, something begins to happen? Somehow, I don't think so. Think about it. If every single person on earth were saturated with education on the matter, it wouldn't make a bit of difference unless they actually did something. At some point, action is required. There are thousands nit-picking at the branches of evil and no one striking at anything, much less at the root."

"Hearing you paraphrase Thoreau is another surprise," said Denton. "I admit that you are correct, Michael. I remember a book from the early fifties, 'Essays on Liberty,' which I have read several times. The first essay in that book points out the problem and exhorts every one to learn and educate. The author, Leonard Read, even established the Foundation for Economic Freedom to educate people."

"What has it accomplished? If he is still around, he must realize that things are far, far worse now than they were in the early fifties. Obviously, education is not the answer, or they aren't going about it the right way. If you want to defend yourself, you need a gun, but having the gun isn't enough, you need bullets, and still you don't have enough. You have to use the gun. You have to pull the trigger and shoot. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that."

"What would you suggest? A revolution?"

"If that's what it takes," said Michael, "that is what you do. You do whatever it takes. You have to admit it worked fairly well the last time. If the colonists had done nothing but write articles and send letters about how oppressive the British were, do you think the USA would exist today?"

"No, I don't," said Denton.

"We would still be British subjects," said Michael. "But, the colonists did more than write and talk; they acted. Their actions may been imperfect, because after fighting and dying to get it, they didn't adequately protect their freedom by making sure it wouldn’t be lost again. They began losing their new freedom, almost immediately, and it's still dwindling away today. Well, it is impossible to criticize the actions of the thinkers and would be patriots of today. Apart from bitching and analyzing, there is no action to criticize."

"I think it's much harder to mount a revolution these days,” said Denton. “Besides, our form of government is supposed to have ways to correct problems at the ballot box and by petition."

"Supposed to? How well have those supposed ways been working? Have you seen any problems corrected in the past twenty or thirty or fifty years?"

"Not really," said Denton.

"Of course you haven't," said Michael. "You aren't very likely to ever see any. Even if you buried Congress in correspondence telling them to stop what they are doing, they would dig their way out and keep on doing the same things. On the bailouts of Wall Street, congressmen received many hundreds of thousands of e-mails and letters, and over ninety-five percent were against the bailouts. They ignored the will of their constituents completely. When hundreds of billions of government largess was at stake, the 'incentives' had to be enormous.

"Now, that we are stuck with electronic voting," Michael continued, "we might as well stay home and just let the people that program the machines appoint the winner. They will anyway, and you know it. Don't write, don't e-mail, and don't vote. All are meaningless wastes of time."

"What would you suggest?"

"I really don't mean to be disrespectful about this," said Michael. "Maybe it is because of the way I was brought up, but you either put up or shut up. It's that simple. You won't complain the opposition to death. Surely, you must know that. There is one small minority that does more than talk, which acts aggressively to improve conditions for its members. You call that minority the Power Elite. They don't just talk about doing things; they do them. Right or wrong, they act on their beliefs. Every day, countless so-called patriotic people are chanting a mantra that it is time to do something before it's too late. Yet, how many of them ever do anything. All the evidence over many decades indicates no one outside the Power Elite is ever likely to act. You can bet those in power are counting on just that--abject lethargy. On the other hand, those in power are working as hard as they can to prepare for anything the people could conceivably do, were they ever to wake up. The time when it really is too late is quite possibly not far away."

"Are you saying the situation is hopeless?" asked Denton.

"It depends on your point of view. From the point of view of my family and others like them, things are likely to turn out fine. From your point of view, it's hopeless, or nearly so. Barring a national epiphany of some form, I don't believe the people will ever change, meaning their destiny is completely in the hands of those few who act, regardless of how they act."

"You are probably right," said Denton, with an air of resignation.

"Sorry," said Michael. "I didn't come here today to be polemic, but you did ask me what I thought."

"Don't apologize for your opinions," said Denton. "I know you are right. There is a deadly lethargy among even the enlightened minority that knows what is going on."

Their discussion moved to less argumentative topics such as the war, the economy, and paper money for half an hour more.

"I have to be going," said Michael, sensing Denton was beginning to tire. "I'll wheel you back in."

"No," said Denton. "Just leave me here. They will come and get me. I spend enough time in that room as it is. "

"I'll be back," said Michael. "I enjoy our talks. I don't know when, but I will be back." Again, he considered telling Denton about their relationship, but again, he resisted the urge.

 

On the way home, Michael pondered the subjects he had discussed with his father. How strange to be calling this man "father," even if it was only in his thoughts. Again, he thought about how Claude Regnant might feel if he discovered his firstborn son was not really his? He guessed the man he had called Father all his life would be furious. What might he do? He would almost certainly lose all the benefits of being a Regnant. Right now, he was the only person alive that knew the truth. It would be most unwise for him to let this news out. Yet, more and more, he felt like telling Denton the truth.

Chapter 7

A Few Days Later

 

Rhett made the arrangements, and he and Lisa set out for New York City. It took them all day to make the six hundred mile trip. Rhett drove carefully and legally. The last thing he wanted was to be stopped by the police while Lisa had no identification. On the way, they had plenty of time to select a new name for Lisa. Rhett's contact had e-mailed him a list of deceased females that would have been about her age. For a while, Lisa studied the list. She said she had been considering an unlikely name like Gertrude Gay Cockburn. When he laughed out loud, she said it wasn't that she liked that name, but she believed it would avert suspicion, since no one would ever suspect any adult of choosing such a name."

"How does Bertha Fleming sound?" she asked. "Do I look like a Bertha Fleming?"

"I don't know," he said. "I never saw a Bertha Fleming."

She went down the list, calling out names she thought she could live with, and letting him comment on them. They soon narrowed it down to three names, and from those three, they chose the name, Valerie Harper.

While they were waiting at a red light in Greenwich Village, Rhett said, "By the way, Valerie, my friend, Greg, is terminally ill with cancer. I thought I had better tell you that, so you don't innocently come out with something inappropriate about cancer or death."

"Thanks for telling me," she said, "not that I would likely say anything like that, but it's better to know. What exactly is his problem?"

"DU, depleted uranium," said Rhett. The light changed, and they were moving again, albeit slowly. "He got it in the first Gulf War. Like most of our guys over there, he was radiated, from head to toe. Barry Baldwin told me about him, when he came to treat you in California. His name is Greg Paxton. He's an army buddy from way back, and I'm afraid if I don't see him soon--." His voice trailed off. The sentence really needed no ending; the rest was understood.

Rhett's warning not to bring up cancer or death was unnecessary. In the course of their conversation at a neighborhood tavern, where the three of them went that evening after dinner, Paxton, himself, brought up the subject. "Be glad you didn't get duty in Desert Storm, Rhett," he said. "The Iraqis may not have gotten that many of us, but our own wonderful government managed to wipe out hundreds of times as many of us as the Iraqis did. The Iraqis only got about four hundred of us, while the U.S. Air Force and their dirty uranium got more like a hundred thousand of us. We aren't all dead yet, but we are dropping like flies. When the DU from the current Middle East fiasco starts kicking in, the government will have made a big dent in the population problem, and a handful of the most evil people on earth will have made huge fortunes turning nuclear waste into ammo and selling it to equally evil people in our government. That's what it's all about, Rhett--money. Remember back when they couldn't figure out what to do with nuclear waste? They were even thinking of shooting it to the moon or to the sun. Then they found a way not only to avoid paying a fortune to get rid of it, but to make a fortune selling it to the government. I guess that's the American way. Entrepreneurship, they call it. Those damned, mercenary Blackhawk guys that make the big bucks will end up with the same fate as us poor, misguided, underpaid, patriotic fools. I read the other day that when the Vice President went to Iraq, they used Geiger counters to lay out a safe route for him, so he wouldn't end up glowing in the dark the way most of the grunts do. It all makes me so mad, Rhett. We were over there shooting at the wrong guys. There may be some weirdoes in the corps, but most of them are decent, patriotic men. They should have been told the truth, and they should have marched on Washington and taken out the real enemies."

"I couldn't agree with you more, Greg," said Rhett. "A few years ago, a wonderful woman, named Claire Wolfe said, 'America is at that awkward stage: it's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.' Maybe it wasn't too early, and if we'd been shooting the right people then, things would be a lot better here at home and all around the world too. Maybe, it's never too early to shoot the bastards."

"Yeah," said Paxton, "If we'd been shooting the right people, the real bastards, those hundred thousand men would be healthy today instead of being short timers; their kids wouldn't be being born with their guts hanging outside their bodies; thousands of our guys that bought it in the Middle East would be alive; the hundreds of thousands that are going to be like me from DU would be looking forward to normal lives; over a million poor Muslim civilians we slaughtered would be alive; the millions yet to fall from Depleted Uranium would have been saved that agony; and our guys wouldn't be war criminals, but heroes for having gotten rid of the sons of bitches responsible for all our woes. The government just announced they were going to investigate the incredible number of suicides in the military lately. There's no need to investigate. I can tell them what causes it. I was talking to a pilot last month that was all torn up inside because he had seen a movie of what we did to Fallujah. He had flown one of the planes that carpet bombed the city with white phosphorus. He said he really had no idea what he had done until he saw that film. After seeing the piles of charred bodies of women, children, and little infants, he couldn't live with himself, knowing he had done that. He took his life last week. A lot of people have trouble living with themselves once they discover they are cold-blooded murderers of hundreds or even thousands of innocent civilians, women and children not so very different from the families they left at home. I don't know why the Army would have to investigate to discover that."

"If we'd shot the bastards when Claire Wolfe said that back in the nineties," said Rhett, "we wouldn't be in the depression we are in today; the national debt wouldn't have gone from one trillion to fourteen trillion; all our manufacturing wouldn't have left the country; we wouldn't have fifteen million unemployed and another fifteen million underemployed; we wouldn't have had the contrived swine flu epidemic; we wouldn't be a police state; most of the black people in New Orleans wouldn't have vanished. I could go on all day, but why not just say we wouldn't be deathly afraid of our own government, and we wouldn't be ashamed of ourselves."

"And if we shot them now," said Valerie, "we wouldn't be saying something along those lines ten years from now. I'll bet Claire Wolfe isn't saying it's too soon now, and she probably wishes she hadn't said it then."

"I've wondered what she looks like," said Rhett. "I looked hard on the Internet for a picture of her, but there was nothing at all. I don't really need a picture of her. By any objective standard, she is an enchantingly beautiful person, if you know what I mean."

"Yes, I know exactly what you mean," said Valerie.

"Really, I don't need to see a picture of her," said Rhett. "I think she is one of those people that it doesn't matter how they look. She couldn't possibly look as good as she is, and she couldn’t possibly look bad enough not to be beautiful."

"Wow," said Paxton. "You really like her."

Rhett grinned. "What gave you that idea?"

"A group of wounded vets should get together and file a lawsuit," said Valerie. "It could be very interesting."

"Who would we sue?" asked Paxton.

"The people of the United States,” said Valerie, “or, perhaps, the registered voters. The lawyers would have to decide that. I would think a lot of lawyers would take it on pro bono. Each of you could ask for one dollar from each American citizen. That would give you three hundred million apiece. If registered voters, it would be about one hundred million each."

"What makes you think they would get anywhere?" asked Rhett.

“The government says it derives its authority from the consent of the governed, not the states. So said Justice Marshal, in McCulloch versus Maryland. If the truth be told, it got its existence and authority from the states at the Constitutional Convention, but, hey, the Supreme Court isn't necessarily good at history. If the government really got its authority from the consent of the governed, then it seems to me that the governed would be responsible for the actions of the government. Look how the government bent over backwards to make it look like they didn't authorize torture in our concentration camps. If they had authorized it, they would be responsible for it. It would have been done under their authority. The war under false pretenses could have been started by a rebel administration over the objections of the governed, but golly gee, the governed reelected G. W. Bush and most of Congress, meaning they were happy with what they did and authorized them to keep it up. The governed are responsible. Time to accept responsibility and pay up."

"I have to admit," said Paxton, "it sounds good."

"Either they deny the government acts with the consent of the governed," said Rhett, "which is political dynamite, because the government without the consent of the people has no legitimate  authority, or they let the people be responsible and open the floodgates to millions of lawsuits against the people for the government's crimes. They would squirm out of it somehow, but it would be interesting to see. Actually, the people really are responsible for the government's crimes. If the government does anything they don't want it to do, they are supposed to call it to task."

"First they would have to know what it does," said Paxton. "They would also have to know what it is supposed to do. That just isn't going to happen. Pigs will fly first."

"I have to agree," said Valerie.

"Me too," said Rhett. "It's sad, but true."

 

The next day, after spending the night in Paxton's loft, Rhett left Valerie at a hairdresser to be transformed from a blond to a brunette. When he picked her up, he took her to the studio of a friend of his, who photographed her, took her fingerprints, and jotted down some data about her height and weight. He told them they could pick up her documents the following afternoon. When they got back to Paxton's, Rhett mentioned he needed to rent a car.

"Something wrong with yours?" asked Paxton.

"It's not that there is anything wrong with mine. I have something to do tonight, that I don't want to use my car for," said Rhett.

Paxton looked at him. It was obvious he was aching to ask why, but thought better of it. "Where are you going?" he asked.

"Just south of Baltimore," said Rhett.

"You can use mine. It needs the exercise. You don't use a car much around here, and I am always afraid it will be rusted up, when and if I need to use it."

"Thanks, Greg," said Rhett. "I'll leave you my keys, in case you have to go somewhere."

"Highly unlikely," said Paxton.

That night, after treating Paxton to dinner in a nice, quiet restaurant, the three of them sat in the apartment, talking, until ten o'clock, when Rhett and Valerie left for Valerie's apartment in Maryland

 

Valerie's Apartment

 

It was two in the morning, when they parked across the street from the apartment complex where Valerie Harper had lived as Lisa Simmons. They took two suitcases out of the back seat of Paxton's car.

Valerie's apartment was on the ground floor, and it opened to a large courtyard, with gardens and benches and a little fountain with no water in it. The courtyard was dimly lighted at that hour, and she asked him for the flashlight and the Swiss army knife. She handed him the light.

"Hold it on my doorbell," she said. She removed two screws from the doorbell switch plate and pulled on a string jammed into the space beside the switch. There was a key on the end of the string. She handed him the key and replaced the switch plate.

He put on a pair of gloves and opened her door, and they went inside.

"Can we turn on the lights?" she asked.

"There were no lights on around the courtyard," he said. "Either they have all gone to bed, or some haven't gotten home yet."

"During the week, they are probably asleep," she said. "Nearly everyone here is a professional of some kind and has to go to work in the morning."

"Well, it looks like the blinds are closed. Let's make sure all of them are, and then turn on a little light, but no more than necessary and for no longer than necessary. We need to get out of here as soon as possible. Remember, you can't make it look like you or anyone else has cleaned the place out. "

She knew what she wanted, and quickly filled the suitcases. "I'm taking my good jewelry," she said. "They can have the costume stuff. I want to take my fur coat too. It would come in handy if I have to walk to the store in the snow. But it will fill a suitcase all by itself."

"Wear it to the car, or carry it over your arm," he said. "Is it real?"

"Genuine mink," she said. "Maybe not the finest mink in the world, but it's mink, nonetheless. I guess I'm lucky I didn't take much with me when I went to get kidnapped," she said. "I was supposed to go down there for two weeks, find a place to stay, and then I would come back and take a load of my stuff down there."

"That's good," he said. "That would justify your taking a few more things, since you could have taken them with you then. That would have left you a little light here, or would have if you didn't have your closet packed full."

Rhett was looking at the pictures on the wall. "I see from your diploma you majored in Political Science. Does that make you a mad scientist?"

"No, just an angry one," she said. "I put five years of blood, sweat, and tears into getting that diploma, to say nothing of thousands of dollars. All I have left are the tears. Even the name on the diploma isn't one I can use any more. Any kind of politically related job would be out of the question."

"That's for sure," he said. "Magna cum laude. I only understand one of those words."

"You nut," she said. "I'm ready. I'd love to take some pictures of my family, but the holes in the wall might raise questions. Wait a minute." She went to her closet and took out a shoe box. "Can you carry this?" she asked. "The life of Lisa Simmons is in here. These are negatives from way back. I can always make copies."

"You carry it. I'll take both the suitcases," he said. "Wait a minute." He raised one of the blinds and peeked out. "Don't see any lights anywhere. Get everything by the door. Now I'll turn out the lights here. Take the flashlight and keep it pointed away from the windows. Turn on a light in the bedroom. Wait a couple of minutes and turn it off and come back here. We'll wait a few minutes. If anyone was wondering about the lights, they will think whoever was here went to bed, and they will probably stop watching. Then we'll leave."

When she returned, he watched through a crack in the blinds for any sign of life. There was none. They left quietly.

 

Greenwich Village

Greg Paxton's Apartment

 

By six-thirty, they were in their beds, and they slept until noon. When they woke up, Paxton made a pot of coffee.

"You only slept about five hours," he said. "You’ll need some coffee."

As they sat around the kitchen table, drinking coffee, Rhett said, "I know you are wondering what we did last night that we couldn't use my car, Greg. I wish I could tell you, but I can't. I just want you to know you would be proud of what it was used for. If you had been in my place, you would have done what I did, and you would have felt very good about it."

"Then I feel good about it, anyway," said Paxton. "I know you wouldn't bullshit me, Rhett."

 

They went out to brunch, after which, Paxton went home, and Valerie and Rhett went to the Metropolitan Museum and Central Park. They wandered around Manhattan a bit, stopped by the Barnes and Noble book store, where they bought a few books on sale, and then picked up Valerie's documents. That night, Paxton begged off, saying he didn't feel like going out. Valerie and Rhett had a quick meal nearby, and then headed back toward the loft. They were tired, and they wanted to get an early start back to West Virginia the next morning. They found Paxton watching the news and sat down to watch it with him. There was a report about how well the reconstruction of Afghanistan was going.

"What a crock," said Paxton. "There was a story in the Asia Times today that said the money the U.S. supposedly sends to Afghanistan for reconstruction is what they call 'phantom aid'. About half of it simply vanishes into thin air, and the rest is a farce because it can only be used to pay for grossly overpriced goods from the politicians' buddies. They give them money, for example, to buy trucks, but they have to buy the trucks from a specific vendor at a specific price, which can be as much as four hundred percent above normal prices."

Paxton pulled up the Asia Times' article on the Internet and read it to them, after which they discussed it. The article mentioned a Regnant company that had built four hundred kilometers of simple two-lane roads in Afghanistan, paid for by USAID, at a cost of seven hundred thousand dollars per kilometer, while the going rate in the region was two hundred thousand dollars a kilometer, for considerably higher quality roads. Before the road was finished, the beginning of it was full of potholes. Claude Regnant's company apparently subcontracted the job to an Indian company for eighty million and pocketed a cool two hundred million for handling the paperwork.

"You know the Regnants had to kick back part of their two hundred million to some government people," said Valerie.

"Undoubtedly," said Rhett, "At the very least, they made a few sizable campaign contributions to the right people. They still did very well, I'm sure. I've been reading a book about the Regnants and some of the other Power Elite families that apparently run this country. These people have a lot of property and own a lot of stocks, but I'd say their most profitable investments are in politicians. The rate of return on politicians is phenomenal. You give a few politicians a few thousand, maybe you lay out a few hundred thousand, and they set you up to make billions. You really can't blame the Power Elite for taking advantage of such lucrative opportunities. You can certainly understand their motivation. The bad part is the money they make comes from little people like us. Every penny the government showers on major corporations comes from the people, one way or another. One fighter plane can easily cost two and a half billion dollars. For the same price, you can buy a hundred 737 airliners. Granted, there is a lot of extra electronics and stuff in a fighter, but come on. There is only one seat, no toilet, no kitchen, and one engine not four. Ten times the price of an airliner more than four times its size would be a stretch. A hundred times is sheer robbery. Who are they robbing? Us, of course. Then the U.S. government sells barely broken in fighters to Israel, as surplus, for five or ten cents on the dollar and then turns around and orders new ones to replace them. Israel probably pays less for the jets than it would cost to get them to Israel, if the USA didn't deliver them there for free. Just think how much better off the American people would be if every crook in government were put in front of a firing squad. Without the highway robbery and its unconstitutional activity, doing only what it is authorized to do, the government could easily get by on less than ten percent of the current budget. Just imagining that scenario makes me feel good. All the crooked cops gone. The CIA out of the drug business, and on and on. Talking nonstop for a month, you couldn't rattle off all the things that would improve."

Their discussion of government and the Power Elite grew quite animated. All three of them had read numerous articles about the Regnants, the Rockefelds, the Redsons, and other families, as well as the elite organizations such as the Bilderbergs, the CFR, and the Trilateral Commission.

After nearly an hour on this topic, Paxton said, "We're wasting our time preaching to the choir. We all know our government has damn near absolute control of the people's lives. We agree the Power Elite control the government; therefore the Power Elite indirectly control the people. We know they can determine who gets a shot at the major public offices and who gets elected. They decide what propaganda the media feeds to the people. They control the schools and thereby control what people are conditioned to accept or believe. In a nutshell, they control everything. People think they are free, but they are only free to do whatever they are allowed to do. People even tend to want to do what they have been conditioned to want to do. All three of us know this. We know the Power Elite have a lock on the power and nothing can change for the better until that ends. We aren't the only ones that know all this, but those who do know the score are in a small minority. I have yet to hear even one person in that small minority suggest they are willing or able to actually do anything about it, other than contact their so-called representatives. What the hell has happened to the American people? Where are the patriots? Are all the patriots of below average intelligence, and this subject is too complex for them? Are the people being put into a daze by the fluoride in the water, the chemtrails in the air, or the genetically modified food they eat? Are the people being hypnotized somehow via the boob tube? Out of three hundred million citizens, where are the Patrick Henrys of today to stand up and say 'Give me liberty or give me death?' We have around a hundred and fifty times as many people in America as there were at the time of the American Revolution, but I doubt we currently have anywhere near  the number of  patriots now that we had then."

"It's as sad as it is true," said Valerie. "You practically never hear anyone even advocate action--real action. It's always educate the masses and get them to vote the scum out of office and elect nice, clean, upstanding, patriotic candidates. When did we ever have a candidate that was nice, clean, upstanding and patriotic? The only one I ever heard of in my lifetime is Ron Paul, and what a number the establishment did on him."

"I'm almost ashamed to call myself an American, anymore," said Paxton. "In the allied countries in World War Two, patriots set up underground movements to resist and combat the Germans and their treasonous governments collaborating with the Germans. They blew up things. They killed German soldiers. They fought back. Americans are just sitting on their butts, fat, dumb, and happy, but especially dumb, letting their country be conquered from within. If I were healthy, I'd be out there doing something. I'd find some others that love this country enough to stand up for it. Why doesn't a group of patriots take out the Power Elite? That should be the first step. After that, then you can work on getting rid of the scuzzy politicians. You're strong and healthy, Rhett. Why don't you do it?"

"To tell you the truth," said Rhett, "I have been thinking along those lines lately. Valerie and I have talked about it. You are probably right about the first step being to take out the Power Elite. If you merely got rid of the crooks in office, the Power Elite would immediately replace them with carbon copies of the old ones."

"There are a lot less of the Power Elite, too," said Valerie. "I imagine they have a lot less security than the top politicos, too. They should be a lot easier to eliminate, if someone ever decided to do that."

"Keep thinking about it," said Paxton. "But, for God's sake, you have to do more than just think about it. You will never think them to death."

"I know," said Rhett. "That's one helluva decision, you know."

"How many times have you put your life on the line for reasons that were pure garbage, Rhett?"

"Many times," said Rhett. "Almost every time, I guess. I don't know if I can think of more than one time I risked my life for something I can say was honorable."

"Well," said Paxton, "what could be more honorable than saving the nation from disaster, not merely for the sake of saving it, but to make it the kind of place you want for yourself and those you care for. If you ever do decide to actually do something about the situation, I hope you do it before I'm too far gone to take part. If you need someone for a kamikaze mission, remember me. I can't think of a better way to go than finally doing what we set out to do when we joined up: defend our country. I keep in touch with a lot of vets, including quite a few DU victims. I imagine a lot of us short-timers would sign up for some dangerous duty to put an end to the destruction of the USA. The guys going down from the DU might really enjoy getting a little revenge too."

There wasn't much more said after that. The conversation wound down, and they all turned in. Rhett and Valerie wanted to leave early the next morning, and Paxton was tired.

Chapter 8

 

The next morning, Rhett and Valerie said goodbye to Greg Paxton and started back to West Virginia. They were on the George Washington Bridge, crossing to New Jersey, when the subject of the Regnants and the Power Elite came up.

"Thinking about the Power Elite kept me awake for some time last night," said Rhett. "The control these people have is incredible."

"They use a percentage of their money to bribe the politicians to provide legislation that enables them to suck more money from the people,” she said. "That contract the government gave the Regnants to build the highway in Afghanistan is a perfect example of the way it works. That was the same as stealing two hundred million bucks from the poor, working taxpayers and giving it to the Regnants. Right there you can see why Jefferson was against allowing the federal government much power. The politicians merely sell the use of their power to the highest bidder. The Power Elite own the politicians even before they get in office. They probably finance both sides, so no matter who wins, they will own them. It doesn't matter whom you vote for, because no decent person ever gets on the ballot for any important office."

"That makes the whole election process really meaningless," said Rhett. "Elections may have been more or less meaningless all along, but they are completely so now. It no longer matters who votes or how. What matters now is who counts the votes and how. With electronic voting, elections are nothing more than a sham. A lot of school kids would find it easy to hack those machines. Everyone knows it, whether they admit it or not. Well, almost everyone. Some people truly don’t know anything about anything. But the truth is the Power Elite might just as well appoint our officials and merely announce it in their newspapers and on their radio and television stations. What a lot of time and money that would save, and the result would be the same."

"That's true," said Valerie, "but even if the votes were counted honestly, the majority of the voters are incapable of casting a rational vote. Even if they were born with some intelligence, most of them have been completely dumbed down and brainwashed by the public schools and the media, both of which are ultimately controlled by the same Power Elite. Most voters base their choice strictly on the only information they have, propaganda fed to them by the captive media. As if controlled vote counting and mind-controlled voters weren't enough, the Power Elite make certain the only candidates permitted to see the light of day are their own handpicked puppets. Even a miracle couldn’t make an election turn out well. Not even two miracles. It would take at least three miracles to give us a chance of getting a halfway decent person in office.”

"How discouraging can it get?" asked Rhett, not expecting an answer. "There are six or eight strikes against us, before we start. Greg was right. You and I are part of a small minority of concerned people that see through the smoke screen, and we are pitted against the Power Elite and a nation of bootlickers, camp-followers, irrational, greedy, or unconcerned creatures in a struggle for our freedom. Already, our lives are highly controlled, and we have nothing to look forward to but more and stricter regimentation. There appears to be no way to escape, because we are so grossly outnumbered. We are in a war, and we can’t even fire a shot in our defense. The Power Elite are the strategists and supreme commanders on the other side; the governments are their officers, and the majority of the people have, unwittingly, witlessly, or unscrupulously, become their foot soldiers and accomplices. Even if there were ten million of us, we are outnumbered by over ten to one at the ballot box by actual voters and over twenty to one by eligible voters. Our enemies have thousands of times the weapons we could ever hope to get. As things get more global, they get stronger yet, because patriots of different nations are just as unlikely, if not more unlikely, to unite against their common enemy, while, more and more, the criminal governments of the various nations are banding together against the citizens. Even now, in America, we couldn't begin to kill our opponents as fast as they breed. Worse yet, you can seldom tell the few good guys from the bad ones, because everyone is afraid to make a wave for fear of being suicided or sent to prison or Guantanamo for some trumped up allegation. So, a great many, if not most, of those that know the score are probably afraid to let it show. When you get right down to it, we are like deer standing in the headlights of a semi, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Unlike the deer, which could jump out of the way, there is no possibility of getting out of the way for us. What a hopeless situation to be in."

"You make it sound so terrible and so futile," she said. "But then, it is terrible and probably futile. It is a war, like you say it is, and we can't fight back. Except for those at the top, those in public office, and the media, you can't tell the enemy from us. We would be justified in eliminating all of these enemies, since it really is war, and we would be acting in self-defense. How could you identify the idiot or the just plain evil voters, especially given the secret ballot? In a way, the mindless robots are not completely at fault either, since they have been dumbed down and brainwashed."

"If someone is shooting at you, their motives or lack of motives are of no importance whatsoever," he said. "You shoot back or you sit there and let them kill you. It doesn't matter if they have been brainwashed. Actually, I think a big percentage of them have been bribed by the Power Elite. They agree to the assault on the rest of us for what they hope to get out of it, whether they ever will really get anything or not. That makes shooting them the equivalent of shooting the enemy's mercenary troops."

"I never thought of it that way," she said, "but it's true. Even worse, our own money pays for our conquest. It pays for the arms to keep us in check, for the troops to kill us if we resist, and for those mercenaries that when they sell their votes are selling their support for the enemy in the war against us. I guess the Power Elite are at the root of it all. They are calling the shots, following some plan, however loosely it may be defined. If you took away the Power Elite, it might not turn things around that quickly, but it should halt the trend. It would open up the possibility for reform. You would probably stem the propaganda stream that way, too."

"Like Greg, I wonder why no one ever tries to do that," said Rhett. "It is fairly obvious, isn't it? We have been discussing these things for only a few weeks. We may be smart, but face it, we are not geniuses, and it didn't take us very long to figure it out."

"You know a lot of people have identified the Power Elite as one of the primary causes of mankind's problems," said Valerie. "The Internet is full of articles about them. Going after the Power Elite would take some doing, though. Wouldn't it be on the order of a flea attacking an elephant?"

"I would prefer to think of it as David going after Goliath," said Rhett. "David won."

"You are talking about a few families with trillions of dollars of their own, and who essentially control the funds and the governments of all the leading nations. They have the military might, the wealth, and the manpower of the world at their disposal. They control what people can have, what they can do, and even what most of them think. I'd like to hear how you think you could beat them with what we might be able to drum up for our side."

"What was the first thing you said just now?" he asked.

She thought a moment. "I said we are talking about a few families with trillions of dollars. I said --"

"That's enough," he said, interrupting her. "A few families. There you have the way. You don't have to fight the armies of the world. You don't have to have trillions of dollars. You can kill the monster by beheading it. Cut down the families at the top. How many families are we talking about?"

"I don't know," she said. "I'm in a bit of a fog. I never seriously thought of that solution before. I suppose we could dig out the info on the Internet. Just guessing, I would say there are at least fifty and probably no more than a few hundred."

"Let's go with two hundred. Let's say ten people in each family. You are talking about two thousand people. If it were twenty in each family, you have only four thousand people. Surely, there are a handful of biggies at the top. You start with them. When you have taken out the trillionaires, the billionaires will be running scared and the millionaires will be switching sides."

"I don't think there are any mere millionaires in this group," she said. "I admit it's an intriguing idea, but I can see all kinds of problems."

"Of course, you can see problems," he said. "Surely you wouldn't expect to win this war without encountering problems. There are bound to be a lot of problems, but a lot less with this approach than you would have trying to convert the mass of mankind or even the mass of voters in the United States. Anyway, as long as the Power Elite select the candidates and count the votes, it doesn't do any good to educate people, because it doesn't make any difference how they vote."

"That's true," she said. "I love the simplicity of the idea. But you would probably get a lot of innocent people too, wouldn't you? If you blew up a Power Elite family's home, you would get the servants, the kids, and those members of the family that are just bystanders. That is not good."

"You wouldn't do well in a shooting war," he said. "When you bomb a city, ninety-nine percent of the people you kill are innocents. When America bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, out of the two-hundred and fifty-thousand people killed, you can assume at least two-hundred and forty thousand were innocent civilians. They only bomb cities for psychological effect anyway, not for any military purpose. When the U.S. wiped out Fallujah in Iraq, deep frying the population, mostly women and children, if they had any objective other than enriching the defense industry, it was to convince the Iraqis the only way to keep all their countrymen from being roasted to a crisp was to lay down their arms and let us have our way. When the Air Force says those guys are toast, they may mean it literally, with napalm and white phosphorus doing the toasting. The millions they have killed for psychological effect, to use up bombs, or just plain sport, they call collateral damage. Aside from the fact we shouldn't be there in the first place, the moral thing would be to minimize the number of innocents you kill. However, that doesn't mean you let yourself get killed because you won't kill a single innocent. That would be a sure way to lose. The Israelis strap Palestinian children on their tanks and other vehicles, as a defense measure, counting on the reluctance of the Palestinians to blow up their own children."

"That is the worst thing about war," said Valerie. "Governments start a war, and the citizens die. The people that start it just sit back and watch, like they were playing a video game. It should be the politicians having a shootout, if they want to fight."

"We said we would have breakfast on the way," said Rhett. "We should make it pretty soon, or we'll be talking about lunch or brunch. How about pulling off in the next little town and getting some breakfast and topping off the tank with gas?"

"Fine with me," said Valerie.

A few miles later, they came to a small town close enough to the highway. They found a diner on the edge of the town and had a quick breakfast. Through the window of the diner, they could see a gas station across the street. When they left, they swung around, pulled into the gas station, and filled their tank. The attendant was making change from a belt-purse around his waist, when a helicopter came roaring out over the forest behind the service station and disappeared in the direction of New York.

"Where did that come from, I wonder?" asked Rhett.

"It came from the Regnant’s place up on the hill, there," said the attendant, with an upward motion of his hand. "This time of day, it's probably taking some of the family to work in Manhattan. Sure beats driving in rush hour traffic."

"You mean the Claude Regnant family? The super-rich ones?"

"Who else goes to work in a helicopter? Poor people?" said the attendant. "When you leave, if you are going west, just around the first big curve, you will see what looks like the entrance to a park, with a big, guarded gate. It's not a park. It's the entrance to the Regnant’s place. This is only one of their many places, but they say it's the main one, being close to New York and Wall Street. I hear they have a place on Fifth Avenue too, but I guess they like it more here in the country. Can't say as I blame them. I haven't been to Manhattan for two years, and I don't much care if I never go again."

"I wouldn't go either, if I didn't have to," said Rhett, as he opened the car door to get in. "I live in the boondocks myself because I don't appreciate millions of neighbors practically on top of me."

As they pulled out of the gas station, he said to Valerie, "That helicopter that went over belongs to none other than the Regnant family of the Power Elite. They live up on that big hill there."

"That must be the famous Mount Regnant, as they call it," she said. "There are said to be several houses there, half a dozen or more, not counting the servants quarters. Their compound, they call it."

As they rounded the curve, he nodded toward a huge entryway with tall iron gates. "That has to be the entrance to their place," said Rhett. "That's probably the grocery truck, with a load of pheasant or caviar. The guard at the gate is armed too. I bet there are more security guards up on the mountain and motion detectors and cameras all around them.'"

Just then a powder-blue Mercedes SLR McLaren sped out of the exit gate, and cut in front of their car.

"That looked like Michael Regnant," said Rhett. "Could it possibly be him, all alone with no bodyguard?"

"It sure looked like him, but I wouldn't swear to it," said Valerie. "We've only seen a few pictures of him. He keeps a lower profile than the other Regnants. He doesn't look much like his father or his brothers. He came out of the Regnant place, so it probably is him. The car isn't the kind we peons drive. He must be going to see his girlfriend and wants to be alone."

"At ten o'clock in the morning? I doubt that, but anything is possible. He's going our way. Maybe we'll find out where he's going."

They drove along behind Michael Regnant for several miles. "You know," said Rhett, "if we wanted to eliminate the Power Elite, this might be a perfect opportunity to get one of them. You probably don't see them alone and unguarded very often."

"You wouldn't," she said. After a pause, she added, "Would you?"

"No, not really, even though the more I think about it, the more I think it is the only solution. If we ever decide to do something, we’d probably never get a chance like this."

"One person," she said. "He's not even a tenth of a percent of them."

"He is from one of the top fifty families in the world. The Regnants probably rank near the bottom of the top fifty, and he is an important one. Strange though, you never hear as much about him as his father and his brothers or even his uncles. Like you said, he manages to keep a low profile."

"Maybe he's not really comfortable with what his family is doing," she said. "Some members of Power Elite families surely disagree with what the rest of the family is doing."

"I suppose you are right," he said. "They would be part of the collateral damage. He's turning left." He slowed down and watched Michael turn into the Sheridan Sanitarium. After continuing about a mile down the road, he made a U-turn and headed back to the sanitarium.

"You aren't planning to kill him are you?" she asked, hesitantly.

"Don't be silly. I just want to see what is going on. If he has a relative here, he might come here periodically. If, someday, we do decide to kill him, then we might know where to find him. There's his car. Look, there he goes with that man that looks like a male nurse. They're stopping at that old man in a wheelchair. That must be the person he is visiting. You wait here a few minutes. I'm going to check things out." He got out and opened the trunk, opened a briefcase, took out a couple of items, closed the briefcase and the trunk. Handing a device resembling a walkie talkie to Valerie, he said, "Hold this for me. I'll be back in a few minutes."

Rhett strolled casually across the lawn to an old man in a wheelchair, not far from where Michael was sitting on a bench, talking across a little table to Kirk Denton. He struck up a conversation with the old man, and after a minute, bid him farewell and walked over to Michael.

"Excuse me," he said. "I think the battery in my watch has died. Could you tell me what time it is?" As he spoke, he leaned slightly toward Michael, with his hand on the edge of the table and pressed a small device to the underside of the table.

"It's ten-thirty," said Michael.

"Thank you so much," said Rhett, and he left. He went back to the car and got in. He turned on the device he had given Valerie to hold and plugged one of the ear buds into his ear. "Want to hear what is going on?" he asked her, handing her the other ear bud.

"Sure," she said. "Wow. You really are prepared."

"I kept a lot of my tools. We can thank the U.S. government for this equipment."

"Remind me to write my congressman," said Valerie.

Rhett fiddled with a knob on the device and suddenly, they could hear Denton's voice.

"My cousin came to visit me this week," Denton was saying. "He called and asked me if there was anything I wanted, and I asked him to stop by my house and bring my laptop. I actually did a little writing."

"I hope you are a little more cautious concerning what you write about," said Michael. "I told you I can't protect you again."

"Don't worry," said Denton. "It has been so good to be able to get online and check the news. I hadn't had a chance to get any real news since I got here."

"I thought I saw a television in your room," said Michael.

"You don't get news on television," said Denton, with a laugh. "All you get on the TV news is propaganda."

"You have to tell me where you go for news on the Internet," said Michael. "I have researched some of the things you wrote about, and I'm learning a lot, but there is so much going on that I don't know about. I'd be interested in knowing where you go for news."

"Can I send you e-mail?" asked Denton.

Michael thought about it for an instant. Did he want to have e-mail traceable to Kirk Denton? No one else could see his private e-mail. "Of course." He pulled out a pen and felt in his coat pocket for a little notebook. He wrote his e-mail address on a page and tore it out. "This is my personal, private address. The others are screened. Don't give it to anyone."

As Denton took the paper and looked at it, Rhett said, "I wonder who the old guy is. He damned sure doesn't sound like a Regnant."

"yosemitesam911," read Denton. "That's a good alias. I'd never dream that could be you, which is precisely why you chose it, of course."

"Right," said Michael. "Almost no one uses it or even knows about it. But it's automatically checked frequently, anytime I'm online."

"I'll send you a list of links for news," said Denton. "The first one I looked at when I got my laptop, after all this time, was whatreallyhappened.com. He is a bit anti-capitalist, but I think that is because he doesn't really know what real laissez faire capitalism is. No one is perfect, but he will do. He covers the world's news pretty well. I'll throw in a link or two to philosophical sites, like lewrockwell.com. Like What Really Happened, they aren't perfect either. You'll never find anything perfect. I'm glad to hear you are interested in what is going on. I'm sure you know a lot about things going on that I couldn't possibly know."

"That's true," said Michael, "although not nearly as much as you might suspect. Some of the things you've credited us with are accurate, almost as many are not, and there are some things you don't know about, apparently. The Regnants are not exactly pillars of the community, but I was talking with my father about that recently, and he presented a fairly good argument for what we do.

"I told him it bothers me sometimes that we are always pointed to as the bad guys. I asked him if it ever bothered him. He said maybe it did when he was in high school, but when he took a good look at who it is that thinks of us as the bad guys and why, it never bothered him again. He guessed less than one percent of our critics criticize us for any reason other than our being rich. They don't criticize us for anything wrong we do, only for having more than most others do. He said the truth is our critics are completely ignorant of what we do. I mentioned there are those who point to our role in creating wars, enabling genocide, and other serious things.

"He agreed there may be some like that. Dozens, perhaps. Not many compared to the millions or even billions against us purely because of their envy. We don't start wars or do genocide, although we do support people that do, but then so do ninety-five percent of the voters, no matter which party they belong to. Here again, he said, you need to step back and look at things objectively and not let their rhetoric fool you. Why do you think we are able to do all the things we do?" he asked. "What makes it possible?

'''Our money?' I said."

"'Well,' he said, "that is a good part of it now, but our family started from scratch, and as our bankroll grew a little, we began to use it to our advantage. What made that so easy is that most of the people are born, live, and die, without taking the slightest interest in what is going on around them.' He said he wasn't talking about the things that happen inside their home, but the things that affect every moment of their life, from birth to death and even beyond the grave.

"I suggested they were the way they were because we and our friends spend a lot of money to keep them that way.

"'Maybe partly, but not entirely,' he said. He said he firmly believed that, left to their own devices, only the tiniest minority of the people would make the slightest effort to understand the world around them. He said we don't use the government and the media to keep them ignorant and apathetic, we merely try to steer what little thinking they do to have them support whatever we want to do. He said, and I agree with him completely, in today’s high tech world, anyone who cares to do so can be more up to date on current events than most so-called experts in the recent past. There is simply no longer any excuse for ignorance, not in this country.

"'So,' my father said,  'most people wander through life, ignorant by choice, completely oblivious of everything outside of that billionth of the world in which they are immersed. Most people know little about their own country and virtually nothing of the rest of the world. They know nothing of their rights, the loss of their rights, who is taking them, how it is being done, even that they have lost them, maybe even that they ever had any. They know nothing of the government, what it does, what it is supposed to do, who is in it, and on and on. Yet they presume to vote, to select someone they know nothing about, for a job they know nothing about, to administer a government they know nothing about, and to represent them in a world they know nothing about. They somehow think they are free because every four years they get to waste their time in the charade of voting. They may more or less know the elections are a farce, but apparently, they prefer to ignore that. Such people are victims waiting to be victimized. They put up about as much resistance to their fleecing as road kill puts up to vultures. Consider how many of them would be devastated and might even risk their life, if a robber were to take a hundred dollars from them, yet are unaware or unconcerned when the bankers and the Federal Reserve silently suck thousands of dollars from them via the invisible tax of inflation. Not five people out of a hundred know what inflation really is and how strongly it affects them.'

"'We Regnants," he said, "and those like us do take advantage of the weaknesses of the masses. We capitalize on their immorality, greed, envy, ignorance and lethargy. For example, we can have the president stand up and promise them a hefty tax on businesses, because the bad businesses are getting super wealthy off the poor consumers. The envious people cheer, and we business people cry like it really mattered. Naturally, they are too dumb to realize businesses don't pay taxes; their customers pay them because the taxes are passed on in the price of the goods. So they cheer the increase in the price they must pay for their purchases. Naturally, this increases the money the government takes so the big bad businesses the people are so envious of can get more bloated government contracts. The people are their own worst enemy. In their struggle to get something for nothing, they inevitably end up getting nothing for something.'

"'So, Michael,' my father said, 'these are the people you are concerned about. Most of them will condone anything if they think, usually mistakenly, that they might possibly benefit. Then they lie about their position, and brag about their righteousness. With a population of such immoral doormats, you can be absolutely certain someone is going to take advantage of them and all the rest of those not among the Takers themselves. You see, Michael, either you are a Taker or you are one of those taken. What we and others like us do, we do in self-defense. To do otherwise would be to self-destruct, to live in a subhuman way, disregarding our intellect. We either join our friends and clean up, or we get on our knees and get cleaned out. If we Regnants were to pass up our opportunities, conditions for the masses would not improve in the slightest, while conditions for us would deteriorate enormously."

Rhett and Valerie looked at each other, and each knew the other could see a lot of truth in Claude Regnant's argument.

"I can see the wisdom in his thinking," said Denton. "I'm not sure I don't more or less agree that the way things are, you are either an aggressor or you will be the victim of an aggressor. However, the situation that causes that to be true is that the government has more power than it should ever be allowed to have. Ideally, there would be no government at all. Right now, I don't think getting rid of government is feasible, even if it were possible. If the United States unilaterally converted to anarchy and abolished its government, we would be invaded by a country with a government, and we would soon have a government as bad as, if not worse than the government we got rid of. If mankind ever gets rid of government, it will almost certainly be by one of two ways. Either all the governments in the world or at least all the major nations agree to dissolve simultaneously, or the world would reach the point it had only one government and that government would either shut down or wind down until it was gone. The first scenario is out of the question unless some alien force comes here and accomplishes it by force. The second is theoretically possible, but knowing the nature of government, it is never going to happen, and if it did, it would take centuries. It is much more practical to try to get the federal government to abide by the constitution and work at closing the loopholes in the Constitution. A government that abode by the Constitution wouldn't have enough power to make it worth bribing. You don't waste money bribing someone who is in no position to help you."

"How could you get the government to abide by the constitution?" asked Michael. "Has it ever done that?"

"No, it hasn't. Not entirely. Never."

"What makes you think it could happen, if it never has happened before?"

After a moment, Denton answered, "I don't know. I only know it needs to happen."

"Well, until someone finds a way, it looks like my father is essentially correct," said Michael. "At least, his argument is valid, until the situation is corrected. It is the immorality of the masses wanting the government to be strong enough to take from someone else and give to them that allowed and continues to allow the growth of government power. The power of the government spawned the Power Elite from those that resisted being abused by the government but rather chose to use it to their advantage. The mindless robots clamor for the government to get more and more powerful, so it can be their fairy godmother. They don't realize their immorality is sealing their own fate. The monster they are feeding to pillage for them will eventually consume them. If we Regnants didn't take advantage of the situation, someone else would, and we would be among the victims."

"Probably," admitted Denton.

"That is so very sad," said Michael. "It was the first time I had ever heard my father talk like that."

"Indeed, it is sad," said Valerie. "For a Regnant, this guy is not all that bad, or so it seems."

"It's more than sad," said Denton. "It's tragic. I have to admit if I had heard your father say those things long ago, I might not have written some of the things I did about him. However, what he did to me, or had done to me, belies his philosophical stance. What he wanted to do was hardly civilized. He can't say if he hadn't done it, someone else would have."

"I can't refute that," said Michael. "But it still can be considered self-defense. You were threatening to ruin him and his family, and no one wants to be ruined. So, tell me what is the answer? You are the philosopher. What is a rational person to do when faced with such a terrible situation with little or no hope for improvement?"

"Maybe it is hopeless," said Denton. "The establishment seems invincible. The Power Elite own the government and the media. Little by little, they have come to control what the people know and what most of them think, if they think at all. They control what people are permitted to do, what they are permitted to buy, and where they are permitted to go. The only hope I can see is a violent revolution, which is not going to happen because few of the people are going to know it's necessary; they wouldn't be able to arrange it if they wanted to; and most of the people are too apathetic anyway. Perhaps the wisest thing to do would be to just make the most of things, get the most enjoyment we can out of life and not waste our precious time trying to improve things or even to stop the decline."

"I certainly never expected to hear anything like that from you," said Michael.

"It's something I never expected to hear from myself," said Denton. "All my life, I have stood against the tide, calling for freedom, and all my life, our freedom has dwindled steadily and at an ever increasing rate. Moreover, I have yet to see any lost freedom regained. I wrote books and articles. I gave speeches. None of it made any difference. I wasted my time. I've wasted my life. I've failed."

"Who the Hell is this guy?" asked Rhett.

"No idea," said Valerie.

"Don't be silly," said Michael. "If nothing else, you kept the idea and the ideals alive. Maybe it's not too late, as long as some people are reading your works and yearning for freedom."

"I can't believe this," said Denton. "Michael Regnant giving Kirk Denton a pep talk about freedom. You know, this could be a sign. You may be right. I certainly hope so."

"Good Lord, that guy is Kirk Denton," cried Valerie. "Wow. Can you believe this?"

"I don't know," said Rhett. "This is very perplexing, to say the least. I'm surprised I didn't recognize him out there. His was one of the few programs I used to watch on television, until they took him off the air a few years ago. He looks a lot older than I remember him."

"There is something I would like to tell you," said Michael, breaking a moment of silent contemplation. "I feel I have to tell you, but you would have to give me your most solemn oath never to tell any living soul, ever. Never ever."

"Can you give me a hint?"

"No. You have to trust me, just as I would have to trust you."

"Very well," said Denton. "You have my word, my solemn oath never to tell a soul."

Michael stood up and walked around a bit, gathering his nerve. "You know I read my mother's diaries and found out about you and her."

"Yes."

"I know she was very much in love with you, and apparently never stopped caring for you, all those years."

"I was in love with her, too," said Denton. "I was a poor, struggling journalism student, and she was--she was a princess."

"I also know you two were intimate," said Michael.

"She put that in her diary?" asked Denton.

"No. Not precisely. Here, read this." He opened his briefcase, took out one of his mother's diaries, opened it to a page, and handed it to Denton. "Start here." He indicated a point on the page.

Denton read the page. "Oh, no," he cried.

"Yes," said Michael.

"Oh, my god," wailed Denton, turning the page and reading on.

"She was pregnant by you," said Michael. "She told her mother she was pregnant, who told her father, but she refused to say who the father was, only that he was a poor student, studying on a scholarship. Her parents wouldn't let her marry such a person and arranged a quick marriage with Claude Regnant. Claude Regnant is the man I called my father all my life, until I read the diary and knew better."

"You. You are my son, Michael?"

"Yes."

"Oh, my god," exclaimed Denton. "Why didn't she tell me? Oh, god." He bowed his head. "Adele. Adele," he murmured. "All my life, I struggled with my yearning for her. Sometimes, I felt she had toyed with me. Sometimes, I thought she had loved me and married Claude Regnant for his money. But then, I knew she had a lot of money of her own. It was her money that kept me from trying harder to get her to marry me. I was so poor then. I often asked myself whether my crusade against your family wasn't influenced by my bitterness over losing her to a Regnant. To think I was attacking my own son, and he was defending me, the best he could. You saved my life, Michael. I don't know what to think or what to feel." He just sat there crying.

Michael stood behind his real father, and placed his hands on Denton's shoulders. Denton slowly reached up and rested his right hand over Michael's left hand. Neither had anything to say for some time.

"This is too much," said Valerie, with tears in her eyes. "I can't believe it."

"Believe it," said Rhett. "Michael Regnant isn't going to make up this story. No wonder he wants it kept secret. If it got out, he would surely be disinherited, and he would be shut out of one of the largest family fortunes in the world. Wow."

"I didn't mean I don't believe it is true," she said. "It is such an emotional scene. I can't imagine what they both must be feeling right now."

"It's hard to imagine," said Rhett.

 

Not long after that, Michael said his farewells, promising to return, and started toward his car. Rhett started his engine, waited until Michael was in his car, and then shot up behind him, blocking him in his parking space. Then he got out, walked up to the driver's side of Michael's car and knocked on the window. Michael rolled down the window.

"Mister Regnant," said Rhett. "We need to talk."

"What about?" asked Michael.

"I just overheard your conversation with Kirk Denton."

Michael turned white. "You are the one that asked the time. How much do you want?"

"I wouldn't tell anyone your secret if they pulled my fingernails out with pliers," said Rhett. "I don't wish you any harm, and I don't want your money. I just think we have a lot of common interests and should discuss things, and I'm not talking about your father. I don't have any interest whatsoever in your personal life. I only want to talk with you about solving the problems we both see."

"How did you listen in on my conversation and why?"

Rhett told him about the bug he had put under the table. "I have to tell you that, before I overheard you, I had a very different opinion of you, and it was not a very nice one. I considered you a major contributor to the problems I want to talk to you about. I hadn't decided to do anything about you or the problems, but when I saw you drive out of your estate, just as I was passing by, I decided I would try to find out where you were going so unprotected and why, so that if I ever did decide to do something, I might know where to find you. I admit that I wished you and your kind dead, but I didn't want to kill you. I don't know that I ever would have wanted to kill you. I am only very grateful that I heard your conversation. I don't mean that for any reason other than that if you were sincere about the things you said, harming you would be a monumental tragedy. Now, I think that maybe we can pool our ideas and come up with a solution. Your father may have been right when he said it might be hopeless. I can't bring myself to think that--not yet anyway. Until I am absolutely convinced it really is completely hopeless, I am going to stubbornly assume there is a way, and I'm going to do my best to find that way."

"What do you have in mind?" asked Michael, obviously softened by Rhett's words. "We aren't going to decide the fate of the world in this parking lot."

"No. This isn't the best place for that. Do you know of a place where we could talk?"

"There is a restaurant, right on the highway, a couple of miles back toward New York. We can talk there. Follow me."

"You won't run off and leave me in your dust, will you? This is some car you have."

"If you heard what I said, you know I would like to hear of a solution to the problems I discussed with Kirk Denton. No one else seems to have a solution. I would like to hear yours."

 

Ten minutes later, the three of them walked into the Mountain View Restaurant, sat at a table in the corner, and ordered three cups of coffee. Rhett and Valerie explained their idea that by eliminating the Power Elite, the rush to oblivion could be halted and eventually reversed.

"You father spelled it out the same way," said Rhett. "He said the Power Elite own the government and the media. They control what everyone can and cannot do. They control what the people can know and what they think. At least, control it for enough of the people to be locked in, essentially forever, unless they destroy things by mismanagement."

"I understand your argument," said Michael, "and I know my father said that. However, even though I may not be a full-fledged Regnant by blood, I have been one, up to a point, for my whole life. Would you expect me to support eliminating my family?"

"Heavens, no," said Valerie. "We couldn't do that, could we, Rhett?"

"Hardly," said Rhett. "Even though your family is a Power Elite family, you would be such a powerful ally we can leave your family out of it. If we get rid of all the others, I can't believe one family alone will pose a threat. What do you think your family would do, if they see all the others falling before a new world power, out to destroy the Power Elite?"

"I think they would try hard not to be seen as a member of the Power Elite," said Michael. "I would certainly encourage them to do that. As a member of what you call the Power Elite, I can also assure you not every rich person is an enemy of the nation or the people. I know quite a few who are not."

"Look," said Rhett. "I don't care if one thousandth of one percent of the people has twenty-five percent of the money. I wouldn't care if you Regnants have fifty percent of all the money in the world. I say more power to anyone who has the ambition and drive to make money. I intensely admire Gil Bates for what he gave the world. I think he did more good for mankind than all the charities put together in the last millennium, and I'm not talking about his foundation. I'm talking about Windows. The desktop computer might have eventually come into its own without Windows, but untold millions or billions would have lived lesser lives while the world waited for that. I would be the first to tell him he deserves every penny he made and more. But, and it is a big but, those that use their money as a weapon to oppress the people, to take away their freedoms and enslave them are evil. Maybe he has turned against the people in self-defense. I don’t know. The so-called Justice Department went after him for anti-trust and when they dropped it, he seemed to turn into a monster. There may be a relation between those things. I don't care how they got their money or how much they have. When they use their money and power to make the government their weapon against me, they become my enemy and the enemy of just about everyone else on earth, outside of their clique. I love my freedom, and if I have to fight for it, I will. I may not be quite ready to do it yet, but I'm getting closer every day."

With amnesty for the Regnant family out of the way, they sat for several hours, in the corner of the restaurant. They had more coffee and they had lunch. Michael Regnant, heir apparent to the leadership of one of the world's greatest fortunes and Rhett Bartlett and Valerie Harper, who only a few hours ago had been contemplating his assassination, were now discussing their common interests and slowly coming to the realization they all wanted the same thing and had complementary assets.

"I admit it sounds good," said Michael, after the waitress cleared their table after lunch. "We would make a good team. I have a lot of money and an inside track to the primary enemy. I am in a great position to act as a Scarlet Pimpernel. You, Rhett, seem to have a lot of experience in covert operations for the main tool of the enemy, the United States government. Even though, now that you see that government as the world's leader in espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and violence, you regret all the terrible things you did, you have to see how valuable that experience can be in trying to bring that espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and violence to an end. You say you have contacts that could possibly divert arms and ammunition our way. That makes you ideal. Valerie spent years reading conversations involving people at all levels and in all branches of government, criminals of every class, business men, financiers, etc. She knows about skeletons in a lot of important closets. She has a feel for the way the various types of individuals act and respond. Her knowledge could conceivably be used to bring pressure and fear of exposure to a great many officials who were involved in illegal activities. That she is fluent in five languages and conversant in six more could also be useful in a lot of situations. We are as different as we can be in all but our goals. No one would ever suspect such an alliance.

"You can identify a lot of the targets for us, and maybe, even set them up for us," said Rhett. "You might also weed out some of the innocents and help us minimize the collateral damage. The importance of the money is a given."

"I'm getting excited by the possibilities," said Valerie. "The three of us seem to agree on everything right down the line. The thought of killing a lot of people still sounds horrible to me. Yet, I know the people that would be targets are those who are doing their best to destroy our freedom and take our money, and if they aren't killed, they will keep on that path."

"There is that problem in every struggle," said Rhett. "When you meet a sentry in the dark, and he is a nineteen year-old boy, and if you don't kill him, he will kill you, I can't tell you how much you hate having to do it, but you do it. You never stop hating it, as long as you live, which would not be long if you didn't do it. Of course, we hate having to do what we feel is necessary. But, consider the consequences of not doing it. Many times in our lives, we must do things we hate doing, because we hate much more the consequences of not doing them. Remember, too, these people are also behind most of the killing going on around the world, and they are behind the economic desolation befalling the world."

"There is another aspect of this that makes it even more distasteful," said Michael. "Sure, we agree the Power Elite are behind the governments march toward tyranny, but how did they get there. They didn't create the government; they just used it to their advantage. The American people, with their infamous habit of never thinking things through, of never looking beyond the immediate, allowed, even cheered on, the creation of a government that was a disaster waiting to happen. The people then let it go its own way, expanding limitlessly, while they occupied themselves with other things. The government got stronger and stronger and more and more powerful. Every time the government flexed its muscles, it looked around and saw almost no one noticed. So it began to take people's money, and their property. The thirteen states grew to fifty, with many of the new states essentially taken by force and fraud. When you have a government, ostensibly controlled by the voters, but with the power to do whatever it wants, someone is going to make an effort to control that government. That effort began before the ink was dry on the Articles of Confederation, and the first major victory for the anti-freedom forces was the abandonment of those Articles of Confederation in favor of the Constitution, which was more to their liking. I would imagine a great many, if not the majority, of those we lump together in the Power Elite got there because if they did, the power of the government could be used to their benefit. If they didn't join the Power Elite, the power of the government would be used against them. The nature of our government was and is such that you are on top of it or it is on top of you. You are a victimizer or a victim. Someone is going to control such a government, and it is never going to be the people, not the kind of government we have now. If you don't control this kind of government, it is going to control you, your life, and everything you own. A lot of people who would have otherwise been decent people did bad things in self-defense, just as we are being forced to do. We are discussing the murder of several thousand people in self-defense. Perhaps, if things begin to change, those who are potentially good people will change sides, although it would be hard to know if they were sincere."

"You are saying the form of government we have brought on the situation we have," said Valerie.

"Absolutely," said Michael. "If the government's only authorized function was to protect the rights of the people, and nothing else, no one would spend countless millions to control it, because controlling it would not be of material benefit. Our government has the power to take our money, or even better to print all the money it wants and give it to whomever it wants, to force us to buy products and prohibit the sale of competing products. It can decide who lives and who dies by allowing or forbidding medicines. It can spy on anyone it wants. It can kill anyone it wants. It can bomb anyone it wants. Controlling that kind of government is of limitless benefit. Driven by a pervasive desire to get something for nothing-- another word for theft—the people clamored for an all-powerful government that would do the stealing for them. Every protest, every lobbyist, every political group in the country is, directly or indirectly, attempting to get the coercive government to use force to satisfy their wishes. Avaricious people created an invincible weapon of coercion. They created and armed their own destroyer. Even now, as it ruins their lives or takes them, people fall over themselves to give it even more power. For some reason, they are incapable of connecting a result with a cause. They will apparently never stop feeding and growing their coercive government, which in their closed minds, they see as their Robin Hood.  The Power Elite came into existence to control that government, and they used it to transfer trillions of dollars from the people to themselves. They leveraged the people’s greed with promises and propaganda to grow the government to its present gigantic power and size. The basic problem is the immorality and irresponsibility of the people. The immediate problem is the coercive government, which is controlled by the current Power Elite."

"It appears that if we get rid of the Power Elite, a new one will sprout to take its place," said Rhett.

"Eventually," said Michael. "If you don't get rid of the puppets the PE has put in place, you will have a simple tyranny. But you may be able to replace them with decent people. It's hard to say. Supposing you get rid of the PE and hold honest elections for the first time in decades. You still have most people going to the polls and voting for someone they know nothing about to do a job they know nothing about, while hoping to elect a fairy godmother. If that is the best man can come up with, we haven't made much headway in the last few thousand years. What would you think of letting these same voters pick a team to run a hospital, perform surgery, prescribe medicine, and so forth, with little or no knowledge of the qualifications of the candidates for the various jobs or the tasks they were to perform? Since they don't know anything about medicine or about the names on the ballot, you might ask how they could possibly select good doctors. Obviously, they couldn't. But, they don't know any more about running a nation. Why should they be any better at picking people to do that? It would only make matters worse if you knew most of them were not only ignorant, but dishonest."

"Wow," said Valerie. "If everyone could look at it that way, maybe things would change. All the more reason to change the type of government to something no one wants to take over because it hasn't the power to take our money and control our lives."

"But what type of government is that?" asked Rhett. "There never has been such a government."

"No there hasn't," said Michael. "Actually, the only permanent solution that is sensible would be no government at all. The government we have is possibly no worse than the others. Under the Articles of Confederation, we began with a government which, flawed though it was, was undoubtedly the best ever to exist. Still, James Madison said every few generations, the situation in the United States would deteriorate to the point that we would need to have a revolution and start over. We have gone for about a dozen generations, and unless you count the War Between the States, in which the forces for freedom lost, we haven't had our first revolution yet."

"We are way overdue," said Rhett.

"You will never get the couch potatoes to get up and fight for their freedom," said Valerie.

"Isn't it strange," said Rhett. "We can get soldiers to go and fight in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the like, for no good reason at all, but when it comes to protecting the United States from destruction from within, forget it. No one steps up to the plate."

"Someone has to be the first," said Michael. "We might be the beginning of a movement, but I doubt it. I think we would have to do it alone. Well, not completely alone. That would be impossible, but relatively alone, since we would be an infinitesimal fraction of the people."

"There are surely thousands who would join in if we could make it known what we were doing," said Rhett. "Just in veterans alone, there would be tens of thousands. But we can't let it be known or big brother would turn the war machine on us. We have to remain totally secret at all times."

"That is as true as it is a serious drawback," said Michael. "How can we build a team and keep it secret. These days, the government lives with you. It listens to your telephone conversations, follows you wherever you go, watches you from outer space, can freeze your funds in a fraction of a second, and it is even working at reading your mind. It can arrest you because you might be thinking of committing a crime and put you in jail for life without charging you with anything."

"All the more reason to get started before it gets much worse," said Rhett.

"We are all quite interested in this," said Michael. "The question is whether or not our interest in achieving the goal is great enough for us to take the giant step of committing to follow through and do what needs to be done. The task and the risks are enormous, overwhelming, and terrifying. We have been at it for hours. We are tired. Let's go home, think about it long and hard and make up our minds."

That essentially ended the discussion. They exchanged contact information and left with nothing more than an agreement they would contact each other when they had made a decision.

Chapter 9

Rhett's Cabin

 

"I love the fireflies" said Valerie. "I don't think I ever saw one before I came here."

"I don't know what it is about them," said Rhett, "but they tend to make you sit out on your porch more often and longer than you otherwise would."

"Maybe the blinking rate is hypnotic," said Valerie. "Better not let the CIA find out about it. But don't you feel a little like you are under a spell?"

"Quite," said Rhett. "I think the whippoorwills are accomplices of the fireflies. Just listen to that call. Listen to the whippoorwill, watch the fireflies, and you do almost go into a trance. All your worries vanish. You feel a peace that is unnatural in this day and age."

"It's true, in a way," she said. "All the problems seem so far away and hardly worth even thinking about. Do you suppose most Americans are in a trance like this, and all the problems seem far away and unimportant to them, all the time?"

"They seem to be," said Rhett. "Maybe they think they can't do anything about the situation, so they put it out of their minds."

"By putting it out of their minds, they make sure they don't do anything about it," said Valerie. "Speaking of putting things out of mind and not doing anything about them, I suppose I've been doing that. I haven't done much of anything about getting out from under your feet. We've looked at a few lots and some houses. If I don't do something about getting my hands on my money, Big Brother will abscond with it, if he hasn't already."

"Legally, without a body, you aren't dead for seven years," said Rhett, "but there is no reason to expect big brother will pay any attention to the law. In fact, they are more likely to pick the illegal option every time. In any state, they have to wait at least one year, before they confiscate a bank account for lack of activity, usually more. But, since we are talking about Big Brother, the sooner we act the better. We're supposed to see your sister this weekend. After that, we will concentrate on getting your money."

"I really do want to see her," said Valerie. "Do you think there's any risk in seeing her?"

"You know your sister better than I do," said Rhett. "Do you think there is any possibility she might turn you in?"

"Lord, no. She might not be the activist I turned out to be, but she is no more enamored of the establishment than I am. We are pretty much alike. We look almost exactly alike. I told you we were twins, didn't I?"

"Yes."

"The sooner I get my money," she said, "the sooner you have your peace and quiet back. I've been living here two months now."

"Has it really been that long? I guess it has. I've gotten used to having you around. The idea of peace and quiet and solitude is not all that appealing any more."

"I suppose it can get lonely out here by yourself."

"It never did before. You and I think pretty much alike. We haven't had a noticeable disagreement since you have been here. I really enjoy looking at the news with you and discussing things with you."

"I enjoy it too," she said. "Actually, the news is so depressing, I don't know if I could stand it alone."

"I know what you mean. We keep each other from being totally depressed by it."

"Do you suppose a lot of people look at the news on the Internet and find it so depressing they can't stand it, so they stop?"

"Hadn't thought about that," said Rhett, "but it is surely possible. Not everyone has someone like you to look at the news with. I don't think you need be in a rush to leave. I am damned sure not in any hurry for you to go."

"Okay. I'll just be in a rush to get my money, before it vanishes into the Big Brother black hole."

 

Cemetery in Cambridge, Ohio

 

Rhett and Valerie stood off in the distance, in a spot from which they could see Valerie's mother's grave. Valerie wore a black veil, which was obviously appropriate in a cemetery and would keep her from being recognized. They had been waiting there for two and a half hours and were talking to keep themselves occupied while the time passed.

"There she is," said Valerie softly. "Over there in the blue dress."

"I see her," said Rhett. "Wow. She really does look like you."

"We are identical twins. We should look alike. Let's start walking that way."

Lynn was oblivious of them, until they were close behind her, and she turned to look at them.

"Lynn," called Valerie to her sister.

"Do I know you?" asked Lynn

"I'm Lisa." Said Valerie lifting her veil "I've dyed my hair."

"Lisa is dead," Lynn said, but more as a question than a statement.

"They surely wanted me dead," said Valerie. "They, being the U.S. military, shot me and left me for dead in the desert. This man saved me and took me to a place where I recovered from my wounds. I have changed my name, gotten a new identity, and I've been pretty much laying low and hiding out. If they knew I was alive, they would kill me and make sure this time. I just wanted you to know I'm alive. I wish we could go somewhere and talk, but we can't. I wanted you to know. I knew you would be feeling bad about my death."

"I was just thinking that everyone I love dies," said Lynn. "How do I know you are really Lisa? You do look like her, but I went to her funeral."

"Did you see the body?" asked Rhett.

"No. It was a symbolic service," said Lynn. "They said there wasn't much left of you after the place where the rebels had you was blown up."

"Ask me anything only Lisa could possibly know," said Valerie.

Lynn thought a while. "Who was it we were so upset with because he didn't come to Mom's funeral?"

"Uncle Ted," said Valerie. "He said he couldn't stand to go to hospitals and visit sick people or go to funerals, much less one of someone he cared for."

"Lisa, it is you," cried Lynn, rushing forward to embrace her sister.

"You better put your veil back down," said Rhett. "We are risking enough as it is."

"Where are you living, Lisa?" asked Lynn. "Can we get together or is it dangerous for you?"

"It’s better if you don't know where to find me," said Valerie. "Did they ever approach you to see if you knew anything?"

"Yes. They came and asked if you had left any papers that might be classified. I told them you didn't leave anything at all with me."

"I've lost everything," said Valerie. "My career. My apartment. My car. My bank account. Everything. We are working on ways to get some of it back. You may be able to help me with that, if we can ever find a way to communicate safely."

"Can't you call me?" asked Lynn.

"No. Even though they think I am dead, they might be afraid I have left a letter or some evidence with you to be made public if I died. They are surely monitoring your phone quite closely. They monitor every phone call in the world, but you will surely get extra attention. They may have you under surveillance. I don't mean they have someone follow you all the time, but they probably have a tracking device on your car and keep track of where you go, monitor your credit card purchases, and so on. If I were to call you, they would be all over me. "

"You could have someone else call her," said Rhett, "or alter your voice and say you are Betty or someone she knows, and you could have some prearranged signals. Then you meet somewhere public. Where do you live, Lynn?"

"I live right here in Cambridge," said Lynn. "I have applied for a job at NCR, but they aren't hiring right now. Not much of anyone is. I was thinking of doing something on my own. I've moved into mother's house. Since you were gone, too, it seemed the practical thing to do. It is ridiculous to try to sell a house these days. In some places, they are bulldozing perfectly good houses, trying to keep the house prices up for the banks."

"We need to work something out quickly," said Rhett. "We don't want to stay here and attract attention."

They tried for a couple of minutes to come up with a way to communicate, but nothing sounded at all safe.

"What if you contact Lynn, Rhett, and say you were there when I died and you read I had a twin sister, and you can make up some reason for calling her. Maybe you feel bad about my death or something. Then you can get together with her and I can be there too."

"That sounds good," said Rhett. "Maybe she can come to our place and spend some time there. We'll work on it. Right now, let's get the hell out of here before the FBI wonders why she is here for so long, and they focus a satellite on us."

"Can they really do that?" asked Lynn.

"They can," said Rhett. "Fortunately, it is pretty unlikely they will. Nevertheless, staying here is taking an unnecessary risk."

After getting Lynn's e-mail address and phone number, Valerie and Rhett left the way they had come.

"Why couldn't you give her your e-mail address?" asked Valerie, as they walked toward the Jeep Cherokee.

"She doesn't know who I am," said Rhett, "and if she sent us an e-mail, we would be instantly linked in Big Brother's database. I don't want that. If we send her an e-mail, it will have to be in a relatively secure way."

"Everything is so complicated. The way we have to struggle to keep the government from intercepting our communication and spying on us, you would think we were in a totalitarian country."

"We are."

“How silly of me,” she said. “Of course we are.”

 

 

The Regnant Home

 

Several Regnant family members were having breakfast together. It was a Monday morning, and the atmosphere was anything but merry. Michael turned to Claude Regnant and said, "Dad, I've been thinking a lot about what Albert said some days ago. We didn't give him the credit he deserves for what I've come to see as some very profound thinking."

Albert, who had been reading the Wall Street Journal, stopped when he heard his name. He put down the paper to listen intently to what Michael had to say.

"The other day," continued Michael, "I read about a recent resolution by the Oklahoma legislature, which, along with a lot of other current events, makes me think there may be a trend underway. There is little doubt the government is becoming more oppressive by the day. It's as if it were intentionally prodding the people, seeing if it can stir up a rebellion. I suspect it is truly intentional, but whether a rebellion is what they are after or not, they could get it. The possibility of a general uprising is looking less remote every day. It wouldn't be the first time in history the people finally got so fed up they stood up to their government."

Claude looked intently at his son, as if he were trying to fathom the intent behind his remarks. Then he leaned back and said, "That is very perceptive of you, but why worry about it? I'm sure the administration is aware of it and is making plans for any such uprising. It sounds like you have your ear to the ground. If so, you must be aware of the administration's extensive preparations for martial law."

"Isn't that supposed to be in case of terrorist attacks," answered Michael, with obvious sarcasm.

"Well, they could hardly say they think the people might rebel, and they are preparing to stomp them into the ground if they do. You can see that would be unwise."

Michael looked at the man he had called father all his life. Claude Regnant was in the inner circle of that shadowy group in the upper echelons of the Power Elite. He might not be at the very apex, but he was certainly up there and knew pretty well what that group had in mind for the world, especially for the United States. "We might be wise to make some plans ourselves," he said. "You don't have to have your ear or even your feet on the ground to know the government's success rate lately has been dismal. We might be wise to at least have an evacuation plan, if not a well thought out strategy for such an event. It could be designed to be useful in case of any major disaster, natural or unnatural."

"As to the government's success rate," said Claude, "you should remember you are measuring by their stated goals. Those may or may not be their true goals."

Claude was toying with him, thought Michael. It was also obvious the government's success rate must be better than it appeared. "Then I'll try assuming they have been generally successful," he said. "Then, I'll work back to see what their goals might be."

Claude smiled, picked up his cup, and finished his coffee. "I hadn't heard about anything special out of Oklahoma," he said. "What was it?"

"In so many words, their resolution said the federal government was exceeding its limits as specified by the Constitution, and it told them to cease their unconstitutional activities. It was very strongly worded, and it passed the Oklahoma House ninety-two to three, which indicates very strong feelings on the matter. You can get the full text on the Internet if you're interested. It's HJR1089. The Oklahoma senate, however, was tied on it, meaning it was defeated. Even so, it may be a sign of the times. In Montana, dozens of state officials have signed a resolution threatening secession if the Supreme Court doesn't overturn a DC ban on guns. Apparently, Montana refused to become a state without a guarantee of the right to bear arms for any citizen of the state."

"The Oklahoma resolution was defeated then," said Claude, "and the one in Montana is an ad hoc one, with no legal standing. I probably hadn't heard about the Oklahoma resolution because no one attached any importance to it. Their legislature was probably peeved because the feds shot down one of their laws or a federal law took away their jurisdiction in some area. I seem to remember hearing something like that. What was that law about? I forget. Anyway, they are just letting off steam. Nothing will come of it, and less than nothing will come from the Montana resolution."

"I have to agree," said Michael. "I don't think anything will really come of either one. But this type of thing is happening more and more often. It wouldn't hurt to be prepared for the worst, even if it is unlikely."

"Just what do you think we should do, Mike?" asked Albert, his antipathy almost obscured.

"At least, we should openly court public opinion," said Michael. "A few weeks ago, you reminded us of what happened to the aristocrats in the French Revolution. What else we should do is what we need to determine, calmly and rationally."

"It might not be a bad idea to work on appearing to be benevolent," said Claude. "It certainly can't hurt."

"I think we need to do more than that," said Michael. "We need to be or appear to be patriotic and even actively anti-government and pro-citizen. We need for it to be common knowledge we Regnants are all of those things. If things do explode, it will be the government and all those aligned with it that are the enemy. The so-called Power Elite, of which we are members, are going to be immediately suspected. If there is a rebellion, we are going to be the aristocrats. We need to stand out from the others as being on the side of the citizens. We want to keep our heads, when and if heads roll."

"Anti-government," said Claude. "We would have to be careful not to screw ourselves and get the government thinking we really are against them."

"Personally, I think it's a waste of time and probably a lot of money on something that isn't going to happen," said Albert. "The American people won't do anything but complain. They don't even do much of that anymore. They just go with the flow."

"I tend to agree with you about the people, Albert," said Michael. He made a special effort not to talk down to Albert, because he was well aware of the jealousy Albert felt toward him. "You can't argue with the possibility of a rebellion and the people turning on what they perceive to be the aristocrats. After all, you are the one that brought it up a few days ago and got me thinking about it. It was very wise of you to come up with that. You have to remember, too, every time the people have stood up and taken down the government, or even tried to, it was previously considered to be impossible. There seems to be a limit as to how far you can push people, and once that limit is reached, they go berserk. We can think of it as insurance. It is extremely unlikely our house is going to burn down, but we still buy insurance for it. Our heads are much more important to us than our house. We should do all that we can to protect them. All I'm suggesting is that we act on your suggestions, Albert. Planning for the danger you pointed out to us could save the most important things we have, our lives."

Michael had long believed most people were so uninformed and apathetic a major uprising would be impossible. He also knew a lot of the people's own money was being used against them, not only to keep them ignorant and apathetic, but to prepare to do whatever it took, should they ever resist in spite of their repression. However, since his meeting with Rhett Bartlett and Valerie Harper, he was aware of new variables in the equation. Maybe these two didn't drink the doctored water or live where chemtrails filled the air with drugs or spend much time in front of the indoctrination tube. That could explain their lack of complacency concerning the status quo. Maybe some people were immune to whatever it was the government was pumping people full of. Whatever it was, out of three hundred million people, he guessed there were probably a lot of others like them. One percent would be three million. Even with drugs and mind control, there might be a limit as to how much stress people could take. When people's adrenaline flowed hard enough, it might cancel out the effects of any tranquilizers in their water and air. If the thousands that thought like Rhett and Valerie were to organize, they might not be able to take on the government, but, they could probably wreak havoc on the Power Elite. They could certainly make things dangerous for the Regnant family.

"Generally speaking, you have always been right, Michael," said Claude. "You saved us a ton of money by getting us out of anything to do with mortgages. We made another ton by getting into gold and in and out of oil futures, when you advised it. Your advice on food futures, especially corn, which we went out on a limb on, was extremely profitable. Every time you went against the flow, the flow turned out to be wrong, and you were right. I would be foolish not to take you seriously this time. Go ahead. Work it out, and let us know what you come up with. I'll make sure everyone gives you their full cooperation, not that they wouldn't anyway."

"Okay, Father," said Michael. Calling Claude Regnant "Father" was second nature to him, but it had a jarring effect on him now. Nevertheless, he did not want to change his actions in any noticeable way. That could end up in disaster. He watched Albert's face and knew his younger brother was struggling not to show his feelings. In every one of the cases Claude Regnant had cited, when Michael had advocated an investment, Albert had opposed it. In several cases, his strenuous opposition had caused a lesser investment than Michael had recommended, and the family had made less money because of his insistence. Albert had fought getting out of mortgage-based investments so strongly they had taken sixty percent of their investments out of them. On the forty percent they had left in, they lost five billion dollars. Altogether, Albert's opposition to everything Michael recommended had easily cost the Regnant family ten to fifteen billion dollars. Michael had the feeling Claude Regnant wasn't having any more of it. Lately, the rest of the family consistently sided with him against Albert. That seemed to make Albert all the more determined to fight any suggestion Michael made.

Something popped in Albert, and he jumped up and said, "Just because I was wrong on the mortgage stuff and a few other things doesn't mean I'll always be wrong on everything."

"Of course not," said Michael, standing up and putting his arm around Albert's shoulder. "Just about every expert on earth was wrong on that, and we are talking about highly-trained people that don't do anything else."

"Then how come you saw the disaster coming?" asked Albert, softened somewhat.

"Probably because I wasn't looking at the economics of it," said Michael. "I ignored textbook economics completely and looked at things from a standpoint that I guess you could say was half politics and half logic and half gut-feeling. I was like the bumblebee that theoretically should be unable to fly, but doesn't know any better."

"What were the politics of it, as you saw it?" asked Gerald.

"I figured nothing happens by accident in politics," said Michael. "That's what FDR said, and he should know. That meant that the housing bubble was no accident, but was created on purpose. If that was so, what was the motive? I figured the motive was to destroy the American economy and the dollar. That meant the bubble had to break for the dollar to fall. If that was so, mortgage-backed investment and dollars were both bad places to have your funds. All the countries were inflating, but most currencies had to be kept better than the dollar. With the exception of the UK, I didn't think most other countries would set out to deliberately destroy their currency. But all currencies would go down against gold and silver, and commodities would go up. So we got out of mortgages and into gold, silver, oil, corn, and a few other things. It looks like I was right."

"Why would they intentionally destroy the economy and the dollar?" asked Gerald.

"Dad can tell you about that better than I can," said Michael. "He attends those high level meetings. How about it, Dad?"

"It's not something I usually talk about," said Claude. "I suppose it won't hurt for the three of you to have an idea of what is happening, although I want you to just know it and not spread this around. Okay?"

Everyone nodded.

"There are several reasons I guess," said Claude. "The primary one is to get the people beaten down so far they will agree to just about anything to get out of the hole they are in. The worse things get, the more terrifying things people will put up with if you tell them it is necessary to make things better. If you want to do some things you know they will oppose, you create a situation they can't bear, and then tell them you can fix it, but the fix will entail doing whatever it is you wanted to do in the first place. The more they are opposed to the thing you want to do, the worse you have to make the situation before they will readily accept it in order to make their life better. If you make things bad enough, they will accept anything. They will even beg for it, and I do mean anything. It's better if you make them beg for it, acting like you really hate to have to do it. It's getting easier and easier. Look how much they gave up because of nine-eleven and the fear of something more happening. They essentially don't seem to care what the government does to them, as long as they can be made to fear something worse. Yet, some people in power are still afraid to go ahead and merge America into a world government and turn full power and control over to that government. Personally, I don't think the people would need much to have them begging for it. Even so, I know it's better to be safe than sorry, meaning it's better to scare the people a lot more than you think is necessary. If you misjudge and are overconfident, you can suffer a major setback. Just ratchet things up until they are begging for relief. That isn't happening yet. When it does, someone will float the trial balloon about establishing a world government, with a monopoly on military force and weapons. The story will be that with one government, and no national military forces, only a global one, no country would ever be able to oppress its people in any way, and the world would be guaranteed eternal peace and prosperity and so on. That will initially be opposed, but little by little, it will take off and gain acceptance. Eventually, the people will clamor for it. The various governments will pretend to be dead set against it. However, the people will demonstrate and riot, even rebel in favor of it. At least, it will look like they are demonstrating and rioting. The riots and demonstrations may be staged by the governments. Eventually, the governments will appear to give in. A few will seem to have to be forced to accept. In the end, it will happen. The carrot of an all-powerful world government that will guarantee an end to war, depressions, and hunger forever will lead the starving people wherever they need to be led. Nothing will be forced on them, they will beg for it, no matter what the consequences are."

"Good Lord," said Gerald.

"I've probably said more than I should have," said Claude. "Truthfully, I still have moments when I'm amazed the people are so gullible. You can pull the same trick on them an infinite number of times, and they never catch on. Even dumb animals learn to associate actions with results. Why don't people?"

"When you take that plan into consideration," said Michael, "a lot of things fall into place. The longer you think about it, the more things make sense. It is my understanding the big, overall agenda covers more than that. It also calls for a massive reduction in population, primarily by eliminating the more undesirable element in order to free up the world for those better qualified to inhabit it."

"Is that true, Dad?" asked Albert.

"I certainly wouldn't put it in those terms," said Claude, "but a significant reduction in population has been suggested as beneficial."

"How big a reduction?" asked Gerald.

"At least fifty percent," said Claude, "and hopefully more like a two-thirds reduction. Naturally, no one advocates just eliminating four billion people, outright. We don't want to shoot them. However, we believe the overcrowded conditions in some areas will probably bring about a devastating epidemic or a plague."

"No, you wouldn't want to shoot them" said Michael. "Shooting them would take billions of bullets and cost too much, in addition to being more than a little obvious. It is wiser to create an epidemic. That wouldn't be why we dug up those Eskimos that died of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic to get our hands on that super virus, would it? The similarity of the bird and swine flu viruses to the 1918 flu virus is just a coincidence, isn't it? So is the fact that only a few years after they dug up those Eskimo corpses with the flu virus, bird and swine flus appeared out of nowhere. Just a coincidence. It's also a coincidence these diseases, like bird flu, AIDS, and Ebola, never start in the U.S. or in Europe, but in Africa, Asia and the Middle and Far East, where the so-called expendables live."

"Surely, the United States wouldn't try to kill off Africans and Asians just to get rid of them," said Albert. "You are going off the deep end, Michael."

"I have to agree," said Michael. "The United States wouldn't do such things, but the United States government would, in a heartbeat. That is because the Power Elite that control that government would never hesitate to do such things. I'm sad to say that includes, to some extent, the Regnant family. You can see that is precisely what I was talking about before. Thanks to the Internet, more and more people are connecting more and more dots. We can end up being seen as involved in some pretty unpopular activities. That is why we need to work on our image. If the public thinks we want to do away with two-thirds of the world's population, we could very well end up being the ones done away with."

"I suppose it can't hurt to be prepared for the worst," said Gerald. "We can afford it."

"As they say, it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it," said Michael. "Furthermore, in this case, waiting until we need it could be fatal."

"We'd better get going," said Claude, pushing away from the table. "Your Aunt Elizabeth wants to go in to town today. I'll get her and meet you at the pad."

Fifteen minutes later, a sleek, Bell 412 helicopter lifted from the Regnant's helipad, whisking them toward the Regnant Building in Manhattan. Claude was on the telephone, lining things up for his arrival. Gerald was looking out the window, but appeared lost in thought. Albert was on his hand held computer, checking his schedule. Claude's sister, Elizabeth was looking through her Neiman-Marcus catalog. Michael leaned back and pondered the exchange at breakfast. What Rhett and Valerie were suggesting wasn't a widespread uprising, but an underground movement by a tiny minority, to do away with what they saw as the root cause of their problems: the Power Elite. Such a movement was not at all impossible, no matter how difficult it might be. The idea wasn't entirely original with Rhett and Valerie either. They had found a vast repository of well-documented information on the Internet, which helped them arrive at their position. That meant there were numerous others in agreement with them. All that was needed was for some of these people to get together and for them to set up the right support team, and they could be extremely effective. Were that to happen, he and his family could, indeed, be in danger.

That he agreed with Rhett and Valerie put him in an awkward position. Were he to side with them, he could end up pitted against his family. Were he to side with the family, he would be going against his beliefs and his conscience. On the other hand, if he decided against joining Valerie and Rhett, and some other group arose with similar aims and did press on, the Regnants would be high on the list of targets. If he were to join Rhett and Valerie, he would at least be in the best possible position to help keep his family out of danger. It was a complicated situation.

 

On and off, for the next few weeks, Valerie and Rhett alternated between researching the Power Elite and debating whether getting rid of them would the right thing to do, and whether they dared even to think about being among those getting rid of them. It wasn't as though they were acquainting themselves with the Power Elite. Both had previously spent a great many hours on that topic. Their current research was to identify the pertinent members of the Power Elite, as best they could. They knew any list they came up with would include a lot of hangers-on that just happened to be included because they had some accidental power or just happened to be the offspring of a true mover and shaker. They would start with some sort of list and then from that list, attempt to weed out the chaff, leaving the obvious enemies of themselves and mankind. The less obvious ones, they could consider later.

Eventually, they came to the conclusion some six thousand people had probably ninety percent, if not more, of the power and influence in the world. Of course, the figure of ninety percent was a rough estimate, as was the six thousand figure. There might be some they couldn't identify, and some of the six thousand might have more or less power than they thought. But it was an approximation based on available evidence and a good starting point.

 

Rhett's Cabin

 

"We are talking about six thousand people out of six billion," said Rhett to Valerie, when they finally settled on the number. "That is one out of each million people." He pulled out a pen and figured a moment on a tablet. "That means ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine percent of the people are controlled by point zero zero zero one percent of the people. It truly boggles the mind."

"I'll say," said Valerie. "You can bet if these six thousand have some ninety percent of the power, probably another incredibly small number of people have ninety percent of the ten percent that's left. There is something seriously wrong with this picture."

Their primary list had close to six hundred people. High on that list, they tentatively placed all the members of the Bilderberg Society and the leaders of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. They saw their list as a pyramid, with a few families at the apex, another fifty or so families in the top tier, and in the next tier, two hundred individuals and families. These all sat on the other fifty-five hundred or so, all in descending order toward the bottom of the pyramid.

"It looks like taking out fifty or so families would wound the beast severely," said Valerie. "It could even kill it if the others felt so threatened they discontinued their activities."

"I think you would have to get all of them," said Rhett. "Otherwise, the most ambitious or the most evil of the remainder would rise to the top and you would be right back where you started."

"Do you think it would really be possible to pull off something like that?" she asked.

"It damned sure would not be easy," he said. "Not impossible though. If a sizable band of Special Forces guys put their minds to it, I think they could do it, assuming they could get their hands on the necessary weaponry. I would say getting rid of the Power Elite would be a snap, compared to the almost impossible task of avoiding identification and capture by the intelligence apparatus they control. Yes, I'd say it is very possible, very expensive, and definitely very, very risky. The minute you start forming any kind of organization, you are flirting with disaster. You don't know who is trustworthy and who is or might turn into a spy."

"I wonder if anyone else has considered doing it," she said. "Like you said, it is fairly obvious it needs to be done when you dig into the Power Elite, and it looks like a lot of people have done that."

"There might be a lot of people that know what needs to be done, but damned few, if any, willing or able to do it," said Rhett. "That is a little strange when you think of it. Thousands of young people seem willing to die in unprovoked attacks against all sorts of people. They die in defense of people or causes that are, much more often than not, not in the least worth defending. Yet, when it comes to defending their own territory, they wouldn't think of it. I simply cannot understand that."

"If someone invaded America with troops carrying guns they could see and hear, don't you think they would flock to defend it," she said. "I don't think they are aware of what is happening. How could they be? Where would they find out?"

"The Internet is loaded with the news," he said. "It's in a lot of European and Asian newspapers. Once in a great while, it's even mentioned in the American newspapers."

"Once in a very long while," she said. "I doubt if many people look at the newspapers these days, except for the TV guide, the sports page, or maybe the movie schedules. If they hear any news at all, it's that three minute propaganda synopsis on the hour on the radio, between the advertisements, the traffic, and the weather. Chances are they don't pay much attention to that either. "

"Yet, they vote," he said, "without a clue about what the problems are, what the candidates stand for, or what they are voting for. They vote, and they ignorantly vote away their freedoms and ours. Such people are deadly. They are like a severely retarded person that fires a shotgun into a crowd, oblivious of the consequences. The harm they do is no less grave for their lack of malice. If it were a few, you could merely institutionalize them, or somehow insure they don't ignorantly harm themselves or others. Unfortunately, they are countless, far outnumbering the minority that knows better."

 

Manhattan

The Regnant Building

 

That afternoon, Michael called Manny Rodriguez, the Information Technology Manager he had personally selected to take care of the Regnants' computer systems. Since Michael was the only member of the family at all knowledgeable about computers, his judgment in these matters was unquestioned. Manny was very competent, extremely loyal, and he enjoyed Michael's almost complete confidence. No one had his complete confidence. “Manny,” he said, “Can you come to my office for a few minutes? Good. Yes. Right now.”

 

"Manny," said Michael, when Manny was seated in front of his desk, "Things are getting scarier out there by the day. I would like for you to do a complete review of our security and see if there is any way to improve it. I especially want my own activity to be invisible to the entire world. For some of the things, that includes the rest of the company. Is that really possible?"

"I can do the study," said Manny. "As for making your own work invisible to the world, the truth is that the moment you connect to the Internet, you are opening everything on your computer to the world, so to speak."

"Even with the best encryption?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so. You have to remember that in many cases, there are tracks of your pre-encryption files, and there are keyloggers that can record your every keystroke. When you type in a message, you don't type it in an encrypted form. You type it in normally and then encrypt it. A key logger makes a copy of everything you type, including your passwords. Supposedly, the government has such a key logger called Magic Lantern. It is pretty common knowledge they coerced the anti-virus program makers into ignoring it. One of the major anti-virus companies even let it be known that the FBI approached them about giving it a pass. They didn’t say how they responded, but they are still in business, so you have to assume they gave the FBI what they wanted. So you can't tell if you are infected with it, as possibly everyone is. Then, too, it is now known Microsoft put back doors and very possibly a key logger in Windows, to give the government and anyone who knows how to use them invisible access to everything on your computer the instant you connect to the Internet. Open source Linux systems might be safe because their entire program source code is open to the public for review, but even there, you can't be sure. In the hundreds of millions of bytes in the programs, it would be pretty easy to hide a few thousand bytes of program that handled the spying jobs."

"Sounds almost impossible to keep your data and communications secret," said Michael.

"If you are going to connect your computer to the Internet, you would be wise to consider it completely impossible," said Manny. "There is a way. It is inconvenient. It's funny how taking an extra minute now and then is such a problem for people today. When I first started with computers, it took two and a half hours to transfer twenty megabytes of data from one hard drive to another. Today it takes less than a minute, but we can't spare a minute. We spend a lot of money for security software that bogs down our computers tremendously, without really giving us much security at all, but, we can't take a minute extra now and then to truly guarantee our security."

"What is this way, Manny?"

"You have to set up two computers, side by side. One has a connection to the Internet; the other doesn't. The one that never connects to the Internet is secure as long as no one breaks into your office, and even then you can encrypt it in a way that you don't type in the password foiling any key logger. You can keep all your confidential data on it. When you want to transmit some of this confidential data, you encrypt it and write it to a CD or key drive. Then you move that CD or key drive to the computer that connects to the Internet and send it wherever you want. Of course, anyone can still know who you communicate with"

"But that's a great improvement," said Michael. "Get me another computer setup. While you're at it, get me another one with a separate Internet connection, so I don't have to be on the company network. Just leave off Internet capability completely on the private one, so it never even accidentally gets connected. Is there a way to keep them from knowing with whom I communicate?"

Manny leaned back and pondered the matter for a minute. "No easy way," he said. "If you were serious enough about it, an organization like this could buy an ISP, Internet service provider, and with a bit of work, you could probably cover your tracks. There are companies and services that claim to offer anonymous Internet service. However, I’d be willing to bet most of them are run by the CIA or some other government agency for the purpose of identifying and monitoring those who want to be anonymous."

"I'm so glad you work for me and not for my enemies, Manny," said Michael.

"You have treated me extremely well, Michael. I owe you a lot."

"And vice-versa, Manny. Let's look into the ISP. You can check around and see if any look interesting. I assume local would be preferable. Do you know some trustworthy people that could run it for me and do what needs to be done?"

"I think I could come up with some people," said Manny. “Unfortunately, there is never a guarantee on loyalty.”

"How well I know,” said Michael. “It will take a little while to set up a company to buy out the ISP and not be easily traceable back to us. Let me know when you have one in mind."

"I will. I'll check them out before I set up your private account. Might as well make it with the company you are going to own."

"Good thinking, Manny."

As soon as Manny was gone, Michael opened his briefcase and took out his small, hand held computer, on which he had recorded Bartlett's phone number. By the time he had it up on the screen, he had thought better of it. He didn't want to leave a record of this call being made from his office. He wrote down the number on a piece of paper, and then called his secretary and told her he would be out for a while. Then he went to a nearby restaurant where he was a regular customer.

"Hello, Mister Regnant," said the manager, when he entered. "A bit late today, but I think we can still take care of you."

"I've already had lunch, Pierre," said Michael. "Can I just get a drink?"

"We are at your service, Mister Regnant," said the manager. "What will it be?"

"I think I'll have a Bloody Mary, very light on the vodka. Actually, I have to make a telephone call, and I rushed out without my cell phone. I wonder if I might use your phone for a minute. It is a long distance call, but you can just add something to my bill for it. It is a domestic call."

"Please, Mister Regnant, be my guest. Come into my office and use my telephone." He led Michael to his office. "Sit here in my chair, and call whomever you please. I'll be outside somewhere, when you come out. I'll put in an order for your Bloody Mary."

"Thank you," said Michael. "Very much." Once the office door was shut, he dialed Rhett Bartlett's number. He hoped that after all this trouble, he would catch Bartlett or Harper at home. After five rings, he was feeling a bit of anxiety, when he heard Valerie Harper say, "Hello."

"Hello," he said. "I'm the one you talked to a few days ago in the parking lot and later about your ideas. Do you remember me?" He didn't think it would help matters to put his name on the line.

"Oh, yes," Valerie said. "I remember you very well."

"I've been mulling over your ideas, and I think they have considerable merit. I would like to discuss them in greater detail with you some time. I don't know how we can get together. I have arranged a trip to Pittsburgh next week. Can we meet?"

"Just a minute, while I ask," she said. In a moment, she said, "Yes. We can do that."

"Good. I found a Bed and Breakfast in Glen Dale, which is about ten miles outside of Wheeling. It's called Bonnie Dwaine Bed and Breakfast. That's D-W-A-I-N-E. Bonnie Dwaine."

"I've got it," she said.

"You do have Internet, don't you?"

"Oh, yes."

"Look them up. The town again is Glen Dale, two words, not one. You can get directions. I would prefer for you to make the reservations and pay the deposit. When I get there, I'll give you the money to pay it all. I would just as soon they don't hear my name. If they ask who the other person is, tell them Mike Denton. Tell them we want the whole thing―all the rooms―for the fifteenth and sixteenth. I just checked a little over an hour ago, and it's all available. Also, tell them we will want lunch and dinner on both days, and if necessary, you can haggle with them about it. For that matter, since we are only one person per room and won't use all the rooms we pay for, we should get a break on the rates. It will sound better if you do haggle some. We don't need gourmet food, just meat and potatoes stuff, if that's alright with you two. From our last discussion, I got the impression we need three rooms."

"That is right," she said.

"They have five, but take the whole place, anyway. It's worth it for the privacy. Send me an e-mail if it is not okay. You do still have my e-mail address, I hope. If I don't hear from you, I'll assume it is on."

"Yes, we do. What time should we meet there?"

"I have an appointment at ten in the morning on the fifteenth in Pittsburgh. I think I should be there by one-thirty, plus or minus half an hour. Tell them you may be checking in between twelve and one. Do you have a laptop?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Too bad. They have laptop facilities in the rooms, and I could send you an e-mail if I'm delayed for any reason. Well, I can call the place and tell them to let you know. So, unless I hear otherwise shortly, I'll see you next Friday."

"Wonderful," she said. "I can hardly wait." What a dumb thing to say, she told herself. Anyway, dumb or not, it was true.

Valerie explained the details to Rhett, who had only heard one side of the conversation. "I assumed it was okay with you to meet him there next week," she said.

"Of course it is," said Rhett. "I'm overjoyed. With him on our side, the prospects of actually accomplishing something will be so much greater. Even apart from his money, he has to have incredible connections. Nevertheless, I think the odds against making real headway in this fight are still astronomical."

"Do you think you can trust Michael?"

"We do have something on him, something he damn sure doesn't want anyone to know."

"That's true," she said. "He has to trust us too―trust us or kill us."

"I guess that is one way of looking at it," said Rhett.

“He wants us to pay, and he will give us the money when he gets there. Is that okay?”

“I doubt it is all that much. I should have enough for that. We damned sure aren’t going to use a credit card.”

“I’ll call and make the reservations,” she said. “I have to get the number off the Internet.”

 

 

The following Friday, Rhett and Valerie left early, just in case they had a problem finding the Bonnie-Dwaine Bed and Breakfast. They had no problem, and they arrived by eleven-thirty. Taking a very leisurely look at Glen Dale managed to use up half an hour, and they arrived back at the Bonnie-Dwaine B and B a few minutes after twelve. The owners and operators of the Bed and Breakfast were quite friendly, and they chatted a while with them. The owners asked which suite was for whom.

"It doesn't matter," said Rhett. "The biggest and best for our friend that is on his way, and you can pick what you think is most appropriate for us. After leaving their suitcases in their rooms, they went downstairs to wait for Michael.

Chapter 10

The Bonnie Dwaine B&B

Glen Dale, West Virginia

 

Michael arrived at the Bonnie Dwaine a little after one. Following a brief exchange of greetings and his getting settled in his room, they sat down to a pleasant lunch.

"I suppose you are wondering why I wanted this get-together," said Michael, keeping his voice down. Even though there was no one else in the room, he feared their voices might carry to another room, if they spoke loudly enough.

"Of course we are," said Rhett, also keeping his voice low.

"Since we first met, I have given a lot of thought to the matter," said Michael. "Obviously, it's not something to take lightly. This is the way I see it. We are people that value our freedom. On the Internet, we encounter a great many people that seem to share that feeling. However, we know or think we know the majority, perhaps a vast majority, of the people are indifferent when it comes to freedom, politics, and the world in general, being totally absorbed in their immediate sphere of activity. The indifference of this majority seems to permit the government or those who influence it to do as they please. Unfortunately, doing as they please means the incremental curtailment of our rights and freedoms, as well as the commission of countless crimes. All the evidence we see, we interpret as indicating that, through the tool of majority rule, those we call mindless robots are facilitating government's growing destruction of all rights and freedom, save those of a few elite. We feel the rational thing to do would be to save ourselves and those we care about. However, there is no apparent way to accomplish that. We see those who believe as we do are a minority and probably a very small minority, while the principal opposition consists of all the governments in the world, with essentially all the fire power of the world and all the surveillance capability in the world. In particular, we would face the United States government, which is the most fearful of them all.

"Suddenly, we see a glimmer of light. There is one thing that even the most mindless of the mindless robots should be able to understand: violence can only be overcome by superior force. If we take the definition of superior force to embrace strategy as well as brute force, we can find some hope.

“There exists a clique of rich and powerful families and individuals that we know exerts considerable influence on government. In fact, we believe they essentially control the government in all non-trivial matters. We call this clique by one of its popular names: the Power Elite. We see the Power Elite as using the power of the government to transfer wealth from the people to themselves. The Power Elite use the legislative power of the government to increase their power and wealth and to lock themselves into the pipeline permanently. They use a part of their ill-gotten gains to buy the politicians needed to maintain their control and to manipulate the election process. The Power Elite also use their power and money to control academia, the media, and our economy, and just about everything of any importance. The members of the Power Elite have countless courtesans catering to their whims, in hopes of receiving their favors.

“It occurs to us that by eliminating the Power Elite, we eliminate their control. This, we believe, would greatly facilitate restoring control of the government to the citizens. In fact, we believe without the elimination of the Power Elite, it is impossible to halt the erosion of liberty and restore any lost freedom. Do you agree with this assessment?"

"Absolutely," said Valerie.

"You have put it together very well," said Rhett.

"However," said Michael, "as we are moral people, it is difficult for us to subscribe to the eradication of hundreds or thousands of people. The involvement of a portion of them could be construed as indirect, but it is there nonetheless. Furthermore, we have confessions from a number of them, because they have written and spoken, boasting of what they have done and plan to do to us. They try to convince us taking our freedom by force is for our benefit, but I know a lot of these people. I assure you they don't believe it themselves, and neither should we. What they do believe is the majority of people are nothing more than millions of animals to be put to some worthwhile use, as one would use horses, cows, pigs, and other animals. Sure, they know these people have more intelligence than the lower animals, but they believe most people either have just enough intelligence or only use just enough of their intelligence to make them slightly more useful than the lower animals. You might say domesticating the masses is the goal of the Power Elite.

“Most of the Power Elite believe most people are so gullible, so apathetic, and so pathetic as to constitute nothing more than another natural resource, which some more rational individuals are bound to take advantage of. To domesticate wild horses, you corral them and exert your will over them. With the people, corralling them is impractical, since you want them free to produce for you. Even so, control is necessary. Government takes the place of the corral; it provides a method of controlling or restraining the people. A minority of the masses will resist domestication. Majority rule is their way of making certain the conscious minority has no way to protect itself from the disasters that unconscious majority calls down on us all. I have been, and I guess I still am a part of the Power Elite, but I am also a part of the minority that wants to keep their freedom and opposes anyone who wants to take it away. In the current situation, no one is free to live a life I would consider appropriate for a human being. Relatively speaking, the Regnants live well, but to do so we have to be predators if we are to avoid being the victims of predators. I don’t see that as living a life appropriate for the only species significantly capable of reasoning. A major change is required, not just cosmetic tweaking.

“Having a brain and not using it is not significantly different from not having one. In the end, those who are irrational have to be prevented from ruining the lives of others with their irrational behavior. The only conceivable way to guarantee that is for everyone to be free from coercion by others.

"Unfortunately," continued Michael, "even if all the Power Elite were gone in a blinding flash, the crooks they have put in place in the government would still be there. These crooks would still have the same massive power they now have. That means there would be no instant improvement, but it might stop getting worse, or at least slow down. You would have to get rid of the overall establishment or a large portion of them, before the situation actually improved.

“Don't think the corrupt politicians could be replaced with decent people in the next election. You should know that isn't likely to happen, for one or both of two reasons. One, electronic voting gives control of who wins to those in control of the machines, no matter how the people vote. Two, the majority of the people would not have changed and would likely vote for whomever the mainstream media hyped.

“That tells us the leadership of the mainstream media has to be considered part of the ruling elite and eliminated along with them. Still the zombies they had put in place would still be there. The only solution would be further elimination. However, it should be far easier to eliminate a few hundred or a few thousand politicians, journalists, and media celebrities, than to go up against the military might of the United States. Naturally, all this would have to be extremely well planned in advance, because once we started eliminating the Power Elite, the government would be on full alert and be out to get us any way they could. It seems apparent we would be well advised to plan to take out the administration, except, perhaps, the President and vice-President which would be too difficult, and probably almost all of congress and the Supreme Court, and key figures in the mainstream media, at the same time we plan to eliminate the Power Elite. They are all key components of the opposition.

“We can only hope that at some point people will start seeing the light. Perhaps, when the steady stream of establishment propaganda ends, people will start to think on their own. There will be a point that the true nature of the oppressors may become evident.”

Michael took a deep breath and continued, "I have long said a great many complain about the situation, point out the problems, and even suggest mindless solutions, like working within the system, but no one ever does anything that actually changes anything for the better. As far as I can see, no one even attempts anything worthwhile. To do so would obviously be extremely dangerous. It would also be extremely difficult, extremely expensive, and it would require extensive and very intelligent planning. Last, but not least, it would be likely to fail. However, when we think about the difficulties and the risks, we should also consider what will happen if nothing is done. If nothing is done, the results are not much better than if we try and fail. If we go on, patting ourselves on the back for knowing what to do―although we don't do anything―are we any better than those we call mindless robots? Is someone who knows the problem and the solution, but does nothing, any better than someone who knows nothing and does nothing? In my opinion, such people are worse. If we try to fix things, we might fail, and the world will go on getting worse for those like us, although it will surely go on without us. If we don't try to fix things, you can bet no one else will either, and the world will go on getting worse for those like us. Actually, it will get worse for everyone, but most will be unaware of it. I don't think we have any choice but to at least try to come up with a viable plan. If we can come up with a plan, we can try to put together a team to implement that plan. If we can do that, we can try to implement it. I am ready to go to work on the first step, the planning, if you are."

There was no immediate response, as Rhett and Valerie silently considered his words.

"You’re right," Rhett finally said. "Getting to some of those top politicians will be next to impossible. On the other hand, those sure to be the most difficult are possibly best left in place. The President would be next to impossible, but if a good percentage of the Congress, the Power Elite, and the leaders of the MSM were gone, it's quite possible the new Congress would see some handwriting on the wall and clamp down on the unconstitutional activity of the executive branch."

"That could happen," said Michael. "If it did, it would make things a lot easier. It might be hard to get Congress though. One would think they would be all together in the Capitol, but that is becoming less and less common, anymore. The Senate is worse. In the Senate, you only have to vote if you want to vote 'no', because a 'yes' vote is assumed if you don’t show up to vote. Most of the time, they don't bother to go in, unless they are really serious about voting 'no.'”

Just then, the lady of the house came in to check on them. She took away their plates and brought their dessert.

"I was thinking," said Valerie, when they were alone again. "If we can somehow let the politicians know what is happening, that someone is taking out the people responsible for the unconstitutional activities of the government, things might straighten up after a sizeable segment has been eliminated. I don't see these people as being very brave, not when it comes to their own lives. They may not have any concern for the lives of others, but I believe they would try hard to hold on to their own."

"Good idea," said Rhett. "Right now, I can't think of any safe way to do that. If you communicate with them, they can find you. I think communicating with them could be riskier than eliminating them."

"We should take notes of our ideas," said Michael. "Since you said you didn't have a laptop, Valerie, I took the liberty of bringing you a couple of small notebook computers. They are excellent for most everyday tasks. I'll give them to you after we finish here."

 

After lunch, they decided the best place to work would be in the sitting room of Michael's suite. He was the only one that had a separate room suitable for working, and they didn't want to worry about people wandering by. They went to work immediately and kept at it for two hours.

"Let's take a break," said Michael. "If we don't, we aren't doing ourselves any favor, and we will be much more productive afterward."

They went for a stroll through Glen Dale. It didn't take long to see most of it. After their half-hour walk, they felt more relaxed and were ready to go back to work.

"We are doing better than I expected," said Rhett. "I am very enthusiastic about this."

"I think we have a lot more enthusiasm than we have confidence," said Valerie. "We want so much to accomplish something that we are enthusiastic. Yet, because we know the odds against us are so great, it's difficult to be confident we will accomplish anything."

"I know what you mean, Valerie, but I feel a lot more confident than I did before we started," said Michael. "If we keep up our present rate, in a few years, we'll have a plan."

They all laughed at Michael's remark.

 

That day and the next, they worked intermittently, never for more than two hours at a time. They found when they resumed their work after a break, they were much more productive. Most of their work could be called brainstorming. One of them would put forth an idea, and they would discuss it. Out of that discussion would spring new ideas, and so, their inventory of ideas grew and grew. They kept them all, good, bad, rational, and irrational, using a little program, which Michael had installed on everyone's computer. They took turns posting little notes of the ideas on one computer. Later they would transfer the data to the other computers, so everyone would have a copy.

 

On the last morning of their stay, they met once more, in the sitting room of Michael's suite.

"Well," said Michael. "We have done well. Obviously, we aren't in a position to do the things we've outlined. The main thing is we are getting a picture of what needs to be done, and the order in which to do it. We have broken a seemingly impossible task down into many little steps, each of which, though difficult and risky, is quite possible. We have tentatively verified the feasibility of our project. We each have our jobs to do now. Rhett, your most important task is to work up a list of Special Forces people and others that could be of service in the areas we have defined. You will also work on ideas for acquiring the weaponry we think we will need. Valerie, you will help Rhett, and you will recall as many as you can of the people you heard on those tapes, which might be of service to us, and categorize them. You will try to come up with contact info on them, in case we need to try to blackmail them into helping us. I will work on ways to raise funds, without anyone knowing about it. Once I acquire an Internet service provider, I will get us as secure a communications method as I can. In the meantime we will just use those programs we have available. Right now, it's just between the three of us. We don't let anyone know what we are up to. We merely identify potential assets. Any contact comes later, when we have figured out some way to make contacting others as safe as possible. And, that is about it."

"It seems you have put all we did in two days into a few sentences," said Valerie.

"Consider the army of programmers it took to make the latest version of Microsoft Windows, and how long it took them," said Michael. "Yet, you can hold up a single, puny disk and say, look at what they accomplished. On the subject of Microsoft, I truly admired Gil Bates for years. Lately, he doesn’t seem to be the same person. It would make me happy if we could determine he is one of us. He is definitely one of the Power Elite, and I would hate to have to harm him. However, I can assure you not every member of the Power Elite is an enemy. I hope he is one of those who aren't. If he has become involved in the destruction of freedom, he may be doing it in self-defense. They may have made him an offer he couldn’t refuse."

"I couldn't agree with you more," said Rhett. "Computers have changed the world, and I know until Windows came along, only the super-geeks would have one at home. The others were in banks and big businesses, and they cost huge sums."

Enough of this chit-chat,” said Michael. “Let's get downstairs, grab some breakfast, and be on our way. We all have plenty to do, and I have a plane waiting for me in Pittsburgh."

 

 

As soon as they were back in their home environments, they set to work in earnest. Rhett cautiously contacted a number of his former Special Services buddies, both in and out of the service, to see if they would make good candidates. He would just steer the conversation to the state of the nation, and mention that a lot of things he read indicated the Power Elite were the real problem. Then, almost as an afterthought, add that some of the articles even said unless the Power Elite were eliminated, things could never improve. He kept himself distanced from such an idea, but would say these people might be right, and if they were, things would probably never get better, because he didn't think anyone would ever get rid of the Power Elite. The only ones that could get rid of them were probably in their pocket anyway. He kept a log of how he interpreted their responses. The percentage that seemed in favor of eliminating the Power Elite was considerably higher than he had expected. He was finding that around forty percent were potential members of their team. A few stood out by saying they would be glad to help in the extermination of the Power Elite. These went to the top of the list.

"Either the percentage of Special Forces people willing to act is several times that of the general population, or we have misjudged the general population," he told Valerie. Both of them doubted they had misjudged the people, crediting Special Forces people with more interest, awareness, and patriotism.

Greg Paxton turned out to be an extremely useful contact for Rhett. Not only had he already volunteered to take part, he said he knew a lot of others in similar circumstances that would jump at the chance to turn things around. When Rhett asked if any of them were people they both knew, Paxton rattled off a list that included more than a dozen that Rhett had known.

"We need to pinpoint where these guys are," said Rhett. "If they aren't too far, maybe we could get together for a reunion."

"That would be great," said Paxton. "Some of them are sick, maybe too sick to travel. I'm not so hot myself, as you know."

"I'd pick you up and take you," said Rhett, "Any along the way could be picked up too."

"I'll talk to them about it," said Paxton. "We chat now and then on the Internet. I'll let you know what I come up with. Thank heavens for the Internet. My life would be pretty grim without it."

Rhett felt he could probably trust his buddy, Paxton, but the agreement was not to even hint at what they were working on. He was not about to go against that agreement. If the time came, and recruiting began, he guessed most of these men who had been casualties of the "unfriendly fire" from their own government, would probably be motivated as much by a desire to strike back at the establishment that ruined their lives and took the lives of so many of their associates, as they were by sheer patriotism. Either way, they would make good soldiers in this war. Valerie had made him start calling what they were gearing up for a war.

"We are planning a war," she had said. "We are at war with those who are destroying our country from within. Most wars are against those who come from outside and want to conquer a country. America is being conquered by some of her own people. Sure, they are joined by others from other countries who want to see America go down for their own reasons, but the real damage to America is being done by Americans. Ours is a new kind of war, and it's one that should have been fought long ago."

Rhett liked Valerie. There had been moments recently, when he considered attempting to strike up a romance with her. She was attractive. She was probably the smartest woman he had ever known well. He considered her considerably smarter than he was. She was no pansy, either. Back in the jungle, she had stayed and helped him get out. A lot of men would have left him to fend for himself. He could do a lot worse than Valerie. He never acted on his impulses, thinking that if it didn’t work out, it could mess up their project. It was probably just as well, he thought, since she wasn't exactly throwing herself at him.

Valerie had the lightest work load, so in addition to trying to recall and document the crimes she had heard about on the government recordings, she helped Rhett with his tasks. She was better with computers than he was, and she set up a database of candidates for their organization, with as much information as they had on each candidate. She also created a database of the targets. They would try just as hard to take someone off the target list as they would to maintain a known crook on it. When they talked with Michael, he told them about the two computer idea and some other ideas for keeping their data secure. They would keep their small hand held computers off the Internet and keep everything in external hard drives with what are called "hidden volumes," using a free, open-source program called True Crypt, which offered them another feature called "plausible deniability." To get into their secret volume, they used another little program to encrypt a common phrase into a very strong password no one could ever remember. They entered the beginning phrase of the Declaration of Independence: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,” which, when encrypted using the word "declaration" as a password, turned into:

DflNbBpVblvM5Y3oYZbzQcqFPmeYBL05A7M6q2u/iYN10ofFBPSA9I7gJaUspcRSDeoDvFS/LICXUaNVJIET6PHxBa3STZB4KOs+qJyH6eBEsF6n2mGYJCer8wBG5NGFGs8KMEK b7PUlEltEvrX

It took a few seconds to open their secret volume every time they started to work, but with such a password, so easily concocted, they could have complete confidence in the security of their data.

Michael had less time to devote to their project than did Rhett and Valerie, but he also had a lot more resources at his disposal. He had his family chores, as he called them, but his recent emphasis on preparing his family for a possible revolt of the masses meshed well with their program. He established the Regnant Foundation for Freedom, dedicated to restoring the American Dream. When as president of the foundation, he chose Louis Rockford, a prominent libertarian leader, whose website, lourockford.com, was popular around the globe, he created a media firestorm. He had a job convincing his family it was a good idea, and he had an even harder job getting a very suspicious Rockford to accept the position. He had to convince him the foundation was a serious organization, meant to do exactly what its stated goal implied. He wanted credibility, and Rockford certainly gave him that. It also gave him exposure in every newspaper and on nearly every talk show on radio and television, in addition to thousands of blogs on the Internet. This put the name and purpose of the foundation in front of as many people as possible, with zero expenditure for advertising.

The Foundation for Freedom was a tool for changing the Regnant family's image, but it could easily play a part in financing Michael's private project. He set up some minority companies, obtained government financing for them, and arranged some government contracts for them, which they were able to subcontract out for far less money and bank the difference. By the time he got through, they would have cash flowing in and out of bank accounts of organizations with such benign sounding names as The Society for the Revival of Operettas and the Old Glory Society. Eventually, through proven techniques, money would be available to them for their project.

 

Santa Ana, California

 

Ted Trimble had a thing about the Regnant family. He would be the first to admit it was almost an obsession. Perhaps it qualified as a full-fledged obsession. He had every book written about the Regnants and had read some of them several times. Through his employment as a feature writer for the Orange County Register, a small, but highly respected Californian newspaper, he used a news clipping service that kept him informed about every article published concerning the Regnants. He had a filing cabinet of information on them, and everything in the filing cabinet had been scanned into his computer. In Trimble's opinion, the Regnants, at least Claude Regnant, had committed treason, many times over. The Regnants might not be in the same league as the Rockefelds and the Redsons, but they were well above wealthy individuals like Gil Bates and Warren Buffin. He felt if he could prove his suspicions about the Regnants, he could put the Orange County Register on the map, while garnering a Pulitzer Prize for himself. Equally important, he might bring the Regnants down a notch or two. However, he was concerned that, even should he succeed, given the Regnant power, they might wrangle presidential pardons. That seemed to be the new get out of jail free card. Bush even went so far as to give preemptive pardons to his cronies, in case they got caught after he left office. We really have a nation of laws, Trimble often said, and every one of them has been subverted by those supposed to enforce them.

Through a friend in Homeland Security, Trimble monitored all activity of the Regnant credit cards. As is often the case, it never occurred to him that, in doing so, he was doing something he would have strenuously condemned if done by others. When he received his latest monthly report, he noticed Michael Regnant had rented a car in Pittsburgh for three consecutive days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. He was well aware of the Regnant business interests in Pittsburgh, but why would Michael Regnant stay over the weekend, in Pittsburgh, of all places? It was possible he had some serious problems to iron out, and he stayed the weekend to take care of them. It was also possible he had a liaison of a baser sort. However, in his opinion, none of the Regnant men were playboys, Michael least of all. Michael was the eldest son, the only one that never married, and was never even rumored to be romantically involved with anyone. Trimble had photographs of Michael at balls and dinners with beautiful female escorts, but he had never heard of anything serious and certainly nothing scandalous. He made a mental note of the report, scanned it into his computer, and filed it. After a little thought, he called his friend in Homeland Security and asked him to notify him the next time Michael Regnant reserved a car in Pittsburgh.

 

The Regnant Building

Manhattan

 

"I've been meaning to tell you that if you do any more tricks like putting Louis Rockford in as head of our Foundation for Freedom, be sure and let me know ahead of time" said Claude Regnant, as he walked into Michael's office in the Regnant Building, on Wall Street. "I don't know how much shock is good for me at my age."

"Sorry, Father. I thought I did tell you," said Michael. "It must have been one of those things you start to say, and something else comes up, and later you think you said it. Is there anything really wrong with Louis Rockford?"

"I have nothing against the man. I don't even know him. I do know he is a well-known libertarian connected with the Von Mises Institute. I can't imagine how you got him to head up a Regnant organization."

"It wasn't exactly easy. He liked what the Foundation for Freedom was supposed to do. The difficulty was in convincing him that really was what it was intended to do."

"I thought the purpose of the Foundation for Freedom was to make us look good," said Claude.

"It is," said Michael, "and I told him that up front. I also told him that we weren't going to try to look good because of what we said we were going to do, but because of what we actually did. I told him I particularly wanted him for several reasons. I said I believed he would find the goals of the foundation in agreement with his own views. I believed he was probably incorruptible and most people knew that. I said I figured if he were kept from doing what he thought was right, he would leave, and he could and would tell the world why he had left. So, as long as he was head of the Foundation, people would know it was honest and above board. But above all else, I thought he would steer the course we want to travel better than any of the people we had dealt with in the past. When he finally agreed to do it, he said he would, indeed, leave if the Foundation were not allowed to at least try hard to achieve its stated goals. I told him trying hard wasn't acceptable. Achieving them was what we wanted, and if he couldn't do it with all the funds we were going to give him, I would probably ask him to resign. Anyway, he's it. It's too early to say how he's going to do, but I have high hopes."

"Good," said Claude. "That morning, not too long ago, when we had a little talk at breakfast that ended with you planning something to improve our image, we talked about why the economic crisis might be intentional. Do you remember that?"

"Yes," said Michael. "I remember it very clearly. What about it?"

"I've been thinking a lot lately. I had a birthday since then. At my age, birthdays make you think. You and I need to have a long talk, and I don't mean an hour or two. I mean a long talk. I want you to take over from me when the time comes. You need to start taking more responsibility and being more autonomous. You need to start being active in organizations, like the Bilderbergs, the CFR and such. I assume you’ll take over as head of the family, won't you?"

"Yes," said Michael, "but I'm certainly in no hurry. I want you around for many years."

"So do I," said Claude. "So do I. But you couldn't just step into my shoes without any preparation, or you would have a tough time. I need to brief you on a world of things. Let's you and I take a weekend together, and we'll kick things around a little."

"No problem," said Michael. Becoming active in those organizations would be ideal for what he and his new friends had in mind.

 

Denton's Sanitarium

 

"The doctors say I can probably go home one day next week," said Denton, sitting in his wheelchair, in front of the bench where Michael was sitting.

"I'm happy you are doing so well," said Michael. "That will make it much harder for me to get to see you, though." He had been so busy he had put off seeing his father longer than he liked. "Send me an e-mail when you know precisely when you are leaving. I'll see what I can work out. You still have my e-mail address, don't you?"

He knew Denton was wealthy enough to take care of his every need, so he wasn't worried about that. However, while the sanitarium was only a twenty-minute drive, Denton's home in the Hamptons was very inconvenient. He would have to find a way to get there from the office, without attracting attention.

"I have it in my laptop. I hope we can work something out," said Denton. "We have a lot of lost time to make up for."

After some small talk, Denton said, "I've been thinking about what you said about everyone pointing out what's wrong, but never really doing anything to fix things. You really got to me with that. After all, I spent my career pointing out what was wrong, with little or no attention to solutions. I don't know how many times I told people to write to their elected representatives, knowing in my heart it was a waste of time. I'm determined to do something effective. I'm going to try to, at least."

"What do you have in mind?" asked Michael, wishing he could say, "That makes two of us.'"

"I believe the reason the people never get together and demand the government get off their backs and out of their lives is that they are divided into too many factions," said Denton. "Divide and conquer is a strategy as old as politics itself, if not older. We need to be Americans first, and any other adjective, such as Republican, Democrat, left, right, Protestant, Catholic, conservative, liberal, white, black, etc., have to come after that. We are so busy fighting among ourselves we ignore our common and much more dangerous enemy. We are distracted by trivial matters from the really important things the government is doing to us. If half the attention directed toward freedom of choice and right to life were directed to concern for the lives of the six billion already born, things would change. If one half the concern over porn, prostitution, drugs, global warming, global cooling, et cetera were directed toward the genocide, the mass murder of millions, the robbery and impoverishment of billions, the world would change for the better instantly. People want to fix the little things first, while the big things are ignored or given lip service. Naturally, it is the government that is responsible for most of our division. They foster division as best they can, and the people don't resist much."

"I'm sure most of the division is generated and manipulated, as you say," said Michael. "It is an old strategy, tried and true."

"I'm going to try to latch onto the Ron Paul Revolution group, which is already a coalition of people from different segments, and see if we can bring all the people together under the American umbrella. We might need a new party, maybe the USA party or the Patriot Party, or something like that. Maybe it would start just as an organization, and when it gets big and strong, it could morph into a party by starting to field its own candidates for office. I haven't figured it all out yet."

"Pretty good idea," said Michael. "Personally, I don't have much faith in anything that means working within the system. What makes you think your candidates can ever win? With electronic voting, they can make anyone they wish win the election."

"That's true now," said Denton. "I'd be counting on the idea that when our new group got enough members, they would insist on fair and valid elections and do whatever it takes to get them."

Michael mulled over the idea. He saw Denton's idea as futile in the current environment. However, if his little troika got their project off the ground, such a group as his real father proposed could step up and make sure the replacements for the deceased politicians were considerably better than their predecessors. "I think it is a good idea," he said. "It will take some time, and it will require a lot of effort. Yet, if you can get it to work, things should eventually change for the better, something I don't see possible at the present. I like the idea of uniting people of various parties. At the same time, I think you need to promote individualism. Doing that while promoting a union of groups may take some doing."

“I see your point,” said Denton, “and I see the conundrum. I will ponder it a while.”

 Michael explained his new Foundation for Freedom to Denton. "I would think we could contribute some funding for your new group. It certainly sounds like something we would back."

"I don't know how your family would see that," said Denton. "They wanted to kill me and almost did. Somehow, I don’t see them wanting to give me money.” He moved his wheelchair toward Michael, into the shade of a nearby tree. “The sun was getting hot on my back,” He explained.

"I see what you mean," said Michael. "On the other hand, it would be ideal for both parties. It would show the Foundation for Freedom is working to restore the American Dream, just as it says. It would give you much needed funds to get off to a good start, and keep going. Maybe you could break the ice by publicly saying the Regnants seem to have seen the light and are doing what they should have been doing all along or something like that. Indicate you are no longer going to attack them, since they are actually helping the nation in its time of need. You know how to do it. Then we could reciprocate by giving you a donation. Some people may say we bought you, but the fact we are giving money to something to unite the people and help them regain their lost freedom would be such an obvious turnabout for us, it would be difficult for our critics to find fault with it."

"Are the Regnants making a turnaround?" asked Denton.

"It's a start," said Michael. "I can't just reverse my family instantly, as you can imagine. However, I have long said that we have all the money we could ever need. It grows faster on its own than we can spend it. I have planted in their minds the seed that the people are getting restless. Every day there are more signs of serious unrest. My brother, on his own, mentioned he was afraid of something like the French Revolution, with a massacre of the aristocrats. Personally, I think most Americans are probably more apathetic than the French were, although it may be the fluoride in the drinking water for two thirds of them. I read that the first use of fluoride in water was by the Nazis in ghettos and concentration camps to keep the people docile. Nevertheless, I am working on preparing the family to withstand such a revolution, just in case. The only way to do that is to very publicly start doing the opposite of what we have been doing. They will get used to it. At least, I hope they will. This would fit in perfectly with that. If we could arrange for them to start being loved instead of hated or feared by the public, they might just get to like that enough to prefer it."

"After all these years of hating them myself, I am surprised at how my perception has changed, since we have gotten together," said Denton. "I would hardly call it love, affection, or even approval, but maybe I could call it understanding. I think I understand Claude Regnant quite a bit more. I still see him as ruthless, but not necessarily as greedy or even evil. A lot of people that commit and support evil acts are not consciously evil. Look at the religious right supporting a holocaust in the Middle East. All those people are not evil at heart, even if they cheer on the murderers. But like them, Claude Regnant is guilty of some very evil things."

"Granted," said Michael. "On the other hand, if our little ploy works, the Regnants would be capable of some very wonderful things. If we were to earn the admiration and love of the vast majority of the Americans, we might possibly have even more power than we have now, and we could feel a lot better about it. At least, I could."

"Perhaps you could even convince some of your peers to do the same," said Denton. "The only thing is that to get to your level economically, it is generally necessary to use a lot of, shall we say, underhanded methods. That seems to imply that most of those at that level are those who are comfortable with such methods."

"Why is it necessary to utilize underhanded methods to build wealth?" asked Michael. "Why couldn't it be done on the up and up?"

"Because you would lose your profits to the government, in taxes," said Denton.

"How did the government get all that power?" asked Michael, and then he answered his own question. "Because the government asks the much larger number of people that have little or no money for permission to take the money from those that are successful and making a considerable amount. Of course, those with little money are somewhat jealous of those that make a lot, so they readily give that permission. That is the trouble with majority rule. Every person and just about every group is a minority, and you can do what you want to them just by isolating them in the public's opinion and then asking for permission to abuse or oppress them, and you are sure to get it. Especially if you phrase your request properly, by asking, 'Would you rather we cleaned out these guys or would you like for us to take a bigger chunk from you and everyone else?" That works every time. Then the same people complain about the underhanded methods that they force their victims to resort to in order to keep from being robbed of the fruits of their labor, or to increase those fruits so that when the dust settles, they have as much as they would have had if they had been allowed to keep what they would have earned normally. You can't blame someone for trying to protect what is rightfully theirs. You can, but not with any moral validity."

"I see what you mean," said Denton. "Playing the devil's advocate can make you look at things differently."

"If your new party is to truly promote liberty and justice, it must be liberty and justice for all. Remember that phrase? It must be paid more than lip service. Lately, it doesn't even get that. You can't say you are in favor of liberty, if it is only for you and your friends. That's the way things are now. I wouldn't give anyone a penny to promote that, unless, of course, it was to promote liberty or license to me and my friends. If you are out to just change the clique that the government coddles, count me out."

"I am for liberty and justice for all," said Denton. "Okay, even for my enemies. In some cases, justice for them would be pretty severe."

"I can't argue with that," said Michael. "All I’m saying is: if you want to fight for your liberty, you must fight for everyone's liberty. But liberty is only the right to do as you please as long as you don't infringe on the liberty of others. Otherwise, it is license. I assume that those you refer to as deserving severe justice have been infringing on the rights of countless others for years and so have lost their protection as far as rational people are concerned. They could regain it, but most are not likely to even realize what is going on, much less attempt to rectify the situation or atone for past transgressions."

“You’re preaching to the choir,” said Denton.

“I guess I’m preaching to the choirmaster,” said Michael with a chuckle. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” said Denton. “I love it. Having a son that is so enthusiastic about freedom is a miracle to me. I’ve been meaning to ask you something. I know you are single. Is there some romance in your life, or has there been?”

“There was, once upon a time,” said Michael. “It was quite serious, but we broke up. It was at a time when I was doing my best to overcome what I saw as a weakness and become stronger as was expected of me by my family. She was filled with all the good things I was trying to suppress, and I guess she didn’t like what I was becoming.”

“That’s a shame,” said Denton. “But you are a different person now. Is it too late?”

“It’s been almost twenty years,” said Michael. “I would think it’s too late now.”

“Meaning she is married with children,” said Denton.

“No, she isn’t married and has no children,” said Michael.

“You are keeping tabs on her,” said Denton, arching his eyebrows.

“Not exactly,” said Michael. “She is pretty famous in some circles.”

“Who is she?”

“Let’s leave her nameless for the time being. Just call her a brilliant, moral, and probably still quite wonderful woman. That is the way I think of her.”

"If you only knew how happy I am to have found that I had a son like you, Michael," said Denton. "It was well worth being beaten half to death."

"It wasn't your beating that brought it about," said Michael. "It was Mother's death. It wasn't worth her death, but perhaps it makes us look at it differently. She would have enjoyed being in on these conversations between you and me."

"Yes," said Denton, quietly. "Maybe she is."

"I can't help believing she bequeathed all her personal belongings to me so that I could run across the diaries. Of course, she couldn't be sure that I would read them. In fact, I almost didn't. Diaries are such a personal thing. Something compelled me to open one, and, almost immediately, I came upon her great secret."

As they sat quietly, Michael felt close to his father. He wanted to bring him in on the project, but not only had he vowed not to tell anyone, he had no way of knowing if Denton would be in favor of it, or whether he might be endangered at some point by any connection with it. There was no practical reason for telling him, only a sentimental one. All in all, his was a strange situation. Here he was, hoping to turn the lives of his family—the Regnants were still his family, regardless of the DNA--upside down. But, wasn't it to protect them from the possible insurgency of the masses, and of people like himself, Rhett, and Valerie. He really believed the things he had told Denton about the benefits to his family of a change of direction, both real and perceived. But then, doesn't one readily believe the things one wants to believe?

Later on his way home, Michael thought about Charlene West, the woman he had not wanted to name to Denton. They had met in college and been strongly attracted to each other. She was a drama major, but took courses in various subjects as electives. Michael had met her in Political Science and later in a philosophy course. Their separation had been all her idea, definitely not his. She had been quite libertarian in her outlook. She hated what he was becoming as he tried to be like his father and brothers. She was also looking forward to being like her father, who was a famous actor, director, who wrote his own scripts and even composed the music for some of his films. Over the years, she had done well. She had a couple of academy awards, one for acting and one for directing, and had been nominated many times. He knew that because she was somewhat of an activist in libertarian circles, she was something of an outsider in Hollywood, no matter how good she was at what she did. She was surely familiar with Denton and his works. They would be right up her alley. Would she ever be shocked to learn the lovesick young man she spurned was the son of Kirk Denton. Of course, she could never know that. No one except Denton and him should ever know that. Unfortunately, two more people did know it, but he felt sure he could trust them to keep his secret. He was trusting them with a lot more. If he ever married, he would have to let his wife know. Right now, the closest thing he had to a marriage candidate was his memory of Charlene West. That was what was wrong with her, he thought. She had been so outstanding that she had ruined other women for him.

Chapter 11

Rhett's Cabin

 

Rhett and Valerie were checking their regular news sites on the Internet, when Valerie cried out, "Rhett, look at this article about a hypnotist."

The article concerned a hypnotist named Jonathon Riggs. Riggs specialized in "instant induction" so called because it instantly induced a state of hypnosis. Riggs had been arrested some time ago in New York City and charged with practicing medicine without a license. The City claimed that when Riggs said, "Sleep" and "go deeper and deeper to sleep" to his subjects, he was practicing medicine, namely anesthesiology. Apparently, Riggs had just been acquitted in a jury trial.

"How did we miss his being arrested in the first place?" Rhett exclaimed. "It must have been while we were tied up with something for a couple of days, and it slipped by us. Either one of us would have noticed anything as ridiculous as that on the government's part."

"Maybe it wasn't mentioned in the sites we visit," said Valerie.

Riggs had been a guest on the radio show hosted by the blogger that had posted the article. The posting had a link to a recording of the interview, and they sat back to listen to it.

"Thank heavens, we had a reasonable jury," said Riggs, after the story of his arrest and his trial had been covered. "I was terrified that we might have gotten average people, who, as far as I can see, have let their common sense atrophy until it's nonexistent. This jury agreed with our argument that if the government got a conviction on this idiotic charge, it would not stop there. It never does. Remember that the government listens in on our every phone call. We have recently discovered that if we have a cell phone with us, they can always listen in on our conversations, unless we remove the battery completely. They can probably listen in on us in our homes if we have a telephone, especially one from AT&T and maybe via our television if we don't unplug it from the wall--modern televisions never go off completely, you know, or they couldn't sense the remote to turn on the screen. If they want you for some reason; if your government employee neighbor gets mad at you; or the prison is getting too empty, they could arrest you for telling someone to get some rest, to take it easy, to take some vitamin C or an aspirin. Mothers could be put away for telling their kids to eat healthy food or putting a band-aid on a scratch, because that is much closer to practicing medicine than telling someone to sleep. So finding me innocent was as much in their favor as it was in mine. It was also time to send a message to the tyrants that they have gone too far and need to back off and let people live their lives. My lawyer told them that they had to know that once Uncle Sam gets his little toe in the door, it is no time at all until the whole door is gone, then the wall, then the house, and soon the town. That's just the way they are. It only took the jury five minutes to reach a unanimous decision for acquittal. It was probably as much in self-defense as it was from a sense of justice."

"So you were happy with the decision?" asked the host.

"Yes, but it is on the order of falling off a roof and breaking six ribs and a leg and being happy that they healed and you were not killed or permanently disabled. You would much rather not have fallen at all. I would much rather not have such an onerous government that would even consider bringing such charges against a citizen. I'm the kind of person that would have been right at home with those early Americans that had the 'Don't Tread on Me' flag. What ever happened to American's sense of independence and self-reliance? Are people today genetically different? Have they mutated? Is the government putting something in their water? We know they fool around with genetic engineering in animals and plants, even babies now. Maybe they found a way to engineer the people to make them docile."

"That is a possibility," said the host. "There is the fluoridation of the water, and who knows what might be in the chemtrails that they shower on the major population centers. You almost have to assume that their motives are evil, because we know that they would never do anything that wasn't for their own benefit. Any other motive is propaganda."

"I distill my drinking water," said Riggs. "I even have a filter on my shower, and I live far enough out of town that I probably escape most of the fallout from the periodic spraying you city folks get. When I lived in New York, before I moved to Las Vegas, I had electrostatic filters on my air conditioner to pick up the particles from the air. You wouldn't believe the crap that those filters took out of the air. There is enough junk in the air without them adding whatever it is they dump on us. All those precautionary measures I take may not be necessary, but it is much better to do them unnecessarily than to not do them and need to have done them. They are sensible minor precautions. I look before crossing the street, even when I don't think a car is coming. I do it because it is a good habit to have. It is a habit that may someday save my life. Not to look before crossing the street is, in my opinion, foolish, but no more foolish than not to try to avoid whatever it is they are spraying on us, feeding us, and even wanting to inject into us. If it was good for us, they would be boasting about it and explaining it in great detail and at great expense. In my opinion, the fact that they ignore the queries about the chemtrails is essentially proof that they are harmful."

The interview drifted to the subject of hypnotism, particularly the instant induction, which Riggs used.

"Can you hypnotize anyone, or are there some that you can't hypnotize?" asked the host.

"There are some people that I can't do instantly," said Riggs. "I might be able to hypnotize them the conventional way, but I don't bother. I just move on. I'd say that at least ninety percent can be put under instantly, maybe more. "

"I read recently that in some Eastern European country," said the host, "the government was advising the bank tellers not to make eye contact with their customers, because there had been a series of bank robberies in which the robbers hypnotized the tellers and had them hand over their money. Later, the tellers had no recollection of it. I had heard that you couldn't get people to do things that they wouldn't ordinarily do when awake, like kill people. Does that sound possible to you?"

"Some people probably won't do things under hypnosis that they wouldn't ordinarily do when awake. Notice that I say ordinarily. But there is little you can think of that, under some circumstance, anyone at all would do. The robber may have put the teller in a trance and told him he had a gun and the teller should give him the money to save his life. Ordinarily, you might not pick up a gun and shoot a stranger, but if you have a young child, and you are led to believe that this person has a knife or a gun and is about to kill your child, and someone hands you a gun and says that if you shoot him quickly, you can save your child's life, most people would probably shoot. To get someone to do something, you merely have to put them in a situation in which they would do it even if awake. Frequently, you don't have to do even that. I often get people on the street to give me their wallet, their house keys, or their watch, merely by asking for them. These are not things they would normally give to a perfect stranger on the street. These people are not even in a real trance. In a few moments, they realize what they have just done and come back for their possessions. They have no idea why they did it. They merely know that they did it, and it seemed natural at the time."

"I understand that many psychiatrists that use hypnosis say that what you do is impossible. What do you say to that?" asked the host.

"There are a number of videos on the Internet of me and others like me consistently doing the impossible," said Riggs. "Go to YouTube, put in 'instant induction'" and look at some of them, and then draw your own conclusions. You might try 'street hypnosis' too."

The host said, "Well, Jonathon Riggs, our time is running out. Allow me to congratulate you on your victory and to thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts with us today. After your victimization by government, have you become an anarchist, believing that we should do away with government?"

"I do believe that the world would be a far, far better place if there were no government at all," said Riggs. "However, I believe that until that happens, if it ever does, we had best attempt to rein in the runaway government we have. We aren't likely to get rid of the U.S. government, and if we did, we would probably be invaded by some other country that saw us as a pushover, with no wicked government fighting to protect its supply of tribute. I'll tell you what I would like. I would love to be able to hypnotize the government from the President on down and give them post-hypnotic suggestions to live up to their oath of office and to abide by the Constitution. If they did that, it would be good enough for me."

"I want to see a video of him doing what he does," said Valerie.

"So do I," said Rhett, calling up YouTube on the computer and typing in "Jonathon Riggs." “I have good feelings about him. He had a run-in with an out of control government. Fortunately, he escaped, and he got out of New York before they could set him up for some other charge they might make stick.”

“I loved the part about hypnotizing the government and making them live up to their oaths of office,” said Valerie.

They quickly found several videos of Riggs and watched them. They watched a few other videos on instant induction and street hypnosis.

"We always say our biggest obstacle is security, knowing who we can trust and avoiding infiltration," said Valerie. "What if we could snap candidates into an instant hypnotic trance and quiz them to find out if they are trustworthy or not?"

Rhett thought for a moment. "This could be the answer to our prayers, Valerie," he said. "From what Riggs said, it works on ninety percent of the people. If we could come up with a way that doesn't give us away when it fails, we could try it on every candidate and just forget about anyone it doesn't work on. We might only discard ten percent because we couldn't be sure about them. It would surely give us a lot more confidence in the people we recruit."

They watched several more videos, and with each one, they became more excited. They picked out a few of the best ones and e-mailed links to Michael with a note stating why they thought instant induction could be valuable.

 

Las Vegas

Four Days Later

 

A shiny 757 airliner touched down on the runway of the Las Vegas airport. Its brakes ground it to a slow roll near the end of the runway. Moments later, it had pulled into a slot at the terminal, and Rhett and Valerie walked down the ramp and into the terminal. As they had only small carry-on bags, they were able to walk straight out and take a taxi.

"The Gold Rush Hotel," said Rhett, as he shut the taxi's door.

It was six-thirty in the evening, and the traffic was dense and noisy. They were glad to get to the quietness of the hotel lobby, where the carpets and the decor absorbed sounds instead of echoing them. Check-in at that hour went quickly, and they were soon in their rooms, cleaning up and getting ready for dinner and business.

Half an hour later, Valerie called Rhett's room. "Knock on the door when you are ready," she said.

"Be right there," he said.

They had a leisurely cocktail in one of the several lounges and went to the quietest dining room they could find. It was extremely quiet, and when a distinguished-looking middle-aged man sat down at the piano to play, they looked at each other, wondering if the tranquility had come to an end. There was no need for them to worry; the music was soft and soothing, well-suited to their mood, after a tiring day in the unfriendly skies and even more unfriendly airports of America.

After their quiet dinner, they wandered to the Lucky Strike Room where a large sign outside informed them that tonight was the last performance of Jonathon Riggs, a world-renown--so it said--hypnotist. They had come to Las Vegas specifically to see Riggs. They had found out all they could about him from a distance. They knew that although Riggs was working on stage in a Las Vegas hotel, his reputation had been made on the streets, approaching perfect strangers and instantly hypnotizing them. He had studied under another famous street hypnotist in Australia, who claimed to be the fastest hypnotist of all, even calling himself a "quicknotist." Riggs' libertarian philosophy, coupled with his remarkable ability, made him an ideal candidate for their project. At the very least, he might be able to train Rhett and Valerie in his art. With Michael's help, they had tracked him down and discovered he was about to wind up an engagement at the Gold Rush Hotel. They didn't know if he had another position lined up or not, but decided to take a chance and fly out and talk to him. They decided that the two of them should go, just in case he were to try to hypnotize one of them and find out why they really were interested in hypnosis.

Riggs' performance was very entertaining to the audience and fascinating to Rhett and Valerie. He enlisted half a dozen members of the audience, lined them up on the stage, and after chatting with them briefly, he walked down the line, said a few words to each person, touched them briefly and caught them when they fell toward him in a hypnotic trance.

Rhett called the waiter and gave him an envelope for Riggs. Inside the envelope was a note saying they were interested in hiring him once he wound up his time with the hotel.

When his show ended, Riggs came to their table and said, "You wanted to talk to me."

"I'm Rhett Bartlett," said Rhett, standing and shaking Riggs' hand. "This is Valerie Harper. Please have a seat. Can we get you a drink?"

"I have one more performance at eleven," said Riggs. "I will have a glass of club soda though."

Once they were settled, Riggs asked, "What's on your minds?"

"What would you think about using hypnosis to screen applicants for a job?" asked Rhett. "To see if they are trustworthy in general and everything they are telling you in an interview is true."

"Seems a pretty good idea," said Riggs. "What kind of job are we talking about?"

"Let's say something important and secret," said Rhett. "Maybe for espionage. As a hypothetical case, let's say a group wants to take back the government from those who are running it into the ground. They need to assemble a group to accomplish this. Naturally, they need to be extremely sure that someone is trustworthy before they release any details of their activities to a prospective member of the group. One bad apple and all the rest are dead. Could they hypnotize the candidates with your technique and quiz them to find out what kind of person they are and how trustworthy they are?"

"Of course," said Riggs. "You would have to prepare your questions very carefully to make sure you get them to be truthful in their answers and to make sure that you get the information you want."

"How confident could you be in the results?" asked Valerie.

"I'd say the results are as good as your questions, and the way you lead up to them," said Riggs. "If those two things are really good, your results are really good. If only that situation were a real one and not a hypothetical one. It isn't, is it?"

"I'm afraid not," said Rhett. "But confidence in the results is just as important as it would be in that situation."

"I think it's a great idea to screen people that way," said Riggs. "It should work quite well. The legality of it might be questionable."

"Could an expert like you teach people like us to do the screening that we are talking about?" asked Valerie.

"Sure," said Riggs. "It's not hard. The people that have a problem learning hypnosis are those that are too brash and in your face. I don't think you two would have any problem."

"If we could learn, we could be a lot more convincing in what we write about this topic," said Valerie.

"So you are writers?" asked Riggs.

"How long would it take for us to be up to speed?" asked Rhett, ignoring Riggs' question.

"It depends on how fast you learn and how much you apply yourself," said Riggs.

"How much would you charge to teach us, bring us up to the point that we could screen candidates for sensitive positions, without their knowledge?" asked Rhett.

After a brief negotiation, Rhett and Valerie were to stay in Las Vegas for three days, during which, Riggs would begin training them and after which, he could tell how well they were learning and they could tell how well the three of them were getting along. By then, they would have a better idea of how long it was going to take, and they could discuss extending their agreement.

 

At the end of each day, Rhett reported to Michael on their progress and their impression of Riggs. At the end of the third day, a decision had to be made. Bring Riggs in and let him train people and possibly do some of the hypnotizing of the candidates, or just let him train Rhett and Valerie and then cut him loose. If he were to merely train them, should they stay in Las Vegas or should they take him to West Virginia. Although both Rhett and Valerie felt that Riggs was probably trustworthy and had the necessary attitude, they both thought it was too great a risk at this time to let him know where they lived. They renegotiated their deal with Riggs extending it a week.

"How can we be certain that the subject is really under?" Rhett asked Riggs, when following a lesson, they were having a drink beside the hotel pool. "Can you be absolutely certain?"

"Absolutely, probably not," said Riggs. "Fairly certain, yes. There are physical signs. The subject's eyes generally get wet and red. All their muscles relax and you will notice a kind of flattening of the face. The subject may swallow a lot, breathing can be irregular, and you may see twitching of the arms and legs."

"Can an expert fake it so you can't tell if he's hypnotized or not?" asked Valerie. "If you were to let us hypnotize you, would it be possible for us to tell if you were faking it to make us believe we were successful?"

"I could fake a lot of it," said Riggs, "especially since you haven't done any hypnotizing yet, and you haven't seen how it really looks. Once you've had quite a bit of experience, it would be harder. The flattening of the face is pretty much impossible to fake, I would think. You might be able to train yourself to do it. I don't know. The eyes might be faked too. I have heard that some movie stars can cry on command. I've not tried that, and I don't think I could, but I don't know. The rest, yes, I could fake it pretty well. Why do you ask?"

"If a spy was onto the fact that they used hypnosis to test him, we were thinking he might resist hypnosis and fake it and be able to pass their test with flying colors," said Rhett.

"That's possible," said Riggs. "I think it would be pretty easy to fool you for the first hundred or so times you do it. After so many times of seeing the real thing, you would get pretty good at spotting a fake, I think."

"We came up with a lot of questions related to hypnotism in general," said Valerie. "Like post-hypnotic suggestions. I haven't seen you do much with them. Do you ever?"

"I have used them," said Riggs. "You should have seen one that night in the Gold Rush. Out on the street, I don't use them because I'm not going to see the subject in the future, and I have no reason to use them."

"We were wondering how long they last," said Rhett. "For instance, you might tell a subject that every time he hears the word 'telephone'" he will turn around once. Do you have any idea how long that will last? Do you have to take it away or will it wear off?"

"You have been thinking," said Riggs. "This is sort of like the question about getting people to do things they wouldn't ordinarily do. It might depend to some extent on how you plant the suggestion. If you just state it and it is something silly like spinning around as you say, I don't think it would last even three days, but you can make that three months or even indefinitely by building a case for the subject wanting to do whatever is suggested. Repeating the suggestion also strengthens it. Studies have shown a tendency for the strength of the suggestion to decline rapidly over some fifteen days, but a remnant may last forever. When you overcome phobias with hypnosis, they seldom return. When you stop smoking with hypnosis, you may or may not resume. It is hard to say."

"All these stories about Manchurian candidates, are they just tall tales or can you have someone wait for instructions, give him a code word and he goes into a trance and you can send him to blow up a bridge or something like that?" asked Rhett.

"I don't know," said Riggs. "I really don't know. The mind is strange. I imagine that if you work with someone long enough, you can put him in a trance over the phone with a word or phrase, and then you may direct him to perform some act if you know how to make him want to do that act. What little I've read about the so-called Manchurian Candidates indicates that the CIA began working on that sort of thing when split or multiple personalities were discovered. They wanted to be able to create a second personality that they could switch the subject into and out of. It would be sort of like having a spy hidden inside a person, ready to go to work when they turned it on."

"We are just so fascinated by what we are learning," said Valerie. "It seems that the more we learn, the more questions pop up. Did that happen to you when you started?"

"I suppose, to some extent," said Riggs. "I was looking at it as a career, a way to earn a living. I wasn't all that interested in any long-term effects."

"We listened to your interview after you won your court case in New York," said Rhett. "You said something about wanting to hypnotize the President and the Congress and telling them to abide by the Constitution. Could that be done, if you had the opportunity?"

"That was just wishful thinking," said Riggs. "I suppose you could hypnotize them, just like anyone else, but I doubt you could ever get the opportunity. Then, that particular post hypnotic suggestion might not last very long as it is obviously completely contrary to their beliefs."

When their week was half over, Valerie and Rhett went with Riggs to a mall and tried to hypnotize several people with instant induction. The first few times, they failed, and Riggs rushed up and apologized to the subject saying his friend had had one too many and was completely unaccustomed to drinking, and he whisked them off. After a couple of failures, they got it to work. They were elated and excited, and they went through the mall taking turns hypnotizing people right and left. Before waking the subjects up, they always told them that they would not remember anything.

"Time to go," said Riggs. "You can't spend too much time in one place doing this. Most people are nice about it. Once in a while, you run across someone who wants you arrested. The person you hypnotized may never know he was hypnotized, but other people may notice them falling into your arms. Sometimes, they just turn you in, and the mall security comes and tells you not to do it or they will threaten to have you arrested for harassing the customers. It's better to do a few and move on, just in case. I usually have someone with me filming what I'm doing. That way, it doesn't look like I'm trying to put people to sleep and take off with their money or jewelry. Next time, I will bring a camera and film you. That will take care of that. You won't have to tell the people to forget, if you don't want to."

 

The next evening, over dinner, Rhett said to Valerie, "We have to make up our minds. Riggs would be invaluable to us if we could trust him. But can we trust him?"

"Here we are with our first recruit and we don't know the answer to that question," said Valerie. "We can't hypnotize him and test him."

"We could try," said Rhett. "But we have to develop a test. We should have been working on that this week. Just because he could fake it doesn't mean he will."

They talked it over at length with Michael and decided to give it a try.

 

The next day was their last day under the current agreement with Riggs. They asked him to let them try and hypnotize him, and he agreed. He told them that he should be easy, since he had been hypnotized many times when he was studying hypnotism. They had done some research on the Internet and found a method of testing for hypnosis that Riggs hadn't mentioned. When he appeared to be under, they told him several times to go deeper and deeper to sleep. They told him that he couldn't feel any pain, and they stuck a pin into the palm of his hand. When he didn't flinch, they were convinced that he was hypnotized, and they began to quiz him with a few dozen questions they had devised the night before. Convinced that he was what he seemed to be, they tried one more thing in which they had little confidence, but figured they had nothing to lose. They told him that if he should ever betray them or even think of betraying them, he would forget everything they had ever told him and he wouldn't even remember having known them, and he wouldn't recognize them at all. Then they told him that on the count of five, he would wake up and he would not remember anything.

"Do you remember anything that went on?" asked Rhett.

"No. Nothing," said Riggs.

"Do you remember the hypothetical situation under which we suggested using your technique to screen candidates?" asked Rhett.

"Very well," said Riggs.

"If someone were involved in doing just that, how would you feel about joining them?"

"Is that a trick question?" asked Riggs. "I thought you knew how I felt about the government and the establishment. I'd be happy to help any way I could, but I still have to make a living, a minimal one anyway. Are you telling me that is what you two are doing?"

"Let's just say, we are a couple of patriots who are looking for a way to take back our country. We have a few friends, and we are looking to recruit more. We have some funds, and we can pay you a salary and provide you with a place to live. We would want you to change your identity while you are with us. Your name is linked with instant induction hypnotism. If Jonathan Riggs, the hypnotist, were linked to our group, it would end the value of the technique to us as a screening method."

"This is like a dream come true," said Jonathan. "Can you tell me how you intend to take back the nation?"

"Actually, it’s somewhat vague, right now," said Rhett. "With you on board, we can start expanding the group, because we can have some confidence in people. We know that you pretty much agree with us that the Power Elite have the government in their pocket, that they control who runs for office, who gets elected, and that they control what the politicians do after they are elected. Since the elections are fixed and the cards are stacked against anyone on the side of the people, we figure that the only way to slow the downhill momentum, much less regain any lost freedom is by eliminating the Power Elite. If we tried to just take out the political leaders it would be very difficult and risky, and there is no reason to believe the new ones that would take their place would be any different. The Power Elite would make sure the replacements were just as crooked as the old ones. The idea of a revolution is foolish. The people would never stand up for their rights or probably not even their lives. Even if the people were to rise up, the military is extremely powerful and the surveillance ability of the government is awesome, making a revolution likely to fail. The only sensible thing is to destroy the power behind the throne, then take out a lot of those in power in all but the top, impossible-to-get-to people like the President and vice-president. Once all those are gone, we can find a way to let it be known what happened to all those people and what will happen to any new people in their place that don't do what they are supposed to do. That is our vague plan, at this time. It will become more detailed as time goes by."

"You are talking about hundreds or even a few thousand people," said Riggs. "That is going to take a lot of planning and a lot of support. It sounds very risky."

"There is considerable risk," said Valerie. "We need you to help us minimize that risk. If we are going to build a small corps of people who are patriots and not in it for what they can get out of it, we have to be able to identify those patriots and be sure we can trust them."

"What about those that can't be hypnotized by instant induction?" asked Riggs.

"We just write them off as too risky," said Rhett. "We also have to develop a method of instant induction that won't endanger the project when it fails. Something we can gloss over, and it will be forgotten."

"I see what you mean," said Riggs. "That should be possible."

The three of them talked for a long time. When they decided to call it a night, Riggs was enthusiastically on board. Rhett and Valerie were going back to West Virginia the next day. Riggs would take a few days to wrap up his affairs in Las Vegas and then drive to West Virginia to join them.

 

Three Days Later

The Bonnie Dwaine B & B

 

Michael Regnant parked his rental car in front of the Bonnie Dwaine Bed and Breakfast. Another rental car that was following his drove on by the Bonnie Dwaine and stopped a discreet distance down the street. Ted Trimble watched in his rear view mirror as Michael got out and went into the Bonnie Dwaine. Trimble had dropped everything the day before, when he received an e-mail from his friend in Homeland Security that Michael Regnant had reserved a car for today in Pittsburgh. He had caught a red-eye from California and made it to Pittsburgh a couple of hours before Michael picked up his car at the Hertz desk. He had slept a little on the flight, but not nearly enough, and he was dead tired. So this was where Michael Regnant spent his mysterious weekends, he thought. Was he meeting a woman? Why so far? He assumed that he had flown to Pittsburgh on a Regnant private plane, as there were no scheduled flights from any airport in the vicinity of Manhattan or Mount Regnant arriving at the time he arrived. Why hadn't he flown from Pittsburgh to Wheeling, which was ever so much closer? It almost had to be that he didn't want anyone to know where he was going. From his knowledge of the Regnants, he knew they didn't drive, and they generally had a bodyguard with them. This was very out of character. Perhaps he was spending those weekends with a man. That might explain the need for secrecy.

After Michael had been in the Bonnie Dwaine for a while, Trimble drove away, turned around and came back so he could park on the other side of the street with a clear view of the Bonnie Dwaine. After a while, he reasoned that if Regnant were spending the weekend there, he probably wouldn't be coming out for a while, and he would be there all night. He got out, walked to the Bonnie Dwaine, and went inside. When he asked for a room for two nights, the manager told him that there were no vacancies for the weekend and recommended another bed and breakfast not far away. Trimble decided to look for a place to stay for the night and come back.

Forty-five minutes later, he was parked down the street, keeping an eye on the Bonnie Dwaine.

Inside the Bonnie Dwaine, Rhett and Valerie had just finished telling Michael about their time in Las Vegas and about Jonathon Riggs.

"Good thinking about changing his name," said Michael. "Being connected with an instant induction hypnotist wouldn't do us any good. It might not hurt us, but it would be risky. What we’re proposing is risky enough without running any unnecessary risk. I wonder if I shouldn't have another identity myself. I may have managed to stay out of the gossip rags, but there are still many photographs of me in other magazines and newspapers. Someone might recognize me. Right now, the people here at the Bonnie Dwaine are the only ones that can connect me to you two."

"Plus anyone who sees us when we take a break and walk around town," said Valerie.

"That's right," said Michael. "Maybe we shouldn't go out. It's probably safe, but probably isn't good enough anymore. Actually, we shouldn't be meeting at all. Anything we do here, we can do online. I recently acquired an Internet service provider so that I can obscure the source and destination of any traffic through it. The changeover should be complete in a few days. My man tells me it will take a few more days to fix it so connections to my new private address appear to go to some innocuous addresses he'll be setting up. Then we can have some privacy. It may not be perfect, but everything will be encrypted as securely as possible-- voice as well as text. By the way, do you have enough room for Riggs, or is it time to expand there?"

"It is time to expand," said Valerie. "It's time I moved out anyway."

"Why don't you just make a compound around your place, Rhett?" asked Michael. "It sounded to me like you have a lot of land. Couldn't you build a few cabins in a cluster? That's what we have at our compound."

"That would be fine with me," said Rhett. "Easier to communicate, to secure, and to defend, if need be."

"Have you looked at those log cabin kits you mentioned once?" asked Michael.

"Yes," said Rhett. "Valerie looked at them too. Didn't you say that you would like some of them, Valerie?"

"I'd love a number of them," said Valerie.

"Right now, it's only Riggs," said Michael. "Are there to be others? Maybe we need to move to new more secret quarters, with space for some larger number. What do you think?"

"Right now, I don't foresee any more specific people," said Rhett. "But a few weeks ago, we didn't foresee Riggs. We do know that we will have to have more people. Why don't we go over our projected structure and see which, if any, we might want or need to have with us?"

"There is no way to know which of these people are going to be trustworthy enough to bring in with us," said Michael, after they had glanced through their proposed organizational diagram. "Sure, it would be wonderful to have most of them working hand in hand with us, but I doubt that is going to happen. There is no use expanding more than is necessary now, and cluttering up your land with a lot of buildings, Rhett. On the other hand if a quarter of the people we have considered do turn out to be insiders, then you need a lot of space for them. Wouldn't you think we should be optimistic and assume that we are going to build a sizable team? If we get stuck at just a few people, we are going to have a difficult time combating the Power Elite."

"I hope we'll not be stuck at a handful of people," said Rhett. "On the other hand, the less people that can bring down the whole thing, the better. If I had to make a guess, we might have between fifteen and twenty-five people working closely with us. We know that we need some people overseas, too. "

"Why don't we look for a resort or lodge somewhere that we could just move into?" said Michael. "We could pass it off as a private lodge and that would explain comings and goings to the people in the area around us. If you get a crowd of people coming and going from your place, word is going to get out that something unusual is going on there. That is going to call attention to you. It might be wiser to have a lodge in some isolated place. That way, we wouldn't mess up your property either, Rhett."

"I don't mind messing up my property for this," said Rhett, "but your idea for a cover story sounds pretty good. A crowd of people coming and going at my place would have the neighbors talking for sure, and word would get around. We could have a hunting lodge or some sort of retreat where members come to unwind, at least, that is what people could think."

"I like that too," said Valerie. "Moreover, if you have a hunting lodge, people aren't going to wander through the woods around it, for fear of being shot."

 “Good point,” said Michael. “People carrying guns wouldn’t look out of place at a hunting lodge either.”

“Would it be possible to set up some sort of group at such a lodge, without anyone there knowing who was actually behind it?” asked Valerie. “Even Rhett and I could act like we are just working with the rest of them, for some leaders who will forever remain nameless.”

“A great idea,” said Michael. “I love that.”

 

A search on the Internet revealed numerous properties for sale in suitably isolated locations. They would develop a list of candidates and arrange them by apparent suitability, visit them in order until they had a few choice candidates, and then make a decision. Michael would look at the front organizations he had set up and see if one was appropriate for owning such a lodge. If not, he would create a new entity.

"We need a break," said Rhett. "Should we risk a stroll, unwind a little, and maybe get a cup of coffee?"

"If all goes well with the new Internet service provider," said Michael, "we may not be coming here any more, or at least not for a long time and certainly not very often. We've wandered around all the other times. One more weekend probably won't make a difference."

"It does get old, being cooped up in here," said Valerie. "All weekend here without going outside would be possible, but I think our productivity would suffer."

"That is for sure," said Rhett. "We can walk downtown, have a cup of coffee, and walk back. I kind of like Glen Dale. It's a friendly little place."

Ted Trimble had been watching the Bonnie Dwaine for so long; he had begun to watch it without seeing it. He almost missed the three of them when they walked out. He grabbed his camera and took a few pictures. They turned toward the center of town and walked at a brisk pace. Trimble didn't want them to notice him. He watched them until they turned down a side street, and then he started and drove just past that corner and parked. He got out and walked back to the corner. He saw them a block and a half down the street, paused in front of a restaurant. They went in, and Trimble walked to the restaurant. He had to force himself not to go in, but he didn't want them to see him and perhaps later recognize him in his car near the Bonnie Dwaine. He walked on by, crossed the street and went into a store across the street from the restaurant. He could see them sitting at a table by the window. They were chatting merrily away. If only he could hear them. What was going on? His curiosity was overwhelming. He browsed around the store as long as he thought wise and left.

It was too early for dinner, and Trimble figured they were just having coffee or a drink. He went back to his car and drove a little further down the street from the restaurant and parked on the other side, so he could see them if they left the restaurant. He didn't know what to make of Michael Regnant with this man and woman. Somehow, he didn't think this was any sort of romance or affair. What was it then? There were three cars at the Bonnie Dwaine: Regnant's car with Pennsylvania plates, a Honda of recent vintage with West Virginia plates, and a Jeep Cherokee with West Virginia plates. Maybe the man and the woman were from nearby, or maybe they had rented a car in West Virginia. He knew where Michael Regnant was probably going when he left: back to Pittsburgh and his plane. He had made up his mind to follow the man and the woman if they went together, and the man, if they went separately.

 

The next afternoon, the three strategists wound up their meeting. They had high hopes of soon enjoying more frequent meetings online and not having to spend so much time traveling. Each now had a longer list of tasks to perform, and the less time wasted, the better. After saying goodbye to Michael, Valerie and Rhett left in the Jeep Cherokee, with Ted Trimble following them at a discreet distance.

Once Rhett turned off the highway onto the lonely country road to his cabin, Trimble began to worry. His presence would now be obvious. If he followed closely, they might pull over and wait for him to pass them. If he followed back too far, they might turn off and he wouldn't know where they had turned. Were he to follow halfway between these extremes, it might look like he was following them and not wanting to be seen as following them, which indeed he was. He opted for farther back and risking losing them. He didn't see them when they turned off, but the Jeep Cherokee had generated a cloud of dust on the dry, dirt road, and there was still enough dust in the air for him to know they had turned there. There were three mailboxes at the intersection and the trees were dense. Trimble was afraid he might drive right into them at any turn. This might be their private road or there might be others along the way. When the road passed one ramshackle house, he guessed it wasn't a private road. After another house, the road narrowed substantially and Trimble guessed it might be ending. He slowed and stopped. He turned off his engine and got out. He listened for a while. He heard a car door slam. They weren't far away. He waited a little and walked along the road. What if they had a huge dog? He moved carefully ahead, not wanting to be surprised by stepping out into open view. Then, through the trees, he saw the Jeep Cherokee. Two more steps and he saw the cabin. He didn't see any people, and he eased back to his car, started it quietly and backed up until he found a spot to turn around. As he headed back toward Pittsburgh, he wondered why a man like Michael Regnant would be meeting with two people from way out in the sticks in West Virginia. His gut feeling was that these two weren't just two hillbillies. Who were they? Why were they in such an isolated place? Were they hiding out? He had their license number. With a little luck, he could find out who they were. Then maybe he could figure out why they were meeting with Michael Regnant.

Chapter 12

A Week Later

The Regnant Building in Manhattan

 

Michael's new Internet service provider company was working out extremely well. He had renamed it, CPI Internet Service, and under its simple logo were the words 'Always Up.' So far, no one had remarked on the connection to the better known CPI, the Consumer Price Index, which was also consistently up. Manny Rodriguez had set up a cyberconferencing system that he claimed was as secure as they could get.

It was their second cyberconference, called by Rhett via e-mail. When Michael logged in, he said, "What's up?"

"We looked at that lodge I told you about in the e-mail," said Rhett. "We took a lot of pictures, and we put together a sort of slide show for you. Here goes."

After the slide show, Michael said, "It looks very good in the photos, and your comments indicate that you like it. How do you two rate it on a scale of zero to ten?"

"We think it's close to perfect," said Valerie. "At least a nine."

"How far away from you is it?" asked Michael.

"About forty miles," said Rhett. "It took us an hour to get there, but we should do a little better now that we know how to get there."

"What do you think it will take me from the Pittsburgh airport—not that I expect to go there very often?"

"Probably less time than it took to the Bonnie Dwaine. I'd think maybe half an hour less," said Rhett.

"Sounds good," said Michael. "I'll get busy on it right away. Now, we have the problem of the staff. They could easily overhear something crucial, and that could be disastrous. We either have to be extremely careful in what we say and where, or the staff has to be completely trustworthy. Both would be the best.”

"Let me work on it a couple of days," said Rhett. "I've been thinking about that. We might get some ex-military personnel, but we still need to screen them thoroughly. Obviously, we won't tell them what is going on, but we can try to find people that wouldn't talk if they found out. We have a tentative list of the positions to fill. The job situation is terrible for vets, so let me see what I can come up with. If we had a lot of ex-GI's, they might double as security guards, among other things."

"Good thinking. Go to it," said Michael. "Was there anything else?"

"No. That's it for now," said Rhett.

"It has occurred to me,” said Michael, “that it would be handy to be plugged in to some intelligence service, like Homeland Security. If I could arrange a position there, I could keep an eye on things and know of any evidence they might come across that could incriminate us. It could also be useful to identify and locate targets."

"That would be fantastic," said Rhett. "Homeland Security is big, you might not hear about everything they find."

"If I were a Deputy Director, I could try to make sure I know about the investigation into our project," said Michael.

"Deputy Director," exclaimed Valerie. "You want to be Deputy Director of Homeland Security?"

"It's anything but certain," said Michael. "I'm going to try and enlist Claude Regnant to pull some strings and call in some markers. We'll see. The current Director is on the ropes at the moment. I think he will be gone, any day now."

"Good Luck," said Rhett. "Man, what a break that would be. You Regnants have even more pull than I thought, and I thought you had a lot."

"When money talks, people listen," said Michael.

"With both ears," said Valerie.

 

White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

The Greenbrier Resort

 

"I've been here several times," said Claude Regnant, "and this East Terrace Suite is my favorite. It's a change looking up at the mountains. At home, we look down from one, which I prefer. It's nice here, but I think it is overrated. Its biggest drawing card is its reputation, especially the fact that so many presidents have stayed here."

"It's peaceful here," said Michael. "That is hard to find these days, without roughing it. This is serenity with elegance. It's a perfect place for our weekend of private talk."

"I suppose so. Elegance seems to be losing its appeal. The Greenbrier went bankrupt recently. Jim Judge picked it up for twenty million. He had to guarantee the debts though and I heard that was several hundred million. Personally, I can't see it as an investment. It lost almost 200 million in 2008."

"That must have been hard to do," said Michael. "I find that hard to believe. Maybe they cooked the books to cover some hanky panky."

"Maybe the Judge family bought it as a bomb shelter," said Claude. "Back in the fifties, the government made some sort of a deal with the Greenbrier, and they set this place up to be a refuge for the legislative branch of the government in case of nuclear war. It is a long way from any reasonable target city and surrounded by mountains. They built a heavily reinforced wing that could serve as a replacement for the Capitol Building in Washington, and they made a huge underground bunker. The government maintained it and kept it stocked for about thirty years and then apparently turned it over to the resort."

"That is interesting," said Michael. "What is the resort doing with it?"

"The wing is just another part of the resort. The big rooms that the legislators would have met in are a convention center. The underground bunker is sort of a tourist attraction, I understand. I haven't been in it."

Too bad it had to be in such an expensive resort, thought Michael. The underground bunker might have been just perfect for his secret group if it had been isolated. Maybe there was some sort of underground installation that could be picked up. He would look into it.

"We need to get back to what we came here for," said Claude, as he filled his cup from the elegant coffee pot. "By the way, Michael, I meant to tell you that I thought your interview on CNN, last week, was really good. It's too bad that only a small percentage of the population watch such programs. I think you need to get a wider audience, if you want these public relations ploys to do any good."

"You're absolutely right," said Michael. "Don't think I don't know that. Copies of all my interviews are put on YouTube. That seems to more than double the number of people that see them. It will more than likely get a very different audience there, too. This week, I'm going to be on Good Morning America and the Today Show. Next week, Oprah."

"What is Oprah?" asked Claude.

"Oprah is a woman with a popular television show. Her name is Oprah Winfrey, and she has a huge following. That might be just the place to announce that I intend to try to get into public service, not to make money or get special treatment as is usually the case for people in our position, but to pay back America and the American people who have been so good to us. I could say something like, "The Regnants aren't turning over a new leaf; we are just good business people. We know how to make money. We plan to use part of our money to raise the standard of living of our customers. I’m not talking about giving away money. I’m talking about much better than that. I’m talking about rolling things back to better times, times when people kept more of their money, when the streets were safe day and night, when we didn't have metal detectors in our schools, the times when mothers didn't have to work if they didn't want to because one person working could support a family, the times when we were free, so much more free than we are today."

"Let's not get carried away," said Claude. "The powers that be funnel a lot of money into our bank accounts. Piss them off and, we will be cutting our own throats."

"Don't worry," said Michael. "All the politicians say things like that to their constituents, when they are running for office. Once they are in office, they do what they please. Many of the Power Elite claim to be doing all sorts of things to help the people. I need to say some unexpected things, maybe shocking things. I need to get people's attention. Look at it as advertising. We spend a bundle on marketing. We sometimes have to lay out small fortunes to grease the skids in third world countries. Buying politicians is easily our biggest business expense. I don't think the end of our world is really coming. I certainly hope it isn't. Nevertheless, I want some insurance, in case it does come. You can nurture our relations with the Power Elite, and I'll try to do the same with the rest of the world. So we make a billion and spend a million or two on PR. I don't think that is bad business. If I am very successful, the Regnant name will be on everyone's lips as the good guys, bucking the trend, and standing up for the common man."

"That would certainly be a change," said Claude. "Your great grandfather, Prescott J., would turn over in his grave, to think that the Regnants were popular with the people. He may come back and haunt us."

“Actually,” said Michael, “we should have thought along those lines some time ago. We have long been aware that most people’s opinion of all the rich and powerful is that they are despicable crooks.  For instance, the moment the name Rockefeld is associated with any project, it is generally assumed to be a plot against the people. I fear the Regnant name doesn’t fare much better, although it isn’t as widely known as the Rockefelds.

“You think you can change that?”

“I can try,” said Michael. “If we convince people that we honestly believe it is in our best interest that the people have a better standard of living, even though our motives are selfish, then the things we do will be seen as honest efforts directed toward that end. After a while, the name Regnant will signify integrity and tell people that it is on the up and up, at least as far as intentions go. If we screw up, we have to admit it the minute we realize it and take full responsibility and try to correct our error and compensate for it if practical.

“There is a concept I’ve been mulling over the last few days that may give us another reason for going on this tack,” continued Michael. “Most of the world is in a severe economic downturn. Like I said some time ago, the USA is not in the position it was at the end of the last depression. Then, we had just about all the productive capacity in the world, and we had the whole world as our eager market. Now, a major portion of our productive capacity has left the country, and the rest of the world has surplus capacity. We aren’t going to come out of this dip until or unless some serious things happen.”

“Such as?”

“I haven’t worked all this out yet,” said Michael. “The reason we quit making things in the U.S. was that it cost more to make things here than they were worth. I think it is going to turn out that all our problems are due to the Federal Reserve. I don’t think it is due to ineptness or error, either. Quite the contrary. I think it is working as intended by those implementing it. But, what they have done to the land of the free and the home of the brave needs to be undone, and that is going to be difficult and painful, but the longer it is before it is done, the more painful it will be, and the longer it will take before the nation is back on its feet.”

“You say you haven’t figured this out yet,” said Claude. “I don’t know that anyone has ever figured it out. Thousands of people can see that things are a mess, but I have never ever heard a solution that made any sense at all.”

“Americans somehow priced themselves out of the game,” said Michael. “If we can figure how that happened, we might have an idea of how to undo it. If Chinese workers are willing to work in a factory making widgets for five dollars a day, that sets the value of that labor. Passing a law that makes people buy the same product made by workers getting fifty or a hundred dollars a day for the same work doesn’t make the product any better, and it multiplies the price the end users are forced to pay. I can’t imagine how it is supposed to help Americans if you make prices of everything they use go up to ten times what they are paying now. A few more people may be put to work, but the standard of living overall has to fall tremendously, because no one can buy nearly as much as they can at the lower prices.”

“So far, you are making sense,” said Claude. “There is something called The Penn Effect. The same products generally cost more in rich countries than in poor ones.

“I’m aware of the Penn Effect,” said Michael. “I know that in some countries hamburgers and Coca Colas cost as much as three or four times what they cost in others, but why do Americans need such high wages that they are twenty or thirty times comparable Chinese wages. I think that up until World War Two, people came from around the world to America not because the pay was so incredibly high, because it wasn’t, but because the people in America were free. Americans had fewer limits on what they could do, what they could have or what they could be. If you had enough drive and ambition, you essentially had no limits. That is hardly the case today. The main purpose of the prevailing institutions in America seems to be to limit the people in every way possible, even as they claim to be helping them.”

“You seem to have given this a lot of thought,” said Claude.

“I was reading about that famous house, Fallingwater that Frank Lloyd Wright built in the late thirties for a hundred and fifty-five thousand dollars,” said Michael. “The owners gave it to the government, and the government turned it into a tourist attraction.  The government recently did some restoration of the main building at a cost of eleven million dollars. I’m glad to see the preservation of a truly great work of art, but when it costs eleven million dollars for the partial restoration of a one hundred and fifty thousand dollar building, something is seriously wrong.”

“You, as well as anyone, should know that when it is the government doing something, it costs much more.”

“Right. How foolish of me,” said Michael. “If Wright had been alive, or if the Kauffman family had done it privately, it might have cost one or two million, which is bad enough, but still normal inflation. But still, seventy times the original cost for restoration some seventy years later is a bit much. Eight of those hundred and fifty-five thousand was Wright’s fee. Enough of this. I’m still working on this. There should be a way for the USA to have an economy that isn’t based on nothing but sales and service. That isn’t creating wealth. It seems to me that we have to produce something of value, if we are going to continue to exist as something other than a third world nation. Not only that, but whatever we produce needs to employ a sizeable part of the population. But what can we produce?”

“I will be waiting to see what you come up with,” said Claude. “So are millions of others. Good luck.”

"Back to family affairs,” said Michael, “like I said, I don't foresee things going down the drain for us, but have you heard about the Tenth Amendment resolutions in more than half the states?"

"No. I've been too busy to do more than glance occasionally at the mainstream propaganda. What is going on?"

"I doubt you would have seen it in the mainstream propaganda sheets. I think it is about twenty-eight states that have introduced resolutions to remind the federal government of the existence of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, declaring that the states are sovereign, and telling the feds to cease overstepping their bounds. Ten years ago, not five percent of the people, probably not even two percent would have considered secession as a viable solution. Today, it is up to a third of the people. A recent poll shows three quarters of the people distrust the government. Nearly two thirds view it as an enemy. It may well be that even the American people can only be pushed so far. Even a worm will turn, so they say. Things may turn out well, but we could be fully invested in a house of cards. We are covered if things go on as before. I want us just as covered if they don't. I intend to build an insurance policy for us. If there were to be some sort of successful revolution, I want the Regnants to not just ride it out, but to come out on top. At the same time, we don't want to jeopardize our present position, as long as things don't change. There is no reason why we can't play both sides of the field. Our people are always saying how much they want to help mankind and some of them may even mean it, but they don't have good public relations people. When all is said and done, most people still see them as the enemy. I'm out to break the mold and associate the Regnant name with all that's seen as good and disassociate it from anything that is seen as bad."

"Lots of luck, Michael. I hope you can pull it off. If you can accomplish all that, you are even better than I thought you were. Don't think I missed that remark you made about announcing your intention to get into public service. What exactly did you mean? I can probably give you a hand there."

"I don't want to run for office. That is for sure," said Michael "I want something I can be appointed to. I want something that enables me to get my name in the paper a lot, and I want the American people to be well aware that Michael Regnant is fighting for the rights of the common man."

"How about HUD or the EPA?" asked Claude. "Education might be a possibility. You don't have any background for that."

"Not apart from having been educated," said Michael. "Nobody pays any attention to HUD or the EPA. I get the feeling that the people are mostly concerned about two things right now: their finances and their safety. In both these fields, they are mostly worried about what the government is going to do to them, or cause to be done to them. I think the economy is going to be pretty awful for most people for a long time, so I don't want the Regnant name to be connected in any way with the economy. I think safety or security is the best bet. I was thinking of Homeland Security."

"You aim high," said Claude.

"You ran the CIA," said Michael, "back before there was such a thing as Homeland Security. At that time, that was about as high as you could go in that arena. I hear Paglia is not getting along with the President. He may be resigning soon. If that happens, there will be an opening. The President owes us, big time. Don't you have anything on him that would cause him to be even more amenable?"

"I may have something on him, but you know you don't use things like that except as a last resort and in a matter of extreme importance."

"Maybe you wouldn't need to use it," said Michael. "He might be glad to get a good suggestion from you. Will you give me a hand in this?"

"Of course I will," said Claude. "I'll get on it right away. I'm glad to see you taking the bull by the horns this way. Of course, if Paglia isn't in such deep stuff and doesn't resign, but manages to squirm out of it, I doubt that I'll be able to get him canned to put you in. You might have to settle for Deputy Director, at least for a while."

"Well, if it's the best we can do, I'll have to put up with it," said Michael. Deputy Director was what he had in mind in the first place, but if his father thought he might get him in as Director, that was far better. There he went again, calling Claude Regnant "father," even if it was in his thoughts. Maybe that was for the best. It wouldn't do to slip up and call him "Claude," to his face.

"You have no idea how glad I am to see you taking the high ground like this," said Claude. "I had wanted to start turning more and more over to you. I knew you could handle all that I could and more. I know you are much brighter than any of the rest of us. I just didn't know if you had the ambition and drive. I am so glad that you do."

"I don't want to discourage you, Father," said Michael. "I doubt I have as much ambition as you do, but I have been feeling a lot more ambitious lately. I can't tell you why, though." He smiled inwardly. No, I certainly can't tell you why, he thought.

"If you had made your move a bit sooner, we could have done this gradually, over the years. I hope I have time to pass on all that I know to you. But, I'm sixty-four years old, and you never know."

"Sixty-four is young these days," said Michael. "Don't be silly."

"Your grandfather died at sixty-two. I'm hoping for a lot more, but I'm pragmatic. I want you ready to take the helm. As for the family finances, you already know more than I do. You need to fully understand the Regnants' responsibilities in the exclusive community we belong to. We derive enormous benefits from belonging to that community, but there is a price we must pay."

"To whom do we pay this price?" asked Michael. He was excited to be discussing such matters with Claude. He might gain some important information that would help them with their project.

"There is no specified recipient," said Claude. "It's strange in a way, but what we have to do is act in certain ways. There isn't anything specific about any of it. We have to support the plans they are pushing. We have to fight the people they are against. If we don't do as we are expected to do, our benefits cease. Not only that, but we would find nothing but a continuous stream of problems, everywhere we turned, serious problems."

"Who are they?"

"They are nameless," said Claude.

"You do all this without knowing who it is for, who is requiring it?"

"We know, and we don't know, if you can understand that," said Claude. "Everyone knows that David Rockefeld is one of them. The Redsons are some of them. I think Kissinger, Zbigniew Brezinsky, Gorbachev, and others. We don't get messages from them telling us what to do. We get our orders by osmosis. The big guys may from time to time announce in a speech or an interview that they think this or that should be done, or they may call or simply attend the meeting of some organization and recommend an approach or action. Their suggestion may not be an explicit order, but it may as well be. They can put anyone out of business, into jail, or out of existence, in a heartbeat."

"You are saying that these few people set the agenda for the nation, and to a great extent, the world."

"Yes. I guess you could say that."

"The things we hear about them, are they true?" asked Michael.

'Which things?"

"That they are working toward a one world government, that they are behind all the wars, that they control the elections by picking the candidates and rigging the elections, that they control the Fed and hence the nation's credit and money supply, that they control the IMF, the World Bank, the UN, the EU, that they want to reduce the population of the world by two thirds or three quarters, and so on," said Michael.

"I guess I'd have to say yes to all those things," said Claude. "They own the Fed outright, and that means they control the U.S. economy completely, and since the dollar is the world's reserve currency, they have a grip on the world economy. As for the EU, much of the people behind the EU are behind the Federal Reserve and its European equivalent. Does that answer that?"

"It surely does," said Michael. "Tell me, Father, just how do you personally feel about what these people are doing?"

"Personally?"

"Yes. If you were in their place, are these things you would be doing?"

"Hell, no," said Claude. "Are you kidding? Personally, I think they have intermarried to the point that they are like the royalty that they want to imitate: feeble minded. All their weird parties at Bohemian Grove, the Skull and Bones, where they lie in a coffin and tell of their homosexual adventures and hetero too, I suppose, if they have had any. I think grown men that act like kids are sick, and a lot of these people are that way. The percentage of perverts in the upper echelons is as high as it is sickening. Maybe that's why there are so many in the governments around the world. As for killing off a few billion people, I may be tough as nails in business, but I'm not into setting up a global pest control program, where seventy-five percent of the people are considered pests to be wiped out. However, that being said, I act like a good pest control advocate, because, if I don't, I become one of the pests to be eliminated. These people have big bucks and almost infinite power. For every dollar we Regnants are worth, they are worth at least a thousand. They could buy and sell us with their round-off error. The big boys hold the purse strings of the world, meaning that apart from their own money, they control the money of the world’s major governments. Controlling money is pretty much as good as owning it. That is something you have to get used to."

"You are talking trillions of dollars of their own, plus the control of government money," said Michael.

"Damned right, I'm talking trillions. The consensus is that the Rockefelds are worth around eleven trillion, and the Redsons somewhere between seventy-five and a hundred trillion. No one knows for sure. You know that we can only approximate our net worth at any given time. These people couldn't come anywhere near as close as we can, and I'd be surprised if they ever think about what they might be worth"

"Remarkable," said Michael.

"You are so aristocratic," said Claude. "I tell you the Redsons have more money than any nation's government, and you say, 'Remarkable.'"

"I don't think many nations' governments have any money," said Michael. "They have big debts, but no money."

"I guess you’re right," said Claude, "and a big part of those debts are owed to the Redsons. To put it another way, the Redsons probably have as much as the other six plus billion people earn in a year, before taxes. How about that?"

"That is more than remarkable," said Michael. "That is truly amazing."

 

The rest of that day and the next day, Claude and Michael talked. Claude told Michael of everyone who owed them a favor and everyone to whom they owed a favor. Michael learned about hidden bank accounts and many properties the Regnants owned in out of the way places like Paraguay, Malaysia, Madagascar, the Honduras Bay Islands, Croatia, and the Canary Islands. These were places they could disappear to, if things got out of hand in the USA and even much of the rest of the world. There were truckloads of silver coins hidden on various properties in and out of the United States.

"You can't take it with you," said Claude, "and you don't know when these perverts are going to screw up the world to the point that it is unrecognizable. So, your grandfather began setting up hideaways in his time, and I have kept up the practice. Many of these places, I have never seen and maybe never will. They are supposed to be places where we could live in relative comfort if the rest of the world went to hell, which it very well may, one of these days."

"It may be sooner than you think," said Michael.

"I've been expecting it for years," said Claude.

"Remember the other day, when Albert was worried about a revolt by the masses?"

"Yes. I'm not really worried about that, but I support your planning on being prepared for it. We have our hiding places, but you can't be sure you can get away, and getting a good reputation is a damned good insurance policy. Although, even if they had a rebellion, I don't think Americans are into guillotines."

"They are into lynchings," said Michael. "At least, they used to be. I'm not fond of the idea of hanging. I'm glad to hear that you wouldn't mind if the big boys scrapped their plans for killing off most of the people on earth. I could never espouse that idea. I don't think much of a lot of the people in the United States, but I'm not in favor of killing them just because they eat and take up space."

"Many of them also think that they have a right to our money without lifting a finger," said Claude. "They want to watch TV and drink beer all day and get a government check for doing that."

"I am definitely not in favor of welfare," said Michael, "but how did these people come to expect this? They certainly didn't expect that prior to World War Two."

"I know," said Claude. "FDR ruined the country and with it the whole world. He told people that they deserved a good living, even if they didn't do anything to get it. It was their right. Of course, their living has to come from someone else who busts their hump to earn money to pay for the eternal vacation of the welfare crowd."

 

Greg Paxton's Apartment

Greenwich Village

 

"You look better than you did the last time I saw you, Greg," said Rhett.

"When you called and said you were coming and why, I started feeling better," said Greg Paxton. "Maybe it's good for my immune system or something. It is sure good for my morale."

"I'm glad," said Rhett.

"You wanted some good trustworthy vets for your lodge. Well, I talked to quite a few of the men I told you about, and almost every one of them is anxious to hear more. All the single ones are ready to go. Those with a family have other problems. The wife has a job. The kids are in school. You know how it is."

"Of course. You can't expect them to jerk their family out by the roots and stick them in the boondocks," said Rhett.

"I figured we would get mostly single guys," said Paxton. "That's fine. Those are the ones in trouble these days. They can't get a job. They are trained to kill people, not to sell them things or make a product. I didn't talk to the sick ones, like me. I'm surprised you would take me, in my condition. Bless you for it though."

"You seem perfectly capable of holding your own on the job," said Rhett.

"I can. But you know I have to go for treatments now and then," said Paxton.

"So, you take a day off now and then. Big deal."

"You would be surprised how big a deal that is to most employers. Almost none of the guys from the first Gulf War can keep a job. Most of them are sick and getting sicker. That damned DU. I wish I could cover the Pentagon with DU and see how harmless they think it is when they are the ones dying slowly."

"There is a VA hospital about fifty miles from the lodge," said Rhett. "We’ll have a van to take you guys there as often as you need. If you know some other guys that are able to cut the mustard, contact them too. If you are ready, why don't we go ahead and leave. We will have hours to talk about it on the way."

A few minutes later, they were in Paxton's car, on the way to the lodge.

"You said that we had quarters there, so, as I'm sure you noticed, I'm not taking a lot," said Paxton. "I don't have a lot to take, but some of the furniture was mine. The landlord was pretty nice about it. He gave me a few hundred for the stuff I'm leaving him. He's a vet too, from Korea."

"You won't have a big apartment, Greg," said Rhett, "just a bedroom, bathroom and a sitting room. It is pretty much like living in a motel, or a studio apartment. You won't have a kitchen, not quite a kitchenette. Just a coffee pot, a hot plate, and a little refrigerator. You can have your meals for free in the employee dining room. You should be able to eat pretty well that way. There is a library, a TV room, with a giant TV. You also have a smaller TV of your own, with a ton of satellite channels, including every kind of music. I think we'll put a DVD player in the rooms too, with a big DVD library. I think you are going to like it a lot. There are twelve hundred acres of land. You can hunt on some of it. Fishing is good too, so they say, if you're into that sort of thing."

"I was once upon a time," said Paxton. "Will you be there, Rhett?"

"Off and on," said Rhett. "I'm not far away, but I have a lot of things on my plate, and I can't be at the lodge all the time.”

"What about your girlfriend, Valerie?"

"She will probably be there off and on too," said Rhett. "She's not my girlfriend. Just a friend."

"Could have fooled me," said Paxton. "Nice girl. Bright too."

"She is nice, and she is smart."

"If I wasn't so screwed up, I'd make a play for her," said Paxton, "seeing as how you don't seem to be interested. That is a lot of woman, going to waste."

 

The Lodge

 

"So this is the lodge that you need to hire people to work in," said Greg Paxton, as they came to a stop at the front door of the lodge. "God, this is beautiful country around here. Reminds me of the part of Tennessee that I grew up in. I never would have dreamed that I would end up in a place like New York."

"Do you miss the country?" asked Rhett.

"I didn't until I was back in it," said Greg. "Sort of like seeing your high school sweetheart and finding she looks better than ever. Too bad I'm in such bad shape. I'm glad to get to help you recruit a staff, but once that's done, I hope you can find something else for me."

"You're not exactly an invalid are you?" asked Rhett. "You get around pretty well."

"Not yet," said Greg. "I'm fairly lucky, I guess you could say. They hold things down with periodic treatment. It will just about stop for a while, then flare up. They zap it again, and I'm good for a while. Some guys get a really aggressive type of cancer, and it races through them like wildfire. They just discover it and in a few months, they are gone. I have an occasional day that I don't feel so hot, but doesn't everyone?"

"I talked to the people that are paying the bills here, and they said they would be glad to hire non-invalid vets like you. Don’t worry. We'll find a spot for you, if you are serious about wanting to stay. Maybe you could be the personnel manager, and since that isn't much to do, we could give you a few odd jobs now and then. If we get a few more guys on disability, we have the Veteran's Administration Medical Center nearby in Pittsburgh, when they need it."

"These are some really nice people that are running this place," said Greg. "Who are they?"

"They are a charitable organization that wants to remain anonymous," said Rhett. "Keeping their identity and everything that goes on here secret is extremely important to them. We have to do our very best to hire not only patriotic veterans, but people we can trust to keep anything they see here to themselves. I know that you are trustworthy. When we start bringing in people for interviews, let's try to get as many as we can that you know. Old buddies would be best, unless you think they might be flaky or untrustworthy."

"I'm not prying, Rhett," said Greg, "but I remember that night in my apartment when we were talking about everyone bitching about what is wrong in America and absolutely no one is doing anything. You said that you were thinking along those lines. I said I'd volunteer for any kamikaze mission if it would help. I want you to know that I meant it when I said I'd do anything to help you if you ever decided to do something. I want you to always remember that."

"I won't forget it, Greg. For now, let's just get this show on the road."

 

A Week Later

Rhett's Cabin

 

Rhett was busily chopping down trees. The frost the last few nights was a sign that winter wasn't far away. He wanted a good supply of wood in the shed. They had talked about where the best place was to clear the land, and had agreed to make a larger yard first. Later, he might clear a strip on each side of the driveway. He was surprised to see a car coming down the driveway. When he saw the little American flags on the fenders, and General Bernard Coleman sitting in the back seat, his heart sank. Valerie! She was in the house fixing lunch. If Coleman saw her, there could be a real problem. He gripped his ax as he moved toward the General's car. Coleman stepped out. He gave a big smile.

"Hello, Rhett. I know you said never again, but we are in a real bind," He extended his hand.

Rhett shook hands with him. "Yes, and I meant never again. I am not going. I don't care who or what. Forget me. Forget you ever knew me. I am through sticking my neck out for a bunch of crooks."

"Let me tell you what is happening," said the General.

"I don't want to know what is happening. I don't care what is happening. It doesn't make any difference what is happening. My answer is 'N' 'O,' no. No amount of money, no amount of begging will change my mind. NO. NO. NO."

"Okay. I'll take that as a no," said the General. "I told them that I didn't think you would go for it. I thought I’d try this face-to-face approach. I guess we probably won't be seeing each other after this. I won't be coming to see you, and I know you won't be coming to see me. Goodbye, then, Rhett."

"Goodbye, Sir," said Rhett. Silently he was saying, Go. Go. Go. Go before Valerie comes out.

The general walked over to his car and stood looking around. "I can see why you like it out here. I could stand a place like this myself. Maybe someday."

Just as the general bent his head down to get into the car, Valerie came out the front door. "Whoa," he cried, and stood staring at her.

"Lynn," called Rhett. "Come over and meet General Coleman. He is the one that I told you about that sent me to rescue your sister."

"Hello, General," said Valerie, walking over to them. "Even though it turned out badly, I'm glad to be able to thank you for your efforts to save Lisa."

"Yes," said the general. "She did have a twin sister. I had forgotten that."

"When Rhett came to tell me about the terrible incident, I collapsed," said Valerie. "Since then, we have become good friends."

"I really must go," said the General. "So very nice to meet you, Miss. Goodbye, Rhett." He climbed into his car and in a moment was out of sight.

"That was really fast thinking, Rhett," said Valerie. "Do you think he bought it?"

"Yes, I do. I also think he will verify it. We have to get to your sister, immediately. We have to get her here or at least away from her house, and if we can, make it look like she has been away for a while. Right now he is wondering. I would bet that he will get her address and either go there or send someone to check her out. If she is there, and if she is blond, we are in trouble. Throw a few things together. We'll call her from a pay phone, and go pick her up. I'll get the car. Wait for me at the steps."

"Okay. I better potty first or you might have a problem."

"Just make it fast."

A few minutes later, they were on their way to Lynn's house.

"We have to stop pretty soon and try to call her," said Rhett. "We’d better stop in Wheeling. There aren’t any sizeable cities after that, as I recall. I hope she's at home."

"And hope she will be willing to drop everything and leave the house," said Valerie.

"If she refuses, we both are dead," said Rhett. "I'll just take her by force, if I have to. But, I think she'll come. She seemed a pretty decent sort."

"She is," said Valerie. "I don't know why I said that. I guess I just thought it will be another shock for her, after finding out I'm alive."

"We'll stop around Wheeling," he said. "I don't want it to be close to home. That way, it couldn't point directly to us."

On the outskirts of Wheeling, they found a pay telephone, and Valerie called Lynn. "Damn. She isn't there," she said. "Let me try her cell phone." She punched in the number. "Three times. Answer Lynn," she cried. "Lynn, don't answer me yet at all. It is me. Don't say my name. I'm on my way to pick you up. Where are you?"

"I'm in the grocery store. What are you talking about, coming to pick me up?"

"I can't tell you on the phone. Just that it's a matter of life and death. How far are you from home?"

"Two miles."

"We'll be there in," she paused and looked at Rhett.

"An hour," he said. "Tell her to pack a bag and if she can, get rid of anything lying around that might show that she was home at all today."

Valerie relayed the information. "For God's sake, Lynn, be ready when we get there."

"I hope this really is necessary," said Lynn.

"Believe me, it is," said Valerie. "See you in an hour. Bye." She hung up and said, "Let's get going."

An hour and ten minutes later, they pulled into Lynn's driveway, parking beside her car. By the time they got out of the car, she was outside, on the porch.

"What's wrong?" she asked, obviously flustered.

"The General that shot me and thought he had killed me came to our place, and he saw me," said Valerie. "Rhett had the presence of mind to call me Lynn and make him think I was you. They are almost certain to check it out. If they find you here and blond, too, they will kill me and Rhett too, for saving me."

"Good Lord," cried Lynn. "Are you sure they will come and check?"

"It is almost certain," said Rhett. "If they do and you are here, your sister and I will die. If you come with us and for some strange reason they don't check it out, you have merely been inconvenienced. I would say it is ninety percent sure that they will check it out and soon. What do you say?"

"I don't have any choice," said Lynn.

"Put your car in the garage," said Rhett. "You wouldn't take a trip and leave it outside, would you?"

"No," said Lynn. "My suitcase and purse, with the keys are inside."

"Let me go in with you and look around," said Rhett. "I might see something you overlooked."

The three of them went inside.

"Do you get a newspaper?" asked Rhett.

"No."

"Good. We can't do anything about the mail, not yet." He looked around the living room and the kitchen. "Trash. We had better take your trash with us. If you were going on a trip, you would probably take it out. Besides, did you throw out your receipt from the market today?"

"I think so," she said. "Oh, it would have today's date. How stupid of me."

"Hardly," said Rhett. "You just don't think like a spook." He opened the garbage can and took out the plastic bag and tied it closed.

"Put the blinds down," he said. "Make sure all the windows and doors are locked. If you have an alarm, turn it on. If you usually leave a light on, leave it on."

"I have a thing that turns on my bedroom light and turns it off at midnight," said Lynn.

"Great," said Rhett. "Turn it on, just like you usually do when you go on a trip. Did you talk to any of the neighbors today?"

"No."

"Did you see them, or do you think they saw you?"

"Not that I know of," said Lynn.

"Wonderful," said Rhett. "Let's get the hell out of here."

Lynn was locking the front door, when Rhett said, "Just a minute. Let's fix it so we can tell if they have been in the house while you're gone. He stepped onto the lawn and plucked a blade of grass. "Here, shut the door on this. When we come back, if it is gone or not in line with this mark on the door frame, we will know they have been inside. Now let's get going."

 

Orange County, California

 

Ted Trimble opened his desk drawer and pulled out the report on Rhett Bartlett. He had looked at it several times over the last few days. He looked at it again, only with the hope of jarring loose an idea, hoping something would click and he could say, 'Aha. Why didn't I notice that before?' After a friend in the Highway Patrol had traced the license plate number for him, he had Rhett Bartlett's name, address, Social Security number, age, height, and weight. With the Social Security number and thirty-five dollars, he had ordered a background and credit check on Bartlett. There wasn't much to the report. The man at the agency had commented on the brevity of it.

"It looks like this guy never buys anything on credit," the man had said. "You don't see that much, these days."

Bartlett had spent most of his adult life in the Army. He had attended Florida Atlantic University for two years. He owned the property in West Virginia, as well as the Jeep Cherokee, and he had no debt. There was nothing at all that might be a clue as to why Michael Regnant was meeting with him on weekends.

Trimble had visited the Bonnie Dwaine Bed and Breakfast's website. He knew that it had five guest rooms. From the number of cars and the fact that he had seen no one else there the whole time he had watched it, he guessed that Michael and his two friends had taken all five rooms. Surely, that had to be to provide them with privacy. That suggested that their meetings needed to be kept secret. Had two other people been invited and not shown up? Also, for Michael Regnant, the entire Bonnie Dwaine for a week or even a month was probably less than he might ordinarily pay for one night in a hotel. Even so, the most likely reason for three people and no vacancies was that they took all five rooms to keep from having company.

He wanted to dig further with a few contacts he had in Los Angeles and Washington. In a way, he was reluctant to ask for help from Homeland Security. For one thing, he couldn't use that avenue very often or it would cease to exist. So, he had to use it only as a last resort, and preferably when he thought it would pay off. This time, he had little confidence that they would be able to tell him anything. Besides, he knew that the Regnants were plugged into the government at the highest levels. Claude Regnant had been Director of the CIA. He might be notified of a query about any of the Regnants.

His mind had really been made up for him, when he heard that Michael Regnant was said to be on the short list to be the new Director of Homeland Security. If Regnant got the nomination and the Senate confirmed him, as it most likely would, he didn't want to poke into a hornet's nest. He had no idea at all of what might be going on with Bartlett, Michael Regnant, and the unidentified woman. If he had stumbled onto something really bad, and they found out he was investigating it, he could be 'suicided.' Lately, hardly a week went by that someone connected with some investigation didn't die, often by suicide. One poor soul even managed to shoot himself in the back of the head, repeatedly. He was curious, but not curious enough to risk his life. Besides, the chances were very slim that his contacts could come up with anything that would explain the meetings. He decided to just wait and see. If someone else became the Director of Homeland Security, he might start digging again. If it were Michael Regnant, he would forget about using his government contacts as far as this matter was concerned. Every one of them was under the Homeland Security umbrella. He would just keep on the lookout for any clue and hope he got lucky.

 

A Few Days Later

East Hampton, Long Island

 

Michael hadn't seen Kirk Denton for weeks. He had been very busy, and getting out to the Hamptons wasn't easy to cover up. There was already so much that he had to hide from his family. He had finally made it to Denton's house on a Saturday afternoon. It was a comfortable, upper middle-class home in a very good neighborhood. Denton had hired a man to assist him around the house, to help with the wheelchair when necessary, and whatever came up.

Once they were settled on the patio at the rear of the house, Denton said, "Hugh, I won't need you for a while, you can take a few hours off, if you like."

"Thank you, Sir," said Hugh, "Just call me when you need me."

The patio was set up as an outdoor living room. Michael sat in an easy chair, and Denton parked his wheelchair in front of him. Although it was a relatively cool afternoon, the infrared heater directly above them made it quite pleasant in the still air.

"There won't be many more days this cool," said Denton. "Are you sure you aren't cold."

"I'm fine," said Michael. "The infrared heater is a good idea. We could stand something like that at home. I'm so glad to finally get to see you again."

"Me too."

"How is the campaign for the hearts and minds of the masses going?"

"Not well," answered Denton. "I'm beginning to think that most people are encapsulated in strange invisible armor that shields them from rationality, but is easily penetrated by sound bites and platitudes. To paraphrase an old axiom, I'm finding that you can lead the hordes to knowledge, but you can't make them think."

"Very good," said Michael. "Believe me, I know what you mean. You hate to think that a major portion, possibly a majority of mankind is either incapable of rational thought, or for some unknown reason eschews reason completely. There are numerous theories about programs to manipulate the people in various ways. Some of those theories are probably valid and some not. Regardless of the reason, people are the way they are. When it comes to politics and freedom, thought seems to be the farthest thing from most of their minds. Therefore, they are either unaware of or indifferent to their gradual subjugation. Such people are dangerous. They vote, which is something they are grossly unqualified to do. Most are no more qualified to vote than they would be qualified to perform brain surgery. They are the government's secret weapon against the thinking people: majority rule by a backward majority. They unwittingly give up their security and their rights, along with yours and mine. For whatever meaningless reason, these unthinking people are indirectly ruining our lives. Therefore, by definition, they are our enemies. Because of these people that are ruining our lives, everyone in Washington could be eliminated and little or nothing would really change, because they would be replaced by a similar batch. Even if the majority didn't vote for the rubber-stamp replacements, they would be easily convinced that they had."

"What is the solution?" asked Denton. "Surely, you're not advocating the elimination of the majority of the people. Are you?"

"Only if there were no other way," said Michael. "However, eliminating as many as necessary would be preferable to giving up and letting your own life and those of your loved ones be sacrificed on the altar of ignorance and lethargy. Suppose there were a new virus that had infected half the population, turning them into homicidal maniacs, with their killer instinct directed at those not infected. What should the uninfected do? Should they shrug their shoulders and say, ‘We can't kill the majority of the people, so we will all just have to let ourselves be killed by them.’ I don't think so. Yet, that is more or less the attitude of the enlightened today. They can't do anything because they are so outnumbered. Therefore, they are ready to give up and accept whatever happens to them. What a shame that we can't sort the population into two groups and put all those creating the problem in one part of the country and their unwilling victims in another part, and make the two parts independent nations. That would solve the problem without bloodshed. Those that are content under tyranny would have it, and those that want freedom would have it."

"But you can't sort the people that way, not in real life," said Denton. "What if we returned to sovereignty of the states, and we had essentially a confederation of fifty independent nations, something on the order of NATO. The freedom lovers could congregate in some states and leave the others to the indifferent and the masochists. The migration would take time, but that sounds a lot more feasible."

"You may have something there," said Michael. "I like that idea very much. Making that happen would be a worthy goal for your new coalition. You could capitalize on the fact that a majority of the states have introduced sovereignty resolutions, based on the Tenth Amendment. We know that the chances of any of them actually doing anything are slim to none. The feds will do whatever it takes to squelch them, and it probably won't take much. A few bucks to enough state legislators will probably be enough to nip things in the bud. However, if you get on the ball and get started before they are squelched, these resolutions could possibly serve as a catalyst for a movement. Right now, I doubt if two percent of the people ever heard of the resolutions. I doubt that the mainstream media will mention them. It would be your job to quickly make sure that everyone knows about them and that they feel the same way the sponsors of the resolutions felt, that state sovereignty is a wonderful idea whose time has come--again."

"You really do like the idea," said Denton. "It was just a passing thought, but it really is a fairly good idea. Isn't it?"

"Even if the people stayed where they are, it would be a tremendous improvement," said Michael. "If people were free to move from state to state, the states would have to watch their step or they would lose a lot of unhappy citizens. The division would occur naturally and gradually. The freedom lovers would end up living in states that provided the most freedom, while those who enjoy being controlled would end up in states bent on controlling their citizens. I love it. You set things up, and I'll get you some additional funds. You will need a lot more for this."

"I will still be up against the same intellectual bunker mentality," said Denton.

"Use the opposition's techniques," said Michael. "Fight fire with fire. Make a list of everything they do to keep the people in line, and do that. Use jingles; get movie and television stars to push your ideas; flood them with the idea around the clock. The more they hear it, the more they believe it, no matter what it is. The thinking people will be all for it from the start. You only have to penetrate the hard heads of the non-thinkers."

"I just had an idea," said Denton. "Turn things around and they will get on board faster. Instead of saying that the freedom lovers will get free states, say that all the troublemakers will be gone, once and for all. All the undesirables will end up in a renegade state or two, where they won't be disturbing the rest of us. Just think. All the commies, the KKK, the Nazis, the tinfoil hat crowd, etc. can go live together in a handful of states, while the good, ol’ normal people live on in perpetual harmony forever."

"I think you may have something there," said Michael. "That might even appeal to some of the numbskulls in government. They might consider letting a few states go if all the dissidents went with them, but I doubt it."

"You mean they might let a couple of states secede?"

"You might want to make that your primary goal, and all fifty states your secondary goal. You might not be able to get all fifty, or it might take too long. Shoot for all fifty, and see what happens. If you got one or more free from the union, you could have a haven for people wanting to be free, assuming that most of the freedom loving people moved there."

"Secession is becoming a more popular idea these days," said Denton. "They have an annual get-together of secessionist groups at the Middlebury Institute. Are you familiar with the Middlebury Institute?"

"Yes," said Michael. "I’ve read some of their stuff. I know it's named after a town, but in my opinion, it should be called the Diddlebury Institute, or maybe the Fiddlebury Institute might be even better. They propose spending decades studying secession, its constitutionality, philosophy, history, pathology, etc. Suppose a group of heavily armed thugs is chasing you with the intention of capturing you and making you a slave in an evil empire. You realize you are running down a dead end street. Do you study the philosophy of escape, the history of escape, etc., or do you try to escape? I don't think the Fiddle bury people are stupid either. My guess is that they are wolves in sheep's clothing, trying to keep the people that might otherwise actually do something occupied until it is too late. If people want to study the constitutionality of something, let them study the constitutionality of just about anything the government does, rather the lack of constitutionality in everything it does."

Chapter 13

Eight Months Later

 

It was the fifteenth of April, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives was speaking to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, better known as AIPAC. As is often the case, the speech also carried a message to the nation and to those few congressmen that gave her a hard time. She leaned over the lectern and said, "The United States stands ready to do whatever it takes to save its best friend Israel from the terrorist nations that daily threaten it with extinction. Our men and women in uniform are ready to lay down their lives to help defend Israel from the terrorists that continually threaten innocent Israelis. Even though we are suffering economic disaster at home, Americans are losing their jobs and their homes, our bridges are collapsing, our roads crumbling, the Congress voted to tighten our belts another notch and send an additional five billion dollars to Israel. That is one thousand dollars to each of our five million friends in Israel.  Israel comes first with Congress. The American people are the greatest friends Israel could have. I truly believe that in their heart, every American wants to be Jewish."

The applause was as loud as it was predictable. The Speaker smiled broadly, then suddenly clutched at the lectern wildly, her face distorted grotesquely, and she collapsed. Several people rushed to her. Two of them were physicians, and a moment later, they pronounced her dead.

 

Rhett's Cabin

 

"I'll get it," said Rhett, putting on the headset and grabbing the mouse to take the call on the computer. He saw that it was Michael calling and said, "Hello, Sam." They sometimes called Michael Sam, because of his e-mail address of yosemitesam911, after the cartoon character, Yosemite Sam. Even though they used the Zfone encryption program and it was unnecessary, it had become a habit.

"Has it begun?" asked Michael.

"Has what begun?" asked Rhett, handing a second headset to Valerie and bringing her into the call. "Val just came on."

"Hi," said Michael. "Have you heard about the Speaker of the House dying this morning?"

"No," said Rhett and Valerie simultaneously.

"What happened to her?" asked Valerie.

"Apparently, she just dropped dead, during a speech. I knew she had to be high on the list." By that he meant that she was high on their list of primary targets.

"Then, that's why you asked if it had started," said Rhett. "No. I'm afraid not. Was this an act of patriotism, or an act of a benevolent God?"

"It just happened less than an hour ago," said Michael, "so they can't know for sure, but so far, it is believed to be natural causes. Naturally, we know that the CIA and other professional assassins have lots of ways to make it look like natural causes."

"Offhand, I don't see the CIA taking her out," said Rhett. "She is one of them."

"You never know," said Valerie. “There are divisions in Spookville. She has been obviously supporting the President, making sure he gets everything he wants. Maybe, she was asking too much payback from someone, and someone got tired of it. With a flock of crooks, you can't tell who is whacking who or why."

"That's true," said Michael, "but the more they kill each other, the better. Oh, well. I felt very good when I thought that you might have begun. It's a bit of a let-down to find you haven't. Lately, we've been saying quite often that we need to get started. This thing is really dragging out.”

"Sorry," said Rhett. "I wish I could have said yes. I wish we were ready.”

“Just when are we going to start?” asked Michael. “Set a date, and meet it."

"Think about it a minute, Rhett," said Valerie. "You know that we will never be one hundred percent ready. We asymptotically approach being completely ready, with the distance between where we are and ready always getting smaller and smaller, but never going away. Here we have one of our top targets dropping dead. Two weeks ago, one of them died in a plane crash. If we went to work now, when the time comes for us to let them know what is going on, everyone will assume we took those two out too. Why not take advantage of that and get going. If we keep putting it off, one of two terrible things might happen. One, the government might pull a false flag event in order to declare martial law and really clamp down. They are having martial law drills all over the country. The people are being desensitized for it. When it happens, the people will be ready, and most will go like sheep wherever they are sent. Two, they will infiltrate us or get onto us some other way, and we will all be tortured to death in Guantanamo or some other American gulag."

"How about it? Can we get moving and take advantage of this, as well as the credit for it?" asked Michael. "We've been getting readier and readier for a long time now."

"I guess there is a lot we could be doing," said Rhett. "We don't have to be ready for every possible activity in order to get started. We are probably able to handle ninety percent of the things that we would want to do. We can keep working on the other ten percent while we do what we can."

"Let's get going then," said Michael. "We can start slow and ramp up. That way, we will become aware of any weaknesses and can take care of them."

"We've been over and over it and modified our plans, time and time again," said Valerie. "It's like rewriting a book until you get it perfect. It's never perfect."

"She's right," said Rhett. "We have a lot of people primed and on standby. They are eventually going to lose interest or the programming is going to wear off on others. At best, the few that know what they are to do are going to lose confidence in us. We have tons of arms and equipment lined up. They may be moved, used, or thrown out if we wait too long. Okay. It's on, for as soon as we can set up something. Next time you call, Sam, and ask if it has begun, I'll be able to say yes."

"Wonderful," said Michael. "Got to go. I'll talk to you later."

Valerie took off her headset. "Well, well. We're finally going to do it. It's a little scary."

"A little scary? Are you kidding? It's scary as hell. It’s terrifying," said Rhett. "It's a lot scarier than anything I've ever done, and I have done some terrifying things. It bothers me not knowing for sure if everyone on the list deserves what they are going to get. Funny, but whenever I went on a mission, like the time I got you away from the guerrillas, we just went in and killed anyone who got in our way. You know we killed a lot of people that were probably no worse than the people we were supposedly protecting and almost certainly better than the ones sending us on the mission. Just because some poor soul happened to be born in a certain place, he was a target for early death, and because we were born in America, we were to be his killers. It's a sorry situation. In this case, we are doing what we truly believe we have to do in self-defense. We know it's the right thing to do, not only for us, but for all the idiots whose ignorance, stupidity, lethargy, greed, or envy brought on the present situation and enable its progressive worsening. All they would have to do is stand up and say, 'enough,' but they won't. They are going down, and they are taking us with them, unless we act. I keep remembering that Rockefeld quote. Do you know where that is? I'd like to read it again. I'd like to memorize it."

"I think it's in My Documents on the off-line computer," she said. "Just a minute." She went to her computer that never connected to the Internet. "Here it is. Want me to read it to you?"

"Please do," he said.

"Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as internationalists and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure - one world, if you will. If that is the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it."

"And that is from his autobiography, isn't it?" asked Rhett.

"That's what it says," she answered. "That implies the United States would have to give up its sovereignty and abrogate the Constitution and either defy the will of its people or somehow manage to control their will to make them want what they are told to want."

"Which is precisely what has been going on, little by little," said Rhett. "It's happening before our eyes, with virtually no opposition whatsoever. He can stand up and tell us what he has planned for us, and most of the people don't know about it. Those that are aware are resigned to it. They see it is inevitable, a hopeless cause. Maybe it is. The more removed the decision making is from the people, the harder it has to be to understand or influence the decisions. The people in a small town can make the town council toe the line. When the town grows to be a city, the government grows out of control, and when it grows to New York City size, it is hopeless. The state government is so isolated that the people's influence is minimal, very minimal, if there is any at all. When it comes to the federal government, even the people in the government don't know what they are doing. How can the people possibly know? On the other hand, if all the information is out there, if the people doing it to us have the confidence to tell us to our face what they are going to do to us, if all it takes is a few hours of digging to know the truth, then everyone can know.”

“Only if they want to know,” she said.

“Yeah. Only if they want to know. Now, they want to push the decision makers out that much further in a world government. A world government might as well be on Mars for all the influence we could have on it."

"History tells us that the more power a government gets, the more it puts its own benefit above the benefit of the people," said Valerie. "Any time the federal government appears to put the people first, you know it is only propaganda. Actually, governments are like diseases, some are not as bad as others, but none are desirable."

"Except to crazy people," said Rhett. "Not that there wouldn't be bad guys if there were no government. They just wouldn't be organized like they are now, and they wouldn't have all the big guns like they do now. Talk about organized crime. What is the difference between a Mafia goon going to the corner store, demanding protection money, and the IRS goon collecting protection money for the government?"

"For one thing, you might get some protection from the Mafia," said Valerie.

"We know Rockefeld's merely doing what he sees as best for him," said Rhett. "Nice of him to admit it though, so we know getting rid of him is best for us. We need to get to work. Can you get me the latest, up to the minute info on our primary list? I need to know where they can be found. You know what I need. I need that before I can pick the team."

"How far out?"

"Depends," he said. "If someone is going to be accessible in a few days, that would be fine. If not or if we have to make complex plans to get close to them, we need to be farther out. Let's see what comes up in the next five days."

Two hours later, she called out to him, "I found two that look really good to me, as far as accessibility. I mean you should be able to see them clearly. I don't know about eliminating them."

"What have you got? Let me see."

"Here are two in the same area, same day, different places, but not far apart. Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, on Monday, the twenty-first. Six days from now. The twenty-first is Patriot's Day, commemorating the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord at the start of the American Revolution. Senator Ned Samulson will be at the Lexington event, and he will also be throwing out the ball at the Red Sox game that day, in Boston. Fox News' own Tom Tully will appear at the Paul Revere ride in Concord and the finish of the Boston Marathon. So you have two shots--pardon the pun-- at each of them."

"Can't beat that," said Rhett. "The date is tailor made, too. Patriot's Day, commemorating the beginning of the first American Revolution. What a perfect day to start the second American Revolution. Not only that, but in the same place that the first one started. What more could we ask for? Moreover, if there is anyone on the list that I'd rather get than Tom Tully, I can't imagine who it would be. The last time I saw him, he was praising the Patriot Act and saying that not only was torturing prisoners a good idea, but we should torture everyone that voices opposition to anything the government does. I'll get right on it. This is probably a good spot to use our remote controlled rifle. I love it. I have done a little target practice with it, and I think I could hit a bull’s-eye at a hundred yards with no problem, and with no wind, quite a bit farther. They are working on the wind correction. The distance correction is already in the program. When they get it all, we will theoretically be able to do a hit from five hundred yards. It is perfect for this kind of action. We can mount the unit well before the event, and it's pretty adaptable. It comes in a box that can be hidden somewhere, like up in a tree. When the time comes, you take out your laptop computer, send it a wakeup, and the barrel comes out and the gun sight and camera are activated. You only have thirty degrees of swing in any direction, but that should be plenty in most cases. You can sit some distance away, generally up to a mile or more, and see what the gun sight sees. You can zoom in on the target and put the cross-hairs right on the target. When you're ready, you can fire and see if you hit the target. You can fire again and again if necessary, but it shouldn't be necessary. Via the Internet, you could conceivably control it from anywhere on earth, but you run the risk of a delay causing you to shoot where the target was, not where it is. In some cases, that might not be a problem, and we might use it that way, but not with a moving person."

"Let's hope they never find one of them, because once they have found one, after that, they will be looking for them, and they won't be of much use anymore," said Valerie.

 

Lexington, Massachusetts

 

On Patriot's Day, the twenty-first of April, the first two shots in the second American Revolution were fired. Senator Ned Samulson was giving a rousing speech praising those American virtues that he had never once practiced in his years in public office. As he gave his performance, there was an unnoticed movement in a tree fifty yards away, at the edge of a cluster of trees. On a box about a yard long and some six inches square, precisely fastened to a broad horizontal branch, the end of the box slowly swung open and a dull, metal shaft moved slowly out the end of the box for a short distance. In a hotel room in downtown Lexington, Rhett sat at a table. He couldn't see the event, but the tree with the remote-controlled rifle was visible from the window. The drapes were drawn, enhancing the quality of the image on his laptop computer's screen. The transceiver on the table didn't notice the drapes at all. Rhett moved the joystick slightly, this way and that. The figure of Senator Samulson appeared on the screen. He zoomed in on it, adjusting the joystick until the intersection of the two crossed lines was on the senator's forehead. He sent a chat message to an ex-Special Forces man in another hotel in nearby Concord. The message simply said, "Hi." The response came instantly, "Hi, yourself." Across the top of the screen, a clock was counting up in seconds. Both computers’ clocks had been synchronized with a government atomic standard clock just minutes ago. When the clock rolled over to the next minute, Rhett pressed the button on his joystick, and on the screen, he saw the senator go reeling back from the podium and crash to the floor.

At the same instant, in Concord, Tom Tully was sitting in a box seat, waiting for the reenactment of the Ride of Paul Revere to begin, when he suddenly lurched backward, into the lap of a screaming lady behind him.

Simultaneously, in a tree, not far from Tom Tully's body and in the tree fifty yards from the senator's body, dark, metal shafts slid back into their boxes, which closed behind them, and the trees were silent and unchanged. Not a leaf had been moved. Without climbing into the trees, no one would ever notice the slender boxes of the same color as the bark of the trees. The shots had been precise and deadly, striking both men between the eyes.

 

Office of Homeland Security

 

"Starting the moment we heard that the shots were fired, I will be copied on every single internal communication on this matter, from every department," said Michael. "I want everything documented. That means I will be privy to everything that we know or don't know about this matter. I'll personally decide what I think I should concentrate on."

"Yes, Sir," said Benson "Cole" Colford, the Deputy Director of Homeland Security. "You realize that there will be thousands of items. Do you want to sort through them all?"

"I want a copy of every one of them," said Michael. "To make sure that I don't overlook any that are considered important, follow standard procedure with duplicates of those that are of special significance. I will be sure to read those. Fortunately, I'm a speed reader and can fly through a lot of text in very little time. I want everyone to know that if I discover anyone working on this case has sent or received a single communication of any kind without sending me a copy, that person will be dismissed without a hearing. Make that very clear to everyone." He didn't want someone finding out something about who really did it and him not knowing about it until it was too late to do anything.

"Very well," said Colford. "I'll take care of it."

"This is high priority, Cole," said Michael.

"I figured that, the moment I heard about it. It appears that the hits were synchronized. The timing was too precise to be a coincidence. They are surely connected. The same people are behind both."

"That's the way I see it," said Michael. "Go build a fire under quite a few people. I want results on this, quickly." Of course, he didn't want any valid results, but he had to make it look good.

"Yes, Sir."

"And shut the door behind you," said Michael.

The moment the door shut, Michael pressed two buttons on his desk. His door locked and a red light came on over the top of his door, outside and inside. This meant that he was not to be disturbed, barring an emergency, in which case he could be called, but no one could enter until he opened the door. He pulled a pen-drive from his pocket, slipped it into a jack on the front of his computer, entered a twenty character password to get onto the drive, and opened a small text file in Notepad. There was one sentence in the window on his screen" "When April with its showers, the drought of March hath pierced to the root." He added the word "sweet" after showers and using a little program called ClipSecure, rapidly encrypted the new sentence with the password "counterattack," which was what they were now calling their project. Now he had a string of gibberish" "LKHaGX66Fj00y5PV8nNZqvo38BwxSIx8et4Psi/9JWqzQz6s8tLbO7MOjYQSp64Pq0ailcjETYEaWY5zsKx5VNjTyWvOcoBVoQESwg==" that he used as a password to log into his secure communication program for contacting Rhett and Valerie.

Valerie came on line and asked, "What is the password?"

"Yes it is," said Michael. "The last time I called, you said 'No.' I'm asking again. Yes or no?"

"I'm happy to be able to answer in the affirmative," said Valerie. "My partner isn't here right now. He had some urgent business to take care of."

"You tell him I said for him to keep up the good work,'" said Michael.

"I will do that," said Valerie.

"I have to go," said Michael. "Today will be a busy day around here."

"I can understand that," said Valerie. "Enjoy."

Over the next month, the Counterattack movement took out twelve more active members of the opposition, including two members of the mass media, the CEO of a major financial institution, a five-star general, an internationally prominent banker, and the balance, a selection of high profile politicians. At first, speculation about who might be responsible was rampant, especially in the media. After a few days, the so-called mainstream media had united with the administration in attributing the assassinations to Muslim terrorists bent on getting rid of important people in the United States.

"The world's leaders are getting antsy," said Rhett, "and with good reason. Seeing over a dozen of their kind go down in short order is bound to make them nervous."

"How well I know," said Michael, who had just contacted Rhett and Valerie. "I get this first hand. Every time another criminal goes down, pulse rates go up among the others. I think they are truly starting to fear that they are seeing the beginning of an epidemic. They aren't saying that in so many words, but the suggestion is there. The administration is blaming it all on Muslim terrorists, and the bootlickers in the media are spreading that tale."

"How about the intelligence community?" asked Valerie. "Should we be afraid that they are closing in on us?"

"Not at the present," said Michael. "They have thousands of clues and ideas. So far, I haven't seen anything that would cause us any worry at all. They are so bent on pinning it on the Muslims that they are pumping up anything that even looks like a connection, embellishing it to get what they want. I'm afraid they are going to use this to kill a lot more innocent people in the Middle East. Outside government, among my friends in the Power Elite, including my own family, the most likely suspects are the CIA, the FBI, and the Mossad. They fear that the same people that they previously counted on to eliminate their enemies are now thinning the ranks of the Power Elite for some reason."

"Since assassination is right out of the CIA's and Mossad's play books," said Rhett, "they would necessarily be high on anyone's list of suspects. The Power Elite almost have to suspect that their ranks are being thinned out by their own hired killers. The victims purposely represent quite a diverse conglomeration. That way, every faction suspects a lot of other factions. Furthermore, the very people charged with finding out who did it are the most likely suspects for most people. Must be scary for the big boys, wondering if the gun they use to eliminate dissent might now be aimed back at them."

"They may suspect some of their own," said Michael, "but they wouldn't say that in public, no matter what. Moreover, they have to be suspecting a lot of others at the same time, with one suspect just about as likely as the other. No matter who they suspect personally, it seems to be convenient for their plans to let the Muslims take the blame. I've long thought that they might be trying to build a case for the complete annihilation of Muslims, and maybe some other groups. Personally, I don't think the Muslims are ever going to fit into their one world government, and that is their reason for wanting to kill as many as they can. Some of the neocons think it's possible to force Muslims to accept purely secular governments, but I don't think that is enough. I believe they are campaigning for and getting European support, from the puppet governments set up by the Power Elite, for the complete razing of the Middle East, except, of course, Israel. The so-called religious right in America is allegedly cheering them on. At least, their most conspicuous leaders are. They seem to be using what we are doing to promote their anti-Islam agenda."

"We damned sure don't want to help them promote that program," said Rhett. "What can we do to avoid that?"

"We said that we would take credit for it sooner or later," said Valerie. "It looks like it may need to be sooner. Of course, we have to do it without identifying ourselves. No matter what we say, they may still blame it on the Muslims, just to have an excuse for blowing them away."

 

Rhett's Cabin

A Cyberconference

 

"For days, this strange idea has been popping into my head," said Michael. "It is so bizarre that I hesitate to mention it, but maybe that will get it to leave me alone. Let me put it out there, and we can kick it around a little and see if there is any way we could possibly use it. I was talking to my biological father a couple of weeks ago, and he mentioned that there seems to be an epidemic of UFO sightings reported all over the world. He said there were so many reputable witnesses that there was no possibility that they were not valid sightings. People were seeing something, but what. We were wondering what country or countries might be behind them, or if some of them might actually be alien craft. There is such a variety of craft seen that they almost have to be from earth. Aliens intelligent enough to get to our planet are not likely to send hundreds of different spacecraft to an insignificant planet full of bellicose creatures. Whatever people are seeing, they are UFO's. But that only means that they are flying objects, the identity of which is unknown. It hardly implies aliens. He said that if they are aliens, they might be scouting for a planet to move to because their planet was in some sort of danger. Since then, I remembered another time, when we were discussing anarchy, he said, then, he thought there were only two ways that anarchy could possibly get a foothold on earth. One was to get a one world government that would gradually be phased out. Another way that he mentioned in passing was for some aliens to come to earth and mandate anarchy by force. All this combined gave me an idea."

"Let's hear it," said Rhett.

"Suppose we decide to put out the story that many of the sightings of UFO's truly are aliens, and they have been studying us for some time because their planet is in danger, and Earth is very much like their planet, so if it becomes necessary to evacuate, they want to come here. However, the aliens see the people on Earth in such a mess that they are afraid they may destroy it. So they have decided to fix the problem the easiest way, by destroying those responsible for endangering the planet, namely the Power Elite and the corrupt politicians. We could somehow speak to the world as the aliens and warn all such people to cease and desist or prepare to be eliminated."

"Wow," said Valerie. "I can instantly see a lot of good things about that strategy."

"For days, I have been wondering if we could possibly use this idea with any success," said Michael. "If I were to hear a story like that in the news, I don't think I would believe it. Would either of you two?"

"Probably not," said Valerie. "On the other hand, when you consider the way that people went berserk over Orson Welles’ broadcast of War of the World, it might get more acceptance than you think.”

“People really panicked over that,” said Michael. “Believe it or not, I understand that the idea of staging an alien landing has been kicked around some governmental corridors for several years. There are people actively working on the technical aspects. I’m sure they could make Orson Welles’ effort look childish with current resources. It’s thought that, if done right, they could use it to bring on almost anything they want. It could certainly be an excuse for martial law. I think they probably want to use it for something much larger and haven’t quite worked it out. They may be getting close to it. I have seen a few shill-like articles lately that could be setting us up for such a false flag alien event. We could beat them to it, so to speak.”

“The beauty of this idea,” said Valerie, “is that you don't have to convince people beyond the shadow of a doubt or anywhere near that. Most people are far from convinced that UFO's are alien craft, but the possibility is always there, lurking in their minds. As long as there is a remote possibility that our story is true, it can be effective."

"I think she's right," said Rhett. "The only way anyone could be absolutely certain that UFO's are not alien craft would be by knowing what they are and whose they are. Unless our government or whichever government has the things admits that the UFO's are theirs, which is highly unlikely, no one will believe their denials any more than they do now. Even if they do say that, no one will believe it until they prove it. I certainly wouldn't. And if they prove they have flying saucers, it doesn’t mean that some of the myriad sightings are not real aliens. There will always be room for doubt."

"What kind of risk would we be taking if we use this?" asked Michael.

The discussion went on for an hour. The longer they discussed the idea, the better it looked. It gradually became a forgone conclusion that they would use it, if they could solve all the problems inherent in implementing such a plan. At one o'clock in the morning, when the cyberconference ended, they thought they had worked out most of the problems and were ready to begin working on perfecting and implementing it the next day.

 

It took them four days to set things up. Fortunately, they had foreseen wanting to make public statements as the people behind the Counterattack, otherwise, it could have taken weeks or even months. The only thing that had changed was the message and the way they signed it. Everything was in place for the mass distribution of a message. Most of the effort consisted of coming up with the message to distribute. Their IT people, under the direction of Manny Rodriguez, had previously tracked down several of the biggest spam networks in existence. They hypnotized the hackers that ran the networks, and made them believe that they would be exposed, convicted and imprisoned, if they didn't allow them access to their network when and if they needed it. These networks, composed of millions of individual computers in almost a hundred countries, without the permission or the knowledge of their owners, were the tools they would use to put a message out to over a billion and a half e-mail addresses, some eighty percent of which were estimated to be valid.

 

None of them were completely happy with the wording of the message. They knew that to perfect it would take a review by experts, which was out of the question. None of them had any knowledge of propaganda or mind control techniques, so they just composed what they considered a sensible letter from the imaginary aliens to the people of earth, giving them a month to shape up.

"You know nothing will change," Rhett had said. "We will have to follow through or people will think the whole alien story was a hoax."

"I know you said that big hit in Spain was too soon to prepare for,” said Michael. “It would be absolutely perfect, if we could manage it. Isn’t there any way we could manage it?”

"With an all-out effort, we could probably manage it," said Rhett. "A lot of it is ready. I think we can get things set up in a month if we have to. You are right about it being perfect"

"Do it," said Michael. "We better have a plan B, in case we can't get set up in Spain in time. Oh, how I hope we can pull it off. It was truly made to order, since it happens in thirty-three days. Over the next three days, you can research."

They waited three days, and in English and the language of the nation of the addressees, they sent the following e-mail message to an estimated twelve hundred million people:

 

This message contains information vital to your safety and your life. Do not erase it before reading it completely. We recommend you keep it and reread it until you have fully absorbed it.

 

This message is from the people of Sheladar to the people of Earth. Sheladar is a planet, some twenty-seven light-years from Earth, in the constellation you know as Canes Venatici. Sheladar is similar to Earth. We have a sun about the size and brightness of your sun. Our sun is a star known to your astronomers as Chara and also as Beta Canum Venaticorum. People on Sheladar are also human, because we share common ancestors from the planet, Dimiana, which revolves around a star known to you as 18 Scorpii. Our planet, Sheladar, was colonized by people from Dimiana, seven thousand years ago. Close to a million years ago, explorers from Dimiana were stranded on Earth, while awaiting a rescue ship from home. During that time they explored a portion of Earth and found no intelligent life. They did find primates similar to your current apes. Through artificial insemination, they created hybrids, many of which, by the second generation, should have been somewhat human. These hybrids and their descendants were no doubt what you call prehistoric man.

About 200,000 years ago, an expedition to Earth from Dimiana found creatures with human-like characteristics. They captured hundreds of females and artificially inseminated them, but they did not remain on Earth long enough to see the results. It is believed that interbreeding between those offspring produced the first humans native to Earth.

About 5,000 years ago, Dimiana transported nearly a thousand troublemakers to Earth, leaving them in the region you now call Germany. These people bred with each other, and they probably bred with the descendants of the earlier Dimianan visitors. They brought a superior intelligence, although some of them may have been genetically defective. After all, they had been transported for abnormal behavior, which may or may not have been due to a genetic anomaly. Serious studies of the human population of Earth by students and academics from both Dimiana and Sheladar began about 2500 years ago, when a sizeable group from Dimiana spent several years studying the Earth people in the region you call the Middle East. You will find the word "dmt" in the old Aramaic language, which was used to denote the "Earth," was the name its early inhabitants used for Dimiana, and the word our people used for Earth at that time.

A century ago, Sheladarian astronomers began modeling the universe in the vicinity of Sheladar. These models suggested the alarming possibility of a future catastrophic collision that would surely destroy Sheladar if it happened. In recent years, our fears have increased, as the probability of such a collision appears to have increased. Although the probability remains low, we have long since started planning for the possible evacuation of our planet. For decades, we have been visiting Earth and monitoring activity here. As Earth is more like Sheladar than any other known planet, we plan to evacuate our people to Earth, should catastrophe become imminent. Our population is relatively small, meaning our presence would not be a burden to Earth. Physically, we are virtually indistinguishable from Earth people. Culturally and technologically, however, we are many thousands of years ahead of you, and our knowledge would be of enormous benefit to you.

Now, having briefly introduced ourselves, explained our historical connections, and our interest in Earth, we come to the reason for this message. Our Earth scholars agree there is a growing possibility that your irrational behavior, particularly that of those in power in leading nations, will lead to nuclear war, leaving Earth uninhabitable and unavailable for our evacuation. Also of concern is your warlike nature that would pose a danger to us, should we move here. Most people on Sheladar view Earth people as backward, belligerent savages and favor your extermination to save Earth from nuclear destruction and assure us of a safe refuge.

There are others on Sheladar, who, for humanitarian reasons, prefer to give you an opportunity to cease your irrational and belligerent behavior, thus ending the danger. Sheladar sent a considerable number of people to live among you, posing as natives of Earth. Their mission was to inform you of your errors. After several years, any effects of their effort were barely noticeable. The vast majority of you completely ignored all warnings, explanations, arguments, and advice. Meanwhile, the danger of nuclear war continued to increase.

Our people submitted a report, in which they depicted the majority of you as incredibly complacent about your situation, regardless of how oppressive or humiliating it might be. They said most of you are, at best, indifferent to all forms of violence to others and their property, especially those who disagree with you.  Among other things, they labeled most of you superstitious, close-minded, irrational, and incredibly ignorant, given the ease of access to abundant information. Many Sheladarians took this as proof that you are subhuman and either cannot or will not reason.

Those of us in favor of saving you pointed out some mitigating circumstances and argued that were we to exterminate all Earth people without giving them a reasonable opportunity to prove their worth, we would be little better than the Earth people they want to eliminate. Our argument prevailed. A special task force of volunteers was charged with finding a humane, yet expeditious way to keep you from destroying your planet and to repress your propensity for violence. Our group has been on Earth for some time. We studied the situation, and we devised a plan. Recently, we began the implementation of our plan.

We had not expected to reveal our presence and our plans for some time. However, we have barely begun, and your major governments are blaming our actions on innocent parties. Several of your governments claim to have evidence the recent assassinations of prominent individuals were committed by Muslim terrorists. Their lies are, we believe, to justify the elimination of people whose beliefs make them incompatible with the type of world they hope to impose on all of Earth. We will not allow others to suffer for what we have done. Therefore, we now inform you of our efforts to provide you with the alternative of survival.

We see your pronounced proclivity toward subservience to authority, your absence of self-reliance, as your greatest problem and at the root of most of your other problems, even your lack of fundamental morality. We had to find reversible reasons for this aberrant behavior if we were to save you. We agree with our opponents on Sheladar regarding the possibility of genetic influence due to the experiments with primates by the first Dimianan visitors. Primates and other animals generally defer to a dominant male in their societies. Moreover, many animals, when raised in captivity, display similar submissive behavior. This characteristic may have impacted most of the humans of Earth and evolved into the present obsequiousness. However, we believe your inherent human capacity to reason should be able to counter such a primitive behavioral influence.

Whatever the basis for this defect, it has been characteristic of humans on Earth for millennia. We believe it has been actively reinforced by those who held the position of dominant male and its subsequent equivalents: rulers, governments, etc. At the present, even though technology has given you boundless access to information about your world and your situation, the tools available to the ruling faction for influencing your thinking have grown as much, if not more. Your rulers’ motivation to use their tools to mesmerize you seems far greater than your motivation to counter their efforts and to remain alert, informed, and free. We believe your cogitative paralysis has been induced or, at least, cultivated by interested parties. Given the pervasiveness of intellectual sloth on Earth, we see little hope of the necessary universal epiphany required to significantly improve your relationships, from inter-personal to international, unless the effort to suppress your individuality is terminated.

The true motivation for wars on Earth appears to be profit and not the fictitious excuses given to and accepted by the people. We find a connection between this and an effort to pervert the intellectual activity of Earth people. There exists a relatively small group of extremely wealthy people who benefit greatly from war and other evil endeavors. This same group dominates the effort to manipulate the thought processes of the masses, to avoid resistance to their agenda. We believe this wealthy minority, which you sometimes call the Power Elite, to be the root cause of many, if not most, of mankind’s serious ills. Thus, its elimination will alleviate those serious ills. We know, too, that they could not accomplish their goals without the acquiescence of their victims. The Power Elite maintains this necessary acquiescence by using every means at their disposal to strengthen your destructive tendencies and weaken your defensive ones. Regardless of what you say, it is obvious that most of you immorally desire to obtain the fruits of others’ labor and to force others to live according to your wishes.  It is primarily for these immoral purposes that you support an omnipotent government, and thereby, invariably become the enabler of your own oppressor. Any power over people will inevitably be manipulated by those who see the potential benefit in and are capable of accomplishing such manipulation. Furthermore, by making people believe that with increased government, they will have access to others’ wealth and power over others, the Power Elite achieve their victims’ support for ever more government power. The perpetuation and increase of your division, immorality, lethargy, and subservience is necessary for the Power Elite.  Were the majority of you willing to give up your hope of getting unearned rewards or forcing others to live as you would like them to live and to concede to others the freedom you, yourselves, should prefer to enjoy, you would not have oppressive governments for the wealthier and more astute to take over and use against you. Some form of this strategy has been used against you throughout your history and you seem not to notice it. It is time to take notice and act accordingly.

By eliminating the several thousand people at the root of the problem, we hope to remove the core of oppression and to end the efforts to control the peoples’ thinking and attitudes. Although the parasitic behavior, the desire for the fruits of others’ labor extends to the very bottom of your social pyramid, we plan to eliminate only those who actively engage in oppression and tyranny and their support. We expect to kill some 6,000 powerful people who abuse their power or about one person out of each million people. Our targets include those of the Power Elite which we see participating in a cooperative effort to impose their will on others  and the more powerful individuals that implement and benefit greatly from that effort, in government, the media, academia, industry, and other areas. We do not plan to eliminate every political office holder. We leave it to the people to show us they are wise enough to eliminate most of the positions and replace any remainder with better people.

In summary, to make sure that Earth is not destroyed, we are going to kill those we see as most responsible for the danger of destruction. We sincerely hope that with that done, the rest of you, being faced with the alternative of total annihilation, will be wise enough to act rationally and responsibly.  If not, we will be unable as well as unwilling to save you. We will abandon our current assumption that you are worth saving.

We have no intention of taking over Earth or of ruling you in any way. Our mission is a humanitarian one. We are here to save you from elimination. Our purpose is to ensure that you do not destroy your planet for yourselves and as a possible refuge for the people of Sheladar and to accomplish that without killing all of you. Our success is essential to your survival, for even if Sheladar did not eliminate you, you will surely eliminate yourselves in the not too distant future. We will not tell you precisely what to do. We will offer some suggestions and guidelines and observe your response. We are stationed throughout your world, and we will be watching your reactions very closely.

We take advantage of this premature announcement to declare a moratorium on our elimination activities for thirty days. During that time, those who are on our list or suspect they are there will have time to make a concerted and highly visible effort to get off it. After thirty days, their chances will decline. Those who intend to reform should do so promptly and publicly, or they may not live to do so. 

Being rich or powerful does not automatically qualify one for elimination. Deeds not possessions put people on our list. A high percentage of those on our list are rich and powerful, only because that enables them to do the things that put them on our list. We warn those abusing their position and power to inflict violence of any kind on people or their property that they have a very limited amount of time to avoid termination. They would be wise to begin immediately and make their efforts extremely noticeable.

It is imperative that we provide some guidelines and advice that you may know what sort of behavior can save you from elimination. We will give you ideas and let you go from there. We are not interested in giving orders. Following orders is what you do now. We hope to foster initiative and individuality, guided with a basic morality of non-violence. As a starting point, we offer a simple philosophy, which, if followed, will not only enable your survival, but will eliminate most of your problems.

The individual is and must be all important and sovereign. Every group, from a couple to the population of Earth, is composed of individuals. No group, town, state, or nation is free or great, unless it is composed of free or great individuals. It should be obvious that a book is not in English if all the words are in Arabic. It should be just as obvious that a nation is not free if its citizens are oppressed. A nation is not moral if its people are immoral.

Everywhere on Earth, the hierarchy of power is the opposite of what it should and must be for the people to live lives appropriate to human beings. Your current societies can be depicted as pyramids, with the rulers at the very top, their henchmen, meaning the government and the leaders in the media, academia, and industry, are just below them. The rest of the people comprise the bottom ninety-some percent of the pyramid. Power flows downward from the top to the bottom, from rulers to the ruled. The very few have power over the many.

The pyramid must be inverted. The individuals must be at the top, and any governmental institutions must be small and at the bottom, with power flowing down, from the people to the government. The individual is the all-important sovereign. The individuals rule the employee government, not vice-versa.

This hardly implies chaos, as some of you are sure to initially think. In order to prevent chaos and conflict while maximizing freedom, some restriction on human activity is necessary. The actions of free individuals are of two kinds: allowed and not allowed. The only actions not allowed of a free individual are those that infringe on the rights of one or more other individuals to perform any allowed action desired. Any initiation of violence against others and their property is not allowed. Every individual must, therefore, be allowed to do as he pleases as long as he doesn't infringe on the rights of others to do the same. Basically, the only thing anyone has a right to is to live without anyone initiating violence against him. Everything else, he must achieve or acquire without initiating violence against others. The victims of initiated violence are allowed to take whatever action they feel necessary to stop the violence. In most cases, the victim of violence may naturally resort to more than enough violence to stop his aggressor. To do otherwise would be as foolish as trying to apply precisely the exact minimum amount of water necessary to extinguish the fire in a burning house, without a drop more than necessary.

Rights, such as the right to respond to violence, may be delegated and conferred on another individual or another group, such as a government. Any right delegated is still retained by the individual. After all, since a policeman may not be around when you are attacked, you would be foolish to completely give up your right to self-defense. It is obvious that no group or subset of people can possibly have any rights that the sovereign individual does not have, since a group may only have rights delegated to it by individuals. There is no other source of rights.

Allowed actions are not subject to forced restriction. Put another way, no person or group of persons, including a government, may require any specific behavior of any sort of another person or group of persons, except that the initiation of violence against others or their property and the infringement of the rights of others is forbidden to all persons, including those in any government. Governments may establish rules of conduct, but except for the prohibition of the initiation of violence, they cannot force individuals to comply with any rules or laws, as the people are sovereign. Hence, rules and laws other than those prohibiting the initiation of violence or the infringement of rights are, in effect, requests or suggestions, since they cannot be enforced by the government. They may, to some extent, be enforced by the people, since non-compliance can be met with ostracism or similar measures, such as boycott. If a government were to impose a sales tax of one percent, patrons are free to opt out of paying it. Stores would also be free to refuse to sell their goods to those that refuse to pay the sales tax, although it isn’t likely to be a widespread practice, for obvious reasons.

We advise the people to consider themselves not merely individuals but sovereign individuals with the right to do as they please, as long as they don't interfere with the rights of others to do the same. With liberty come responsibilities. Each individual must be responsible for his own existence and subsistence, as well as for the consequences of his actions or inactions. Charity is well and good, but it must be completely voluntary. People are wise to be reasonably aware of the world in which they live. How else can they possibly live responsibly in that world?

Becoming sovereign individuals, you will correct the irrational hierarchy of power which Earth’s people have historically adopted and replace it with a rational hierarchy. The top of the power hierarchy will be the individual. Individuals might, if so inclined, institute community or city governments to secure their rights. These local governments are subordinate to and servants of the individuals. The community and city governments might, with permission of their individuals, institute another layer of government, such as county governments, to coordinate their efforts to secure the rights of the individuals.  The county governments are subordinate to the cities and communities that created them. The counties might be allowed to establish subordinate state or provincial governmental entities for enhanced cooperation. The state or provincial governments might similarly be allowed to establish subordinate national or regional governments. All governments are servants at the beck and call of the individuals and any governments above them. Servants do not tell their employers what to do, except on Earth, at the present. It is seen that the ultimate authority must reside in the individual and any delegated authority gets weaker the farther the layer of government is removed from the individual, since each successive layer is subordinate to and in the service of the previous and more personal level. This is a hierarchy appropriate for rational human beings, while the current arrangements are appropriate for slaves.

By limiting the scope of your governments to the protection of the individuals and their rights and little more, there will be relatively little for them to do, compared to the multitude of nefarious activities in which they have heretofore engaged. It will be easy to monitor their performance and swiftly remove incompetent members. Actually, the term “government” is unfortunate and might be changed, since one cannot legitimately govern according to the currently accepted usage of the term.  We leave that to you.

We do not insist on an instantaneous change to a truly free world, as that could cause as many problems as it corrects. We also recognize that perfection is impossible. However, given the current state of civilization on planet Earth, preoccupation with perfection seems beyond ludicrous. It is like worrying about the quality of the book you want to write, before learning the alphabet. By the time we complete our task, we expect a swift end to all wars. We will expect, also, to see a steady and fairly rapid transition to a world at least as free as that proposed by the founders of the United States in their Articles of Confederation. Once mankind reaches that point, we believe that, thereafter, the idea of government will progressively wither away, eventually becoming unnecessary and unwanted.

To those currently in power, we advise that you get busy redressing incursions and restrictions on the rights of the citizen and preventing future instances of such violence. Companies inflicting violence on individuals are bad places to be employed, and the higher up you are, the more responsible you are for company violence. Those who cause people to suffer and die for personal gain will find it extremely difficult to remove themselves from our list. Therefore, plan accordingly. Put your affairs in order.

Our emphasis, at the moment, is on the United States of America, with occupation troops in over half the nations on Earth, the greatest threat to the planet, and the nation most likely to render it unfit for human or any other life. Although we are initially concentrating on the United States, all other nations would be wise to heed our message, as their turn will come. It is our hope that as we address the most powerful nation on Earth, the less powerful countries will understand that we are serious about our program and so, may change without our intervention. In some instances, the citizens may take matters into their own hands and seize the reins of power. In such cases, they would do well to consider our advice in the aftermath of their victory.

Finally, attempting to stop us would be extremely foolish, as our success is the only thing that can prevent the annihilation of every person on Earth. Each of you must understand you will die if we fail, and attempts by your government to stop us may guarantee your death and the extermination of everyone on Earth. The media can be important here. The media that supports us and our efforts will be helping their fellow man. We will not retaliate against those in the media who oppose us with facts and logic, but they had better check their facts because we will eliminate those who use lies, propaganda, and innuendo to mislead the public. Let us do our duty, and those that want to survive enough to give up violence toward others may be exempted. Otherwise, there will be no survivors. None. Absolutely zero. Those of you on our list have a thirty-day reprieve before your elimination resumes. In the meantime, we will be waiting and watching.

Chapter 14

 

The responses to the e-mail were swift, universal, and extremely varied. Nearly every head of state publicly ridiculed the notion that aliens were staking out Earth as a place of refuge and were wiping out those responsible for endangering their possible future home. Most of the major governments claimed to be tracking down the source of the message and preparing to put those responsible in jail. Israel was particularly vocal in its condemnation of the Aliens’ message, branding it anti-Semitic for some unexplained reason. The media put it on the back pages, treating it as quaint trivia. Talk show hosts with allegiance to the establishment blasted the aliens' message and called for the imprisonment of all spammers. Among independent talk show hosts, the reaction was quite varied. Some speculated that it might be true, saying it would go a long way toward explaining the recent flurry of UFO activity. Christian fundamentalists said it was the work of the anti-Christ and within a few days several of their spokespersons discovered that the aliens and their message had clearly been predicted in Revelations. The French President called for regulation of the Internet. Myanmar called for the abolition of the Internet. The American president said the Aliens’ message constituted a terrorist attack, and if it happened again, he might have to declare martial law. A few days later, he announced a commission would be set up to consider ways to block large scale spamming.

However, the furor soon died down, and it became a topic of humor. When referring to the aliens behind the message, a capital “A” was now being used in order to distinguish them from any other aliens. People speculated about who might be on the Aliens' list. When one congressman introduced Articles of Impeachment against the President, it was jokingly suggested that he was trying to get off the Aliens' list. When the president of a South American country offered free oil to a South Pacific country devastated by an earthquake, it was suggested that he was getting off the Aliens' list. When the Chinese Premier called for the jailing of dissidents, it was said that he obviously didn't believe the Aliens’ message. One way or another, within a week, nearly everyone on the face of the earth knew of the message, although it is doubtful that more than a handful of people gave it any credence.

As was to be expected, the thirty days passed and no one who might be called a member of the Power Elite had made any visible change in their conduct. Several openly laughed at the idea.

 

Barcelona, Spain

 

It was eight-forty-five in the evening. As Spain is on the same time as the rest of Europe, although it is farther west than most of Europe, it was just getting dark. The streets were filled with heavy traffic. Barcelona is a big city in everything but size. It is extremely cosmopolitan and brimming with culture, but quite compact compared to American cities with similar populations. No one noticed that it was early for a garbage truck to be out, when one pulled into the Parc de Cervantes across the street from the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos I. At this hour, the activity in the park was minimal. Across the broad avenue, under the watchful eyes of the Guardia Civil, reporters milled about on the sidewalk, hoping to get a picture of the richest and most powerful people in the world. This was the site of the annual meeting of the Bilderbergs, where the international Power Elite met to spell out the guidelines for the world.

The garbage truck backed into an isolated spot behind a maintenance building. There were no garbage containers there, but there was a partial view of the Palacio de Congressos or Convention Center, which was adjacent to the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos I. There was a whirring sound as the top of the garbage truck raised up over its cab, exposing two large, shiny rockets mounted on rocket launchers. The noses of the rockets slowly tilted downward until they were almost horizontal, as they had a very short distance to go. They stopped and oscillated a bit and then were still. It was precisely ten minutes before nine, when there were two bursts of flames as the rockets left the launchers.  No sooner were the rockets clear of the garbage truck than the truck drove away, closing up as it moved. The rockets needed no human guidance. Multiple homing devices had been placed in the Convention Center for them to zero in on. In a matter of seconds, there was a tremendous explosion and raging flames where the once splendid Convention Center had stood. The garbage truck was on its way to the nearby port and a billion and a half e-mails were on their way to the world. The message in the e-mails was brief and to the point:

 

8:50 Your time is up. If you are smart, you will take our warnings more seriously, now. We are less generous now, but we will still let some of the guilty avoid assassination. We advise all government employees to quit and seek employment elsewhere. We advise the United States Supreme Court not to find unconstitutional laws constitutional. We advise the United States Congress not to pass unconstitutional or tyrannical laws and to repeal those laws which are gross violations of the Constitution.  We act in our own best interest, but what is in our best interests is also in the best interests of the American people and the people of the world in general, whether they know it or not. We especially warn those working against us or calling for action against us that they will go to the top of our list, as prime targets. Remember that if we say the word, everyone on Earth dies. Every single person, including you.

 

Once at the port, the garbage truck pulled up beside a freighter and was quickly hoisted by a crane and lowered into the hold of the ship, which immediately began to move from its mooring. In the hold, a handful of men were dismantling the rear section of the garbage truck. They then mounted a new body on the truck, turning it into an ordinary van style truck. Two other men were painting the pieces that had been part of the garbage truck with fast drying black paint and putting them in a container labeled “Underground Bomb Shelter.” Before the ship had gone five miles, there was no trace of the garbage truck. The ship quietly went its way toward its next stop in Marseille.

In downtown Barcelona, the excitement had just begun. There were dozens of fire trucks, ambulances and other emergency vehicles around the smoking remains of the Palacio de Congressos. In addition to the local authorities, there were operatives from the intelligence agencies of various nations poring over the still smoking remains. Television and radio crews from numerous countries were constantly breaking through the lines and being escorted away, after getting a few quick shots of the disaster.

Although the strike on the Bilderberg annual meeting was big news in every nation on earth, the Aliens' e-mail was even bigger news. The cavalier attitude toward the previous message was gone. Now there was anger, resentment, wonder, and above all, fear. There was a marked increase in the number of those entertaining the possibility that the first e-mail had really been from aliens. It was still a minority, but a minority hundreds of times as large as it had been previously. That the Bilderberg strike and the e-mail were from the same people was never doubted. The time of the e-mail was the time of the missile strike, within seconds. The only question was who did it? The big question slowly coming into many people's minds was, "What if it really was done by aliens?" Several prime time newscasters implied that, although it was highly unlikely, it was by no means certain that it was not the work of aliens.

Every western nation was on high alert. The American President said that if there was a strike in the United States, he would immediately declare martial law. This brought on a lot of speculation that the United States had been behind the Bilderberg strike. The U.S. government was blaming it on Muslims. The Secretary of State claimed to have leads connecting Iran to the e-mails. This made the suspicions about it being a false flag attack all the more prevalent.

 

Rhett’s Cabin

A Cyberconference

 

"Can you believe it?" asked Michael. "Quite a few Americans suspect their own government of making up the Alien story, to cover up a false flag attack on the Bilderbergs. Now the government says Iran sent the e-mails. These guys have no sense at all. But we already knew that."

"It may be true that they have no sense," said Valerie, "but you can bet that nobody is nearly as certain now as they were yesterday that aliens didn't send the first e-mail. There is a big shadow of a doubt in a lot of minds about now."

"As we said," said Rhett, "no matter if no one believes it for sure, neither can anyone be sure it isn't true. There can be no certainty now, either way."

"It's wonderful," said Michael. "Even the alphabet soup crowd can't be sure. I know that up until tonight, all the so-called Power Elite that I had any contact with were pooh-poohing the idea of being in danger. Well, a number of them are certainly out of danger now. The number of casualties keeps rising. It was ninety, then one-ten. The last I heard they said it could go over a hundred and fifty dead. They haven't given an estimate of wounded."

"There would have been only about a hundred and forty attendees," said Valerie. "With a direct hit on the conference room, there wouldn't be many left. Unfortunately, there will be a few waiters and other innocent victims."

"It sounds like they were cleaned out," said Rhett.

"My father," Michael started to say, then paused and started over. "Claude Regnant was to have been there. It was all I could do to keep him away without arousing tremendous suspicion. I arranged for his plane to have problems and have to return to the hangar. He is attributing his salvation to some sort of divine intervention. One of my uncles is undoubtedly gone. I tried to stop him, but couldn't, short of breaking his leg or something. I didn't like him enough to break his leg."

The casualty list was not made official for three days. They had to assume that those known to be in attendance but unaccounted for were among remains unidentified or unidentifiable. DNA was used in some cases for confirmation. In the end, only one of the attendees survived and he was in grave condition. There were nineteen non-attendees dead and thirty-seven injured, twelve of those seriously. These included those working in the meeting room and others close to it.

"There are one hundred and thirty-eight that we can remove from our list now," said Valerie, when she finished checking their target list against the casualties. "Actually, three of them had been already removed from the list, as not dangerous.  While even one innocent dying is a tragedy, we did better than expected there. We feared it might be as high as the number of targets. We held down the collateral damage as the government calls it."

"While it is still a tragedy, it sure beats the one million plus in collateral damage that the U.S. government killed in Iraq," said Michael.  "We did our level best to minimize the area covered by the blast."

 

Homeland Security

Michael's Office

 

"Mister Harris, thank you for coming to see me," said Michael. He stood and reached across his desk to shake hands with Pete Harris. "Please sit down."

Once they were seated, Michael got right to the point. "I get the word that you are probably the best agent the FBI has. I also heard that you were applying for early retirement, but have changed your mind. Would you mind telling me what is going on?"

"I did want to retire early," said Harris, "but I couldn't resist working on this new project. I told them I would withdraw my request for early retirement, if they would let me work on finding out who is behind these killings."

"Your past efforts are legendary in the bureau," said Michael. "The name, Pete Harris, is comparable with the fictional Sherlock Holmes. Hundreds of cases, all solved. I hear you have never failed yet. I only hope you can maintain your record. I will do anything I can to make it easier for you. You will have my full and whole-hearted support every step of the way. If anyone or anything gets in your way or slows you down, give me a call. I have already given you full clearance to get directly to me at any time, night or day, even if I am in a meeting with the President. If, for any reason, I can't be reached, every Deputy Director is to give you unquestioning support. I'll back you on just about anything short of starting a world war. In return, I want you to keep me up to speed on your progress, not because of any lack of trust, but for fear they might get you before you get them, and anything you have found out would be lost. You will report directly to me and won't have to answer to anyone else. I won't release anything you tell me unless I clear it with you first, unless of course, something should happen to you. I would appreciate it if you would suggest someone to take over where you left off in that event, which naturally, we both hope never happens."

"I appreciate all of that," said Harris. "It should make things a lot easier. I'll try to keep you informed."

"I don't want you to try to keep me informed," said Michael. "I want you to keep me informed. I am being copied on every department communication on this case, no matter how trivial. I have made it clear that anyone who fails to copy me or keep me informed on anything related to this case will be terminated, with no recourse. I'm afraid that includes you too."

"There will be thousands of memos and e-mails on this," said Harris. "Several hundred a day, at least. Are you going to look at all of them?"

"Yes," said Michael. "I may not read them all, but I will see them and be aware of them. Believe me, I'll read anything that I think looks the least bit important. I'll save them all and index them. I'm going to be more hands on than you may be used to."

"I'm surprised you know how to use a computer," said Harris. "I don't think most Cabinet officers do."

"My sister calls me a computer nerd," said Michael. "It comes in handy more often than not. One more thing, Harris. Why did you want to retire early?"

"I am not as nimble as I once was," said Harris. "I may be pushing my luck as it is. No use being foolish. You wouldn't want a foolish agent working for you now, would you?"

"Not on this case. I appreciate your coming back. I think I understand your motivation. Don't do anything foolish. Take care of yourself, and if you need help, ask for it. When this is over, I'd like to talk to you about ways to imbue other agents with your talents."

"I don't know about that," said Harris. "Things aren't what they used to be. I'm out of sync with the new FBI in more ways than one. Surely, they must have told you that."

"Not in those words," said Michael. "If being out of sync makes you as successful as you have been, it just may be that everyone except you is out of step."

"I've suspected that for some time," said Harris, with a broad grin.

"Good luck, Harris," said Michael, standing and extending his hand. “George, my secretary, right outside, will provide you with a list of numbers and names of the people that are at your service, if you can't reach me. The first two are the most important, and may be all you ever need. The others are just backup. However, I don't expect there to be many times that you can't reach me. If I don't hear from you regularly, you will surely hear from me."

"Yes, Sir," said Harris. "You'll hear from me. We'll get to the bottom of this."

"Of course we will," said Michael. Naturally, he was hoping that they wouldn't get anywhere near the bottom of it. He had just made sure that the FBI's best man was going to keep him informed of his every step. He had given him carte blanche. He had just increased his chances of knowing everything the intelligence community knew about his little project.

 

A Few Hours Later

 

"Everyone who has a clue will be watching the Supreme Court," said Michael, during a cyberconference with Rhett and Valerie. "Tomorrow, they hand down their decision on the right of the administration to arbitrarily suspend habeas corpus, and the Aliens' warning was explicit. Don't find unconstitutional laws constitutional. Nothing could be more unconstitutional than the law they are deciding. When you get right down to it, the Supreme Court has no authority to decide constitutionality at all."

"They need to come up with a better name for habeas corpus," said Valerie. "You can bet that a majority of the people couldn't give you a half-way accurate definition of it. I'm not even sure I can. I believe it is a demand that any arrested or detained person can make, to be put before a judge, and those holding him must prove that they have the legal authority to detain him. Essentially, they have to charge him with a specific crime or let him go."

"Sounds good to me," said Rhett.

"They could call it freedom from unlawful arrest," said Michael. "That is the basic principle involved, and it might make it easier to understand. Did you know that when the thirteen colonies initially broke away from England and formed the United States, every citizen was sovereign and could issue a writ of habeas corpus and present it to the government, and the government had to respond?"

"I didn't know that," said Valerie. "Imagine that--any citizen. What a difference from the way it is now."

"With the judges appointed by and in cahoots with the executive branch, habeas corpus has little significance, except in trivial matters," said Rhett. "The judges are just more foxes by another name, and nothing any of the foxes do is in the interest of us chickens."

"Isn't that the truth," said Valerie. "After our warning, let's see if they have the guts to still toe the administration's line, or if they do the right thing."

"Anyone want to bet on them doing the right thing?" asked Rhett. When no one responded, he said, "I thought not. That's okay. We are set for whatever happens."

The next day, as Rhett had predicted, the Supreme Court agreed in a five to four decision that the administration need not abide by the Constitution and could suspend habeas corpus, particularly now, when the nation was at war. It seemed to make no difference that, legally, the United States was not at war, that Congress, the only body able to declare war, had not declared war against anyone. Besides that the adversary in the so-called war had no name, was not a nation, an organization, or a person, only a vague idea. The United States was in an undeclared, therefore illegal war, against a nameless foe, and five justices of the Supreme Court said that justified ignoring the Constitution.

Several days went by, and people wondered if the Aliens were going to give the Supreme Court a pass on the habeas corpus decision. It was Friday afternoon, and the weather was particularly cool for June. The sky was dark and ominous. A great storm was brewing, as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court stepped out of a limousine and hurried toward the Gulfstream jet that was waiting for him. He hurried because he had been told that if they didn't leave in the next few minutes, they might be unable to leave for hours, due to the coming storm, and he didn't want to spend several hours at the Charlottesville-Albemarie Airport, waiting for the storm to pass. He chastised himself for not leaving immediately after delivering his commencement address at the University of Virginia School of Law. A United States Marshall saw him safely onto the plane and then got off and stood watching until the plane was airborne. Another Marshall would meet the plane at Dulles International Airport in Washington.

As soon as the Chief Justice was in his seat and his seat-belt securely fastened, the Gulfstream jet taxied to the end of the runway, turned, raced down the runway, lifted into the air, and vanished into the clouds. The flight was quite bumpy because of the turbulence, and the Chief Justice's head bobbed up and down. At first, the flight attendant thought he had dozed off, but as the turbulence got worse, his head snapped up and down so violently that he couldn't possibly be asleep. The attendant unbuckled his seat-belt and, holding onto the seats, made his way to the Chief Justice. His eyes were shut. How could he sleep in this rough weather? The attendant touched him on the shoulder. There was no response. He shook him. There was no response.

"Oh, my God," exclaimed the attendant. He made his way to the cockpit and told the pilot and co-pilot he thought the Chief Justice was dead.

"Take over, Mark," said the pilot. "I'll go check on him. He's probably just exhausted."

The pilot and the attendant returned to the Chief Justice's seat. The pilot picked up the Justice's limp arm and checked his pulse. "Oh shit," he gasped. "He really is dead." He stood staring at the body, as the head flopped from side to side. "I'll have to check and see what they want us to do about this."

Slipping back into his seat in the cockpit, he told the co-pilot, "He's dead as a doornail, all right. We were saying that he obviously didn't put any stock in the Aliens. It looks like he should have. Do you suppose they got to him somehow?"

"He was alive when he got on the plane," said the co-pilot. "How could they possibly get to him on the plane? Jerry is the only other person on board. I don't think he could possibly have killed him."

"Hell, no," said the pilot. "They could have got him with some delayed-action device or substance. The CIA supposedly has all sorts of ways to assassinate people and make it look like a natural death. If the CIA can do it, you know the Aliens can too. Anyone smart enough to get here from another planet is smarter than anyone on earth, much less some hit man for the CIA."

A moment later, the pilot was talking with a Deputy Assistant Director of the Judicial Security Division of the United States Marshals Service.

"Give me a minute," said the JSD officer. "Hang on for a minute." There was a brief wait, apparently while the officer made some arrangements with someone else. "Here are your instructions: Instead of Dulles, you will land at Andrews Air Force Base, which is closer and more secure. There will be an ambulance, U.S. Marshals, and possibly FBI there to meet you."

"Yes, Sir," said the pilot.

"Andrews will take over and bring you in," said the officer.

"Yes, Sir," said the pilot. He muted his microphone and said to the co-pilot, "I think we are going to have a long night. If it was the Aliens, why did they have to do it on our watch?"

The other four Supreme Court justices that voted to rule unconstitutional legislation as constitutional did not go home that day either. Instead, they went to the morgue. There was no clue as to how they died. The CIA suggested to the administration that they may have been killed by a rare gas which can be released by a mild electric current through a paper which had been saturated with a rare salt. Just why they would suspect this was not revealed.

There was an immediate media frenzy. The Court's failure to heed the Aliens' warnings had cost it terribly. A surprising majority of the commentary in the media cited a single sentence from the Constitution: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." It seemed impossible that anyone, much less a Supreme Court Justice, could conceivably construe that sentence to mean just the opposite of its obvious meaning. The media's ferocious attitude toward the Aliens was being replaced with a respectful one. Their commentaries implied, without saying it outright, that the five justices had ignored the Constitution and deserved what they got from the Aliens.

 

The next day, the offices of the top officers of the CIA were searched thoroughly for anything remotely dangerous or suspicious. Armed guards were posted outside these offices twenty-four hours a day. When the FBI got wind of this, their chiefs did the same thing. By the end of the week, some two thousand federal employees had put in for early retirement. The Capitol building had so many armed guards that it looked like it was prepared for an armed attack. However, no attackers materialized.

The Aliens had shifted their emphasis to the members of the Council for Foreign Relations, the CFR. There were over four thousand members of the CFR, but less than a third of those were primary targets. The CFR members were widely scattered, and most had little or no security and could be picked off rather easily. Within ten days over a hundred members of the CFR were dead. Hundreds more had publicly resigned, emphatically renouncing the CFR and its philosophy, saying they had joined merely as a career move. None of those who resigned publicly were harmed.

There was outrage and terror from the survivors at or near the top of the power pyramid. Among those few citizens that were somewhat aware of what was going on and were cheered by it, there was guarded glee and optimism. However, even though nearly all the world was aware of the Aliens' messages, the majority of the people remained about as apathetic as ever.

There were calls for investigations, but they, like the reports on results of the search for the source of the e-mails, were from anonymous sources. By now, no one wanted to be identified as working against the people that sent the e-mails, regardless of whether they were aliens or not. Whoever or whatever they were, it was obviously dangerous to cross them. There was some information on the paths the e-mails had traveled, but the origin of the e-mails was still unknown. Several million of the e-mails were found to have emanated from AT&T's hosting service central server. AT&T quickly denied any connection to the e-mails, saying someone had obviously hacked their server.

 

Washington, DC

Homeland Security

 

Michael plugged a tiny flash drive into his online computer, downloaded his private, personal e-mail, and moved it to his off line computer, where he decrypted it. Everyone in the group was extremely careful never to allow any sensitive material in an unencrypted form on any computer that might ever be connected to the Internet. He skimmed through his mail and was about to securely erase it, when he stopped and went back to one e-mail from Valerie and re-read it.

If nothing else, the massive outpouring of articles about the Aliens proves one thing: most of the writers either don't think at all or are so superficial in their thinking that they are truly a disgrace to the species. Finally seeing one article suggesting the author is fully evolved restores a little of my faith in the possible future of mankind. If you have the time, look at this article by Ted Trimble of the Orange County Register.

Michael rubbed his chin as he thought. An idea was forming. He copied the link onto his flash drive, moved it to his Internet computer, and clicked on it. He read Trimble's article. He zipped through the introduction, in which Trimble had said that he had originally felt that no matter who or what was behind the attacks on the Power Elite, they had to be bad guys, perhaps even worse than the Power Elite, but as time passed, he started having doubts. So far, so good, thought Michael, and he read on.

The strike on the Bilderberg meeting tells me that the Power Elite that have been running things in recent times are not responsible. I have read hundreds of commentaries on the matter, and I am familiar with the theory that one segment of the Power Elite wants to eliminate all the rest and the theory that the Mafia or some other group wants to eliminate the Power Elite and take over the reins of power. The idea that any group wants to eliminate the Power Elite so that it can assume the mantle of power just doesn't hold water any longer. Whoever is behind this is offering to spare any member of the government and the Power Elite who will do the right thing, the things they should have been doing all along were they decent human beings. They are eliminating those that abuse their power. They are essentially destroying or attempting to destroy excessive government power. If a group wanted to assume control of the government for criminal reasons, they would hardly want to weaken the government. If the government loses its power over the people, control of the government is of little benefit to anyone, except those interested in freedom.

If you turn on the television and you see that a group of bandits has taken a family hostage and is ravishing them, and suddenly, a masked man, on a white horse, comes along and starts shooting the bandits. What is your assumption about the masked man? "Who is that masked man?" you ask. 'Why is he killing those bad guys?' You might think that he wants to get rid of the bandits so that he can take their place and ravish the family himself. However, you are more likely to assume that he is rescuing the family, meaning he is a good guy.

The article continued a bit, and then Trimble offered his conclusion.

My guess is that whoever is behind this is not doing it to take control of the government or to exercise coercive power over the people. They could really be aliens trying to make the planet safe for a possible refuge for themselves. If they are not aliens, then my guess is that they are patriots, trying to defeat the powerful enemies of freedom the best way they know how. They may have the best interests of mankind in mind, or they may just be trying to insure their own personal freedom and realize that, in order to do so, they have to insure the freedom of everyone else. Whichever is the case, we can only hope that they succeed.

Note: I am not advocating the overthrow of our government. On the contrary, I am merely hoping that it is being rescued from those that overthrew it long ago.

Valerie was right, thought Michael. This Trimble was thinking. Michael was thinking too, about how he might use Trimble to their advantage.

 

A few days later

Homeland Security

 

"Mister Harris," called Michael, hurrying to catch Pete Harris, whom he saw going toward the elevator.

Harris looked around and, seeing Michael waving at him, came back down the hall to meet him. "You want to see me?" he asked.

"I expected to hear from you before now," said Michael. "Maybe I didn't make myself clear on how completely I want to be kept informed of any progress."

"Progress?" said Harris. "It's only been three days."

"I don't mean that I only want to know when you have solved it," said Michael. "I want to know what is going on every step of the way."

"Okay. You want to talk here or in your office?"

"Let's go to my office, if it's going to take more than a couple of sentences," said Michael.

As they walked back to Michael's office, Harris said, "There are a lot of people working on this, all around the world. I don't see anyone getting anywhere. If they are, they are damned sure keeping it to themselves. Personally, I think just about all of them are wasting their time."

Michael shut his office door behind them and motioned for Harris to sit down, as he settled into his own chair behind his desk. There was a brief exchange of small talk.

"I get the impression that you are not exactly fond of the Regnant family," said Michael. "Do you have any particular reason or do you dislike everyone that has a lot of money, in which case, you should never buy a lottery ticket, because you might win, and then you would be obliged to hate yourself."

For a moment, Harris looked at Michael as if he couldn't believe what he had just heard. Then he burst out laughing. "That's good, very good," he said. "I don't hate everyone with money, but so far I haven't met everyone with money. If I had met them all, I might hate them all. I don't know. However, I don't see myself hating you, and it's my understanding you have some big bucks. So maybe your grandfather was a traitor. My great-grandfather was a horse thief, which, in my book, is a step or two up from traitor. Nevertheless, our dead ancestors have nothing to do with us, except in a possible unreasonable effect on our prejudices about each other. So far, it has never even occurred to me to steal a horse. If your grandfather sold war materials to our enemies, that doesn't mean you would."

'Not only that," said Michael, "but it would not surprise me in the least to find out that the enemy that my grandfather sold things to was under the control of the same people that were controlling the U.S. government. They probably put our enemies in power and started the war so they could sell arms to both sides. That practice has been going on for a long, long time, and more or less the same people have been doing it all along."

"You weren't adopted, were you?" asked Harris.

"No," said Michael. "Are you inferring that I don't match your idea of a typical robber baron?"

"So far, you don't," said Harris.

Michael smiled. He may as well have been adopted. He definitely was not Claude Regnant's son. In all but the legal formalities, he had been adopted by Claude Regnant. "I can't say that you are the straight-laced, all-business Sherlock Holmes I expected either. I guess that makes us even. Let's get down to business. What makes you think most of the people working on this are wasting their time?"

"Most people are looking for either terrorists or some government-backed effort. I think the chances of it being either of those is approximately zero. The same goes for the idea that some of the Power Elite are trying to eliminate the rest so that their piece of the pie is bigger. Nor is it some sophisticated Mafia trying to take over from the Power Elite. It is more likely to really be aliens than any of those. None of those is going to be advocating reducing government power. Anyone who wants to take over the government would generally want the government to have as much power as possible, not as little as possible. Whoever or whatever is behind this is not looking to take over the world or even the nation. Quite the contrary. They are concentrating on the USA, saying it is the most oppressive and the most likely to destroy the earth. That is probably true, although we do have a lot of international support."

"We seem to be working hard at being number one in those areas," said Michael. He wondered if Harris had read Ted Trimble's article. It sounded almost as though he were paraphrasing it.

"If the people we are looking for are not Americans, then they are probably afraid of America, afraid we are going to conquer the world, a few countries at a time, or at least try to. Even if their nation is bad, they might be afraid to weaken their own government first, because the U.S. would move in and make things even worse. Even if we don't openly take a country over, we take control of it by putting in a puppet government. A lot of people believe, and with good reason, that the U.S. government is planning to take over the world. Personally, I suspect the U.S. government is under the control of people who are aching to take over the world, and they use the government as a super, powerful tool, their enforcer, so to speak. On the other hand, if the people we are looking for are foreigners, they have an excellent grasp of how things are here. They know their way around. They don't make many mistakes, if any. My guess is that at least some of them must be Americans."

"Go on," said Michael. "You are making sense, so far."

"Since they are apparently trying to liberate the country, not take it over, they could be some kind of militia group--maybe a Special Forces or CIA-type militia. They could be a coalition of people from the military, Special Forces, CIA, FBI, etc., people who drew a line in the sand, and the government crossed it. When the CEO of that big network was shot in his office by one of his own vice-presidents, the shooter doesn’t remember doing it. He passed a dozen lie detector tests, denying having done it. That makes me wonder if he wasn’t a CIA MKUltra product—a Manchurian Candidate. Sirhan didn’t remember shooting Robert Kennedy either. They could be a select group that feels that if they don't stop the trend toward totalitarianism, it could soon be too late. If we were up against an elite group like that, we could have a hard time pinning them down. There could be a lot of them still in active service. They could even be some of those supposedly looking for the Aliens. That way, they would know everything we know about them, even though right now, that is next to nothing. But if we do start uncovering anything, they could be aware of it, instantly. Did you notice that when the Capitol, the White House, the Pentagon, and so forth started quadrupling security, they moved their activity to the CFR members? They appear to know what is going on inside our buildings."

"If that is the case, you or I could be one of them," said Michael.

"I could be," said Harris, "but I'm not. I can't see a prominent member of the Power Elite, like you, being one of them, either. It is possible, I suppose, but highly unlikely. An organization of military and intelligence people could be almost impossible to crack, especially if there are enough of them. What if there are enough of them that any individual member only takes part in one hit, and then goes back to being a model citizen, at least for a long time, maybe a year or more. That way, if you suspected one of them, you could stake him out for a year, and you would see absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. I was thinking, too, that even if you caught one in the act, he might not know the identity of any other person in the organization. So catching one of them wouldn't really help you at all. I don't think any of these people will turn out to be your ordinary man on the street like Joe Six-pack or a stereotype militiaman. I think they will turn out to be--if we ever know anything about them and if they are not aliens--educated, dedicated, sharp, la crème de la crème, and probably quite patriotic."

"You have been thinking about this in depth, haven't you?" Michael was truly amazed by Harris' analysis of the situation.

"Yes, I have. I have yet to really get started, so I had nothing concrete to tell you. Before I start looking or chasing, I like to do a lot of thinking. You waste a lot less time, if you eliminate a lot of unnecessary work before you start. "

"Is that normal for you? Is that why you have such a perfect record?"

"Pretty much," said Harris. "Like I said, you get where you're going a lot quicker if you plan your trip than if you go off in all directions."

"That certainly makes sense," said Michael.

"There is one other possibility that could be the most important of all," said Harris.

"What's that?"

"What if they really are aliens, like they say? What if everything they tell us is true? If we are successful, you and I could bring on the eradication of the human race on earth. Have you considered that?"

"Yes," said Michael. "I do think about that, a lot. Like you, I think they are probably people like us, but as of now, there is no way to know for sure. If they are aliens, we may not know until we are being wiped out."

"Scary, isn't it?"

"Very," said Michael.

They were both silent for a while.

"What if we left them alone?" asked Michael.

"Good question," said Harris. "If you and I left them alone, it wouldn't make much difference, since there are thousands of others working on this. If they were really left alone, I think the world might end up a lot better off. That's just my opinion. Of course, if my name were Regnant, I would probably have a different point of view."

"You may not have noticed, but the Regnants are doing a lot of good things lately," said Michael. "I don't know if there are enough good things to make up for the bad things we did in the past. We have always done some good things, but lately, we have stepped it up a lot."

"Trying to get off the Aliens' list?" asked Harris, with a chuckle. "There's probably a lot of that going on, and there’s sure to be a lot more. The Power Elite have good reason to be worried."

"Not all people that have a lot of money and power are evil," said Michael. "I think my grandfather may have been evil. My father not so. I was never evil. Not that I never did anything wrong, everyone does, but I never intentionally initiated violence against anyone. You have to consider a few things about a family like mine. The way things are structured and run in this country, someone is going to move in and control the government because it is so very profitable to do so. There will then be those that manipulate the government so that the government takes the people's money and indirectly transfers it to them. If you aren't on the receiving end of the government's money transfers, you will be on the giving end. We prefer getting money, as opposed to giving it. If things were as they should be, the government wouldn't be able to rip its citizens off, and there would be no point in subverting it. Unfortunately, the majority of the people can't or won't see that, and the situation is not likely to be corrected ever."

"Unless the Aliens correct it," said Harris. "I think they just might do it, if we don't stop them first."

 

After Harris left, Michael sat thinking for some time. It had been a strange conversation. He wondered why Harris had told him all that. He almost felt that Harris didn't want to stop what was going on, that he approved of it. If that were so, why would he change his mind and decide not to take early retirement so he could work on finding the people behind the assassinations. Maybe he decided to keep working before deciding that he liked what the Aliens were doing. He liked Harris. He seemed very astute. He had heard no one else come so close to defining their little group. It wasn't really so little any more, he thought. There were quite a few people involved. Some didn’t even know of their own involvement. Others believed or suspected that they were working for the Aliens. None of them knew who or what was really behind it. Harris even had that right. Now that Rhett was seldom out in the field, if one of their assassins were caught in the act, he couldn't identify anyone. They went to great lengths to accomplish that isolation. It had to be that way. The enemy was ubiquitous. They infiltrated everything. The only way to keep from having your organization infiltrated by the government was not to have an organization, not to admit anyone--never or very rarely, and then only when absolutely necessary and you trusted the person implicitly. So they had no real organization. They had a lot of people that had been recruited without actually knowing it. These people answered to someone they didn't know and so, couldn't identify. They had pushed the idea of the Manchurian Candidate to the limit. Their enemies actually did a lot of their work for them, without any knowledge of it, of course. It was so ironic, he thought, that some of the very people looking for the Aliens, whether they knew it or not, had either worked for them in the past or might very well work for them in the future. They were actually searching for themselves, so to speak. Valerie had once said it put a whole new meaning on trying to find yourself.

He really liked it that Harris wondered if they shouldn't let the Aliens do their thing, because the world would be a lot better off without these people, and if they really were aliens and they tried to stop them, they could cause the elimination of all the people on the face of the earth. That was something that he thought the people should really be worried about. Strangely enough, you didn't hear much talk about that. Maybe they should do something about that. What?

Chapter 15

A Few Days Later

Michael's Office

 

"Come in, Mister Trimble," said Michael, with his hand extended to Trimble. "I appreciate your coming all this way, at my request."

"I'd have gone around the world a few times for an exclusive interview," said Trimble.

"You only have it exclusive for forty-eight hours," said Michael. "Then, you must let the wire services have it. That is our deal--that and no personal questions."

"That's fine with me," said Trimble.

“Let’s do it," said Michael.

“Very well,” said Trimble, setting a tiny recorder on the desk. “Given the major assault on the so-called Power Elite, are you, as a prominent member of the Power Elite, concerned for your own safety?"

"Before I respond to that question, let me thank you for not assuming that I am one of those responsible for the attacks."

"In my recent article, I wrote that a faction of the power elite wanting to eliminate the others and have it all to themselves would hardly be trying to force the government to weaken itself and abide by the Constitution," said Trimble.

"In that article, you also concluded that those responsible are either aliens, as the e-mails declare, or they are patriots trying to roll back the excesses of government. What if a few members of the Power Elite were patriots, and they decided to use their power for good, instead of evil?"

"Good Lord," exclaimed Trimble. "That hadn't occurred to me. You just demolished my article. You said you thought it was great, and then you make it rather meaningless."

"Not at all," said Michael. "It merely needed a few additional words, changing your conclusion to say that no group of the Power Elite would seem likely to be responsible, unless they were a group of patriots. I know quite a few members of the Power Elite, and I would imagine the percentage of patriots among them is as high as it is in the rest of the population, if not higher. I don't know if they could be quite that patriotic, but in my position, I can't afford to overlook a single possibility. Now, to your question: of course, I am concerned for my safety. Under the current circumstances, I would be a complete fool not to be. You can be sure that I am taking every precaution. However, the Bilderbergs had a small army around them. They had helicopters and fighter planes patrolling overhead, and look what happened to them. If I hadn't already been in this position before the Bilderberg strike, I doubt that I would have been brave enough to accept it after the strike. However, I was already here, and I am not a quitter. I will do my best do live up to my oath." He smiled inwardly. He was truly doing his best to live up to his oath of office and defend the Constitution.

"We are talking about an international incident, as far as the victims are concerned, but the strike was on Spanish soil. How is the investigation being divided among the nations affected?" asked Trimble.

"In my opinion," said Michael, "things are not being coordinated as well as they should be. In a way, that is to be expected. Even if it were possible to set up a compact, smooth-running organization to handle a worldwide investigation, with so many nations involved, it would take a long, long time to set up. The delay would surely work to the advantage of the perpetrators. They might run out of people to eliminate before the investigation got any traction.

"You can say," Michael continued, "that Spain is in charge of investigating what happened in Spain, with ample support from every country with an interest. Other countries are looking for any connections that they can find inside their own borders. Because of our extraordinary facilities and the fact that the so-called Aliens are concentrating on the U.S., we are at the forefront, putting it all together. We are working closely with everyone involved, and we share our information with all of them. This is, without a doubt, the biggest manhunt in history."

"How is it going?" asked Trimble. "Have you any clues or leads? Is there any progress that you can talk about?

"With all the thousands of people involved in the investigation, it might be easier to keep a solar eclipse secret than our progress in this case. We have more clues and leads than we know what to do with," said Michael. "Clues and leads are as plentiful as grains of sand on the beach. Most of them are probably just as useful as those grains of sand, when it comes to finding the people we are looking for. The number of people working on this is huge. Everyone wants to come up with a lead that helps solve the case. They send us everything they come across. We can't afford to toss anything out without checking it. Our biggest task is to separate the wheat from the chaff, if there is any wheat. As to any hot leads we are pursuing, I am not at liberty to discuss those, or to tell you if there are any. I can say that, at the moment, no one has been charged."

"I sense that you are a little frustrated with the way the investigation is being handled. Is that so?"

"I would think that every law enforcement official is frustrated anytime a major case is still unresolved," said Michael. "That is normal. As to the way this case is being handled, I started on day one, setting up a task force to my liking. It is just about ready to take over our part of the investigation. It will have access to everything we know, but they are on their own and make their own decisions as to whether to share anything they find. That may irk some people, but so be it."

"We keep hearing that Muslim terrorists are responsible. That is being touted as a reason to invade Iran. What have you to say about that?

"It is a common practice to blame one's problems on those one wants to attack," said Michael. "That has been going on for centuries, and becoming more popular all the time. What difference does it make if they are Muslims, Christians, or atheists? If we find that the perpetrators are Jewish, do we bomb Israel? If we find they are Shintos, do we bomb Japan--again? If we find that U.S. citizens are to blame, are we to bomb ourselves? The religion and the nationality of those responsible may very well be irrelevant. If you, as an individual, take a trip to Russia and bomb the Hermitage, should Russia's response be to nuke the United States, just because you are an American? I don't think so. You have to have a really warped mind to make that kind of connection."

"With those remarks, aren't you risking losing your job?" asked Trimble.

"Anyone who wants my job enough to live with the giant target I have painted on my chest is welcome to it," said Michael.

"With all the obstacles you face, are you optimistic about your chances of success?"

'I am quite optimistic," said Michael. "Edison failed ten thousand times to make an electric light bulb before he made a filament of tungsten. He remained optimistic, saying, 'Look how many things I know won't work.' Look how many suspects we can eliminate. If we keep eliminating possible suspects long enough, we will be left with the guilty parties, won't we? But seriously, I imagine that in the mountain of evidence and leads that we have right now, we have what we need to lead us to the perpetrators. All we have to do is follow up all those leads."

"Has it occurred to you that a government is behind it?"

"Of course," said Michael. "Any nation with a history of false flag attacks is automatically a prime suspect when a possible false flag attack occurs. Obviously, the mode of operation of such a country could be imitated by any other nation."

"Could you suspect a nation, even though a significant number of their own might have been victims?"

"I would tend to be even more suspicious in that case," said Michael. "That is a leading indicator. False Flag attacks are most effective and most often carried out against one's own people.'

"You know that you invite a lot of protests with that statement."

"Shakespeare said, 'Methinks the lady doth protest too much,' meaning anyone that protests that much must be guilty. The guiltier they are, the louder they protest the accusations of their accusers," said Michael. "It's a dead give-away."

"No matter who is behind it," said Trimble, "they seem to want to weaken or even eliminate the government's control over the people. This is difficult to understand for almost any party that one would ordinarily suspect. Even though you don't know who is responsible, what is your best guess, personally? Not officially, but personally?"

Michael paused for a moment. He began slowly and thoughtfully. "You find it surprising that they want to reduce or eliminate the power of government over the people," he said. "To me, that tends to make me believe that it is a patriot group. A patriot is one who loves and defends his country. It is not one who loves and defends his government. In fact, throughout history, almost all the patriots that fought for their country fought against their own oppressive government. Those that succeeded are known today as patriots. Those who failed are generally branded by their government as terrorists. Today, the retaliatory power of government is awesome. The surveillance capability of the government is equally awesome. There are those that believe, and, perhaps rightly so, that the government is a tool of the Power Elite, that the elections make little or no difference, as the Power Elite will never give them anyone to vote for that isn't in the pocket of the Power Elite. Were that the case, working within the system would be futile. If I were in charge of a patriot group sufficiently concerned with restoring the USA to the constitutional republic that it once was, I would eliminate the Power Elite, and then their puppets in the government, if I could. My personal best guess is that either we are really up against aliens, or it is a powerful, well-organized patriot group. Their ability to obscure themselves and everything about them makes me think that they may be, at least in part, composed of people from the intelligence community. However, I have absolutely no evidence to support this guess. It is based solely on my personal, logical conclusions. As you say, every other suspect would want to strengthen government's control over people. Moreover, there is no doubt that they have some advanced intelligence and technology. Everything they do is done very professionally. At least, it seems to be."

"You surprise me," said Trimble. "For the Director of Homeland Security to call these people patriots, when the rest of the government and the media are calling them terrorists is surprising."

"One man's terrorist is another man's patriot," said Michael. "In England's opinion, the heroes of the American Revolution were terrorists, yet we call them patriots. Almost by definition, those who struggle to be free in their own land are patriots. If these people are not aliens, then what else are they aiming at, if not to be free? That doesn't mean that they will get away with it. The South wanted to be free, but Lincoln had other ideas, and he prevailed. I suspect the government will prevail in this case too. I am charged with saving this country from those who would destroy it and I am resolved to my best to do exactly that."

"What if they really are aliens?" asked Trimble.

Finally, thought Michael, Trimble had asked the question he had been invited to ask. Now, he could give the answer that he had been waiting to give. "If they are what they say they are, I would think we either comply with their wishes or we will be destroyed completely. The history of mankind may come to an abrupt end, with the elimination of all the people," said Michael.

"That is pretty scary," said Trimble. "Do you think there is much chance that they are really aliens?"

"Until we have some evidence one way or the other," said Michael, "I think there is a fifty-fifty chance either way. Flip a coin. Heads they are aliens. Tails they are not. Barring evidence, it is completely unknown whether they are telling the truth or not."

"Good Lord," said Trimble. "If they are aliens, should you be opposing them and risking the end of mankind?"

"Just trying to identify them isn't the same as opposing them," said Michael. "I can't begin to tell you how extremely touchy the situation is. No matter how little confidence we have in the story of the Aliens, we have no more evidence that they are lying than we do that they are telling the truth. At the moment, we don't have any proof of anything, or we could quit looking for them. But let us say that there is a fifty-fifty chance that they really are aliens, or a ninety to ten, or a ninety-nine to one chance. What if they really are aliens? I don't think they are, but what if they are? They say they plan to eliminate a few thousand people, and if that doesn't work or they are stopped somehow, they will eliminate all six or seven billion of us, every human on the face of the earth. I don't know about anyone else, but I consider that a very serious threat. I would hate to be the one who caused the death of every man, woman, and child that exists anywhere on earth. We have killed a million and a half people in the Middle East since 9/11, in order to promote democracy. I consider killing a million and a half people mass murder, and I would not be a party to it. The death of six billion plus people is mind-boggling for me, and it should be for everyone. While the death of the few thousand leaders that the Aliens threaten is hardly desirable, I am hesitant to risk the lives of six billion to save such a small number. Furthermore, if they are aliens and we force them to follow through on their threats, the people we are trying to save will die anyway. Until we have credible proof that it is someone other than aliens, we have to consider that our actions could bring about your death, my death, everyone's death. No more people alive anywhere, ever again is something very, very serious, deadly serious. So don't think we in Homeland Security aren't thinking of that. I should think everyone who is capable of thinking is thinking about that."

The mood of the interview had changed. The seriousness of the situation weighed on Trimble, and he became very somber. He asked about half a dozen more questions, and was ready to wind up the interview. He turned off the recorder and put it in his pocket.

"You said no personal questions," said Trimble. "I assume that eliminates one question that most readers would wonder about: Why would you give up your luxurious Regnant lifestyle for the thankless post of Director of Homeland Security, but I have another question, which may or may not be personal. It has to do with your activities at the Bonnie Dwaine Bed and Breakfast." He knew he was taking a huge risk by asking this question, but he couldn't resist. If he didn't ask it, he would never forgive himself.

Although completely surprised by the question, Michael managed to hide his shock. "What do you know about the Bonnie Dwaine?" he asked, calmly.

"Not nearly enough," said Trimble. He didn't want to admit that he knew almost nothing about it. He would let Regnant wonder how much he knew.

"What happened at the Bonnie Dwaine was not personal, not as you would generally use the term. Naturally, there was personal involvement, as I was there. However, it is something which is definitely off limits for this or any other interview. I asked you here today because of your article on the possible explanations for the attacks on the Power Elite. I deduced that you were a rare, rational journalist. I also think that I see in you a sense of decency, which is about as rare as rationality these days. I am going to make an appeal to both of those facets of your makeup. I am going to ask you to forget about the Bonnie Dwaine for the time being. I can only tell you that public knowledge of it could be very detrimental to some very nice people, and I sense that you are the kind of person that would be ashamed of having made it public, once you realized the consequences and had time to think about it. I have given my word not to talk about it, and keeping my word has always been important to me. I can't stop you if you insist on making known whatever you know about it, but I do ask you not to do so."

"You are asking a lot," said Trimble. "Does anyone, other than those that were at the Bonnie Dwaine with you know about it?"

"Not that I know of," said Michael. "I can promise you that if I think the matter is going to be made public, which I doubt, or if, for whatever reason, the publicity would no longer be harmful to those involved, I will contact you and tell you everything I know about it. Then, you can make up your own mind about whether you wish to keep it to yourself or not."

"You have done me a huge favor by granting me an exclusive interview," said Trimble. "I will return the favor under your conditions. You have my word to keep it to myself."

"Good," said Michael. "I trust you, and you can trust me to keep my word. Furthermore, since you were so understanding, while I can't promise it, I will do my best to give you advance notice when we have a major breakthrough in our investigation. You can understand that I may not be able to, but if I can, I will. Are we through then?"

"I believe we are," said Trimble. "Thank you, Mister Regnant, for your time and your candor. You have been very kind to me." He extended his hand to Michael, who took it.

"I admire your rationality," said Michael, holding onto Trimble's hand. "After reading your article on the alien story, I read several articles from your archive. You don't proffer opinion as fact, as do most so-called journalists. You show all the likely answers to a question, and state your conclusions as being your conclusions, nothing more. That demonstrates honesty and integrity, which I appreciate in anyone, but especially in one who influences the opinions of others." He suddenly jerked Trimble's hand, and caught him as he fell forward.

My God, thought Michael. It worked. I actually did it. It was the first time he had hypnotized anyone except in training. "Go deeper and deeper to sleep," he droned to Trimble, numerous times. "Listen only to my voice. You can open your eyes now. Tell me your name."

"Ted Trimble"

"What paper do you work for, Ted?"

"The Orange County Register."

"Have you been to the Bonnie Dwaine Bed and Breakfast?"

"Yes."

"Why did you go to the Bonnie Dwaine?"

Trimble told him about his friend in the FBI and the credit card records.

"What did you see at the Bonnie Dwaine?" asked Michael.

Trimble told him about parking down the street and seeing the threesome go out walking to a restaurant. He also told about following Rhett and Valerie to Rhett's place.

"Do you know the names of the man and woman that you followed from the Bonnie Dwaine?"

"I know the man's name," said Trimble. "I don't know the woman’s name."

"How did you get the man's name?"

"I had a trace run on his license plate," said Trimble.

"What else do you know about them?"

Trimble explained that he knew Rhett had been in Special Forces and retired a few years ago. He knew nothing about Valerie at all.

What do I do now? Michael asked himself. He would find out if Trimble was trustworthy. "Do you intend to tell anyone about the Bonnie Dwaine and Rhett Bartlett?"

"No."

"Why wouldn't you tell anyone?"

"I promised not to tell anyone."

"Not telling anyone is good," said Michael. "Telling anyone anything about the Bonnie Dwaine or about Rhett Bartlett is bad, very bad. If you told anyone, you would feel so very bad. You couldn't stand how bad it would make you feel. You know that telling would make you feel terrible, so you will never tell anyone. If you decided to tell anyone, you would feel so bad, that you wouldn't want to live, which would be terrible. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"So you will never tell anyone about the Bonnie Dwaine or having seen anyone there. Will you?"

"No, I won't tell anyone."

"I'm going to count to three," said Michael. "When I get to three, you will wake up and you will remember nothing of our conversation about the Bonnie Dwaine and Rhett Bartlett, absolutely nothing at all. But you will never tell anyone about the Bonnie Dwaine or anything that you saw there. One. Two. Three."

"That makes two of us," said Trimble, in response to Michael's remark just before he was hypnotized. For him, the intervening time had not occurred.

"I realize that," said Michael, as he accompanied Trimble to the door. "I'd appreciate it if you would send me a copy of the interview, when it's published. I would probably get it anyway, but I can't depend on it."

"Of course," said Trimble. "I'll send you a link to the article if it is online, which it probably will be, and I'll send you a copy of the paper and a clipping of the article."

"Thank you," said Michael. "Keep up the good work."

"I'll do my best," said Trimble.

"I know you will," said Michael.

 

Michael's remarks in the interview went around the world like wildfire. They were in every paper and on every radio station. The mainstream media was in a quandary. Having no orders on how to handle it, they just reported it and said they hoped that, if there was the slightest evidence that aliens truly were behind the killings, the government wouldn't be belligerent toward them. Their threat to eradicate the human race on earth was terrifying, at best. Overnight, millions of ordinary people began to believe that what the so-called Aliens were doing was beneficial, and if they were frustrated by stupid government actions, they could wipe out the whole world forever. A consensus was beginning to grow that the Aliens should be left alone. The people they were killing deserved it, and if some of them didn't, they were, as the military says, collateral damage. Maybe the Aliens would clean house and the world would be a better place without all the criminals in and out of office.

 

Two Days Later

The White House

 

Michael walked into the Oval Office. He had been expecting the President to take him to task. He was surprised that it had taken so long.

"Good afternoon, Mister President," said Michael. "You wanted to talk to me?"

"I know I told you that you would have considerable autonomy, when I offered you your job," said the President. "However, there have to be some limits."

"I can understand that," said Michael.

"When the five Supreme Court justices were assassinated, you made a public statement that you thought it was because they had held suspension of habeas corpus to be constitutional, and when the Secretary of State was assassinated, you made a public statement that she had said that we had intelligence that told us that Iran was behind the alien e-mails, but you had no knowledge of any such intelligence, and if you had, you wouldn't be saying it in public. You then said that misleading the public is getting very risky these days. But all that is nothing compared to your impromptu interview a few days ago, when you implied that it wouldn't be a bad idea to leave the Aliens alone, because if they really were aliens, and we pissed them off, they would wipe out everyone on earth. I thought you knew that pinning this alien stuff on Iran was our policy. If not, you do now. How about making a statement that you were wrong and you found that there is such evidence? After that you could maybe curtail reminding the public about the god-damned Aliens."

"Mister President, I don't know about everyone else, but I'm not about to commit suicide for any job. I don't need a job. If you want, I'll resign, and you can replace me with someone who will peddle the Iran story. He will probably get assassinated right away, so you better get a string of replacements lined up. Think about it. If you do find someone that is willing to commit suicide for the job, you'll have found an idiot. You know I was right about the Supreme Court and the Secretary of State, and you know I am right about the Director of Homeland Security."

"Okay. Okay," said the President. "I imagine you are right. But you don't have to publicize your opinions" He got up and paced the floor behind his desk. "We have to find out who is behind this alien crap. Aren't you having any luck at all?"

"Unfortunately, we will never know if we are having any luck until one of our leads takes us to whomever or maybe whatever is behind this. We may have found that lead and are working on it right now. We have thousands of leads, but until one pans out, we won't know if we have the right one. The whole world is working on this, Mister President. Every government on earth wants the Aliens put away. But if they turn out to really be aliens, look out. What good will it do to move a little closer to a one-world government, if it brings the world to an end?"

"I know," said the President. "Everyone is getting jumpy, including me. I gave a speech in France last week, and I decided to remove the part about stopping the Aliens. So, you see they have me running scared. You have to get them, Michael."

"Thousands of agents are doing their level best, Mister President. Whoever or whatever we are up against is very sharp. So far, they haven't left a clue as to who they are. The missiles that hit the Bilderberg conference were undoubtedly ours. Half of the world, at least, thinks we might have done it. The general consensus is that if it wasn’t aliens, it was either us or Israel, who has thousands of our missiles."

"Our missiles are everywhere," said the President.

"True," said Michael. "Anyway, the people we are after, the Aliens, have them too. They seem to have everything they need to get the people they want and to remain completely unknown. Aren't you a little afraid of them?"

"A little? I'm scared shitless," said the President. "I can hardly move, there are so many people guarding me. I have cut my public appearances to nearly zero. I may start traveling in a tank."

"What are you going to do if their story is true, and they really are aliens, Mister President?"

"That is one thing we haven't even planned for," said the President. He paled slightly. "Don't tell me that you have some evidence that they are really aliens."

"No," said Michael. "But, on the other hand, we don't have any evidence whatsoever that they are not. Maybe, you should have some kind of plan, just in case."

"I hate to say it, but I agree," said the President. "We would certainly have to keep that secret. You too, Michael. The people would be terrified if they believed everyone on earth could be wiped out."

"Look on the bright side," said Michael. "They might not be terrified for long."

"That is not funny, Michael."

"It wasn't meant to be funny. You could say it was deadly serious. Furthermore, you, Mister President, could be the one responsible for the end of mankind. How does that make you feel?"

Chapter 16

Kirk Denton's Home

 

"Well, Michael," said Kirk Denton, "a lot has been happening out there since I last saw you. Those Aliens are really stirring things up. When the first round of e-mails came out, practically no one took them seriously. Then they took out the Bilderbergs, which most people had never heard of. People have surely heard of them now, and my guess is that quite a lot of them don't know whether to condemn the Aliens or to cheer them. Me, I'm cheering them on. I love it. I don't know who is doing it, and I don't give a damn. God bless them, whoever they are."

"Shame on you for advocating murder," said Michael, with a grin.

"We step on cockroaches," said Denton, "and nobody complains about it being murder, even though, technically, it is. The vermin they are killing are human, and that makes it different. Cockroaches are just minding their own business, and we kill them. These human vermin are responsible for the deaths of millions of people and are or were aiming to eliminate billions. The human vermin don't walk up to the people and kill them like the murderer that we hang or electrocute or imprison for life, they use stealth and subterfuge. They send microbes to make people sick and die, and they make money selling them medicine in the interim. They arrange wars, and they sell weapons to both sides and loan both sides counterfeit or stolen money to pay for the weapons and the war. They arrange famines, and they may even have found out how to create natural disasters, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Those human vermin make cockroaches appear as blessings from heaven, by contrast. More power to the Aliens. Naturally, the people won't have a clue as to how lucky they are that the Aliens are liberating them. They had no clue that they needed liberating. They have no clue about anything outside their range of vision, and they seem quite nearsighted."

"If we find the Aliens, you can thank them," said Michael. "I understand your position, and I agree with you. You know that, officially, I am supposed to condemn our liberation, as you call it." He wished he could let Denton in on what was going on, but that could be very risky, and it wouldn't accomplish anything, logistically speaking.

"I haven't seen you for quite a while," said Denton. "I just find you, and you are gone again. Not really, I guess. I just like seeing you more often. I wish we could be open about it, but I can certainly understand that could complicate things for you."

"In several ways," said Michael. "Some of them, I can't go into, right now, but there are plenty of obviously important ones. I couldn't have gotten my job as Director of Homeland Security had I not been a Regnant. I can do a lot of good in that position, if only by preventing the harm that would occur with someone else in it. I couldn't be financing your efforts to build a non-partisan group, if I weren't a Regnant. How is that going, by the way? I never see or hear anything about it in the news, but that is to be expected. I have seen a little mention of it on some of the Internet news sites you put me onto."

"It is agonizingly slow," said Denton. "Did you know there are around a hundred political parties in the United States? We are like some of the European countries, where everyone wants to have his own party. The trouble is that they are all competing and dividing the vote. Of course, the Democrats and the Republicans still get ninety-five percent of the votes. That means that, at the most, only five percent of the votes might be cast for candidates worth a damn. The people say they vote for one of the two major parties so that they won't throw away their vote. That is the surest way there is to throw away your vote, and throw away your freedom, your money, and a lot more, maybe even your life."

"You are preaching to the choir," said Michael. "This Homeland Security job has been a real eye-opener for me. I knew things were bad. I knew they were horrible. Believe me, they are much, much worse than anyone can imagine. I don't know who it was that said, 'I always expect the worst, but it's always worse than I expected,' but that is the way it really is. I don't think anyone knows how bad things really are. That may sound silly, but it isn't. It's like the federal budget. No one person can ever know where all the money goes. When you are throwing around trillions of dollars a year, you can't even come up with a thousand people who, working together, can tell you where the budget money goes. It's the same for the IRS Code. I read somewhere that a hundred lawyers reading a couple of hundred words a minute, which is fast for legal material, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year couldn't read it in a lifetime. That may be an exaggeration, but even if they could read it in ten, twenty, or thirty years, what does it tell you about the IRS Code? It tells you that no one person, nor any reasonable-sized group can ever understand it. That is why you can call the IRS fifty times and ask the same question and get as many as fifty different answers. I knew that a long time ago. What I am learning is that every branch of the government is pretty much that way. They don't know what they are doing or even what they are supposed to do, and when they get through whatever they are doing, they don't know what they did. Everything is so huge that no one can get a handle on it. One section is trying to force people to do something another department forbids and punishes those that do it. The budget is too large. The laws have thousands of pages and no one that votes them into existence ever reads them. They say they draft the laws, but if they draft them, how come they don't know what is in them? I don't even think the court that decides if someone broke the law, reads the whole thing, they may possibly read the part that seems pertinent. Sometimes, I don't think they pay any attention to the law at all. They just do whatever they want. No one can question their actions because no one knows what is legal and what is not."

"It sounds awful," said Denton. "It is awful, and it gets worse and worse by the day."

"You have to wonder how bad it will get before the people wake up, if they will ever wake up. How far can they go before it can't get any worse?"

"Until they destroy life on earth," said Denton. "After that, it can't get worse. Can it?"

"One of my men was saying that if the people behind the assassinations really are aliens, and they mean what they say, human life could be eliminated in the near future," said Michael.

"That is right," exclaimed Denton. "What do you think about that? Do you think they really are aliens?"

"A reporter asked me that last week," said Michael. "Actually, I believe he asked me what I thought the chances were that they are really aliens. I told him that until we have some evidence one way or the other, I see it as a fifty-fifty chance."

"Either they are or they aren't," said Denton.

"Precisely," said Michael.

"I would prefer that they not be real aliens," said Denton. "Naturally, I'd prefer that they don't kill every human on earth. How I would love to find that some normal human beings finally got up the gumption to strike back at those ruining the lives of the rest of mankind. I don't want it to be aliens. I want so badly to know that the entire human race hasn't stopped evolving and begun devolving."

"If they succeed, and they don't have to destroy everyone on earth, you may never know for sure," said Michael. "They may just clean house, and go back where they came from, until we screw it up again."

"I guess never knowing is still better than knowing it was not earthlings. At least, we'll be able to say they might have been heroic men and women. It is such a wonderful thing to think of the kind of men and women that would take on the Goliath that is the government. What I wouldn't give to be one of them. But then, you would be after me, wouldn't you?"

"Maybe I would join you," said Michael. "We'll never know. At least, I don't think we will." He hoped the truth would never become public, not for a long, long time, if ever.

 

The Regnant Home

 

"I was beginning to think you weren't coming home until you got those Aliens, Michael," said Claude Regnant. "Things are starting to get out of hand here with you gone. I'm beginning to wonder if it was a good idea for you to get that job, even apart from the potential risk you are taking. I got a lot of flak about your interview in that California newspaper. I'm still getting some. I told them you had your reasons. I suppose you did. What the hell were they?"

"Those remarks gave us the most press coverage we have ever gotten," said Michael. "The whole world is talking about them. Everyone knows the Aliens have threatened to kill every living person on earth if we try to stop them. Everyone also knows that every nation's government is trying to stop them. The media is starting to soften its position a little, but the governments and the Power Elite are still going all out to stop them. I am the first, and so far, the only top politician and member of the Power Elite to put the fate of the people first. Don't think that is going unnoticed."

"So what? If we turn the powers that be against us in the process, it will be a hollow victory. We'll be ruined," said Claude.

"We aren't going to be ruined, Father," said Michael. "Just the opposite. You won't hear about them, but they're running polls every day. The people around the world are on the verge of storming the centers of government to be sure they don't get wiped out. The numbers are going up and up. It's over seventy percent now and rising. Everyone in Washington is terrified. They are afraid of the people and even more afraid of the Aliens. The President called me in to chew me out about the interview, but as a result of our meeting, he has set up a panel to develop a strategy in the event that the Aliens are what they say they are. I am the chairman of that panel. He wants it kept secret, but I’ll make sure the press hears about it. That should hit the news in a couple of days. I'll get credit for that. I also got several good people on the panel. I intend to see to it that they call it the Regnant Panel. The Regnant name will be on people's lips as trying to protect mankind. I think we are going to change things a lot."

"How can you possibly change things?" asked Claude. "If you cross them, the big boys will take you out. I am afraid for you."

"Quite a few of the big boys are now pushing up daisies," said Michael. "Some of those left may act macho and foolhardy, but their number is dwindling. They have to realize they may have to give up on their dream of being rulers of the world, if they want to stay alive. If they don't, chances are they won't be around long. I surely hope none of the Regnants are among them."

"Your Uncle Albert is already gone," said Claude. "I have talked to just about everyone in the family. They are unanimous in their support of your efforts to whitewash the family."

"I guess you could call it that," said Michael. "In fact, you just did, didn’t you? Good, tell them to distance themselves from any effort to stop the Aliens. If they really are Aliens, opposing them is insane."

"You are in charge of America's effort to find them. Isn't that about the most dangerous position on earth?"

"Now, you see why I made those remarks in the interview," said Michael. "When the President jumped on me, I told him I would step down immediately if he wanted me to. I wasn't about to dare the Aliens to kill me. If he found someone who would, he would have found an idiot. That's when he backed down.'

'Good, I was thinking you might have had something like that in mind, when you said you were trying to find them, not stop them. You take care, Michael. I don't want these Aliens, whoever they are, going after you.'

'Neither do I," said Michael. He felt a twinge of guilt for creating what he perceived as genuine concern in Claude Regnant, but there was no avoiding it. Since his mother's death, he had sensed a considerable mellowing in the man he called Father. Perhaps his own mortality was on his mind more. After all, he was a few years older than his dead wife, and men had a shorter life expectancy. 

"I was thinking that maybe you should resign, and the family should move to Europe. The Aliens seem to be giving Europeans a free ride, so far, other than the Bilderberg hit. It could be that your campaign to clean up our image is doing some good. The Aliens have left us alone, so far, except for one of us in the Bilderberg strike, and that might have been collateral damage."

"The Aliens said they were concentrating on the USA because we are the biggest danger to Earth," said Michael, "but the rest of the world will get a turn. With the heavy attrition among the movers and shakers in America, my guess is that the Europeans, especially the UK, should be bracing themselves. The Middle East should be in for a blast too." The first big European target might be very soon, thought Michael. It all depended on the outcome of a senseless court case in Germany.

"Too bad we didn't do something with that island off Honduras," said Claude. "That should be among the safest places we could find these days."

"There should be some really nice places going up for sale," said Michael. "Estate sales take a while, but we can keep our eyes open. We might pick up a real bargain in an isolated island that suits our needs."

"I see what you mean," said Claude. "Every cloud has a silver lining, so they say."

 

Washington, D.C.

Homeland Security

 

"How is it going, Pete?" asked Michael, when Pete Harris came in response to his request. A request from your boss's boss is a polite order.

"Well, put it this way," said Harris. "If I had had anything positive, you would already know about it."

"I know," said Michael. "I just want to know about your gut feelings. Do you see it as futile? Are we getting anywhere? I am referring to your intuition, not your direct knowledge."

"Intuition? I guess that is what makes you take the right fork in the road after years of experience. Maybe I've just been lucky. Out of thousands of agents, someone should be lucky."

"Okay," said Michael. "Cut the snow job, and tell me."

Harris grinned. "I don't think it's futile. If nothing else, it is turning out to be an exciting challenge. I think these people, if they are people, and the Aliens say they are people like us, are a small group, with a lot of connections. It could even be just one man at the helm, a modern Zorro, you might say. I don't think a large group could possibly avoid detection this long."

"If they have all these connections, it seems that they have to be a fairly large group," said Michael. "We could be looking at a few people at the top and a lot at the bottom."

"I know," said Harris. "You asked me what my intuition tells me. That is what I'm telling you."

"Okay. I'm sorry. Please go on."

"I'm beginning to think they might win," said Harris. "I really think so."

"What constitutes winning, in your estimation?" asked Michael.

"The Aliens have laid it out pretty clearly, it seems to me," said Harris. "They want the threat to the Earth eliminated. They say the Power Elite are causing it, using their wealth to subvert the power of the government. To keep from killing all of us, the Aliens are going to kill the Power Elite and weaken the government to the point that it has no power to be subverted. Once they wipe out the Power Elite, they will eliminate the crooked politicians, meaning essentially all of them. Then they'll give the people a chance to elect a good batch. If the people aren't up to it, the Aliens will pull the plug. Something tells me that by then, the people may pull their heads out into the open. I sure hope so. If the Aliens do these things before we get them, they win. Of course, if they are aliens, you know they will win. If they aren't aliens, they could lose, but I don't think they will. They are on a roll. I wouldn't be surprised to see their opposition surrender, any day now."

How Michael hoped that Harris was right, but he said, "I hope that doesn't make you so depressed that it hampers your investigation."

"Actually, it doesn't make me depressed at all," said Harris.

"You mean that you wouldn't be upset if the Aliens won?"

"Would you be?" asked Harris. "I see it as a contest between two factions. One side wants to mold the world into something between Nazi Germany and Palestine today. The other side wants to make it something between the early USA and Shangri-La. Should I be upset if the second group wins? Not me."

"How can you hunt down the Aliens, if you want them to win?" asked Michael. He hoped Harris wasn't about to resign.

"That's a good question," said Harris. "Don't worry that I might back off and not try to find them. I felt that way about a lot of the people I brought to so-called justice."

"Then, why did you do it?"

"If I didn't get them, someone else would," said Harris. "Besides the challenge, you will notice that I have a reputation of bringing them back alive, as the saying goes. If I shoot anyone, it's always been in self-defense. If I am in sympathy with a perpetrator, I would rather take him in alive than let someone else kill him. My colleagues are generally not so humane. If you were one of the Aliens would you rather be caught by me or by some trigger-happy agent?"

"I don't know, for sure," said Michael. "If we get them, they are never going to see the outside of a cell again, if they see anything at all."

"Where there's life, there's hope, I always say," said Harris.

"Somehow, I feel better about this now," said Michael. "I wish I knew why."

"You probably feel the same way I do," said Harris. "You aren't a bad guy for a Regnant."

"I'll take that as a compliment," said Michael. "Believe it or not, most of my family is like that. You get the guy you wish would never get caught, but you know he will. The Regnants take a share of the loot the government steals from the people, not that they like stealing from the people, but because it is already stolen or is going to be stolen anyway, and if they don't get it, someone else will. The people are such willing victims; you know someone is going to fleece them. The government is dedicated to doing that. Someone is going to capitalize on the people's weakness and the government's strength, while the rest of the people are going to be the victims. We would rather be a beneficiary than a victim. It is a little more complex than that, but you get the idea."

"You prefer to be the screwer, as opposed to being the screwee," said Harris.

"That’s one way to put it."

"I can understand that," said Harris. "If that were the only choice, I'd agree. I tend to think there is another choice."

"It is a complex matter," said Michael. "Someday, when this is all over, we can sit and talk about it, but right now, I have to go to a meeting. So you have nothing to report. No illuminations."

"A twinkle," said Harris. "It is only that. I know some ex-intelligence types that have websites or businesses. I thought I might call on a few and see if they have anything I can use. There are some bloggers that come up with things that indicate that they have connections. There are thousands of government people running down the zillions of leads we have, and they are getting nowhere at all. I thought I might step outside the box, into the private sector. Nothing to lose but time." He rattled off a few names.

"I regularly look at a couple of those myself," said Michael, dismayed to hear Ted Trimble's name was on Harris' list. "Do you have Wayne Madsen on your list?"

"No. Never heard of him."

"I look at him nearly every day," said Michael. “He's not very prolific, but he occasionally has things no one else does. I believe he was formerly with Navy Intelligence, and he must have some good contacts. I don't know how cooperative he would be. He's a staunch liberal. He's certainly no friend of my family either, so don't mention me if you talk to him. Check him out at waynemadsenreport.com. Nothing to lose."

"I will check him out," said Harris.

"Got to go," said Michael. "They would wait for me, but I believe in setting a good example for my people." He stood and came around the desk and shook Harris' hand. "Thanks for coming. I've enjoyed our talk."

"Likewise," said Harris.

They walked out together. Harris went to the elevator and Michael walked toward the conference room. He was concerned. Ted Trimble had been on Harris' list. He assumed Harris knew about his interview with Trimble. Trimble was hardly that famous. The Orange County Register was not a well-known newspaper like the New York Times or the Washington Post. Why did he even have Trimble on his list in the first place? Could it be solely because Michael had brought him in for an interview? If he tried to make sure Trimble didn't tell him anything, it might arouse more suspicion and be counterproductive.

Harris seemed to be sympathetic to the aliens. Maybe, thought Michael, he’s feigning because he suspects I’m involved and wants to see my reaction. Why should he suspect me? He is the best the FBI has, so he must have some special talents. These thoughts made him uncomfortable. He wondered if Harris could be hypnotized. He seemed to remember having heard that extremely logical people can't be hypnotized, and it was hard to imagine anyone more logical than Harris. If it was true logical people couldn't be hypnotized, he thought, it was a sad commentary on mankind that over 90 percent of the population could be hypnotized.

That evening, he contacted Rhett and told him about Harris being interested in Trimble.

"Isn't Trimble the one that knew about us meeting at the Bonnie Dwaine?" asked Rhett.

"Yes, he is," said Michael. “I may be a little paranoid, but I was wondering if Harris might suspect me.”

"Maybe we should take him out," said Rhett. “Him or Trimble, or both.”

"I hate to do that," said Michael. "I was wondering if we could come up with a way to get Riggs access to Harris. I don't have enough confidence in my ability, and if I tried and failed, he is so sharp that he would be onto it immediately. He as much as told me that he hopes the Aliens win, that they will win if they are truly aliens, and the world would be a lot better off if they win."

"Why is he trying to get them then?"

"He figures if anyone else finds them, they will be killed. He would bring them in alive, if possible."

"He doesn’t sound like your typical spook," said Rhett.

"No. There isn't much typical about him. He's one of the best in the business." said Michael. "It is possible that he is only acting like he favors the Aliens so I'll keep him on the job. He may suspect me and is playing me. That's why I would like for Riggs to check him out. It's possible that he can't be hypnotized because he is so logical. If we try and fail, it could really screw things up."

“Even if we set it up for Riggs to encounter him on the street, and he was one of several hypnotized that day, from what you say about him, he would probably investigate Riggs completely, and that might tie him to us, and that would be bad,” said Rhett.

“Let’s let it ride for a while,” said Michael. “I’m probably just being paranoid. However, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.”

“These days, that’s not a joke any more,” said Rhett. “These days, being paranoid is a natural response to the American nightmare that has replaced the American dream.”

Chapter 17

A few Weeks Later

The Regnant Home

 

Michael walked out onto the terrace, where Claude and Alice Regnant were having coffee. Michael had come home that weekend for Alice's thirtieth birthday.  There had been numerous other pressing things that he should have been doing, but he felt his baby sister would be hurt if he failed to show up.

"Your thinking that the Aliens might soon start in Europe proved to be accurate, Michael," said Claude Regnant.

"Are you referring to what happened in Germany?" asked Michael, pouring himself a cup of coffee.

"The outcome of the trial was essentially a foregone conclusion. A lot of people were watching and waiting to see if the Aliens moved on such a high profile case," said Claude. "Well, they did, or so it seems."

The case in Germany concerned a scholar who questioned the details and some of the evidence of the established story of the Nazi holocaust. He was convicted of holocaust denial and sentenced to five years in prison. Two days later, the judge who convicted and sentenced him was found dead in his chambers. The official explanation given by the German authorities was a heart attack. A few Internet journalists suggested that he had died of divine retribution or, at best, a bout with conscience. Elsewhere on the Internet and in the streets, people were commenting that the Aliens had reminded the world that allowed actions were not subject to legislation, and surely, believing whatever one wanted and saying whatever one wanted were allowed actions. In Germany, people of all denominations demonstrated, calling for Parliament to repeal the law against holocaust denial. The Parliament, instead of repealing the law, introduced legislation prohibiting calling for the repeal of the law and ordered increased security for themselves. In typical government fashion, things didn't progress rapidly, and before they decided what new security measures to take, the parliament building, the Reichstag, was hit by two missiles. A quarter of the Parliament was dead and another third seriously wounded.

"It may or may not have been the Aliens," said Michael. "They haven't commented on it."

"Maybe not," said Claude. "Still, my guess is it was the same people that hit the Bilderbergs. I imagine just about everyone thinks that, regardless of what they say publicly. I hear that other countries with holocaust denial laws are considering repealing them. Naturally, in some quarters, the Aliens, whoever they are, are being denounced as anti-Semitic."

"I know," said Michael. "Think about it. To state that punishing the abolition of freedom of speech and thought is anti-Semitic is the same as stating that it is pro-Semitic to abolish freedom of speech and thought. It is difficult imagine a more anti-Semitic position than that. Maybe their goal is to appear to condemn anti-Semitism, while secretly wishing to promote it. Historically, whenever those in power have persecuted those who questioned or denied a doctrine, that doctrine has generally turned out to be false or, at best, impossible to confirm. Such a history makes the prohibition of denial or questioning of a doctrine essentially confirmation of its falsity. Any doctrine based on fact can withstand scrutiny. A lie generally cannot. Of course, if the intention of the prohibition of questioning is a strategy to actually promote the questioning, then the doctrine could be true, and its backers seeking the status of victims in order to achieve some unstated goal."

"Of course," said Claude. "Common sense tells you that, but how many have common sense? Not many, these days. Common sense is becoming more and more uncommon. They need to change the name of it."

"The poor man wasn't even allowed to show any evidence to prove he was right," said Alice. "The judge said it didn't matter if the holocaust story was highly exaggerated, or it never happened at all, it is still against the law to dispute or deny it. That harks back to the Inquisition and burning people at the stake for  suggesting the earth might not be flat or that the earth might go around the sun, not the sun around the earth."

"After all, the earth appears to be flat," said Michael, "and the sun appears to go around the earth every twenty-four hours."

"Appearances are often deceiving," said Alice. "Who would believe the ground under us is moving eastward several hundred miles an hour? If we were in Brazil or Columbia, we'd be going around a thousand miles an hour. Yet, we appear to be still."

"Anyway, the Europeans are starting to panic now," said Claude. "They were relatively apathetic about the Aliens before this, because we Americans were getting all the Aliens' attention. Now, they are singing another tune. I've heard from several people over there, and they are getting terrified."

"They should be afraid," said Michael. "Not all of them, but those high up in government for sure."

"People are suddenly taking UFO sightings a lot more seriously," said Alice. "Apparently, the Germans saw two UFO's over the courthouse on the day of the trial. A lot of them are speculating that they were the Aliens on a reconnaissance flight. Oh, how I hope they really are aliens."

"Why would you hope something like that, Alice?" asked Michael.

"If they are aliens, we won't be able to stop them," said Alice. "Personally, I think they are the best thing that has happened to the United States since its founding."

"You know we may very well be on their list," said Claude, "and you don't want them stopped."

"I think they must be aware of what Michael is doing to atone for our sins," said Alice. "Otherwise, we probably would have been gone long before now."

"Are you two going to be here for a while?" asked Michael.

"Our breakfast should be here any minute, so I imagine I'll stay and eat it," said Claude, with a grin.

"I have to attend to a couple of things," said Michael. "When your breakfast comes, would you order me a glass of orange juice and a couple of eggs Benedict with some toast? I'll be back in a couple of minutes." He hurried to his home office to call Rhett and Valerie.

"It's stuffy in here," he said when he entered his office. He hadn't opened the door in a week, he thought. He turned on his computer and opened a window while it booted up. Then he contacted Rhett.

After the pleasantries, Michael said, "It looks like we picked a great opening on the eastern front. I hear the whole place is in turmoil."

"That's our impression from what we see on the Internet," said Rhett.

"The mainstream media is still calling the German judge's death a strike by anti-Semites," said Valerie. "Even so, most people are assuming it was the Aliens, but if the mainstream maniacs repeat their garbage enough times, a lot of people are going to eventually believe it. However, the term, 'anti-Semitism,' seems to be losing its punch. It has been used so many thousands of times as a cover for blatantly immoral and illegal actions that few people pay any attention to it, anymore, other than those who want to use it as an excuse."

"It's about time people caught on. Is anyone specific being charged or even suspected?" asked Rhett.

"Nothing specific," Michael said. "The New York Times says that it is probably the work of either neo-Nazis or Muslims. That is pretty much to be expected, since the judge just condemned a man to prison for questioning one particular holocaust--the wrong one, according to German law. I have a feeling that when the German parliament is back in business, they are going to repeal that law. If you condemn a Muslim nation, it is fine, even patriotic, regardless of the reality. If you even criticize Israel, no matter how egregious their crimes, it is a hate crime. The world is truly screwed up."

"We can't put out an e-mail over something so trivial," said Rhett. "Every e-mail we send increases our chance of being caught. I wish we could find a new way to communicate."

"There must be a way," said Valerie. "What would we do if the government were to shut down the spammers? We know that they could have done so. If we can locate them with no problem, you know that the government with its hundreds of billions of dollars worth of surveillance equipment could find them. Obviously, they want them in operation for some reason."

"I'm not sure why they don't stop them," said Rhett. "The CIA could be behind the spam industry for some reason. Maybe they use it to raise money for their black ops. Maybe they want to keep it ready as a way to send kiddy porn to anyone they want to arrest and put away. All they have to do is find it on your computer, whether you put it there or not. It seems to me that the best idea would be to get the people that sell the products advertised by spamming. They pay the spammers, and if you get them, you cut off the spammer's revenue. That might not stop the purely malicious spam, but it should enormously reduce the advertising portion."

"Think about the implications of what you are suggesting," said Michael. "Suppose I were a successful widget manufacturer, with practically no competition. You figure there is a great market for widgets and you start manufacturing them. I could advertise your widget by spamming, merely to get the government to come down on you and put you out of business or fine you heavily and maybe make you go broke. You not only have to prosecute the vendors, you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they aren't being framed. It would be ridiculously simple to frame people. You could have a fight with your neighbor, who sells some product, and you could spam his product to get at him. The government already goes after enough innocent people on phony evidence."

"Never looked at it that way," said Rhett. "You are right, of course."

"Supposing that the spamming option was not available, how could we communicate?" asked Valerie.

"I don't think there is a way to reach anything near the number of people we reach with spam," said Michael.

"Well, the next time we have to send a message, we can address this matter at the same time," said Valerie. "Let them rant a while, then pull the rug out from under them."

"The German Judge was the first non-American victim, since the Bilderberg hit," said Michael "We knew how the trial would turn out, and we felt it was too important to pass up. However, we have really neglected the rest of the world, while we concentrated on the USA. That will come back to haunt us when we want to taper off."

"For some time, we have been set up for a few high profile strikes in Europe," said Rhett. "We were just waiting for the time to make a push there. When the next message does go out, we can mention increasing the scope, and address the judge's case."

"Sounds good to me," said Michael. "By the way, have you heard about the two congressmen who have been holding up a lot of reform bills, keeping them from a vote?"

"I saw that in the news," said Rhett. "We are working on them. In the next few days, that problem should be taken care of. You have to wonder how bright some of these congressmen are. They seem to come right out and advertise their desire to be eliminated."

"Sooner or later, they will get the message," said Michael. "Dumb animals learn fairly rapidly; congressmen apparently take longer. I can't stay online much longer. I called primarily to run something by you. My sister said she heard that on the last day of the German trial, there was a UFO sighting over the area where the trial was held. There is speculation in Germany as to whether the UFO’s were aliens casing the area. There must be some sites on the Internet that post all the UFO sightings. If we monitored the sightings and when there was one near a place where we have a target, we could hit that target in the next few days. That might reinforce the idea that the Aliens are real and doing some reconnaissance before a hit."

"That's a fantastic idea," said Rhett. "I shouldn't have any trouble finding a few sites like that. Some of the sites we look at post major UFO sightings. They might have links to dedicated sites."

"I love the idea," said Valerie. "We will check every sighting posted against our targets’ locations. By the way, Sam, while I was checking up on one of our targets, I found that he is related to you by marriage, and I thought I better check with you before we act on him."

"What's his name?" asked Michael.

"He’s the president of the World Bank, Orville Weatherby," said Valerie.

"Good old Orville. I know him, more or less,” said Michael. “Although the public never hears anything about him, no one deserves being on our list more than he. Technically, yes, he is married to a cousin of mine, but they have been separated for years. I don't think she will miss him in the slightest. Go ahead. If it's not too much trouble, you could make him look like an accident or natural death. I really have to go now. I'll try to check back this evening.  So long."

He signed off, shut down the computer, and went to the window to close it.  Seeing Alice across the lawn, by a flowerbed, he called to her, "Finished breakfast already?"

"No," she called back. Holding up a handful of flowers, she said, "Just picking some flowers for the table. Going back now."

"I'm on my way. I’ll see you there," he said, closing the window.

 

The White House

Washington, D.C.

 

"We have to do something, Michael," wailed the President, as he paced back and forth behind his desk. "A lot of my people are telling me to ask you to step down. Believe me; I considered it, just to show the people I'm doing something. I even put out feelers for a replacement, but no one wants the job. I was told by one of your deputies that if I appointed him, he would quit. No one in his right mind would want your job, I guess. Who in hell are these Aliens? What are they trying to do? I guess they've told us, haven't they. The execution of two congressmen and fifteen high-profile executives in the same day is catastrophic. They are wiping out the cream of the crop too. They hit the mainstream media, major pharmaceutical companies, the Federal Reserve, big agricultural companies, the FDA, the IRS, and the World Bank. What on earth are we going to do, Michael?"

"The only thing we can do is keep on digging and hunting," said Michael. "If you want me to resign, I'll be more than happy to. If this stuff had happened before you offered me the job, I, too, would have laughed in your face. The only reason I'm here now is that once I start something, I hate to give up. Yes, it's a challenge, but it's pretty much a game of Russian roulette, as well. This is off the record, Mister President, but I'm not so sure that these Aliens aren't what they say they are. It's hard to believe any other group could so completely avoid detection, with the whole world looking for them. Millions of clues and theories have been run down by the finest people the world has to offer, and we are no closer than we were the first day. I guess you could look at it another way. Look at all of the thousands of clues, leads, and theories that we have eliminated as worthless."

"Can't you arrest someone, anyone, making it look like we are getting somewhere?"

"You have to remember, Mister President, that these Aliens have forbidden anyone trying to stop them. Remember Roscoe Peterson. He only lived two days after he offered a million dollar reward for information leading to their capture or elimination.”

"That's right," said the President. "You probably have noticed I haven't called for getting them in any of my speeches. I think I'm pretty well protected, but I'm no fool."

"I keep wondering what we are going to do if they really are Aliens," said Michael. "At first, that seemed absolutely silly to even consider. My panel gave you our unanimous recommendations, although we have not seen any of them implemented.

“Surely, you see the possibility of a major panic if it came out that we were considering negotiating with what we believe are true aliens.”

"Of course that could happen. Somehow, that seems preferable to letting all the people be annihilated.”

“We have had several cabinet meetings about that,” said the President. “I've had discussions with a number of foreign leaders. I've consulted with all sorts of people, from ex-presidents to religious leaders. So far, almost no one seems ready to consider that they may really be aliens. Vladimir Putin, though, seems to have other thoughts, so I hear."

"I saw that this morning. It may be a PR stunt," said Michael. "What he is doing sounds a lot like some of our recommendations to you. You said you would think it over. Since the polls say that a large majority of the people think we may be dealing with real aliens, the majority of the Russian people and those from every other country, including America, will think he is paving the way to save mankind, in case it is true. It is likely to be a very wise move on his part. Besides, he must know that the Aliens, no matter who or what they are, aren't about to come forward to negotiate or discuss anything.  I get the impression, and the panel agreed with me, that if they are aliens, they don't want to wipe out the human race on earth, and they have to assume that the chances are that if they agreed to meet with us, they would be taken prisoner instantly. The result could be the annihilation of mankind by their leaders."

"You're probably right," said the President. "Maybe I should do the same as Putin. It would really upset most of my advisors, but following their worthless advice is getting me nowhere. My numbers can't get much lower, no matter what I do. If I worked it right, it might help my image a lot. I'll have to think about it."

Michael's mind was racing. Was there a safe way to capitalize on this and Putin's offer? There must be one. "Even if they aren't aliens," he said, "polls are showing the people are starting to look on them as heroic liberators. A lot of people see them as modern day Zorros with a touch of Superman. Maybe an appearance of conciliation might make them a little lax and careless and we'd have them. Of course, if they are really aliens, we don't want to cross them, but we might find out once and for all. As you say, your numbers really are in the toilet. If you were the one to put an end to this mess, it's hard to imagine how popular you would be worldwide." He could see the President was taken with the idea. "You might be too popular. They might want you permanently in the Oval Office, or who knows how much higher you could go. Considering what a strain you must be constantly under, that would be a lot to ask of any man," he added.

"It certainly would," said the President. "It certainly would. But, if they won't meet with us, what then?"

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," said Michael. "In the meantime, you'll get a boost in the polls for trying."

 

Homeland Security

Michael's Office

 

"Are you sitting down, Michael?" asked Valerie, when he contacted them late that afternoon, before leaving the office for the day.

"Yes. Is this going to be that bad? Do I need to take a sedative before you tell me?"

"No, indeed," said Valerie. "I think this is good news. Yesterday, Vladimir Putin, in a public speech, offered to negotiate with the Aliens. He wants to do whatever he can to make Russia acceptable to them. He said that he would do his best to meet their demands because it was easy to see that if every nation follows their dictates, the world will be a relative paradise. I don't know how on earth we could do any negotiating with him."

"I know about Putin's speech," said Michael. "Don't think he doesn't know the Aliens wouldn't negotiate. Chances are very strong that if we came forward to negotiate, we wouldn't last two seconds. However, as he has to know that we know that, he could possibly, though it is very unlikely, be a little serious. He would go down in history with complete chapters in every history book for centuries if he pulled off a turn toward liberty that brought most of the world along with him. A lot of smaller nations are scared to death of the USA, China, and Russia. If the three of them ever got together, they could stomp the rest of the world into submission, or they could just vaporize any objections. In fact, that may be what is going on in a lot of minds right now. Last week, a Japanese minister suggested the Aliens were probably dreamed up by the CIA. He conjectured that they are killing off the Power Elite and anyone who might oppose them, so that, when the dust settles, they can have the reins of power to themselves. He suspects the goal is for the world to be run by a coalition of the USA, Russia and China, not by the current political leaders, but by an elite group from the intelligence services. He thinks the CIA has been working on this for decades and has infiltrated every major intelligence service around the world. While it would not surprise me if something like that were actually on the minds of the CIA, we know they aren't behind the Aliens. Otherwise, it sounds quite credible, and it is bouncing around the capitals of the world, worrying a great many people.  But if you think about it, the Aliens’ insistence on the reduction of government power destroys the whole idea. Of course, that could be a ploy to throw off suspicion, and when all opposition was gone, they could do an about face and clamp down."

"I guess you're right," said Valerie, "about it being silly for any of us to make ourselves known. I can't think of any way to appear to be aliens either."

"Now, it's your turn to sit down," said Michael. "I think the President is actually contemplating making an offer like Putin's."

"Really," cried Rhett. "I would never have guessed that would happen."

"Nor I," said Michael. "I think he figures he has nothing to lose. He has no chance at all of getting any votes from real live people in the next election. He hasn't made any move yet, but I am fairly sure he is considering it, and depending on how he bends to his advisors, he may or may not do it.  I have an idea of a way to capitalize on it if he does, or maybe on Putin's offer alone if the President wimps out."

"If we can't come forth and talk with them, what can we do?" asked Valerie.

"What if the Aliens designated a few Earth people to speak in their place," said Michael. "Maybe a panel of people like Don Paul, Louis Rockford, Robert DiLorenzo, G. Edward Grissom from the USA. Dimitri Illarionov from Russia would be good. He was once Putin's economic advisor, but he quit and emigrated to the U.S. Pick a few more from around the world. We could say that we want to see that the people of Earth are capable of rational action on their own. We don't want to have to spell out every little move for them. We say we have picked these few because they espouse a more rational philosophy than most people. They can bring in others if they like, but the idea is to keep things so simple and straightforward that there is no bickering. People are free or they are not. There is no middle area. Being a little free is like being a little pregnant or a little dead. We insist that the people be free. Everyone must be free to do as he pleases as long as he doesn't bring physical or economic harm to others. No one has the right to mandate the behavior of anyone else, other than to protect these rights from those who would infringe on them. That means that government, if there is any, is to protect rights, never to infringe on them, and if people find that too difficult to understand and implement, so be it. We will wait and see."

"Now, that's a great idea, Sam," said Rhett. "I wonder if those people would all accept the request to talk in our place."

"Those are just some people that came to mind," said Michael. "You might want to look into Antanas Mockus, the ex-mayor of Bogotá, Colombia. I don’t know that much about him, but when you look at what he did as mayor, you will see why I say you might at least want to talk to him. Google his name with “Harvard Gazette archives” and social experiment, too I think most of those people would jump at the chance to bring freedom to the United States and Russia, whether that chance is slim or not. Like us, they are interested in their own freedom, and also like us, they know that no one is going to be really free until all mankind is free. They might be apprehensive about the possible dangers of being connected with the Aliens, but I think most, if not all, would think it a risk worth taking. That would certainly let us know how sincere they have been all these years. All they have to do is repeat what they have been saying for ages. The Aliens are not going to negotiate, but they are willing to give Putin and the President a chance to back up their words with deeds. That would certainly be a first for the President."

"It could be the answer to our prayers," said Rhett.

"I've also been thinking about Putin's offer to destroy Russia's nuclear weapons if every other country would do the same," said Michael. "We can take him at his word, and mandate global nuclear disarmament while we are at it. In fact, we could mandate non-aggression completely. All fighting to stop and both sides can meet with our appointed representatives."

"Wow," said Valerie. "That would be a huge step. Can we back up our demands on something like that?"

"I don't know," said Michael. "Let's think about it for a while.

"You PE people think big," said Valerie.

"You won't hit any higher than you aim. It is counterproductive to aim low," said Michael. "Besides, I'd say that we are already thinking pretty big."

“I guess that was a silly thing to say,” said Valerie, sheepishly. “Taking on the world is not exactly thinking small, is it?”

"Some serious difficulties in your idea," said Rhett. "First and foremost being that we would have to have inspection to confirm the elimination of the nukes. That would be pretty hard to do without exposing ourselves.

"We don't have to do the inspection ourselves,” said Michael. “We don't have any people to do that anyway. Make them do it. They already have organizations for that. We just insist on serious penalties for non-conformance."

They spent a while hammering out some details and planning the thrust of their next e-mail from the Aliens. They would collaborate on the exact text until they thought it would serve its purpose.

"I wish we could have more people," said Michael. "We could surely use some help. We could use more heads on things like this e-mail. We already know that we should have put some things in our previous messages that we left out. We are just spread too thin. I have my part in this, on top of running Homeland Security and trying to make sure they don't catch us."

"What about Kirk Denton, your father?" asked Valerie. "I don't mean to get personal, but I would think he would agree with what we are doing."

"I don’t know," said Michael. "He seems to sympathize with the Aliens, but he is also part of the work within the system crowd. We know how effective that is. Furthermore, he has no idea that I'm involved in this, and I would just as soon keep it that way. I don't think he would tell on us, but I don't think I know him well enough yet to risk it."

"How about some of the bloggers that are on our side?" asked Valerie.

"I suppose, if we screen them with hypnosis," said Michael. "A lot of them are surely plants, agent provocateurs. By monitoring their regular readers, Big Brother gets a list of probable dissidents. You have to assume they are the enemy until you confirm that they are not."

"Wow. They don't leave any stones unturned," said Valerie.

"Not if they can help it," said Michael. "They have hundreds of thousands of people working to make sure they don't. They have dozens of think tanks that only think of ways to lock them in and identify and neutralize their opposition. There is no way to know how many of the opposition groups are run by the establishment. We have quite a few people that we can use to pull triggers and blow things up, but we don't have anyone to bounce ideas off. We have to do the thinking and direct the action too. The other side of the coin is that every person we might add multiplies our chance of getting caught."

"My sister has to stay with us now," said Valerie. “She is pretty much on board. She didn't have any choice, if she didn't want to get me killed and possibly take a hit herself. There are a lot of things she could do that I’m doing now.  She could sift through the stuff on the Internet about us and jot down any ideas. If we can identify some sites with intelligent, rational commentary, we might at least get some ideas that save us some mistakes, and make us more effective."

"It surely couldn't hurt," said Rhett. "She is already tied to us. Lynn is pretty smart, and I think she is trustworthy. Like you say, Valerie, she doesn't have much choice. If you get caught, she goes too. In the meantime, we can try to dream up other ways to get some help without exposing ourselves to disaster."

"Polish up the e-mail message," said Michael. "Make it as complete and as persuasive as you can. Send me all the versions as it changes. If I have ideas, I'll send them to you. This could be the most important message, in that it could bring things to a head, or it could destroy our credibility if it goes awry. Let's play devil's advocate a lot on this one."

Chapter 18

Rhett's Cabin

 

"It's almost six," said Valerie. "Let's turn on the television and see how the MSM is reporting the latest e-mail."

"There's time to make a drink before it starts. Want one?"

"Yes, please. The usual for me."

 

"You just made it," said Valerie, when Rhett handed her a Manhattan and joined her on the sofa. The six o'clock news was beginning. The announcer began excitedly:

"The Aliens have put out a new e-mail. They are giving the world's nuclear powers just three days to set up a meeting to determine how they are going to dismantle all nuclear weapons, including those using depleted uranium. Once dismantled, the radioactive material must be sent into space, preferably to the sun, where it can do no damage. The meeting is to start at ten AM, this Saturday. The nuclear powers have three more days to devise a preliminary plan, and three more days to massage it and begin implementation. In six months, there are to be no nuclear weapons on earth, and there must be an international watchdog organization with full authority to police every nation, looking for infractions. The Aliens warned that any nation with nuclear weapons not cooperating fully should know that there will be serious consequences. The plan must include extremely severe penalties for any circumvention of the plan and for retaining nuclear weapons or the facilities for making them. Furthermore, immediately thereafter, a similar program with a similar timetable must rid the world of all biological and chemical weapons.

"The Aliens commended the United States and Russia for offering to meet with them to discuss their conformance with the Aliens' expectations. The Aliens declined to attend such a meeting, saying Earth's people must demonstrate an ability to act rationally on their own. The Aliens said many people on Earth had long been explaining what governments were doing wrong. They listed fourteen people that were to form a panel. These people would act as their agents. The panel, led initially by Kirk Denton, a well-known political writer, commentator, and activist, will develop guidelines for all governments to follow, as well as some specific actions for individual nations. The panel will meet with Vladimir Putin and Russian delegates and later with U.S. delegates. The Aliens warned that the members of the panel were to be considered their representatives, and no harm was to come to them. They said they weren't expecting a miraculous overnight transformation, but they demanded a giant step to start, followed by a steady march toward the ideals which the panel was to define, and which they said would eventually mean an end to government as we have known it. There must be no balking, no backsliding, but a continuous improvement until no significant improvement was feasible.  All people were advised to pay close attention to the recommendations of the panel and conduct themselves accordingly. Should the panel require any guidance, the Aliens would consider providing it, but they preferred that Earth people exhibited self-reliance.

"Once again, the Aliens stated that a prolonged failure of the people to demonstrate the ability to act rationally could and would result in their complete extermination. In closing, the Aliens’ said the people of Earth must realize that no human individual is being forced to do anything, but all are prohibited the initiation of violence against others. The things they may feel they are being required to do are merely the cessation of the violence they are now inflicting on others. They said the people must learn to mind their own business and not to meddle in the business of others. That is what it comes down to: everyone minding their own business.

As an incentive, the Aliens suggested that substantial success of the panel in moving the world in the right direction could cause them to consider a moratorium in their extermination, but they would have to see things moving along with little or no opposition.

 

The news went around the world in a flash. The number of people supporting the aliens shot up, especially among the younger generation. Bumper stickers in support of the aliens began to appear. Groups in support of the aliens were formed all over the world. The aliens' demands were getting the approval of the people. The fact that if their demands weren't met, the aliens would do away with the entire population of the world undoubtedly influenced the growing support.

 

Homeland Security

Michael's Office

 

"I didn't know what to do," said Denton. "I contacted Louis Rockford, and he was the same way. I suggested he talk to you, and for him to please ask you to get in touch with me. I was afraid to contact you directly, but thought this was a good enough excuse. I hope it was alright."

"Of course, it is perfectly alright," said Michael, reaching across his desk and grasping Denton's hand. "Just relax. Everything is fine. I have had telephone conversations with the others on the list. I hadn't seen you for some time, and since the Aliens suggested you as the initial chairman, it is perfectly natural for me to meet with you. Why would anyone think otherwise?  Several bureaucrats wanted to be in on the meeting, but I merely told them to forget it."

"When people started calling me about the Aliens' latest e-mail, I thought they were joking," said Denton. "But there it was in my own inbox. At first, I considered it a tragedy, because I would surely be a target for the establishment. Then I thought that the establishment isn't what it used to be, so maybe it wasn't so bad, after all."

"I would think it a great honor," said Michael, "to be selected as one of the fourteen top political minds of the world. The fact that they named you as the chairman, until the group can elect one, suggests they consider you as the greatest spokesperson for freedom on the planet. Everyone in the group is outstanding."

"They certainly are," said Denton. "I think all of them are better qualified for this than I."

"Every one of them said more or less that same thing," said Michael, with a chuckle. "Strange how humble the truly great are, because they realize how modest their accomplishments are, in light of their almost infinite potential. On the other hand, the mediocre tend to be overly proud of their modest accomplishments. I can't remember where I saw the comment that only the superior can have an inferiority complex, because the truly inferior don't realize that they are inferior, while the superior are aware of how little of their boundless potential they have realized."

"That is profound and certainly true," said Denton.

"How have you been?" asked Michael.

"Extremely busy. Too busy to have time to feel sorry for myself, and that is a good thing.  The doctors are confident that I will walk again, that my therapy is showing good results. My physical shortcomings haven't interfered with my work that much. S.M.A.R.T. is taking off. Your funding allowed us to do as much as we can push ourselves to do. The Aliens have been a big help, pushing for freedom and pointing out the evils of the establishment, to say nothing of scaring people into awareness. Liberty never got so much attention in all of history."

"Maybe after all these centuries, the percentage of those aware of something outside their ring in the circus of life is growing," said Michael. "If they will only find the gumption to act. The next elections should provide an indication of how awake Rip Van Public really is. How is your list of potential candidates for the next election coming?"

"While it is a slow process, we are doing much better than I anticipated," said Denton. "We have identified people for about eighty percent of the offices, but a third of them don't want to run. A few that had refused have called back recently and changed their mind, now that they believe the circumstances are more propitious. I think the Aliens are causing more and more people to think about things and to assess their priorities. It would be a shame if you caught them, and things returned to their original state."

"From what the Aliens said, if you and your group are successful, they may back off for a while, and see if mankind is learning a little self-reliance. So, they have given you and your colleagues a serious responsibility. If you are successful, and they stop what they are doing, we may never know who they were."

"It is an enormous responsibility," groaned Denton.

"For decades, everyone on your panel has been telling people how things should be," said Michael. "I would think it would be a snap for any one of you."

"Sure," said Denton. "I've talked to the others too. They all feel as I do. We are beginning to realize that we all have been preaching about how things should be, but we have paid precious little attention to methods of getting them that way. Early on, you chastised me and the entire world of political pundits for complaining about the problems of the world and never offering a way out. You were right. Now, we are having to, as you said, 'put up or shut up.'"

"Actually, I don't see that you have to lay out the details on how to get to the prescribed state," said Michael. "All that you have to do is lay out what the end result must be. You have to describe a model government in great detail, and you can work with the leaders to dismantle their oppressive systems and establish a model government. I think you need to use the thesis of Alfred Jay Nock in 'Our Enemy, the State’, making everyone acutely aware of the difference between government and state, and then pointing out that they have to make the  transition from the state to a more practical, useful, and controllable government."

"That is a good idea," said Denton. "I'm surprised you have read that."

"What is surprising is that so many of those that write prolifically about freedom seem not to have read it," said Michael. "Nock wrote it in nineteen-thirty-five, and if people had made it part of their knowledge base, the world might not be in the condition it is in today. The Declaration of Independence says that 'to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.' Jefferson's use of the word government was something arising from an understanding by society that some organization would be useful and maybe even necessary to secure their rights and protect them. America’s founders knew that throughout history, people had been ruled by institutions bent on exploiting one class, the masses, for the benefit of another, the ruling class. Nock said it was ridiculous to use the same name for both of these completely opposite systems, one to protect the people’s rights and the other to exploit the people. The first system, originating in the understanding and cooperation of society to ensure men's rights, their freedom and security, he called 'government.' The second system, originating in conquest and confiscation, with the intention of economic exploitation of one group for the benefit of another group, he called the state. This enables a rational discussion of politics. Nearly everyone can see the undesirability and the evils of the state. Even the anarchist, who opposes any organized body governing his actions, mostly fears that a government will eventually become a state. I think we all fear that, and with good reason. Thomas Paine was right when he said government, and he was speaking of government with Nock's definition, was at best a necessary evil. Humans need to have no more of that evil than is absolutely necessary to reduce the chaos of anarchy to a bearable level. That is far better than and should be much easier than trying to keep the oppression of the state from exceeding a bearable level."

"I hadn't read Nock for ages," said Denton. "I should have, for that is such an important point. We lovers of liberty tend to spout that line from the Declaration of Independence about men instituting government, and in the next breath condemn government. Of course, the two institutions referred to are opposites.”

“We need to use those two terms: 'state' and 'government,' and to hammer the difference into the public mind," said Michael. “That could be a goal of your movement. I guess being on the Aliens’ panel is going to take much of your time, and you may need to get someone to fill in for you with your project, or it will wither. You can’t let up for a minute, if you want to succeed.”

"I guess you know that I have to meet with the others Monday, to start drawing up an outline for what we are going to use as a set of guidelines to propose to Putin and the President," said Denton. "The Aliens only gave us five days to meet and ten days to come up with a preliminary presentation, and then we must have a meeting with Putin. He's first because he made the first move. Three days later, we meet with the President. The Aliens aren't very generous with time."

"I imagine they presume you all know what to say already, since you’ve been telling everyone how things should be for years," said Michael. "I'm sure you do. You are just nervous."

"I'll say," said Denton. "This is a possible opportunity to see our dreams start coming true. If we blow this chance, we may never get another one."

"I think you are looking at it in the wrong way," said Michael. "I don't see that your job is to win over Putin and the President, but to educate them. Simply put, your job is to tell them what the role of government is in a free nation. Their task, if they are serious in their offers, is to turn their states into governments, according to Alfred Nock's definition of government. You aren't selling anything. You are laying down the law, so to speak. You are to tell Putin, the President, and later the world, what they have to do and undo to fix the world. If you are trying to sell anyone anything, you are trying to sell the Aliens on the idea that the people on Earth know or can learn how to live, they just haven’t been doing what they know they should. I suppose you will count on Illarionov for details in what needs to be changed immediately in Russia, but you should know what instant reforms are needed in the United States. Tell me some of what you will tell the President he needs to do right off the bat."

"I'll take a stab at it," said Denton. He cleared his throat "I'm not going to bring them up in order of urgency right now. Repeal the Patriot Act is near the top. Also the Military Commissions Act. Close all illegal prisons. Stop the wars and make peace with the countries we are fighting. Bring all our troops home. Stop all foreign aid, period, except, possibly, reparations. Rein in the CIA and the FBI."

"I think you should insist on the complete elimination of the CIA," said Michael. "Perhaps the FBI, as well." You might want to start up a miniature group like the FBI, calling it something else entirely, but I'd have to think about that. Whatever it would be, it should just be to support efforts by state and local defense agencies."

"Okay," said Denton. "I'll think about that. Set up a committee to review all laws and decide if they are appropriate for government, according to Nock's definition. Repeal all that aren't. Do away with every government agency and every government function that is not a hundred percent dedicated to assuring people's rights by doing something that can't be done as well or better by private industry. Stop taxing business, because taxes on business are necessarily passed on to the customers anyway. Businesses never pay taxes, they add them to the price of their goods and services, and the customers pay them. I never could see why everyone on earth can't see that."

"What about the sixteenth and seventeenth amendments to the Constitution?"

"We need to get rid of them," said Denton. "From what I've read, I doubt seriously that they were ever really ratified. The problems that arise if they weren't are truly catastrophic. In the case of the sixteenth amendment, all the income taxes they have ever collected were illegally taken and should be returned, but the sum would be astronomical, and many of the people are dead. Think of all the people they have illegally prosecuted, fined, and imprisoned."

"And even killed," added Michael.

"The repercussions of finding the seventeenth amendment unratified are far more disastrous," said Denton. "Right off the bat, every federal law passed by the Senate after the amendment would be invalid. The appointments approved by the Senate would have been invalid, and the actions of the appointees invalid. Supreme Court decisions by justices whose appointment the Senate approves would be invalid. Treaties are invalid. 

"You are doing well," said Michael. "Don't forget ownership of land and other assets by the state."

"Oh, yes. The state must divest itself of all the land not essential to its minimal function."

"It could even be required to rent the land it might occupy within a state, although the rates would have to be no more than fair market value and they would have to abide by the terms of the lease or be evicted."

"What about the money the Feds have?" asked Denton.

"What money?" asked Michael, with a laugh.

"They do have a lot of gold," said Denton.

"Supposedly," said Michael. "It may be mostly gold-plated tungsten, you know. A lot of that has been cropping up around the world, and from supposed reliable sources. Remember, no one has audited the Fed’s gold for over half a century."

"If it is gold, it could go toward paying off the national debt and supporting social security for those now on it," said Denton.

"The amount of gold they claim to have wouldn't pay one percent of the national debt. But a large percentage of the national debt is fraudulent. Bonds held by legitimate customers should be paid when due, if possible," said Michael. "Those held by the Federal Reserve and the banks, meaning those purchased with money created out of thin air should be paid back in the same thin air. There need to be some complex arrangements to settle all that."

"How could you possibly pay even the legitimate debt and the social security obligations until it is phased out?"

"The land," said Michael. "The government must own half of the land in the nation, if not more. Once the money situation is resolved and we are using real money, sell all that land off and pay down the debt and maintain social security."

"That should be more than enough," said Denton. "Fractional reserve banking has to go."

"Absolutely," said Michael. "The idea of loaning money that doesn't exist is irrational on its face. Can you imagine me loaning you a non-existent car? Worse yet, loaning non-existent money and charging interest on it is as fraudulent as would be selling you a non-existent car. The difference is in who is defrauded. In the case of the non-existent car, the buyer is defrauded. In the case of non-existent dollars, the fraud is divided among everyone dealing with dollars, according to the number of dollars they have or will have in the near future, before the loss in value ripples through the economy. Any value the money created out of thin air has is derived from all the other money out there being reduced a bit. It is like stealing a piece from a thousand other people's cars and making a car to sell to you. Such is the scam the banks have been running all along. They say it allows more businesses and a higher standard of living. What it really does is expand the gulf between the robbers and their victims, between the rich and the poor. It keeps making the rich segment relatively smaller and smaller, as well as richer and richer."

Denton chuckled. "It sounds a lot different when you apply the concept to cars. Yet, it is exactly the same in principle. Recent inflationary activity by the government has been far worse than ever. If it were cars instead of money, people would soon be going to their garage and finding nothing but their car keys on the floor, the whole car would be gone."

"Right," said Michael, "but since people can't see what happens to their dollars like they could see it if it were cars, they are oblivious of the theft. Worse yet, not only has the government sold their car, but any car they, their children, their grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren might get in the future. The monster behind all this fraud is the creature from Jekyll Island, the Federal Reserve.”

"You are a part of the Power Elite, Michael," said Denton. "Are the stories of what we hear, what we suspect about the Fed true?"

"I don't know what you have heard or suspect about the Fed," said Michael, "but if you want to know about the Fed, the information is easy to find. Years after its founding, several of its founders felt secure enough to brag about the coup they had pulled off. Before he became one of them, Alan Greenspan wrote a couple of articles for Ayn Rand's Objectivist Newsletter. Later when he sold out to the Power Elite, he had to wish he had never written those articles condemning what he was now doing himself. Just by piecing together the words of the founders of the Fed, you can see that it was a con from day one. Get a copy of 'The Creature from Jekyll Island' and read it. You'll know what we are up against."

"Actually, I have that book. Someone gave it to me, but I never got around to reading it."

"You might look on the Internet for a video or a recording of a lecture by the author. He is involved in the campaign to abolish the Fed. Otherwise, just realize that it is probably far worse than you could imagine. You are probably going to be too busy to do much reading for a while," said Michael.

"That's for sure," said Denton. "Yes, the banks have to be fixed. The Federal Reserve and fractional reserve banking abolished."

"Whatever you do with the Fed and Banks, don't let the government take over any of them. Remember, that what little government remains, is essentially a security guard to repel assailants and a receptionist to greet international visitors. It takes orders from the people. It does not issue orders to the people."

"Do you really think Putin and the President are going to go for that?" asked Denton.

"Not with great enthusiasm," said Michael. "Initially, they will probably be noncommittal until they analyze things. Then, they will try to negotiate milder terms. You have to be firm on the end result, but you can be somewhat flexible on timetables, if need be.”

“Right,” said Denton.

“You have a number of items for your list already. As you can see, once you get going, things pour into your mind. When you get home, start building your list in your computer, take it with you Monday. I imagine that your colleagues will have lists of their own. Together, you will come up with an outline of how things should be. Remember, the Aliens said they don't expect miracles. Certain things will have to be done immediately, but some changes can be implemented over time. I imagine they were thinking of things that would be disastrous to implement suddenly, like abolishing the social security system. You would have to grandfather in those currently receiving payments, allow those not retired yet to opt out or stay in, but stop signing up any new people. That way, over the first thirty years, the payout for social security would continuously decline, and within sixty years will vanish. "

"Too bad you aren't going to be at the meeting," said Denton.

"I'm sure that with the people you have, you won't need my input," said Michael. "I hate to say this, but I am going to have to end our talk.  I think your anxiety should have vanished by now. I would appreciate it if you would keep me posted on the panel’s activities and its recommendations. Not just the final recommendations, but the various versions along the way. If I have any suggestions, I'll let you know."

"That would be wonderful," said Denton, looking at his watch. "How the time has flown. I hope we can talk again in the not too distant future."

"We may be able to use the panel as an excuse for meeting openly from time to time," said Michael. "I'll work on it. We have the other relationship in that we are funding your movement." He smiled and added, "We might become good friends, even close friends."

"I certainly hope so," said Denton. "The closer, the better."

“Before you go, I might mention that your national non-partisan group could help things along. The Aliens want to see that the people can act rationally. You might utilize that in your movement. . I know you characterize it as a non-profit news organization, giving political news and analysis. In a non-partisan way, it covers what happens in politics and contrasts it with what should happen. It points out every attempt to confuse and confound the people. Your web site states that the ideal situation would be no government at all, but that is impractical at the time, and you are currently aiming for a government that defends people's rights instead of infringing on them. Your positions are in close agreement with those of the Aliens. You can emphasize that the members of your group are already acting rationally and responsibly as the Aliens demand. Therefore, not only are they living up to their potential as humans, but they are the very ones that can save mankind from destruction. Current members should do all they can to get others on board in order to insure their salvation and that of mankind. You might gain some traction that way.”

“A good point,” said Denton. “I’ll see to it that we do just that.”

 

 

A Few Weeks Later

FBI Headquarters

 

In the J. Edgar Hoover Building, at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, a high-level meeting of FBI people and their counterparts from various countries had just ended. The attendees were milling about, renewing old acquaintances, and comparing notes. Pete Harris stood alone in a corner, observing the activity.

A short, somewhat nattily dressed man approached him. "Aren't you Peter Harris?" the man asked.

"On the day I was born, I was Peter Harris," said Harris. "Since then, everyone has called me, Pete."

"I'm Cyril Bentham, MI6," said the man extending his hand. "I am pleased to at last meet the man regarded as a legend in our business."

"Actually, the very best in our business are so good that no one has ever heard of them," said Harris. "Cyril Bentham. That was a good choice. You can still use your initialed luggage and anything else with your initials."

The man paled for an instant, and quickly recovered. "What are you talking about?"

"Chaim Berge. Cyril Bentham. Both are C.B. I suppose there have been a few other CB's in between those."

"You have quite a memory, Pete," said Bentham, lowering his voice. "I'd almost forgotten using that name." Looking around to make sure no one was close to them, he said, "I'm on loan to MI6, and only a few at the top there know about it. I'm amazed that you remember me after all these years, and we only met once."

"We only met once, but our paths crossed two other times. You just weren't aware of it."

"No, I wasn't," said Bentham. "I know that you are the best they have, and you may be even better than any we have."

"We being the U.K. or Israel?"

"Both. I don't suppose you would be interested in pooling our resources and working together on this Alien matter."

"What resources are you offering?" asked Harris.

"We shouldn't talk here."

"I'll buy you a cup of coffee in the Waffle Shop," said Harris. "It's just up the street, and it should be hard for anyone to eavesdrop on us there. It may even be hard to hear each other."

Once they were seated in the Waffle Shop, with their backs to the window and two cups of steaming coffee before them, they began to chat.

"I don't know if you have anything or not, but I thought that if you don't, no one does," said Bentham.

"What have you to trade?"

"I think I know where the missiles used on the Bilderbergs came from."

"If you don't know who got them, that doesn't help much," said Harris.

"I may know who one of them was, but he can't talk now."

"Did you get anything out of him before he became unable to talk?"

"Unfortunately, no. But, there is one detail that might interest you. Are you interested in working together on this?" asked Bentham. "You must know it is most unusual for me to work with anyone else, but this is a particularly tough case, as well as an important one. Whoever breaks it is going to get a lot of points, even if he has to share them with someone else. Even so, you are the only one I would consider working with."

"I have an agreement with Michael Regnant," said Harris. "I get carte blanche all the way, and I keep him informed of everything I do."

"Then forget it," said Bentham. "My guess is that there are some highly placed people facilitating this Alien project. If we give up our clues before we crack the case, someone at the top may be keeping the Aliens one step ahead of us. I won't work that way."

"If all you have is something interesting about a dead man involved in acquiring a missile, that isn't worth risking losing my free hand and total assistance from the top man in the country for intelligence."

"That was just a piece of bait," said Bentham. "I have more, but I admit that it's all unconfirmed and just hunches."

"That doesn't sound very appealing to me," said Harris.

"It was just an idea," said Bentham. "I have one hunch that keeps gnawing at me. I have found a person that I suspect may know the Aliens, or at least something about their plans. It may be nothing. It may be a lucky guess on his part, but I'm going to find out. Sometimes, little things like that turn out to be the keys that unlock very difficult cases. I hope so."

"I know what you mean," said Harris. "I'll tell you what. You tell me your secrets and I'll tell you mine. I won't tell Michael Regnant about it. If I didn't do it that way, I wouldn't have anything you tell me anyway."

They sat and talked for half an hour. Harris was amazed to find out that the person that Bentham suspected of knowing the Aliens or their plans was none other than Ted Trimble. He hadn't placed any special importance on Trimble, but the fact that a top Mossad agent wanted to see him too changed things.

"What a coincidence that you are onto Trimble," said Harris. "I have an appointment to see him Wednesday." The words were barely spoken when he wished he hadn't said that. Wednesday was four days away. What if Bentham got to him first?

"Really?" exclaimed Bentham. "That is interesting. I don't suppose I could go with you."

"Certainly not officially," said Harris, "but if I ran into you at the airport on Tuesday, I would have to act like what I was doing was so unimportant that it didn't matter, if you know what I mean. After all, we are all supposed to be cooperating. That was the message I got in the meeting this morning."

"Yes, that was pretty clear," said Bentham.

 

The Regnant Estate

 

"You know, Michael, I'm suddenly feeling much older lately," said Claude Regnant, when he looked up and saw Michael enter the living room. "The world is changing so fast that I don't recognize it any more. I was watching CNN a few minutes ago, and they were talking about the recommendations the Aliens' Panel released this afternoon. Ordinarily, I couldn't believe the United States will comply with a single one of them. But the way things are changing, I will just wait and see. If the United States adopts them, we will be living in a fairy tale land. Have you seen the report, Michael?"

"I have it right here in my hot, little hands," said Michael, holding up a folder. "I was going to sit here next to the fire and read it."

"Would you read it to your bewildered old father?"

"Of course. Reading aloud will enhance my comprehension, anyway."

For three-quarters of an hour, Michael read slowly and clearly from the report. When he had finished, he asked, "What do you think of that?"

"It will never fly," said Claude.

"It has the backing of the Aliens," said Michael. "The governors are having a hard time getting people to accept appointments to the Congress and Senate, because they keep getting killed when they try to do business as usual. I don't think the current batch would dare oppose the Aliens. The President won't admit it, but he is almost a basket case. The chances of these recommendations being implemented are not nearly as slim as you might think. There may be some negotiations, but an outright refusal to obey is unlikely. Doing business in such a society will be a phenomenal departure for us."

"I should say so," said Claude. "I wouldn't have any idea how to go about it."

"Sure you would. Now, when you do business in some exotic foreign land, you have to adapt to their customs. This will be like that. You will adapt. You always do. I know you."

"Maybe I will manage. As you were reading, I was thinking that we might go into the weapons or ammunition business. Since there will be no gun control, and nearly every able bodied person will probably be in a militia, the market should be enormous."

"You see," said Michael. "You are adapting already."

"You are younger and less set in your ways. You will be a big help. I was right to start turning things over to you, even if your taking that job at Homeland Security kind of ruined that."

"That job will be ending soon," said Michael. "If the Aliens’ Panel's proposals are adopted, there won't be any Homeland Security."

"The transformation will take a long time, and there will be chaos for a longer time," said Claude.

"There would be, if we had the current form of government implementing it," said Michael. "I think the Panel was brilliant in their implementation of the Aliens’ suggestions, by making the cities and counties change first. The cities and towns first have to adopt a constitution, based on the guidelines in the report, guaranteeing the sovereignty and the freedom of the citizens. They can modify it for local conditions, but the philosophy must be the same. Then, the counties have to adopt constitutions guaranteeing the sovereignty and the freedom of the cities and the citizens. Then, the counties have a convention and adopt a new state constitution, guaranteeing sovereignty and freedom for the citizens and the counties. Then, the States meet and adopt a modern version of the Articles of Confederation, guaranteeing the sovereignty and freedom of the States, the counties, and the citizens. Every one of these documents is to specify that all rights except those specifically spelled out are reserved for the people. A city is a confederation of citizens. A county is a confederation of towns, cities and citizens. A state is a confederation of counties. There are no implicit powers granted to any level of government. The rights of the people are without number and may not be infringed by any level of government. Any act of the government that is counter to the letter or the spirit of its constitution is null and void. Questions concerning the constitutionality of a government action are not to be resolved by the government, but by those instituting the government. There are no federal or state courts, for trials, only county courts. Since everyone in America lives in a county, why have any other courts? Each state could have a supreme court to appeal decisions, and avoid miscarriages of justice. Similarly, a federal last resort Supreme Court. These supreme courts only review convictions to make sure no one is convicted on public opinion."

"What about city courts?"

"I guess they can have them if the city is so large that it needs them. Don't forget that most of the laws that we have now will be repealed. There will be few or no victimless crimes. We won't need so many courts or jails."

"What about having to do it over every ten years?" asked Claude. "There will be a huge hassle every ten years that will last ten years."

"The Panel merely pointed out that, as the Aliens suggested, it is hardly rational for the people voting today to force future generations to follow their whims and dictates."

"Governments have always been thought of as perpetual," said Claude, "just like the country itself."

"But they come and go anyway. The fact that our government can't be fixed without a revolution is what kept it from being fixed," said Michael. "Way back in time, people were used to having a king who passed his rule on to his offspring, and when they finally overthrew the kings, they went from the frying pan into the fire or at least from one frying pan into another. Look at the hundreds of revolutions like those in the banana republics where people overthrow one despot and put in another. Wouldn't you think people had more sense?"

"I guess it would sound a little strange for us to be able to sign a contract obligating the Regnants in perpetuity," said Claude. "I see the logic in giving members of each generation a chance to sign their own contracts."

"Maybe ten years is too often," said Michael, "but certainly no more than twenty or twenty five years should go by without the new generation having a say in whether or not they want to keep their state in the union or their county in the state. If it isn't too big a hassle, as you say, every ten years would be fine. It would keep the state and national governments on their good behavior, or they would find themselves abolished. Actually, since secession must be spelled out as an option for every city, county and state at any time, they can always opt out, but it's more sensible to assemble and correct any problems prior to going off on their own. If the constitutions are held to being a job description for a government to guarantee the people’s rights, they probably will just vote to keep it in force as is for another ten years, whenever the vote comes up. It will be only when the government tries to exploit a loophole or the wording loses its meaning over time that they have to clamp down."

"These Aliens are surely turning the world upside down," said Claude. "Wouldn't it be funny if they were just a bunch of weirdoes having a good time playing god with us."

"Whoever they are, we should be glad they are not an evil group. Can you imagine Hitler or Stalin behind such a force? How about one of the top Power Elite families taking it all for themselves?  Maybe our own president or a general getting out from under the Power Elite and going it on his own? We wouldn't be discussing too much freedom and having to learn to do business in complete freedom."

"We wouldn't be alive," said Claude. "If we were, we'd be in a concentration camp. Well, since we seem unable to do anything about what's going on, we may as well make the most of it."

"I guess we can make do with the freedom to do as we please, as long as we don't infringe on the rights of others," said Michael. "It will take getting used to, but we'll manage."

Claude Regnant laughed heartily. "We live in interesting times," he said. "Who knows? I may even get to like it. We usually did pretty much as we pleased, but we had to do a lot of bribing and covering up to get away with it. We were successful because we bought the conditions that made our investments profitable. If this stuff goes through, we'll have to depend on our brains alone."

"That should be interesting and maybe a little sobering," said Michael.

"Some of the inbred cases will have to hire brains," said Claude. "Actually, they have probably been doing that for generations."

"All successful people do that to some extent," said Michael.  "We can't be experts at everything. When necessary, we hire expertise. The best thing to be expert at would be identifying expertise in subjects you know little about. Even the government hires so-called experts, but they generally hire experts, not to give them facts or advice, but to give them expert advice tailored to support whatever they want to do."

"Michael, the analyst," said Claude. "Analysis is a good thing to be an expert at."

"As long as you avoid analysis paralysis. You can get so bogged down in analysis that you never get to the action, or you get there too late. You need a map to get where you are going, but if you work on getting a perfect map, with ridiculous accuracy, you can work on the map forever. If you can find your goal, the map is good enough. Columbus found the New World with no map at all."

"It was a lot easier for the next guy," said Claude.

"Sometimes you want to go where no one has ever gone," said Michael.

"That's my boy," said Claude, clapping him on the back.

The simple phrase from the man he had called “Father” all his life brought a wave of emotion in Michael. It is amazing, he thought. Words can be powerful drugs, evoking tremendous emotions, depending, of course, on who says them, how they are meant, and how they are interpreted.

 

Santa Ana, California

 

"What, exactly, is Michael Regnant's role in this?" asked Cyril Bentham, when they left Ted Trimble, after a lengthy interview.

Initially, Trimble had not wanted to tell them anything, saying he had promised to keep it to himself.

Harris had wondered to whom he could have made this promise. He knew Michael Regnant had given Trimble an exclusive interview in his office. He took a chance. "Michael Regnant is my boss. He's the one who sent me to see you,” Harris had said, stretching the truth. "He would want your full cooperation on this. I report directly to him and no one else. I can't tell you any details, but there may be a connection to the Aliens."

Trimble had told them the whole story, in even more detail than he had told Michael. He had even pointed out how to get to Rhett Bartlett's cabin on a map.

"I have no idea what Michael Regnant’s role is," said Harris, "but I intend to find out."

"We are going to find out," said Bentham. "Remember, we are working together on this. It could be nothing, you know, but my intuition tells me we are on the right trail. Truthfully, I'm sorry I told you that I was interested in Trimble. I might have gotten this on my own, but I can't think of anyone I'd rather share it with."

"Other than no one at all," said Harris, with a laugh.

"Right," said Bentham.

"Who knows how many different flights it will take to get to Pittsburgh," said Harris.

When they arrived at the John Wayne International Airport in Santa Ana, Harris opened his laptop and checked for flights to Pittsburgh.

"This is the fastest way," he said.  In a couple of minutes, he said, "Let's go to the American Airlines counter.  We can still make the twelve o'clock flight to Chicago and on to Pittsburgh, arriving at nine thirty-five. Not bad. We can spend the night in Pittsburgh and check out these two characters tomorrow morning.  There is an FBI field office in Pittsburgh. I'll pick up a car there tomorrow morning."

"I've never been to Pittsburgh," said Bentham. "Can we get a decent place to stay there, with good food?"

"I think you will find Pittsburgh is quite civilized," said Harris, "indoor toilets and all."

 

Rhett's Cabin

 

The three days had flown by. The nuclear powers, like all governments, were completely unaccustomed to rapid action, but they managed, and at ten o'clock, the meeting started in the UN headquarters in New York. All the nuclear powers were there, except one.  Israel had announced that it had no nuclear weapons, in spite of anti-Semitic propaganda to the contrary.

"Looks like you were right, Rhett," said Valerie. "Every one of the nuclear powers said they are participating in this meeting, not because of the suggestion of some alleged aliens, but because it was something they had desired for a long time.  Of course, the one holdout was pretty much a given."

"We knew it, and we set up for it prior to sending the e-mail," said Rhett. "It is nudging time. It is a quarter to eleven in New York. The meeting has been going on for forty-five minutes. We should give them until eleven, just in case."

"They said they didn't have to go, not being a nuclear power," said Michael.

"Maybe they forgot they have nukes," said Rhett. "We'll remind them. I'll put out the first notice now, and at eleven, if they haven't showed up, I'll put up the go-ahead notice. It'll be six o'clock there. We wanted to hit the Knesset, but they meet on Mondays and Tuesdays at four. It wouldn’t be very effective it they weren’t in session. Needless to say, we have a backup plan.”

 

Dimona, Israel

 

At two minutes after eleven, New York time and two minutes after six, Israeli time, dozens of small rockets were fired almost simultaneously at the Dimona nuclear facility. These were not about to do any serious damage, but they overwhelmed the defense system, leaving the way clear for two cruise missiles to breach the defenses and do some serious damage.

All across Israel, e-mail boxes received a simple message: 

 

This was merely a reminder. If a next time is required, expect far more severe results.

 

At two o'clock, when the group of nuclear powers reconvened, there was an Israeli representative present. The Israeli Prime Minister announced that the attack on the Dimona power plant, just because the Israeli representative had been unfortunately delayed on his trip to New York by a mechanical problem with his aircraft, was proof that the alleged aliens were anti-Semitic.

 

Rhett's Cabin

"The Israeli representative made it for the afternoon session," said Valerie, as she sat at the computer, reading the news to Rhett. "He says his plane had a malfunction and he was forced to land and wait for a replacement part. Sure. If you believe that, I have a bridge for sale that you might be interested in. They called the hit anti-Semitic."

"Imagine my shock," said Rhett. "Since the true Semites are the Palestinians, guess who the true anti-Semites are. All that Semite falderal aside, this move is going to benefit the many millions of Jews outside of Israel more than anything since Moses parted the Red Sea. It's about time something good happened to them as a people. The Israeli government has to be the worst enemy of the Jews of all time. I'm not a wacko, religious or any other kind: I just hate to see a few ruining it for the many."

"I noticed that some time ago," said Valerie. "You also hate to see the many ruining it for the few,"

"Yeah, I guess I do. When I was a kid, I came across five or six bad kids beating up some other kid because he wouldn't give them his lunch money. I went to his aid, and we both got beat up. I was beaten worse than the kid I tried to help. I didn't do a racial profile on the kid before I jumped in. I never could see why people place so much emphasis on people's race or nationality. Take Idi Amin and Nelson Mandela. Both are Africans. One I could be friends with, and one I could be enemies with. If the best thing you can say about yourself is that your skin is a certain color or you have one or more praiseworthy ancestors, you are pretty much a zero, as a human being. You shouldn't hate people for something unimportant, over which they have no control. You hate evil and evil acts. You hate murderers for their murders. You hate child molesters because they molest children. You like roses no matter what color they are. Why should people be any different? I hated the gang for what they were doing, because it was evil. I thought maybe I could stop it. I couldn't. Getting beaten to a pulp didn't change my attitude though. It made me certain that I didn't want to get beaten up again. It made me take up Jiu Jitsu."

"And you went into the jungle to save me, for pretty much the same reasons that you tried to save that boy," said Valerie. She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead.

 

The Next Day

 

"This is amazing," said Harris. After leaving Rhett Bartlett's cabin, he and Bentham had gone to the nearest town and found a hotel with an Internet connection. He was soon online and had run a check on the fingerprints they had lifted in the cabin.

"What is amazing?" asked Bentham.

"One set of prints are of a woman named Lisa Simmons. You may have never heard of her. She was a whistle blower that worked for the NSA. She was kidnapped and supposedly killed in Central America by guerrillas. Suddenly, we find she wasn't killed after all. The man is Rhett Bartlett, a retired Major from Special Forces, who just coincidentally led a supposedly failed attempt to rescue her from the guerrillas. There is another set of fingerprints that are not on record. They are small, like those of Simmons. Probably a woman or a young person. Might be a maid or who knows."

"And these two had secret meetings with the head of Homeland Security," said Bentham. "Fascinating. Even though it may turn out to have nothing to do with the Aliens, it is still very interesting."

"Yes, it is," said Harris. "Let's go back and listen to them for a while and see what we can find out. Maybe they are back by now, and maybe they don't sweep for bugs every time they come home. It's twelve o'clock. Lunch time. We might get lucky."

"Speaking of lunch," said Bentham.

"Right. There's a Burger King. Let's swing by and get something.”

Half an hour later, they parked in the trees, as far as they could be from the cabin and still pick up the signal from the bugs. They ate lunch, and sat for half an hour more.

"Maybe they are gone for the day or for days," said Bentham.

"Maybe they went to the store and decided to have lunch out," said Harris. 

Twenty minutes later, they heard the Jeep Cherokee go by them on the road. A few minutes later, Rhett, Valerie, and Lynn were in the cabin and putting away groceries.

"There are a Valerie and a Lynn," said Bentham. "You said her name was Lisa."

"It was Lisa, and Lisa had a twin sister named Lynn," said Harris. "She probably changed her name, and the reason might be very interesting, as you say."

"Yes, it might. She is afraid of someone and not Michael Regnant, therefore, probably not Homeland Security. You said she was a whistle blower. Whom did she blow the whistle on?"

"I don't know for sure. If I remember correctly, she told her story to a congressional committee, who paid no attention to her and even sent her testimony to her superiors at the NSA."

"Who fired her, of course?"

"No, they transferred her to Central America," said Harris.

"Where she was conveniently kidnapped and killed."

"Something like that."

"She managed to escape death, and she is hiding out from whoever tried to have her killed," said Bentham. "Obviously, since they tried to kill her and think they succeeded, they would try again if they found she was still alive."

"No doubt," said Harris.

"They could talk for days and never mention anything that we want to know," said Bentham.

"That's possible," said Harris, settling back in his seat. "It's always that way. You listen and pay attention, or you can miss something that you waited a week to hear.”

Chapter 19

Three Hours Later

 

"Things are looking good," said Valerie. "It is hard to believe how well it's going."

"Tell me about it," said Rhett. "Things were so bad before that I tend to be wary. Are they somehow hiding their evil deeds or are things really turning around?"

"I think they have to be turning around," said Valerie. "Michael says so. He talks with the PE people. He is one of them; they trust him. The remnants of the PE want desperately to stay alive. They are throwing in the towel. Politicians too. Those that are left are terrified. They are on their knees begging forgiveness. With much of the PE gone and the stringent new bribery laws, the bribes have dried up. Corporate CEO's are toeing the line. Monsanto has even withdrawn its genetically modified products, until they can be certain they are perfectly safe. More than a hundred apparently dangerous drugs have been pulled off the market. With most of the biggest offenders already in Corporate Valhalla, those remaining are struggling to save themselves. All the guilty are turning over new leaves, or at least, they want the Aliens to think that."

A hundred yards away, Harris and Bentham both had suddenly snapped up straight in their seats and were listening intently. The name "Michael" had gotten their attention, and the rest of Valerie's words had left them breathless.

"What is 'PE?'" asked Bentham.

"Power Elite," said Harris. "Shhh."

"What is the latest body count?" asked Rhett. "Michael asked me, and I hadn't checked since the last time he asked.

"My records show five thousand, four hundred and eighty-eight. All but nine hundred in the USA."

"How many of those are collateral damage?"

"Two hundred and eleven that we know of. We don't count law enforcement or defense forces as collateral damage, but part of the enemy. After all, any policeman enforcing laws that infringe on our inalienable rights is committing a crime and is our enemy. If a law is invalid, enforcing it is a crime, and those enforcing it are necessarily criminals."

"Right. It is tragic that there is any collateral damage, but war is hell. For the U.S. military to kill five thousand enemy troops, they would probably take out between one hundred and two hundred thousand civilians. They wouldn't need to, but they would do it anyway. You almost have to believe they really enjoy murdering innocent people."

"Michael said we should be able to quit soon. What do you think?"

"We have done away with the majority of those on our list," said Rhett. "More and more targets seem to be falling in line, trying to get off our list. We still have to do something in the rest of the world, if we want to have credibility. We haven't any decent intelligence about places like China and India, to say nothing of a lot of small third world countries. It's hard to know what to do in those places. As much as we would like to see all the Chinese people free, we went into this for our own self-defense. We do know that China is offering to get rid of her nukes, like Russia. If we get that, we shouldn't have to fear China. Russia is leading the way in the new way of life. They may give the rest of the world a lesson in freedom. Amazing isn't it?"

"Putin may not be a saint. He may have been a really bad guy in the past, but he is no fool. He is definitely an opportunist."

"He may end up being the hero of the twenty-first century," said Rhett.

"The bad thing about stopping is that if some are not really reforming, but only pretending, we have no way of knowing."

"We never will," said Rhett. "Besides, our list is certainly not complete. There are bound to be some real bad guys that we overlooked. You can be sure of that."

"When I talked to Michael, he said that with the government in its weakened condition, and the new sunshine laws, heavy penalties for bribing a government official, and life without parole for government people accepting a bribe, he didn't think bribery is going to be all that popular, from either side. Now that the governments are struggling to come to terms with the Aliens’ Panel's recommendations, we are almost home free. He also said that we can't wait for it to be perfect, because it will never be perfect. If we keep it up too long, we will start killing everyone we disagree with, and that is not what we set out to do. We went into this as self-defense, and we aren't in immediate danger now. Our exit strategy is planned. We need to clean up a few loose ends in Europe, Asia, and third world countries. Big Brother Sam seems a thing of the past; he’s Uncle Sam again. However, we have been very light on the rest of the world. We need to get to work on that. "

"After what we did in America, the other countries should be a snap. We also need to review our final message," said Rhett. "We wrote that a long time ago. We’ve already changed it a dozen times, but it probably needs another revision to insure its credibility. Credibility, at least a cautious doubt, is essential for it to work at all."

"We can work on it, and then we can send it to Michael for review before we put it out. I'll be really glad to be calling it quits. It has been a long haul. I am so glad we did it, and I am overjoyed with the results, but will I ever be glad to stop."

"I know," said Rhett. "Believe me; I know exactly what you mean."

"We've found the Aliens," said Bentham. "It looks like your boss is one of them. No wonder they evade discovery. We've done it. We have them."

"It certainly looks like it," said Harris.

"Let's get them," said Bentham. "There are only three of them, one man and two women, and it will be a complete surprise."

"We should call for backup," said Harris, “but that would surely alert my boss.”

"That is true,” said Bentham. “Who knows what he might do to stop us. Either one of us could handle this alone," he said, opening the car door. "Together, it will be child’s play. What kind of weapons do you have with you?" he asked, as he checked that his pistol was fully loaded.

"I saw an AR-15, a twelve gauge shotgun, and some grenades," said Harris. "We need to take them alive. There have to be a lot more people involved in this, and we need to find out who they are."

"You mean besides your boss," said Bentham.

"Yes," said Harris. He unlocked the trunk, handed Bentham a shotgun, and took the AR-15 automatic rifle for himself. "Take these," he said, holding out a box of shells.

Bentham opened the box and put several shells into the shotgun and the rest in his pockets. "Let's go," he said.

"One second," said Harris. He handed Bentham some plastic ties. "We will need these. At least, I hope we will."

"I like the old metal handcuffs," said Bentham. "If someone manages to get away, these are so easy to cut, but the metal cuffs are much harder to get off."

“We never for a moment believed there were any real extraterrestrials involved in this,” said Bentham, as they walked slowly through the woods. “We knew from the beginning that it was just some group with a brilliant idea. My own brother is in this country, in charge of capturing some of the Aliens’ people when they pull off a strike. He was to anticipate where they would strike or get them to strike a certain place, but be there when they did strike and catch them. We have ways to make anyone talk. We’d find out about their leaders and kill them and take over their scam, running it for our own purposes.”

“The people engaged in an actual strike may not have any idea who is giving them their orders,” said Harris. “The Aliens seem awfully smart, and that would be the smart way to run things.”

“That’s true,” said Bentham. “Until now, it was the best plan we have. Now, we could already have the leaders of the Aliens. Join with me, Pete, and we’ll take these people and turn them over to my brother and his group. If you agree to that, I can guarantee you five million dollars in a Swiss bank account.”

“You know I can’t or won’t do that,” said Harris.

“Ten million,” said Bentham.

“No,” said Harris. “I don’t work that way.”

“Oh well,” said Bentham. “I’ll have to settle for being an international hero, and sharing the reward money with you. How much is that reward now? “

“As far as I know, there is no reward. The last guy that offered a reward died right after offering it. It’s assumed that the Aliens did him in.”

“You mean we don’t get any reward,” said Bentham.  “That’s ridiculous for something this important.”

“This is hardly an ordinary case,” said Harris. “The Aliens kill anyone trying to stop them, and they apparently look at offering a reward for their capture as trying to stop them.”

“All the more reason for us to turn these people over to my brother.  I know that there are people willing to pay billions to take over the Aliens’ scheme.  By working it right, they can take over the world and not have to share it with thousands of accomplices.”

“If I could be tempted,” said Harris. “This might have been the time, but I can’t. You’ll have to settle for a few million for book and maybe movie rights to your story and the fame that is inevitable.”

“That’s right. There could be some good money in that. We better shut up or we’ll scare away our aliens.”

As they drew near the cabin, they slowed to move more quietly. They could hear conversation. Through the trees, they saw their targets seated on the front porch, talking. "Wonderful," whispered Bentham. "We won't have to break down any doors and rush them. We'll just circle around and come in on the back of the house.”

Two minutes later, they were in the back of the cabin. Bentham motioned for Harris to go around one side, and he went around the other side.

Rhett, Valerie, and Lynn were laughing when Bentham jumped on the end of the porch and, waving the shotgun at them, yelled, "Don't make a move."

As Bentham had hit the porch, Rhett had sprung from his chair, but seeing the shotgun pointing at the women, he stopped cold, hanging onto the chair.  When Bentham took a step toward him, he swung the chair at him with all his might. The shotgun went off, blowing a hole in the roof over the porch.

Just then, from the other end of the porch, Harris yelled out, "Freeze, everybody, right now."

Rhett, who was lunging toward Bentham, froze when he saw Harris with the AR-15 pointed at Valerie.

"It's a good thing you were here," said Bentham, bleeding from a cut on his face. He clutched his shotgun and pointed it at Rhett. "He was fast."

"Against the wall," said Harris. "Keep apart. Hands behind your backs. Now, tie their hands," he said to Bentham. "Get the man first." He stepped close to Rhett, with the AR-15 pointed at his head.

Bentham laid his shotgun on the floor, well behind Harris. He felt in his pocket and pulled out a plastic tie. As he reached for Rhett's hands, Harris swung the AR-15 around and shot Bentham twice in the head.

When Harris stepped back, and looked down at the body on the floor, Rhett looked down too and said, "What the hell is going on?"

Harris took a deep breath and lifted the barrel of the rifle. Rhett jumped back and raised his hands. "Let's talk this over," he said.

"Oh this," said Harris, pointing the barrel of his AR-15 at the floor. "I'm not going to harm you. I overheard what you were saying. You are going to wind it up, and let the people think the Aliens have left for the time being. In that case, my work is over. I have been trying to make sure they didn't catch you."

"Who are you?" asked Valerie.

"Just a patriot," said Harris. "I am with the FBI. I had put in for early retirement when all this started. When I saw the first e-mail, I suspected it was something good, so I withdrew my retirement request, and I have dedicated myself to sabotaging anybody that got close to you. Be glad I did. I planted so much misleading evidence, I didn't think anyone could find you, but one did. He's a Mossad operative, working for MI6. Sorry to put you through this scare, but I was afraid that if I'd shot him out in the woods, you might have gotten me, Rhett, before I could explain things to you. I'd appreciate it if you get rid of him for me. Be sure it's somewhere he won't be found. I am sure you know what to do, Rhett. No one will look very hard for him. I’ve been with him since we found out about you, so I’m pretty certain that he didn't tell anyone else about you. So, you don't have to vanish, unless you want to. By the way, Lisa, I may be able to help fix it so you can come out of hiding. It might take a while, and it isn't at all certain. I'll let you know, if I can find you. If not, I'll tell Michael Regnant. I assume that he will know how to reach you."

"How do you know all these things?" asked Rhett.

"I'm good at my job," said Harris. "If anyone should appreciate that, it's a top Special Forces person like you, Rhett. It should be obvious that I am on your side. With all the thousands of law enforcement people around the world looking for you, you damn sure need someone on your side. As far as I know, I'm it. "

"Thank you, whoever you are," said Valerie.

"By the way, you had better muzzle Ted Trimble. If I could get him to tell me about your meetings in the Bonnie Dwaine and where to find you, so can someone else. Whatever you do, wherever you go, don't use credit cards. If you need a car, buy one or steal one before you rent one with a credit card. I know about your trip to Las Vegas. I know where you stayed and a lot of the places you went. A credit card is what put Trimble onto the Bonnie Dwaine. You, Lisa, are supposed to be dead. You don't look dead to me. Unfortunately, no matter what you call yourself, your fingerprints identify you as Lisa Simmons. Remember that and act accordingly. You really should get a couple of ferocious dogs out here and an alarm system with some motion detectors around the house and in the woods. I walked right in while you were gone. Come with me."

He led them inside. "Your cabin is bugged, here, here, and here." As he showed them where each bug was, he removed it and put it in his pocket. “You need to secure your place and your perimeter. It seems to me that a Special Forces officer like you should know better, Rhett."

"Who are you?" asked Valerie.

"Just a friend," said Harris. "I'll leave you to your chores. One more thing: tell Michael that he had better act a little more like a Regnant. You know, ruthless. Someone is going to suspect him, otherwise."

"Michael Who?" asked Rhett.

"You know who. Tell him to keep up the good work, just be more careful." With that, he gave them a smile, turned, and opened the front door. He turned again to face them. "Goodbye and good luck," he said. He went out the door, closing it behind him.

"My God," exclaimed Valerie. "I was scared to death, when he shot the other guy. I was sure he was going to shoot us too."

"I know," said Rhett. "We had better get in touch with Michael and tell him about this."

"Whoever he was," said Valerie, "he knew about Michael. The Bonnie Dwaine too. And our trip to Las Vegas. Are we in trouble or what?"

"I don't think so," said Rhett. He was going through the dead man's pockets. "It looks like he is MI6. That much is true. I think our friend was telling us the truth. It is remotely possible that he could be setting us up by killing an apparently bad guy. Then they would watch us to see who we contact, but he knew about Michael. He may have given us that message for Michael just to show that he did know, in case we thought he might be setting us up. If so, he is very good at his job. But, I don't think it is a trick. He had us cold. He knew who you are and who I am, and he knows a lot about us. I don't think he would need much else. He is either on our side, or we are done for. I'm going to send Michael an e-mail and have him contact us ASAP."

 

It was two hours before Michael called them. Valerie had stayed near the computer, while Rhett wrapped the body in black plastic and put it in the Jeep Cherokee. There hadn't been much blood. The bullets had gone right through his head. In one ear and out the other, Rhett had told Valerie. The security handshaking made the connecting with Michael a little slow, but finally, they heard him, "You called an ASAP meeting. Something important must be up."

"Fairly important, Sam," said Valerie.

"We had a couple of visitors this afternoon," said Rhett. "One was an MI6 guy. The other one, I don't know what he was, except that he seemed to be American. He said he was FBI. The MI6 guy wanted to take us in. There were only the two of them, and I tried to take them, but they had the drop on us. Anyway, we ended up against the wall with our hands behind our backs. The FBI guy told the other guy to cuff us. When he put down his shotgun and pulled out a plastic cuff, the FBI guy shot him through the head. He said he was on our side, and as far as he knew, he was the only one on our side. The kicker is that he knew what we were doing. He knew who Valerie really is. He even said he'd try to clear it for her to go back to her real name. He knew I was in Special Forces. And he knew about you. He knew about the meetings at the Bonnie Dwaine. He knew we went to Las Vegas. He showed us the bugs he had put in the cabin. He told us we need better security. He said to tell you to act more ruthless, more like a Regnant, or people might suspect you. He said to tell you to keep up the good work, but be more careful."

"He didn't give his name?" asked Michael.

"No. Valerie asked him who he was. He said he was a friend. Before that, he said he was a patriot."

"That is weird," said Michael "He probably is in intelligence if he was with someone from MI6. What about the dead man?"

"I checked his ID," said Rhett. "Cyril Bentham, and he was with MI6, unless he had fake ID. I'm going to take him for a drive and dump him in an old quarry."

"What do you think?" asked Michael. "Is it safe to stay there? We have places to hide you."

"I believe him," said Rhett. "He could have taken us in. Even if he'd wanted to kill the MI6 guy, he could have waited until he had cuffed us. He didn't. I think he told us the things he knew about us to show that he wasn't setting us up. I think he is what he said he was, a friend."

"Okay," said Michael. "No clue as to how he knows all this about us?"

"Oh, yes," said Rhett. "He said we need to put a muzzle on Ted Trimble. It was through Trimble that he found out about the Bonnie Dwaine and where to find us. He said that if he could get it out of Trimble, so could someone else. He also told us not to use credit cards. He said that Trimble found out about the Bonnie Dwaine through credit card records."

"I know. Trimble told me that. At that time, I wasn't in a super secrecy mode like we are now. I should have been. I guess I’d better take care of Trimble."

"You mean--." said Rhett.

"No, I don't think so," said Michael. "I can't rule that out, but I'd talk to him first anyway. Maybe I can find out who it was that he talked to. I'd kind of like to know who is on our side."

"So would I," said Rhett. "Oh, yes. Apparently, this FBI guy has been working all along to protect us, planting misleading evidence. He said he had put in for retirement before the Alien thing came up. When it did, he figured it was a good thing happening, and he stayed on so he could help."

"I should have known," said Michael. "Now, I know who he is. He's the one I told you about, the best and brightest in the FBI, and the one who was interested in Trimble. Thank goodness, he was on our side. Even so, this is frightening. If these two can track us down, someone else may be able to. We need to seriously consider winding this up before it blows up."

“Things were going well, at least until this happened,” said Valerie. “Yet, we are hardly ready to stop.”

“Remember,” said Michael, "that our exit strategy is to use the threat of a return of the Aliens to exterminate mankind if they fail to act responsibly. If we are exposed before that time, not only is that no longer possible, but all the progress we have made would almost certainly evaporate immediately. We were gambling from the beginning. At the start, we had little to lose,” he paused and smiled, “other than our lives. Now we have a lot more to lose.  We have made incredible strides, and the thought of losing all that ground is horrifying.”

“I’ll say,” said Rhett. “We do need to accelerate our plans to finish up.”

“Take care not to get reckless, though,” said Michael. “Haste can make waste.”

Chapter 20

Two Days Later

 

Michael Regnant was waiting at the front door of the Regnant Country Club when Pete Harris arrived. When Harris handed his keys to the valet parking attendant and joined him, Michael put his finger to his lips and nodded toward the door. Without a word, they entered and went up the stairs to the Regnant suite.

Inside, with the door shut, Michael said, "We can talk here."

"I feel like a new man," exclaimed Harris. "I feel the way I expected to feel when I joined the Bureau: like I'm doing something for my country. For years, I felt like taking early retirement. I'm so glad I didn't. I wouldn't have been there to play a role in your wonderful project."

"I, too, am glad you didn't retire," said Michael. "But for you, the whole project could have come to an abrupt end."

"The concept is sheer genius," said Harris. "I take back everything I ever said against the Regnants--the things I thought, too."

"No other Regnant knows anything about this," said Michael. "Actually, only four people know very much about it. I guess there are five now, with you. Naturally, a lot of people are involved, but they don't know the whole story. They don’t know who is behind it. A lot of them think they are enlisted by the Aliens. A majority of them are vets and active military."

"Are you telling me that this global project has been run by four people? That is incredible."

"For a long time, it was only three," said Michael. "The fourth was added recently, because she knew anyway, and she was in danger too."

"That would be Lynn Simmons," said Harris.

"Yes."

"I hope you will let me help," said Harris.

"You have helped," said Michael. “Immensely.”

"I want your project to succeed, and it is looking very good right now. I know you were getting ready to wind it down. This close call could be a reminder to get moving on that. I'll do whatever you ask of me."

"I was hoping you would say that," said Michael. "I have some ideas. We are anxious to wind up our project as soon as we can. Let's sit down and talk about my ideas."

“First, let me tell you about something Bentham told me,” said Harris. “It could have an effect on your plans.” He proceeded to tell Michael about Bentham’s brother’s project to ambush some of the Aliens’ people when they were making a hit and extract information from them that would lead them to the Aliens.

“You see,” said Harris, “they don’t believe the Aliens are extra-terrestrials. They do think you have a wonderful plan. They want to hijack your plan and use it for their own purposes. You can maybe guess what those purposes might be.”

“Yes,” said Michael. “I can guess that they won’t be humanitarian in the least.”

“You got that right,” said Harris. “Unfortunately, I don’t even know what name Bentham’s brother is using, much less where to find him, but I’ll do my best.”

“So far, your best is the best there is,” said Michael. “Good luck. I’ll give you any support I can. Find him. Bug him. Track him. If they plan to ambush our people, we have to know where and when. Now let me explain some of the other things you might be able to help us with.”

After their discussion, as Harris was getting up to leave, he said, “Was Hiram Vandercleep one of your hits?”

“I think so,” said Michael. “Why?”

“He was shot on the street in front of the Federal Reserve by one of his own bodyguards, who amazingly had zero recollection of having done it and passed lie detector tests that indicated he hadn’t done it. Yet, dozens of people saw him shoot his boss, and it is on video. That means you have a way of creating Manchurian Candidates. I have been wondering how the command to act is sent to the candidate out in the open. I can understand calling one on the phone and reciting the trigger phrase and putting him under and telling him what to do, but out in the open?”

“I’m not up on all the details of that sort of thing,” said Michael, “but I think it is some sort of focused sound. You know they have billboards that have a device in them that focuses the sound on a single person or a few people in a crowd. Those are advertising gimmicks, but I think we use something like that to talk to a person at a distance, without those around him hearing. If you are really interested, I can find out.”

“No, that is close enough. Another brilliant idea. I’ve not seen those billboards, but I have read about them. Goodbye, Mister Regnant, and thank you for letting me help you in this magnificent endeavor. At last, I’m really doing something to help my country.”

“That may be a result,” said Michael, “but it isn’t the reason. We aren’t killing a few thousand people because we want to save mankind—not exactly. We are killing them because they were waging war on us, and they were winning. The most valuable thing we can have is freedom to act in our own behalf, as we see fit. They were taking our freedom and forcing us to do as they saw fit. That is slavery, no matter what you call it.  Since they were out to eventually enslave the world, as well as us, eliminating them will save the world. We can’t save ourselves without saving the rest of the people, or we probably would, especially if it were easier and safer. Surely, you know that most people never knew they needed saving, and would have opposed being saved. After they are saved, if we reach that point, it will be a long time before a lot of them realize that they have been saved. Some will never do so. We aren’t risking our lives to save the brain-dead, but ourselves. We set out to save ourselves by making America free. When we hit upon the Alien plan, it would only work if we went global, and yet, it would make things much easier. Besides, the administration was getting ready to slaughter millions of Muslims, blaming them for the attacks. We couldn’t let that happen, and we wouldn’t stop. So the Alien idea seemed perfect.”

“It is perfect,” said Harris.

“Personally,” said Michael, “I will be quite pleased if we give freedom and opportunity to six billion people—more pleased than many of them. I don’t see a downside for anyone other than the moochers that sucked productive working people’s money at the government teat, and that includes any left of the Power Elite. That is as it should be. Everyone else will be better off or the same. The only thing holding any person back or down will be that person.  Any social arrangement that allows the immoral oppression of anyone will slowly move toward the oppression of everyone.”

“You have to admit that in some regions where many exist under extremely impoverished conditions, upward mobility is still going to be difficult.”

“Yes, it will, but not impossible, as it is now. You have to realize that, in these impoverished nations, the regimes that hold the people down and keep them busy in seemingly useless wars are generally supported financially and militarily by America and other so-called Western Nations, such as the UK and France. This is at the behest of the Power Elite that, in return, get to exploit the natural resources of that country. This will end. It is ending now. In the oil rich nations, that may not be quite as true, although we still supply them with arms. Still, we may have to remove a few obstacles. We aren’t killing off any genuinely charitable organizations, and there will be a lot more charity if we are successful, but I think just giving poor people money is counterproductive if you truly want to help them. The best thing you can do is establish business and industry and give them a method of moving up. Giving people the wealth produced by others is a bad idea. Giving them the opportunity to produce wealth is the way to go about it. Dropping a load of food in a village will feed them for a few days, but then what? It is an insult to them. You would do the same to starving animals in a corral. We are talking about people. People have more needs than merely to eat and drink. At least, they should. I imagine some of the remaining PE will be setting an example. Sure, we will make some more money, but for every dollar we make, dozens or maybe hundreds of formerly poor and starving will make one too. Today, we can’t do that, because of government interference, both here and in the host country.”

“As Nathan Hale said, ‘I regret that I have but one life to give…,” said Harris.

“Don’t talk like that,” said Michael. “We need you alive.”

“Ok. You talked me into it.”

 

Homeland Security

Michael's Office

 

Kirk Denton rolled his wheelchair up in front of Michael’s desk. He was briefing Michael on the recent meetings of the Aliens’ Panel with the Russian and U.S. governments. "Putin at least met with us," he said. "He went over the entire document with us and asked for clarification of a number of items. Then he said he would have to present it to the rest of his government and would get back to us before the Aliens' deadline. The President sent the Secretary of State to meet with us. She merely accepted our document, quite arrogantly, without even glancing at it, and said it would be reviewed and we would hear from them."

"What was your impression of Putin's true feelings about it?" asked Michael.

"He kept a poker face most of the time," said Denton. "Once in a while, he looked a little dismayed. The prohibition of gun control probably caused the biggest crack in his nonchalance. I got the impression that would be a bigger sacrifice for him than having no victimless crimes, with the government and society not counting as victims, which we discussed at length. He also considered complete freedom of speech and thought to be a bit extreme. We got pretty deep into individual sovereignty too. Oh, yes, he looked a little stiff when it came to getting rid of the FSB. He asked if the USA had to abolish the CIA, and laughed when we said, 'Yes.' With the U.S., we will have to wait and see what they will balk at."

"Everything the Russians do and more," said Michael.

"In a roundabout way, the Secretary of State asked if we wouldn't be able to make some modifications to our recommendations, if necessary. We told her that we had considered that possibility, and when she read it, she would see that we acknowledged that we might have overlooked some things that government was doing that it had no right to do and we might have to prohibit some additional things. That ended that avenue rather quickly."

"I saw that you published everything you presented to them," said Michael, "sending it to all the media and posting it on the Panel's Website, as well as your own S.M.A.R.T. site. I got over eleven million results with a Google search for ‘Aliens’ Panel.’ There must be thousands of copies of the entire documents on the Internet, after only two days. Now, practically the whole world knows what has been spelled out to Russia and the United States in particular and to the world in general. While we wait to see if there will be government acceptance of these guidelines, the world is digesting them. A lot of people have to be wondering what the world would be like if all the governments adopted them and adhered to them."

"Of course, a lot of the people will be against individual freedom," said Denton, "in particular, all those who are or feel they may be on the receiving end of government largess."

"Unfortunately, that could be a majority," said Michael. "When you consider that the bottom fifty percent of the taxpayers together pay considerably less than five percent of the income taxes, and income tax is probably the only thing they think is being taken from them. Of course, far, far more is being sucked away from them via inflation and countless other taxes on everything they buy, but they are hardly likely to be analytical enough to be aware of that. They will erroneously see the justice demanded by the Aliens as threatening to them, believing their own contribution will increase."

"So many believe they benefit from the status quo of recent decades," said Denton. "It is a sad commentary on the species that they can be so easily duped."

"Of course, those in control do benefit handsomely," said Michael. "I can attest to that, since the Regnants are among them.  The rest are willing or witless victims of a system essentially of their own choosing. They are their own worst enemy. They are often likened to sheep or called “sheeple,” but sheep aren’t so foolish as to turn for help to the same wolves that attack them. The majority of the people, on the other hand, consistently turn to their victimizer, the government, to save them. Under the present system, they are the unwitting enemies of all Americans and even all of Mankind, save the Power Elite and the governments, which thrive on their lack of consciousness."

"I don’t recall ever hearing the bulk of the people cited as enemies of Mankind," said Denton, "but I see what you mean. The awesome military might of a belligerent USA has been responsible for the deaths of millions of innocents, directly and indirectly, all with the tacit support of the clueless majority of its citizens."

"It is so hard to understand how people can so easily give away such sweeping control of their lives,” said Michael. “Imagine that people had to drive everywhere they went and to do everything they did, and they had two options: one, a lot of windows in their car with excellent visibility, and two, having all their windows painted black so they could never see where they were going or what might be coming at them. They depended on information received via a cell phone to know when to go, when to stop, turn, etc. Imagine moreover that if you chose the second option, the person giving the directions although professing to have your best interests at heart, in reality is going to be an unscrupulous con man, child molester, murderer, thief, liar, rapist, and generally no good person who covets everything everyone owned, and only lets his victims live because they are a source of income and service to him. Can you seriously believe that the majority of people would choose the second option, giving complete control to an unknown stranger?”

“Lord, no,” said Denton. “I can’t believe anyone could act so self-destructively.”

“Isn’t that perfectly analogous to what millions of people do when, through their ignorance, apathy, indifference, and uninformed voting, they give complete control of their lives to a pack of unknown strangers that invariably turn out to be criminal con artists? They make little or no attempt to know where they are going or what might be coming at them. They unquestioningly accept whatever information is fed to them by the con artists and direct their lives accordingly. You say you can’t believe anyone could act so self-destructively. Unfortunately, many millions do.”

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” said Denton. “With a few dozen words, you just painted a very sobering picture.”

“Democratic government at the mercy of the clueless is about as rational as it would be to staff hospitals with people from insane asylums," said Michael. "Of course, it sounds so pompously egalitarian to proclaim everyone should have a say in what goes on in the government, but look where that invariably gets you. Why stop at letting everyone have a say in government that can impair or destroy your life? Why not let them have a say in where you live, what you eat, whom you marry, choosing your career, etc. These things are far less important, in the long run, than the government. No one would want all these clueless people meddling in their life, would they? Yet, they are all for letting the same clueless people vote for a government to meddle in aspects of their lives they would never consider letting the clueless meddle in. No government ever improves with time. Only by changing government has any improvement ever occurred, and then the new government immediately begins its slide downward. The fact that throughout history, no government has ever improved without being forcibly overthrown should dispel everyone's hopes that their current government might improve peacefully. If working within the system could succeed, all governments would prohibit it.  In the United States, the government's actions to prevent working within the system are highly visible. Just look at how hard it has become for a third party candidate to even get on the ballot.  The Republicrats have essentially legislated away the possibility of getting anything other than a Demacrook or a Republicrook on the ballot for any significant office."

“Before I forget it," said Denton. "There has been some discussion about how complete we should make the report that we post on our website concerning the meetings. I wondered what your feelings were."

"Aren't you still the chairman of the committee?"

"Yes, they all wanted to leave it that way. Why?"

"What was the consensus, if any, and did you agree with it?" asked Michael.

"The majority believed we should be completely open with the world, and I agreed. We condemn the governments for hiding things from the citizens. We should practice what we preach."

"Good," said Michael. "I agree, wholeheartedly. However, I think you should make it clear when you meet with anyone that whatever they say will be made public. I suppose there could be exceptions. Someone might voice an opinion, off the record, regarding how he thought his administration would react. That isn't pertinent to the discussion and could be excluded, but nothing pertinent should be hidden from the public. Just using common sense should suffice."

 

Two Weeks Later

Homeland Security

Michael's Office

 

"We've found Bentham's brother," said Harris. "He's using the name, Michele Berge. I have him under 'round the clock surveillance, and everything he touches is bugged, including his girlfriend's and his boyfriend's apartments."

"Why not put the NSA onto him?" asked Michael. "They have access to all phone calls and e-mails."

"Using the NSA is a good idea,” said Harris. “Actually, I did use them, but I'm fairly certain the people this guy works for have access to everything the NSA has. If I ask NSA for info on Berge, I might as well call him up and tell him we're onto him. Instead, I had them searching for his brother, Cyril Bentham. I even let them know he had offered to share his knowledge with me, and at that time, I had declined. I had thought it over and wanted to talk with him, but didn’t know where to find him. I got several leads. I even contacted the brother and asked him about Bentham. He said his brother had dropped out of sight, but he wasn’t worried, since that happened from time to time. He would turn up, and when he did, Berge would relay the information to him."

“You are good,” said Michael. “Do you really think the Mossad has access to NSA data?"

"In your position, you should already know this better than I do,” said Harris. “While I don't have any tangible evidence they are actually taking advantage of their probable access, a great deal of the hardware and software our government uses for surveillance comes from Israeli companies or companies with very strong ties to Israel. An Israeli company was responsible for security at all the airports involved in 9/11. An Israeli company had the job of repairing and upgrading the World Trade Center after the first attack in ’93, giving them complete access to it for years. An Israeli company is responsible for the security of all our nuclear weapons. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. The worst part is that just about everyone who should be correcting it knows about it, yet no one does anything about it. What does that tell you?"

“It tells me that something needs to be done about it," said Michael. "We may need some additions to our list. Back to this problem. I've heard and I believe that the best defense is a good offense. We need a good offense against this plan to ambush the Aliens’ people, a way to use it against them.”

“I like that kind of thinking," said Harris. "Got any ideas how to do that?"

"Nothing definite yet," said Michael. "Let's put our heads together and see what we can come up with."

 

A Few Days Later

 

"Sit down, Harvey," said Michael, as he ushered Harvey Wilson, the Director of Central Intelligence into his office. He motioned to a chair at a table in the corner of his ample office.

When they were both seated, Michael said, "Since I last talked with you, I've become convinced that the administration is very likely to take the Aliens’ Panel's recommendations and eliminate the CIA. In my opinion, that is a bad decision no matter how you look at it."

"Tell me about it," said Wilson. "Rumors are flying throughout the agency. The DCI never knows everything that is going on, but I sense there is a mutiny brewing."

"As you know, my father was DCI some years ago. That gives me a certain insight and advantage. Just last night, he predicted something along those lines. He said dismantling the CIA could be disastrous for national security." Claude Regnant had, of course, said no such thing. Michael hadn’t even discussed the CIA with him recently.

"It certainly would be disastrous," said Wilson. "What have you in mind?"

"Of the several alternatives I've considered, the best seems to be to essentially make it appear that we are dismantling it, but in reality, we just change the name to some innocuous title."

"Something like going from the OSS to the CIA, under Truman," said Wilson. "

"Precisely."

"I like that."

"There needs to be a lot of coordination, and it would have to be kept very low key," said Michael. "We need the cooperation of your deputy directors and those in management a couple of levels below them. I'd like to get all these people together, not just to let them in on the plan, but to get suggestions from them. If there is any reorganization required, this is a perfect time to do it. I'm sure there are a lot of things going on that no one, including the two of us, has the slightest knowledge of. We will have to trim back some, but we should try to make sure nothing really important gets lost in the transition. Furthermore, the CIA has funds scattered all over the globe. We are talking about more money than the GDP of most countries, certainly more than any but the top twenty to forty. I don't want those funds to disappear into a black hole. I'm afraid that if we hold such a meeting on official turf or even nearby, someone is going to notice. My family owns a resort in the Caribbean that would make a good place to meet in secret for a few days and hammer out our strategy. Then when the ax falls, as it is almost certain to do, we'll be ready, and in the shortest possible time, the CIA will be back in business, under a new name. What do you think?"

"Sounds fantastic to me," said Wilson. "When we set up the meeting, we'll tell them we are meeting to consider ways to avoid the elimination of the CIA or at the worst, merely trim it a little."

"That's good," said Michael. "That should make them anxious to attend."

 

Two Hours Later

 

"Sit down, Pete,” said Michael, “Thanks for getting here so soon. I think the CIA is plotting to keep the President and Congress from agreeing to eliminate it. Everyone in government is truly afraid of the CIA and not without reason. It has a reputation of assassinating anyone that threatens it or its independent goals. I don’t know if the President has what it takes to stand up to them."

"I don't blame the President for fearing the CIA," said Pete Harris. "I don't think he would be the first president to be taken out by the CIA. How are the Aliens going to handle this?"

"For some time, I've wanted access to all CIA documents," said Michael. "That might give me some idea of what they are really up to. They tell me that I have full access now, but I know that isn't true.  As Director of Homeland Security, I can go over there and look through their computers, but even then, I'd have to have a crew of gurus to find their hidden files. If they knew I was coming, they could erase any incriminating files. The only way would be to surprise them and lock the computers down before they have a chance to delete any files. Even then, some really treasonous projects might not even be documented at all. I want to have my strategy set up, everything in place, and move in before they suspect anything. Naturally, I agree with the Aliens’ Panel’s recommendation that the CIA be eliminated."

"Many of us in the Bureau have felt that way for decades," said Harris. "We wouldn't dare say it publicly. Everyone is afraid of those guys. When they brief the President or Congress, they just tell them what they've done. They don't ask permission, until it's already done, if ever. They foment revolutions in other countries, kill anyone they want, and use our military any way they see fit. The most flak they ever get from the rest of the government is a little grumbling that they should have asked permission first."

"I don't think the Director of Central Intelligence is in on their most outrageous secret plots," said Michael. "Like you say, he may have been briefed on some of them, but only after the fact. Directors come and go every couple of years, if not sooner. The real problem people are in the next few layers of management. Moreover, it's almost impossible to tell the bad ones from the good ones."

"Do you really think there are any good guys in the CIA?" asked Harris. "They are cold-blooded assassins on their best days. They wouldn't bat an eye about nuking New York City, if they thought it would fit in with their plans. You must have some kind of plan, and I must play a role in it. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here. What can I do to help pull the plug on those fiendish butchers?"

They talked for half an hour.

"It's a daring plan," said Harris, “but it could work."

"It has to work," said Michael. "I know you are well known and highly respected at Langley. I want you to spread the word that the CIA is not going to be around for long. You might suggest that some of them could go to work with the FBI."

"They would hate that," said Harris.

"You might suggest that the time is drawing near, and it will probably happen overnight to keep them from fighting back. Leave the rest to me."

"Keep me posted," said Harris. "I’ll be ready when the time comes if there is anything else I can do."

"It can't take too long. What's left of the government is just about convinced that the Aliens are really extra-terrestrials, or very well could be. No one wants to openly admit they are following the Aliens' orders, but they don't want to risk not following them. So, they just find excuses for doing what the Aliens tell them to do. However, they are also afraid of the CIA. They waver between fears. We need to make it easier for them."

"If the Aliens succeed in getting all that they want," said Harris, "it will be the most important step, the most beneficial step, the greatest blessing in the history of mankind. If I can contribute to that, in any way at all, I am totally at your disposal."

"The benefits to mankind are all well and good," said Michael, "but the Aliens are doing what they do in self-defense. Generally speaking, all advances for mankind in general come from people doing what is in their own self-interest. Mankind is the people, just the aggregate of the many individuals. If all the individuals are free and happy, the world is free and happy. Governments always purport to make the nation happy and prosperous, while making the individuals miserable and poor."

"Ain't that the truth," said Harris.

After Harris left, Michael cleared his desk and grabbed his coat to leave. Before he could slip into his coat, his secretary buzzed him and said his sister Alice was asking to see him. That was the first time Alice or any other family member had come to the office to see him. His first thought was that something terrible had happened to someone in the family, maybe Claude Regnant.

"Send her in," he said.

"What is it, Alice?" he asked cautiously, as Alice came into the office and the secretary shut the door behind her. He braced himself for bad news.

"Hello to you, too," said Alice. "Some way to greet your baby sister."

"I'm sorry," he said. "I was afraid you were the bearer of bad tidings. None of the family has ever come to the office to see me, or even to Washington."

"No bad tidings," said Alice. "I suppose this office is secure. It is; isn't it?"

"I certainly hope so," he said. "I go to great lengths to keep it secure. Why do you ask?"

"I know what you're up to, Michael, and I want in on it."

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"The Aliens."

"What about the Aliens?"

"I know you are involved with them," said Alice.

"What gave you that crazy idea?"

“Orville Weatherby."

"What about him?" asked Michael. "He's dead."

"I know. You gave permission to kill him. I heard you," said Alice.

"Really?  That's absurd. Why would I want him killed?"

"You said no one deserved being on this list more than he did, and Cousin Marie wouldn't miss him. The window to your office was open the other day, and I was standing right under it. I overheard you say that and thought nothing of it at the time. A few days later, Marie was a widow, courtesy of the Aliens. I heard you tell Father it was most likely an Alien hit. Suddenly, what you said made sense to me. The Aliens got Orville, and they asked you first because he was related to you, and they needed your permission. Why would they ask your permission, unless you are working with them?"

Michael's mind was working hard to come up with a plausible explanation. How about wanting to quit as director of Homeland security and recommending the late Orville as his replacement? Not very credible. Everyone in the family knew he hated Orville Weatherby as much as they did.  Time was running out. He punted.

"I can see how it might look like that to you," he said. "But that conversation had nothing to do with the Aliens. Unfortunately, for security reasons, I can't tell you what it was about, but take my word for it. I wasn't giving permission to kill Orville Weatherby to the Aliens or anyone else."

"You're telling me it was just a coincidence. You want me to believe it sounded like you said go ahead and kill him, but you didn't."

"That's right."

"You also said to make it look like an accident or a natural death, Michael. Another coincidence? Look, I'm not condemning you or even asking you to explain anything. I want to help if I can."

"Even if you were right, which you aren't, you must know that I wouldn't involve my baby sister in something like that," said Michael.

"If I were working with the Aliens, and you asked to help, I'd let you," she said. "This is the best thing that has happened to planet Earth in eons. Would you deny your baby sister a chance to be part of it?"

"Just imagine for a moment that you were right," he said. "I'd be in the most dangerous position in the world. Would you want to put me more at risk than I already was? "

"Of course not," she said. "I don't see how I would endanger you, but I'll take your word for it, if you promise that  if there ever is a need for something I can do to help, you will think of me."

"I suppose I could promise that, if you were right, which you are not. Okay."

"Okay," she said. Then jumping up, she said, "It's Friday. Are you going home this weekend?"

"As a matter of fact, I am," he said. "I just put on my coat to leave when you arrived."

"Can I ride with you without putting you at risk?"

"I'll chance it. Let's go. By the way, I hope you don't spread that story about Orville around."

"I'm not stupid," she said. "True or not, I wouldn't do that."

"Good."

 

 

Ten Days Later

The Bahamas

The Regnants’ Private Island

 

A seventy-two foot yacht pulled up to the dock of the Regnants' private island in the Exuma chain of The Bahamas. Twenty apparently typical, American tourists stepped off it onto the dock. They were relaxed and jovial. No casual observer would have guessed that they were members of the CIA hierarchy. This was the sixth such group to arrive that day. Two boats had made three trips each, picking up passengers at four distinct ports. They had flown on CIA planes into four different destinations, so as not to attract too much attention. They even had false passports so there would be no record of so much of the CIA's upper management having traveled to the same region on the same day.

"I can use a few days off in a place like this," said a tall man in a bright blue shirt decorated with palm trees. "Things have been getting on my nerves, lately. Even if we are here on important business, we should get to laze around a little and soak up some rays."

"I checked this place out," said a trim, middle-aged woman, in a bright red blouse and white slacks. "The Regnants bought this island three years ago. The resort on it was doing quite well for a while. The owners were shady characters, involved in money laundering and drug running. When they were picked up and out on bail, awaiting trial, they sold the island to the Regnants to raise money for their defense. They had to have plenty of money somewhere, but they didn't want the feds to find out where they had it, or they could lose it. The Regnants said they planned to tear down some of the buildings and make a big, elegant resort here. They just haven't gotten around to it yet. They keep a small crew here to keep it up, and they and their friends drop in now and then. It must be nice to have a place like this to just drop by, once in a while."

As the group walked up the path to the main building of the resort, they passed three tennis courts and a putting green, where colleagues, who had arrived earlier were taking advantage of their free time, waved at them.

"This is pretty nice," said the man in the blue shirt, as he looked around the lobby. "The Regnants want to tear it down and build a better one? I can see why they aren't in any hurry. I could spend a month or two here every year, just as it is."

"I could live hear year 'round," said the woman in the red blouse. "If they do eliminate the Agency, I may find a place like this and raise coconuts. I don't think there is much work to that. You don't have to water them. God does that. You don't have to pick them. Gravity does that. I think I could stand that. Still, I hope they don't eliminate us."

"We all hope that," said the man in the blue shirt. "That's why we're here."

"You got that right, Evans," said a heavy-set, balding, gray-haired man walking beside them. "We do important work. We enjoy great power. I don't know if we could be content living a pagan life on a tropical island. Yet, a week or two now and then is appealing."

"It is hard to picture you lying on the beach, doing nothing but living for more than a minute or two, Irving," said the woman in the red blouse.

"Even I relax occasionally, Helen," said Irving. "True, it isn't often, but it does happen. I guess I'm too driven to relax much."

"What will you do when you get old and feeble?" asked Helen. "Go to work in a wheelchair?"

"I don't want to think about getting old and feeble," said Irving. "It is too depressing."

"If the President gives in to the Aliens’ Panel, you won't have any work to do," said Evans. "I guess you could go to work for the Mossad."

"If the CIA goes, the Mossad will probably go soon thereafter," said Helen. "The Aliens have the world by the throat."

"I wouldn't put it quite that way," said Evans.

"No, you wouldn't," said Helen, with a grin.

A tall, handsome man, well dressed in a business suit approached the group. "Hello. I’m Anthony, the manager of the resort. If you'll step over to the desk, we'll quickly assign you to your rooms," he said, with a sweep of his hand toward the desk. "A bellman will show you to your rooms and your luggage will be delivered to you as soon as we know which room to take it to. You are the last group, but you needn't worry that the best rooms are gone. All rooms are alike inside, and all have excellent views. The selections are made at random, even for Mister Regnant. Mister Regnant and Mister Wilson will be arriving tomorrow morning about ten-thirty. Until then, they said to relax and enjoy. The restaurant is open from seven in the morning until twelve at night. The lounge is open from noon until two in the morning. The entire island is open to you, and you will find it a tropical paradise. There is no one on the island except your party and the help, which includes an able security force. Although it is generally unobtrusive, you may run across a security guard now and then. You don't have to worry about a thing here."

"What is the security force for," asked Evans.

"There are instances of burglaries by bandits on private islands such as this. Many private islands have such a few people they are easy prey for such criminals. Now and then, one is cleaned out while the occupants are gone. I suspect that is why the Regnants maintain a staff here at all times."

"I guess it would be a snap for a couple of vets with a fast boat to clean out a little private island," said Helen.

"What a surprise it would be for a few bandits that might hit this island with our crew here," said Irving. "It would be worse than trying to hold up a police station."

"It would be fun," said Evans. "I thought the DCI was going to be here when we got here."

"No," said Irving. "He and Regnant had to meet with the President this afternoon. If they both couldn't make it, it might call attention to the fact that they and dozens of top CIA people are missing on the same Friday afternoon. We don't want that."

"I wonder if Regnant and Wilson can save us," said Helen.

"I think they want us all here to brainstorm and plan," said Irving. "They probably have some ideas to kick around with the rest of us. Combined, we make one helluva group. If this group can't fix it, it can't be fixed."

 

The White House

 

"It's easy for you to be so philosophical about it," said the President. "You Regnants have so much money; you don't know what to do with it. Right now, I'm the president of the most powerful country on earth. If we give in to the Aliens’ Panel’s demands, I’ll be a figurehead, presiding over a pitifully weak Congress."

"That's true," said Michael. "Actually, we’re only going back to the original Articles of Confederation temporarily. It won’t be too long before the states modify them, although, the spirit is unlikely to be changed at all. It will certainly never give much authority to the federal government. No government at any level can have the authority to infringe on the people’s rights. That way, no one will want to take over the government. What would it serve to control a government that can't take money from the people, either directly by taxes or indirectly through letting business people like the Regnants keep necessities priced artificially high by stifling competition or forcing people to buy our stuff. Even when you tax us, we add it to the price of goods, and the people pay our taxes for us. Amazingly, they often manage to feel good about getting themselves fleeced. To tell you the truth, there is precious little satisfaction in getting away with stealing people's money, especially when they essentially volunteer to be robbed. It's hard to feel proud of being the best at cheating the mentally deficient."

"Bless my soul," said the President. "Michael Regnant waxing moral. Are the Aliens getting to you?"

"The Regnants do well in the current situation," said Michael, "and if the Aliens have things their way, I have no doubt we will continue to do well. Personally, I may feel better about our success in a free market than I do in the pickpocket market."

"Then you don't mind going back to the Articles of Confederation?" asked the Secretary of the Treasury.

"I didn't say that," said Michael. "I merely said I think the Regnants will succeed no matter what happens."

"Almost no one knows anything about the Articles of Confederation," said the Secretary of State. "I talked to several congressmen and senators, and they haven't a clue. Half of them thought it was the constitution of the Confederacy when the South seceded. That was almost funny, especially in the case of the senators, since under the Articles, there was no Senate."

"Only a congress with practically no power to do anything," said the President, "and the President has the insignificant job of presiding over the insignificant Congress. I guess the word 'president' comes from 'preside.' I never thought of that before. Is there an expert on the Articles of Confederation here that can explain the most important differences to us?"

When no one volunteered, Michael said, "I'm no expert, but I have recently read up on the Articles of Confederation, and I think I know the most significant differences. It's true the legislature is unicameral. There is only the Congress, and we'd have fifty congressmen, one per state. Each state would send from two to seven people to Congress, but would still only have one vote.  Actually, it is a sensible idea to have a group to discuss things and decide which way to vote. The Congress doesn't levy taxes either, they just request that the states pay up, with no way to make sure they do."

"That's ridiculous," said the Secretary of Defense. "How can you finance the military that way?"

"Not to worry," said Michael. "There would be no national military, only state militia. If the U.S. were attacked, the states would have to send troops and resources."

"Good God," said the Secretary of Defense, "save us from that. If they don't pay up, can't the federal government get a judgment from the court, and make them pay?"

"I'm afraid not. There are no federal courts under the Articles of Confederation," said Michael.  “There is one good thing about going back to the Articles of Confederation.”

“Really,” said the Secretary of Defense. “What might that one thing be?”

“Apparently, the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments to the Constitution are probably not valid, not having been truly ratified. I heard the Aliens’ Panel originally considered fixing up the Constitution, with a full-fledged investigation into the questions regarding the ratification of several amendments, particularly those two. I understand a preliminary investigation showed that neither of those amendments had a chance of being valid. The Aliens’ Panel thought that the repercussions of invalidating those two amendments would be extremely destructive. Can you imagine the federal government having to return all the income tax it had ever collected and the lawsuits for all the damage done in confiscation of property for taxes illegally collected, just for the Sixteenth Amendment? The chaos from finding the Seventeenth Amendment invalid would be even worse. Every law passed in the last hundred years would be null and void, every appointment approved by the Senate, null and void, making every Supreme Court decision involving a justice  approved by an invalid Senate, null and void. Quite possibly, every president sworn in by an invalid Supreme Court justice would have been invalid. All treaties ratified by the illegal Senate would be null and void, as well as every presidential appointment approved. Talk about a disaster, there is one to stay away from. “

“We would probably have to abolish the United States and start over,” said the President. “That would destroy the nation.”

“Fortunately, more or less anyway, it seems that the very adoption of the Constitution was illegal, and the Articles of Confederation are still legally in force,” said Michael.

“How can that be,” said the Secretary of State. “I may not be up on the Articles of Confederation, but I know the Constitution was ratified by nearly all the states, more than the required nine.”

“True,” said Michael. “But--and it is a huge ‘but’--the United States already existed at that time under the Articles of Confederation. A group was set up to come up with a few amendments to the Articles of Confederation, which have clear provisions for being amended. The members of this group, however, came up with some changes that they knew would not stand a chance of the unanimous approval required by the Articles of Confederation, so they decided to sneak a completely different form of government through, by simply ignoring the strict requirement for a unanimous vote of the states, under the Articles of Confederation. Technically, nine states couldn’t legitimately bind the rest of the states. The nine states would have had to secede from the Union and form a new union in which a majority decision was binding on all, or simply form a nine state union. Instead, they chose to act illegitimately. This was definitely no accidental oversight, as numerous opponents argued against it at the time. Prominent among those opponents was that famous patriot, Patrick Henry. So you see, when today’s politicians engage in subterfuge, they carry on a time-honored American tradition dating back over two hundred years.”

“Wouldn’t we face the same chaos?” asked the President. “Wouldn’t even more of what has been done be considered illegitimate?”

“Absolutely,” said Michael, “however, the responsible entity, the constitutional government of the United States of America having never legally existed, could not be held responsible. How can you seek redress from something that never existed? Furthermore, no one wants all that chaos, but a growing number of people are clamoring for freedom, which is what the Articles of Confederation are all about.”

"Couldn't we propose a few amendments to the Articles of Confederation as was originally intended?" asked the Secretary of State. "The people will certainly support us in that. They are used to the Constitution. They think it is sacred."

"I’m not so sure too many still think that,” said Michael. “Certainly, the Articles of Confederation will need some updating, but don't forget that each state gets one vote, regardless of size or population, and to amend the Articles of Confederation, a unanimous vote is required, not a majority. Just to pass a law you need a seventy percent majority in Congress.  Even then, the states are sovereign and can decide not to enforce any federal law. The minute you try for an amendment that will infringe on the rights of one state, it can and will shoot down that amendment. If a law becomes unpopular in one or more states, they will merely nullify it in their states. I guess the best way to look at it is to say the states would be to the federal government as the NATO countries are to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They banded together in a compact for mutual security. NATO can ask member states to do things, but can't force any member to do anything it doesn't want to do. Each nation retains complete sovereignty. Unlike the situation with the NATO members, the other countries of the world would continue to address the United States through the federal government, in diplomatic transactions and the states couldn’t make separate treaties with other nations. I guess those are the major ways things would change. Oh, yes. Interstate commerce is controlled by the states, not the feds. The Articles of Confederation were obviously written to favor the states and the citizens. The Constitution was just as obviously written to favor the federal government. Even the Bill of Rights had to be added as amendments to hold the Union together."

"That would be the end of us," said the Secretary of Defense. "To hell with the Aliens' Panel. We can't stand still for this."

"What about the Aliens themselves?" asked Michael. "Even now, you answer to the President and the Congress. They can disband the military any time they feel like it."

"Maybe so," said the Secretary of Defense, "but they will never feel like it. It would never be in their best interest."

"Precisely," said Michael. "It is, however, probably in the best interest of the people. Let’s face it. None of us can name an instance when the government put the interests of the people above the interests of the government or the interests of those with the money. We overstepped our bounds so far that the Aliens, who say they have been counting on Earth as a refuge, had to come and put a stop to it. Now, they have the majority of the people seeing through our propaganda and starting to clamor for the same things the Aliens are demanding. Not only that, but if they really are aliens, as it's beginning to appear that they are, they may just haul out some two thousandth century technology to zap us all where we stand. This is no video game we're playing. We aren't plotting against some defenseless third world country, not that we are even very competent at doing that. We're betting it all, and I mean absolutely everything on a single roll of the dice. Do we want to do that? Do we really want to do that, not because it will hurt us to give in, but because we'd simply rather die than give in? That's beyond stupid, and if that is the attitude we're going to take, you can count me out."

"Don't get carried away, Michael," said the President. "I don't think any of us want to die or to have the Aliens vaporize mankind. I think we'll all give in before we give up living. The horrible thing is that we don't know if they really are aliens. They could be some god-damned militia group."

"I don't think a militia group could blow up the Bilderbergs and hit Dimona," said the Secretary of the Treasury. "They have wiped out thousands of people in government, the media, business, and the Power Elite. They struck in America, in Spain, in Germany, and in Israel, among other places. They don't leave a clue. Some militia, I'd say. You know damned well, we couldn't do it ourselves, not with all our military might and our cutting edge technology."

There was silence for a while.

"I hadn't really thought about that," said the President, "but I don't think we could. For a superpower, we are incredibly disorganized. Every time we try anything, we screw it up." He laughed and added, "You'll have to admit we don't screw it up half way, though; we screw it up royally."

"Look," said Michael. "Perhaps we don't have to immediately agree to all of the Aliens’ Panel’s demands to get the Aliens off our back. Why not sit down with the Panel and talk it over. Tell them that we are a huge country and these changes will take time. If we just shut everything down, we'd have fifty percent unemployment, etc. The people on the Panel are humans like us, not aliens. There are more Americans on the Panel than any other nationality, and you can be sure all the governments are feeling the same stress that we are. What have we got to lose by trying?"

"Makes sense to me," said the President. "I'm not even going to ask for a consensus. I'll just do it. Any of you that want to can attend the meeting."

"I guess it can't hurt," said the Secretary of State.

"I don't expect anything good to come of it," said the Secretary of Defense. "I don't see how it could."

"Don't overdo the positive thinking, Lloyd," said Michael, as he stood up to go. "Remember that the country will still need defending. I compared the union to NATO. Tell me, Lloyd, is NATO a joke militarily, or is it a force to be reckoned with, given the strength of its components?”

“It is the greatest combined force the world has ever known,” said Lloyd. “Naturally, without us, it wouldn’t amount to much at all.”

“If you divided us up into fifty parts and brought us together like NATO, what would be the difference?”

The Secretary of Defense was obviously taken aback. There was a brief pause before he answered. “Maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as I first thought it would,” he said. “In a way, we are currently spread out over the fifty states, and we are number one. If we were attacked, we would surely be just as united as we are now.”

 “The biggest change,” said Michael, “will be the change to defending the nation and its people, from defending the gravy train for a few elite."

"Like the Regnants?" the Secretary of Defense snapped back.

"Among others," said Michael.  "I'll see you at the meeting, Mister President and whoever attends."

 

The Regnants' Private Island

 

It was three o'clock in the morning. All was still except for the rhythmic sound of the waves breaking on the beach. The front door of the servants’ quarters opened silently, and the staff quietly crept out into the moonlight. They met the night clerk at the front door of the resort, and they all headed for the beach. They walked in the hard, wet sand by the water so their footprints would be washed away by the waves. They continued around the island until they were on the far side of the hill in the middle of the island. The resort's "guests" were sound asleep in their rooms, having been given substantial amounts of sedative in their food and drink. Only the security guards had stayed behind, although at some distance from the main building. The tall, handsome manager counted the staff. Satisfied that they were all present, he held a walkie-talkie to his ear and, pressing the talk button, said, "All clear." After a pause, he added, "Yes, he's here."

A few seconds later, a series of tremendous explosions were heard. The sky lit up behind the hill and smoke began to billow into the air.

"Let's head back and see how it looks," said the manager.

"I wonder how far away they could hear that," said one of the bellmen.

No one answered him.

"Wow," exclaimed one of the staff, when they approached the ruins of the resort. "There is practically nothing left of it."

One of the security guards came over to them. "All of you okay?"

"We're fine," said the manager. "Oh, it's you, Major. I didn't recognize you in the dark, with your face all black. What a shame. I didn't hear any shots. No survivors I presume."

"You must be mistaking me for someone else," said Rhett. "I'm no major."

"Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir."

"You're right, Captain," said Rhett Bartlett, clapping the manager on the shoulder. "Not a single survivor. I guess the Aliens got past us, somehow."

"Looks that way," said the manager. "How fortunate that the staff has separate quarters."

"I'll say," said Rhett. "You had better notify the police. They might get here by daybreak. I'm getting out of here and taking my men with me."

"I'll call Mister Regnant," said the manager, "and break the news to him. I hope the phone in the servant's quarters still works. If not, I'll use the ship-to-shore on one of the boats."

"I guess they won't have to worry about tearing down the resort to make way for a new one," said someone.

"Looks like the Aliens tore it down for them," said the manager," for them and for the millions that died in CIA fomented wars and at the hands of murderous despots installed in CIA coups. Too bad something like this didn't happen fifty years ago. It's impossible to say how many millions would not have died so needlessly and how much better off the whole world would have been without those miserable bastards. Too bad, too, it was so sudden when it did happen."

"It makes me want to cry to think about it, Tony. Oops. Sorry about the name."

"That's okay," said the manager. "I know how you feel."

Chapter 21

Five Hours Later

 

A Navy helicopter sat down on the lawn, not far from the blackened ruins of the resort. Bahamian police were everywhere, and the officer in charge walked toward the helicopter, as two well-armed marines stepped out and looked around, then motioned to the two men that climbed out of the helicopter.

After he and Wilson introduced themselves, showing their identification, Michael said, "My family owns this island. The people that were guests here were all high-ranking government employees. Actually, they were all working for my friend here, who is the Director of the CIA. Due to the nature of the crime, the murder of over a hundred CIA officials, there will be a lot of CIA and military here shortly. We have already cleared all this with your president."

"Yes, I was expecting you, and the small army that is to come," said the Bahamian officer. "I am Inspector Symington. We were hoping to find some clues before they are trampled into the ground."

"I know what you mean," said Michael.

"You are the Director of Homeland Security, are you not?" asked the inspector.

"I am," said Michael.

"Can you possibly tell me, Mister Regnant, what over a hundred CIA officials were doing here in the Bahamas?"

"As you might suspect, Inspector, even if I knew, which, so far, I don't, I probably couldn't tell you."

"I suspected as much," said the inspector, shrugging his shoulders philosophically. "I just thought I would ask."

Within an hour, there were so many people on the island, the inspector told Michael he thought he and his men should leave, as the island might sink.

"Don't worry, Inspector," said Michael. "Give me your card and I'll see to it that you are informed of everything we find here. It may not be immediately, but you will be informed."

"As one policeman to another, do you have any idea who did it?" asked the inspector.

"As one policeman to another," said Michael, "if I had to guess right now, I'd guess the Aliens."

"The Aliens," said the inspector. "Why them?"

"Have you heard about the Aliens’ Panel?"

"Oh yes. The men who are supposed to tell your President and Mister Putin what to do."

"Precisely," said Michael. "One of the things our President is supposed to do is close down the CIA. That, as you might expect, was a very unpopular concept as far as the CIA was concerned. The Aliens may have been helping them make up their minds."

"I see," said the inspector. "I'd guess that the hundred officials of the CIA were down here plotting a way out. It is your island, and you tell me you don't know."

"Will you keep this to yourself, off the record?"

"If I must, yes."

"My friend, the Director of the CIA, asked me if he could use the resort for the weekend," said Michael. "I wasn't sure what he had in mind. I started to ask, and changed my mind. Secretly, I hoped they were planning some business they could go into after the CIA was gone. Maybe a high-level security service for the extra wealthy or even for small countries like Monaco or Bermuda. I asked my friend this morning, and he didn't know either. His people just said they wanted to get together and see what ideas they could come up with, with unemployment looking them in the face."

"Do you really believe that your government is going to abolish the CIA?"

"I do," said Michael. "And Russia its FSB too."

"And the Mossad?"

"That might take longer, but it too will happen. I certainly hope it will."

"You are the top intelligence person in the United States and you hope the intelligence agencies will be abolished. That seems very strange," said the inspector.

"I have nothing against intelligence gathering," said Michael. "If that were the only thing the CIA, MI6, FSB, and the Mossad did, there would be no call to eliminate them, I'm sure. Intelligence gathering is only a tiny portion of their activity, and the whole world knows it. No one knows it better than I do. I do not support indiscriminate assassination, the fomenting of wars and the overthrowing of elected governments that have done nothing to us. I do not support evil."

"I'll be leaving now, Mister Regnant," said the inspector. "I would like to shake your hand. It has been an honor to meet you and talk with you. I say that, not to be polite, but from the bottom of my heart. Since you own this island, maybe we will meet again someday, although not professionally, I trust."

"Goodbye, Inspector Symington," said Michael. "And if the island doesn't sink, as you suggest it might, may we meet again and sit and have a nice cool drink on a warm summer day."

"Farewell, Mister Regnant."

As the inspector left to round up his men, Michael looked for Wilson.

"Harvey," he called when he saw Wilson sitting on a bench under a tree. "You look tired."

"Tired? Going to bed at one and getting up at four. Working at a frenzied pace for seven hours. Why would I be tired? However, it's nothing, when I think of all those poor people. I hope they didn't suffer long."

"I doubt it," said Michael. "They were probably blown to bits instantly. Somehow, I don't think we need to stay here. We aren't going to accomplish anything. To tell you the truth, I don't think anyone else is either.  I'm not a big reader of detective stories, and I don't watch much television, but I thought you weren't supposed to contaminate a crime scene because you destroy evidence. They are soon going to have the grass worn off the lawn. Any evidence at all will be trampled to pieces."

"I know," said Wilson. "It was the Aliens. Wasn't it?"

"I don't know. If they don't tell us, we never can tell about them," said Michael. "I imagine it was. I have no way of knowing, Harvey, but I was wondering if some of the people aren't going to the Aliens' side. The Aliens have more or less suggested that the people rise up, at least that they stand up. Maybe some of what's happening is being done by people answering that call. I've long thought that some idealists in the FBI and some of your people too, would be sympathetic to the Aliens. It's not hard to imagine. Hell, anyone with a little conscience can feel some sympathy for them. Even I do, and I'm part of the Power Elite, as well as the government, both of which they are a hundred percent against."

"I know what you mean," said Wilson. "I'll let you in on something, Michael. I've made up my mind. When we get back to Washington, I'm out of this mess. I'm resigning. If it hadn't been for the meeting with the President yesterday afternoon, you and I would have been in that mess. We would be dead and gone. I love my country. I'd die defending it, but this isn't defending it. What we do is foolish. I'm ashamed to be associated with the things we do. I quit.  We have met the enemy, and he is us."

"I may join you in the near future," said Michael. "I might hold out just a little longer, but not much. I look at what we are doing day after day, and I ask myself, why am I doing this?"

"Exactly," said Wilson.

"By the way, Harvey, this morning a team of my people arrived at CIA headquarters with four platoons of marines. We evacuated the place, sent in bomb squads. If they found nothing, they were to shut off the power, disconnect every computer and then turn the power back on. They will search every computer's hard drive, every CD, every tape, every anything. We'll look at every e-mail, every file, every memo, and every note. We'll have copies of every CIA record before we let a soul back in. I think there may be a leak in the CIA, and I wanted to get to the data, before it could get erased. I meant to tell you when we met this morning, but I was caught up in the emergency, which was more important. Like you, I have been thinking that we could have been in that building, and that is a disturbing thought. I hope you'll forgive me for not telling you this morning."

"Sure. I'm leaving, anyway. What do I care? Out of curiosity, I'd like to know what you find. I'd bet you find tons of shit that nobody ever heard of."

"I imagine so. I was thinking that, myself."

 

Two Days Later

Rhett's Cabin

 

Rhett walked out onto the porch, where Valerie stood looking out at the sunset through the woods.

"The hundred and some we took out really started something," he said. "The next day, the Director of the CIA quit. I just saw on the Internet that hundreds more have put in for early retirement."

"You know why," said Valerie. "Michael took over their computers, their offices, and everything. He is going to know everything they have been up to. My guess is that a lot of them are going to vanish in order to escape prosecution. Since they are shut out of work, no one will miss them for a while, and they are probably on their way to Brazil or Tonga or some such place. A lot of them probably have several identities already."

Rhett stood staring off into space.

"Are you okay, Rhett?"

He snapped to attention. "I was just thinking," he said. "What if we hadn't turned around and gone back to the sanitarium and listened in on Michael on our way back from New York that morning. What a stroke of luck that was."

"There have been a lot of those strokes of luck," she said. "You gave in to your General’s pleas and went to rescue me. You made me put on your body armor. You came back for me and saved my life. You turned back and we overheard Michael. We hated him and wanted him dead, but that suddenly changed. Then you confronted him. Look what happened as a result. The entire world may come out of the dark ages into the light of freedom." She kissed him on the cheek and said, "Bless you, Rhett Bartlett."

"Bless you, too, Valerie Harper. Do I get to kiss you?"

"Of course."

He took her in his arms and kissed her on the lips for a long time. "That was so good," he said. "I really needed it. I've needed it for a long, long time."

"You should have said something," she said, breathlessly. "I needed it too."

"Good. I'm really glad to hear that."

 

The Regnant Estate

 

"Sorry I'm late," said Claude Regnant, as he joined the rest of the family at the dining table for breakfast. "Miserable weather."

"It's supposed to rain like this for the next couple of days," said Alice. "It's nice to eat outdoors, but it's also nice to sit down a little more formally now and again."

"Now and again," said Michael. "What have you been reading, Alice?"

"I guess that expression is a bit out of favor these days," said Alice. "Don't know where I picked it up. You're right, Michael. I have been reading some old classics lately."

"We're certainly living in interesting times," said Claude. "I was late getting down here because I wanted to read an article someone sent me a link to. It was about some surprising events in Russia."

"What happened in Russia?" asked Albert.

"I guess the Aliens stepped in and cleaned house a little," said Claude.

Michael perked up. He knew of nothing on the agenda for Russia. "What did the Aliens do?"

"They wiped out the Duma and took out every single one of the powerful oligarchs, plus an untold number of their bodyguards. Putin said he had warned them that they were foolish to challenge the Aliens."

"How can you challenge something you can't see?" asked Albert.

"You can't see the wind," said Alice, "but you can see the effects of a hurricane, and it would be stupid to challenge it."

"I heard Putin was getting a lot of resistance on just about every point on the Aliens’ Panel's recommended reforms," said Michael. "I guess we'll now find out if that was a reason or an excuse for his slow progress."

"I'm beginning to believe Putin may go along with the Aliens," said Claude. "Willingly or unwillingly. He may see it as the only way to stay alive. It's hard to believe the way things are changing and so fast."

"What is going to happen to us?" asked Albert.

"What do you mean by what is going to happen to us?" asked Michael.

"I mean our way of life is going to change if things keep going the way they have been lately. I was reading an article about the demands of this Aliens’ Panel. I don't know how bad things will get if the government goes along with them."

"When you get right down to it," said Michael, "all the Aliens’ Panel is asking is for people not to take things that don't belong to them and not to hurt people. That shouldn't necessarily make things bad."

"They don't want the government collecting taxes," said Albert. "How will they pay for the streets, the police, and all the other things that government does?"

"The federal government takes most of the taxes, but the city pays for the streets and the police. The federal government pays for lots of military people and weapons to wage war and scare people, for zillions of bureaucrats to show people who's boss, for bribes for foreign despots so they will give us their country’s resources, and gravy for those that bribe the government. They could get by on five or ten percent of what they spend, and everyone would be much better off. The same goes for state and local government."

"How safe would we be?" asked Albert. "We wouldn’t know what was in our food, water, or air."

"We don't know what is in them now," said Alice. "Every time you turn around there is some poison or other in everything we eat or drink, and all with the blessing of the Food and Drug Administration. Most of the time, it isn't by mistake. They know we're being poisoned, but they must be being bribed to let it happen. The government is spraying every major city with all kinds of chemicals. We don't even know why or with what, but we see the lines in the air. They could be just experimenting on us. They might be drugging people into apathy. That might explain a lot of things. They might be helping big pharma by making us sick. Who knows, since they generally deny it altogether? Germany claims it is for weather control. I doubt that. They do it all over the USA, even when the weather is ideal."

"The crime rate would skyrocket," said Albert.

"Check it out, Albert," said Michael. "The increase in government and the increase in crime go hand in hand. When we had less government, we had less crime, per capita, as well as overall. "

"Well, you feel safer with a lot of government," said Albert.

"Only if you don't know any better," said Alice.

"Just wait and see," said Albert. "I think things will be a lot worse for us."

"Just be glad Michael is working hard to change our image," said Alice. "Otherwise, we wouldn’t even be here to wonder how things are going to turn out. The Aliens would have taken us out months ago."

"You have to give Albert credit for that too," said Michael. "He originally brought up the fact that the government was pushing the people too far, and they might revolt. He feared the same thing might happen in America that happened in France, and we might be treated like the French aristocracy, meaning executed. That led to our efforts to polish our image and to make sure people knew of the good things that the Regnants do."

"Really," said Alice. "I didn't know that."

"The people didn't have to revolt," said Michael. "The Aliens took care of things for them. But I think our precautions served their purpose, just the same.”

"Those of my friends that are left are working hard on public relations," said Claude. "We got the jump on them, though. We started well before the Aliens came along. That makes us look sincere."

"We are sincere, Father," said Michael. "We are even honest about our motives. We admit to a selfish motive. We want everyone to be better off, because then they can buy more of the things our companies sell. We want overall wealth to grow, so new advances will be made in science and technology that will enable us to live longer, healthier, and happier lives. Of course, that will help everyone, but we soft-pedal that. We do it because we can afford to invest in making our lives longer, healthier, and happier. Naturally, any new advances will help everyone. We have already funded more breakthroughs in a year than the government funded in a decade with thousands of times more money than we used. Government research is like everything else the government does--a gravy train on an endless track. They say that if you put enough monkeys on typewriters, typing all the time, eventually one of them would type every line of Shakespeare. I'm not sure that would happen with government researchers on the typewriters. The monkeys wouldn't be trying to drag it out, but the government funded researchers would milk it forever."

"We made a lot of money off the government gravy train," said Gerald.

"Yes," said Albert. "What about that?"

"We have all the money we know what to do with and then some," said Michael. "We are still making a lot more every day. The way we made money via government corruption, we were receiving stolen goods. We didn't steal it. The government stole it and gave to us. We had to kick back a portion in one way or another. We didn't have to do it, but if we didn't someone else would have. It's like buying things cheap in a flea market. They may be cheap because the seller got them for nothing, meaning they are stolen. However, since they are already stolen, you might as well save some money and just tell yourself the low overhead makes them cheap. We Regnants are smart. We are good businessmen. We will do very well in an honest society. We will do better than most. You needn't worry about that."

"Not only that, but we will have clear consciences," said Alice. "Try that for a change. We won't have to think that if we didn't do it, someone else would. We can feel good about what we do for a change."

"You may be right, Alice," said Claude. "We're at the point that it is the challenge we like. We don't need any more money. Money is the way most people keep score, and we like winning at any game we play. If the Aliens make the world free, we'll still be playing to win. It will take a little getting used to the new rules, but we Regnants will be a group to be reckoned with. We play to win, and we'll damn sure be a tough opponent."

"You bet," said Michael.

"Bring on your level playing field, as they say," said Claude. "We can beat most people with one arm and half our brain tied behind our backs. It was getting too easy to make money the old way. We were getting soft. The change will be good for us."

"You sound like a coach giving his team a pep talk at half time," said Gerald.

"I guess that's sort of what I am," said Claude. "Just because we are well ahead of the pack doesn't mean we can slack off. If we slack off, a really good opposing team can clean our clocks before we know what happened."

As soon as he finished his breakfast, Michael excused himself, saying, "I have some important calls to make. I don't think they will take long. I should be back in a few minutes, maybe before you leave. He went to his office, locked himself in, and contacted Rhett and Valerie. "I didn't realize you were striking so hard in Russia," he said, when they answered.

"We didn't do it," said Rhett. "We saw it on the Internet. It was something we might have done, but we didn't."

"A false flag event," said Michael. "Putin no doubt took out his opposition and let the Aliens take the blame or the credit depending on your point of view."

"This isn't the first time we got credit for things we didn't do," said Valerie, "but it’s never been a big operation like this one."

"There have been a number of small hits," said Rhett. "I think they were mostly fed up patriots striking out at out of control police and local government. There has been an upswing in such vigilante type things lately in the UK too. They are so oppressed there, that I'm surprised they haven't had a full scale revolution."

"No guns," said Michael. "Why do you think governments always want to keep people from having guns? The oppressors really want to keep the people weak and defenseless. That makes them look bigger and stronger. Look at the FBI's recent trumped up PR raid on a so-called militia. They had so much firepower, it looked like D-day, and they picked up three men in two states.

"Putin has done us a huge favor," said Michael. "A lot of parliaments in other nations are going to think twice about opposing implementation of the Aliens’ Panel's guidelines. Russia is a major power. If they and the USA are bowing to the Aliens, how can the rest hope to resist?"

"If only we could get China to go for it," said Valerie.

"Let's think about that," said Michael.

"That's going to take some serious thought," said Rhett. “We don't have nearly the connections in China that we have in America and Europe, or even in South America.”

"I mean to think about forgetting about China," said Michael. "We have to think about pulling the plug. I know it would be wonderful to completely liberate the whole world before we quit. When we started this, our target was one coalition looking to take over the world and take our freedoms from us. Now we are starting to talk about completely ridding the world of tyranny, making everyone free."

"Rhett and I were talking about that yesterday," said Valerie. "We have gone considerably further than we originally planned. It would be such a tragedy for us to be caught and all this to unravel."

“We didn’t originally plan on using the alien ploy,” said Michael. “That opened so many avenues for us. We wouldn’t have accomplished nearly as much without the assist that gave us.”

"The instant it ever became known that the Aliens are not really extraterrestrials, most of what we have accomplished would be undone," said Rhett. "Some of these countries, like China, are riskier than others because we would be taking bigger chances with the people we have there and there are logistic problems."

"The sooner we can wind this up, the better for more or less the same reasons," said Michael. "Let's see if we can arrange an honorable exit, and still keep the specter of the Aliens' return hanging over the world. You two start tweaking the final message. I'll see if I can manipulate the Panel into some supporting action. Unless you two have something else, I'll be in touch."

"That will hold us for a while. The closing message needs to be a good one," said Valerie.

"A very good one," said Michael.  "Bye,"

When he got back to the patio, only Claude was still there, reading the paper.

"I don't know why you read the paper, Father," said Michael. "You can't believe a thing that's in it."

"A lot of people believe it's gospel," said Claude. "Me, I like to know what the world is thinking, those that are thinking. It helps me to plan."

"I never thought of it that way," said Michael.  "I'm glad you're still here. I wanted to talk to you about something."

"Fire away."

"When you were DCI, were you aware of all the covert operations that were going on?"

"You have to be kidding," said Claude. "No one person knows of all the covert ops. I doubt that any one person was ever aware of half of them.  Why do you ask?"

"After the Aliens took out the CIA management, I seized their computers and their documents, and locked them out of their offices. Hundreds of my people have been poring over their files, and the things we are finding defy the imagination."

"There are probably a lot more that you won't find any record of," said Claude. “When you get right down to it, the CIA is a political mafia. I don’t think you can ever come close to finding out how much money they have squirreled away. I have heard estimates that if the CIA were a country, they would be sixth or seventh in wealth out of two hundred plus nations. If you talk about true net worth, they would probably be richer than any country, because I think every country on earth has more liabilities than assets. Unless you count all the possessions of all the citizens as assets of the state, which, when you get right down to it, is the way it is. Essentially all of the CIA’s money is off the books, so you’ll never know anything about their finances. There are probably some records somewhere about some things, but good luck finding them."

"That is what I was thinking," said Michael. "But we are finding records of a lot of support activities. We just have to figure out what they might have been supporting. When you are planning a coup in some little country, you have to get arms to your people. There are steps that you have to take and some of those steps are documented, with no rational explanation for why they occur. We have enough already to put thousands of people in jail and hundreds six feet under.  The Aliens’ Panel said to get rid of the CIA, and I'm sure they had no idea at all of how bad it was. Had they known, they would have said to stake them out in the Sahara in the sun, and let them cook."

"It's that bad?" asked Alice, who had come out and joined them a few minutes ago, but had sat silently, listening to the conversation.

"Worse than you could possibly imagine," said Michael.

“Where did they get all that secret money?” asked Alice.

“From many places,” said Claude. “Billions upon billions from drugs, of course. They are into counterfeiting; robbing drug cartels and anyone else that can’t report the loss; blackmail; selling arms. You name it. If there is good money in it, they do it.”

"Wilson quit, you know,” said Michael. “The President wanted me to beg him to stay on, but I refused. The poor man was terrified of the Aliens. I'm trying to get Stockman to take it over and shut it down. He didn't want to, but I showed him some of the stuff we're uncovering. I think he'll take it. I've also found quite a bit on the President. I think they kept it on file so they could force him to give them what they wanted, if they ever needed it.”

"Really," said Claude. "What have you got on him?"

"I'd rather not say," said Michael. "It's no wonder none of the presidents ever went after the CIA. They have all been afraid of them, except Kennedy, who should have been."

 

A few days later, Stockman gave in and took the job as Director of Central Intelligence, with the task of winding it down in as short a time as possible. There were now several copies of all the CIA files. Many of them had been made public. The number of indictments kept climbing. The names and photographs of many of those involved in operations that ended in mass murder of civilians were being leaked. Someone leaked dozens of records of agents of other countries that were involved in genocidal operations around the world. Initially, there were some official protests about this, but several of the official protesters were attacked in the streets, by mobs of their own citizens. After that, the official protesting stopped.  People had to wait in line to resign in the CIA, MI6, FSB, the Mossad, and other such organizations.

Chapter 22

Rhett's Cabin

 

"What are you two up to?" called Rhett from the front door.

"We are trying to compile a top priority list for Europe," said Valerie from the porch swing. "If we are going to wind things up, we need to take out a few serious criminals that just might try to be the next Fuehrer of the world." She handed a few sheets of paper to Lynn, who was sitting in a rocking chair, next to the swing.

"Valerie, do you remember the general that shot you?" he said, sitting down beside her.

"You're kidding, of course," answered Valerie.

"He went down in a hit on some renegade CIA group trying to make off with a huge cache of arms they had in Iraq. A percentage of the military equipment we had been sending to our guys in Iraq was apparently being shuttled into a pair of dummy bases manned by the CIA. From these, one in Afghanistan and perhaps others we have yet to find, they were supplying a number of clandestine operations around the world. They wanted to get it all before it was too late."

"What a shame that I can't dance at his funeral," said Valerie. "We can celebrate his demise later this evening with a couple of cocktails."

"I was thinking," said Rhett. "What if the guerillas hadn't killed you, but maybe wounded you, and moved you to another camp? What if we discovered that and rescued you again?"

"I could be Lisa Simmons again."

"What about the people you have the goods on, Valerie?" asked Lynn. "Mightn't they still be afraid you could ruin them?"

"Most of them are probably dead," said Valerie. "I know some of them are."

"You could make a public statement saying that everyone you had anything on is dead," said Rhett. "Any that were left would assume that you didn't know about them. They could just forget about you."

"That's an idea," said Valerie. "I could have a press conference or something. I could say the Aliens had cleaned up the mess that Congress had been covering up. They cleaned up the Congress too, while they were at it."

"There may be a few left, besides my men, who know what happened that night in the desert," said Rhett, "but I doubt it, and if there were, they very possibly don't know who was shot that night. If they do and they happen to hear about us finding you, they wouldn't dare say a word, since they could find themselves in deep trouble. Besides, with the compound lying and deception that goes on, nobody in government could ever know that anything they are told is true. Maybe Michael can finagle a plane to drop us in. We can disguise you as one of my men, land, go into the jungle, you change clothes and take off the makeup."

"Why go anywhere at all?" asked Valerie. "Just say you went, and you rescued me. File your report, and no one will know the difference."

Rhett cocked his head to one side as he thought that over. "That's right," he said. "Who would know the difference? Who would care? Maybe I can make a written appeal to Michael. I could say I heard you were alive in the jungle. He could call me in and talk to me. We set things up. You appear and we go and thank Michael. He's about to resign. We need to set things up before he resigns. Then, after his resignation, we can go to his home to thank him. We've been trying to think of a plausible reason to be able to meet without attracting attention. That could be the icebreaker, the foot in the door, so to speak. Later, we could come up with something else, and sooner or later, the three of us become friends. It might seem an unlikely friendship, but so what."

"Maybe you could be a consultant for security for the Regnants, or in charge of security or something along those lines," said Valerie.

"Consultant sounds better. I don't want to be tied down to a job."

"It would be tough to go back to work again, not that we haven't been working all this time," said Valerie.

"I've called you 'Valerie' for so long, it is going to be hard to stop," he said.

"I have gotten used to it too," said Lynn.

"I know," said Valerie. "I feel like a Valerie instead of a Lisa, but I’m sure I’ll get used to being Lisa again."

"'Lisa is easier to say," said Rhett. "It has two syllables compared to three in 'Valerie.' 'Dear' has only one syllable. That is even easier to say. Why don’t I just call you 'Dear?' As long as we're being frugal, why bother with two last names, when one is sufficient?"

"That has to be the most unromantic proposal in history," said Lynn.

"Proposal. Was that a proposal?" asked Valerie.

"Not a very good one, I guess," said Rhett, "It may have been a lousy one, but that is what it was. I have zero experience in proposing, so it’s sort of learn by doing. I'm a little nervous and tongue-tied. The truth is I've just fallen so much in love with you, Valerie, that I think it would damn near kill me to be separated from you. If we get your name back, you will be able to go wherever you want. I don't want you to go anywhere without me. If you’ll marry me, you won’t go away. I should have written it out and gotten my thoughts more organized before I said anything. The other day when I took you in my arms, something in me snapped. I'd been in love with you for ages, but feeling you in my arms and kissing you, I never wanted to let go of you. I never want to lose you. Won't you please marry me, Valerie?"

"Rhett Bartlett, I think it would damn near kill me to be separated from you too, I agree that marrying you is a perfect way to keep us together."

"I think I'll go for a walk," said Lynn, and she left them in each other's arms.

 

Homeland Security

Michael’s Office

 

"This might be the chance you've been waiting for," said Harris. "Some of Berge's people think they saw someone casing the Long estate on Jupiter Island in Florida. With all the buzz on the Internet about Jason Long practically daring the Aliens to kill him, apparently, they have been watching his winter home and hoping the Aliens would hit it. They say it's a perfect opportunity because there is really only one road coming in at one end of the island and going out at the other end. The Aliens’ people either use that road or have to go by air or water, which they seem to think are very unlikely."

"I've been to Jupiter Island," said Michael. "My family considered buying property there quite some time ago. They are right about it being good for an ambush. It is just as perfect for our plan. There are quite a few military bases in Florida. I'll check and see what resources we can call on near there, and we’ll set up an ambush of the ambushers. I'd better get busy on that. I have a big meeting in two hours. I'd like to get the ball rolling on this before then."

“Anything I can do to help, let me know,” said Harris, heading for the door. Michael had put him in an office on the next floor to have him nearby.

Michael contacted Rhett.  "I assume Jason Long is in line for a visit in the near future," he said.

"You assume correctly," said Rhett. "As a matter of fact, he may be entertaining guests this very morning. The caterers should be on their way any minute now."

"Oh no," said Michael. "The Mossad have him staked out, and plan to interfere in a big way. I just got the word on that."

"Let me see if I can stop them," said Rhett. "Hang on. Don't go away."

Rhett grabbed his mouse and navigated to his Florida VOIP line. He called one number, and after a moment, he heard a busy signal. He tried another number, and heard it ringing.

In the Greyhound Bus Terminal, at 211 Commerce Way, in Jupiter, Florida, Greg Paxton had been sitting near a bank of pay phones. When one of the telephones began to ring, he immediately looked toward the phones. People in bus terminals often make a call and ask to be called back to save money, but this was an empty phone ringing. He jumped up to grab the phone.

"Hello," he said.

"It's me, old buddy," said Rhett. "Has it happened?"

"I doubt it. They are on their way," said Greg. "Is there a problem?"

"Yes. Several someones are waiting for them. Can you call them and turn them off?"

"I'll try," said Greg. "He reached into his pocket and pulled out a walkie talkie, and pressed a call button. There was no response. He tried again a couple of times, with no response. "They aren't answering me," he said. "Could be the building or where they are. I might step outside and it will work. If not, I'll head their way and try them as I go. I'll let you know how it goes."

"You remember how to do that, don't you?"

"Of course. No problem."

"Then get going," said Rhett. "Seconds may make the difference,"

Paxton hung up, immediately, without taking time to even say goodbye, and hurried out the door toward his car in the parking lot. He pressed the call button, and nothing happened. In the car, he had another walkie-talkie. He tried that and got no answer. He started his car and headed for Jupiter Island, some five miles away.

He hurried to U.S. 1 and drove north, crossed the Loxahatchee River and turned right toward the ocean, crossed the bridge over the Intra-Coastal Waterway to Jupiter Inlet Colony, and turned north along the coast of Jupiter Island.  Every ten seconds or so, he would press the call button. He was just about to give up, when they answered.

There was a police car right behind him. If he picked up the walkie-talkie, they might stop him thinking he was using a phone while driving. He didn’t know what the law was in Florida, but he certainly didn't want to be stopped. Pressing the talk button, he yelled, "Can you hear me?"

"Loud and clear," came the answer.

"The Party's postponed," he said.

"Are you sure?" came the answer.

"Absolutely. The Boss said they had a lot of unexpected company."

"We went by there and noticed their company. There were just too many people busy doing nothing on the street near there. Some of them looked like the people that had been there before. Their clothing was two pat and too clean. We're already on our way back. See you soon."

Paxton drove on slowly. The last thing he wanted was to be stopped by the Jupiter Island Police, who were notoriously strict. He found a place to turn around and headed back to the bus station. There he called an Atlanta number and said, "About today’s delivery."

"What about it? I hear it was postponed."

"Yes, it was. Fortunately, our guys noticed the interference and were already on the way back. I'll be waiting for instructions." He knew someone in Atlanta would get the message to Rhett, who would get instructions to him on one of the bus station’s phones. He sat down to wait.

 

Rhett’s Cabin

 

"We got lucky, Sam. It turned out my men were just about to abort the mission anyway," said Rhett, when Michael returned his call. "They saw a large number of obviously fake workmen near the Long estate. There were a few vans that could have had more men inside, and who knows how many inside Long's place. They must have been the Mossad. My men assumed they were there to protect Long. They were under orders not to go through with it if there was a significant chance of them being captured or identified. Our missions aren't so essential that we would sacrifice a bunch of our people to take out one traitor. We will find another way to get him."

"Before I forget about it, there are a couple of cables in the CIA documents that suggest that one Lisa Simmons, thought killed in a raid a few years ago, may still be alive not far from where she was supposedly killed. I made an appointment for you to see me in my office next Wednesday at 11:30. We can do lunch and no one will have a clue what sort of rescue we arrange.  Now about Jupiter Island. Do you think the Mossad were aware of your men? I mean do you think they suspected they were there to take out Long?"

"No way to know. They are pretty sharp, ordinarily. They may have suspected it, but they couldn't be sure either. Why?"

"Berge and his men are a constant threat," said Michael. "We have to constantly be on our guard for fear that every mission will be ambushed. Harris and I have a plan to get rid of them. I need a day or two to set things up. We would like to make sure the Mossad will still be there when we're ready. That's where your men come in. Here's what I was thinking might work."

 

 

At eleven o'clock the next morning, Rhett's team returned to Jupiter Island. They slowly drove around the area for a while, appearing to be casing the Long residence. They took many pictures without hiding what they were doing. The vans stopped a hundred yards apart across the street from the Long residence. A man stepped out of each van, and they carried on a conversation on unencrypted walkie-talkies for several minutes, hopefully long enough for the Mossad to intercept and listen in to their exchange.

"A handful of Boy Scouts could take this place," said one of the men. "Personally, I think they're nuts to wait until Tuesday. Who knows what will happen between now and then?"

"I'm sure they have their reasons for waiting until Tuesday," said the man at the other end. "There's bound to be some significance to the date and maybe even the time. As far as I know, they've never told us to do a job at a specific time, but this time they did. Actually, they didn't exactly order us to do it at eight-thirty in the morning. They asked if we could do it then and said they would prefer that."

"Oh well," said the first man. "That gives us a few days vacation in sunny Florida. I'm not complaining."

Down the street from the Long house, a white van was parked. Inside the van, an olive-skinned man smiled and picked up a microphone, pressed a switch on it and said, "Anyone there?"

Inside the Long home, another dark skinned man picked up a similar microphone and said, "Michele here."

"It is going to happen Tuesday at eight-thirty in the morning," came the response from a speaker on the table in front of Michele. Several men in the room gathered around the table with the communication system.

"How do you know that?" asked Michele.

"I just overheard their people complaining about not getting to do it sooner. They were afraid putting it off like that could make it more dangerous. They said that right now, it looks like a few Boy Scouts could handle it. But in the next few days it could get dangerous."

"If they only knew how dangerous it is going to be," said Michele, and he laughed loudly. "Unfortunately, we need them alive, at least temporarily."

"I guess we can take off until Tuesday."

"Are you crazy? This could be a ploy to make us think it is Tuesday. You stay put. Nothing changes, except we will be prepared for them Tuesday morning. However, we don't let our guard down. At least we know we are in the right spot. Just get back to work."

"Yes, Sir."

"Are you sure you are going to be able to protect me," asked a portly, middle-aged man in casual, but obviously expensive clothes.

"Don't worry, Mister Long," said Michele. "You are surrounded by the cream of the crop. If they can't protect you, no one could."

"I'm worried that no one could," said Jason Long. "I don't know why I let you talk me into this. I could be dead Tuesday morning."

"You did it as an act of patriotism," said Michele.

"Like hell I did," said Long. "I did it because you had six of my relatives hostage, including my brother. I wonder if any of them would have risked their life to save me."

"Of course they would," said Michele. "We only picked them up for safe keeping, so the Aliens wouldn't get to them."

"Sure you did," said Long, sarcastically.

"Anyway, it's too late now," said Michele. "You did it. Thanks to you, we are going to have a few of the Aliens' people Tuesday morning, and if they know anything at all about the Aliens, we will get it out of them."

 

Tuesday Morning

 

The first van came down the street at 8:28. The markings on the side identified it as belonging to Bellini's Catering Service. It was obviously a lone scout to see that the coast was clear. Behind the walls, two dozen ambushing troops were lined up, ready to pour out and surprise the invaders. The van slowed to a crawl and stopped some five yards beyond the gate of the Long estate. In a flash, two more vans sped in behind it and six heavily armed men poured out of each van. Suddenly the Long's gate swung open. Along the top of the wall of the Long estate, ten men with Uzzis appeared, and from the gate, a stream of well-armed men poured out. The invading force dropped their weapons and raised their hands. The ambushers began herding them into a group.

Michele walked out and toward the captives. "This was even easier than I thought it would be," he said. "Let's see what our fierce Alien troops look like."

As he said that a huge MH-60K Blackhawk helicopter swept from behind the Long estate and hovered, both sides were filled with heavily armed men. Instantly, another helicopter came from the opposite side of the street; and from each end of the street, another two. The captors looked shocked. Three trucks full of soldiers roared in from each direction.

A man in Army uniform, with dual silver bars that designated him as a captain stepped out from the far side of a Humvee that pulled up not far from the encircled captives. He had a bullhorn in his hand, which he lifted to his mouth. "Michele Berge, all of us are aware that you and probably some or all of your men were involved in the false flag attack on 9/11 that killed some three thousand people and led to the death of thousands of our comrades in the Middle East. If I were you, I wouldn't make any sudden moves, or they will be your last moves. Every one of us would love to kill every one of you, but unlike you, we won't do it in cold blood. We need some excuse. We hope you give us one."

On the roof of the Long home, two snipers looked down at a sea of troops below and at the helicopter hovering in front of them. They shook their heads, dropped their guns, and raised their hands over their heads.

The Captain’s voice bellowed out again: "Anyone in the house or any other building on the grounds of the Long house has one minute to come out, unarmed, with your hands in the air. Anyone armed or with their hands down will be shot.  After the minute, anyone found inside will be shot on sight. The minute starts now."

People began streaming from the house. The servants and the others were separated, but all had their hands tied behind them with plastic ties.  The servants were told they would be taken to the police station and after their identity was confirmed, they would be released.

A well-dressed, middle-aged man came out, with his hands up. "Can't I put my hands down? I'm Senator Long. These men were holding me prisoner."

"Sure they were," said a man in a dark blue suit, who had just arrived, as if out of nowhere. "Put him with the others, Captain."

"Who the hell are you," asked Michele.

"I'm the one that asks the questions," said the man in the suit, "not you."

"I'm sure this is a misunderstanding," said Michele. "We are on your side. We were here to intercept what we thought to be a so-called Alien strike and capture the people involved and find out where the Aliens are and who they are. These people are working for the Aliens.” He waved his hand toward the captives.”

"That's a pretty good story," said the man in the suit, "but those people are ours. They are here to help us catch you.”

"We know about all your black operations," said Michele. “At least, we thought we did. Are you trying to tell me that the Aliens are really a secret operation of the American government or the American military?”

“I’m not trying to tell you anything,” said the man in the suit.  “I’m here to take you in for interrogation, and that is what I’m doing.”

"We'll be free and out of the country before you get through filling out your paperwork," shouted Michele. "We own your congress and your intelligence services. We buy them with the money you Americans give us. Surely, you should know that we control America."

"I appreciate you confessing before so many witnesses all it takes to declare you an enemy combatant," said the man in the suit. "As you should know, that means you can be sent to a place where no one can find you, and perhaps no one ever will. Since you control America, you must have been responsible for that abominable policy, so it serves you right." He turned and walked toward the Captain. "Put these men in shackles, hands and legs, with a long chain through them all. We don’t want any of them escaping. We brought two buses. Chain Berge and his people to the Bus and bus them to the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Stuart, about 15 miles up the coast. We have a boat waiting to take them to a ship offshore. Take the servants to a detention center in Pompano Beach, about sixty-five miles south of here. They will be debriefed there and sent home. Some of my men will go along with each group to coordinate matters.”

Once Berge and his men were shackled and a long chain run through the shackles, connecting them all together, they were marched aboard the bus and their shackles handcuffed to their seats.  Greg Paxton was charged with guarding them until the trip to the Coast Guard station started.

“Don’t let anyone within less than ten yards of the bus,” the man in the suit told Greg.

“Yes, Sir,” said Greg, moving near the bus and shifting to a port arms position, holding his weapon diagonally across his body, ready to use it if necessary.  Occasionally, he would wave someone away from the bus, but most of the time, he just stood there, apparently staring into space, but actually watching the trees and shrubbery at the far corner of the well-manicured lawn.

Two helicopters were parked in the middle of the highway, and the men that had arrived in them were getting back on board. They had searched the house and outbuildings with dogs and were satisfied that there was no one in the buildings.  Little by little, most of the men left. There were a few inside the Long house. Rhett’s men were gathered in a group between the bus containing the prisoners and the gate to the Long compound.

Paxton had been standing guard quietly. Suddenly, he walked over to the men standing outside the gate and told them to get inside the Long estate.

“Move it,” he cried. They were entering rather leisurely, when Paxton yelled, “Hit the deck.” As he yelled, he dove through the entrance pushing the last two men inside.  As they hit the ground, there was an explosion outside.  There were a dozen or so soldiers standing in front of the Long house. They rushed to the gate with Rhett’s men. When they looked out, the bus was engulfed in flames.

“The prisoners are done for,” cried one of the men. “What happened?”

“Napalm rocket,” said Paxton. “I heard the rocket, when I yelled. I didn’t know it was napalm, only that it sounded like a rocket. They must have had one more guy hiding out there somewhere. His job must have been to wipe them out if they were captured. That means there must be some info we might have gotten out of them that is very important, so important that they are supposed to eliminate any of their buddies that get captured.”

The Captain came running out of the Long house, and when he saw what had happened, he sent four men to check out the bushes. They found a portable rocket launcher, but no sign of anyone.

“Whoever fired the rocket, dropped the launcher and ran like hell,” said the Captain, just as the man in the suit came from the house.  “Should we try to find him or them?”

“No,” said the man in the suit. “He could hide anywhere in the foliage, in one of the many houses, or he could have had scuba gear and be in the Intracoastal Waterway or the ocean. There’s no use worrying about him now. He did his job, and he is gone. Too bad. We might have gotten some important intelligence from the Michele guy.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s a quarter to eleven. I’m out of here. Captain, you’d better get the servants down to Pompano. Then take most of your men and get out too. You know what to do. I’ll arrange to get the remains of the prisoners picked up. “

“Yes, Sir,” said the Captain. “I’ll take over now.”

Rhett’s men piled into their vans, and drove off.

The man in the suit pulled out a cell phone and made a quick call. A few seconds later, his car pulled up to the gate and he got in. As the car drove away, he called another number. “Mission accomplished,” he said.

At the other end, Michael smiled and said, “Good work. Thanks” He looked at the clock on his desk. It was five minutes before eleven.

At eleven o’clock, of all the men and equipment that had crowded the area earlier, only two pairs of armed sentries remained and they were blocking traffic in both directions on Highway A1A that ran past the Long estate. All the others had pulled out. Suddenly, a long series of explosions took place at the Long house. When the explosions ended, nothing but a mound of smoking rubble remained. The sentries removed the barriers, opening the road to traffic and left. They jumped into a truck on the side of the road and drove away

 

Tel Aviv

 

At exactly eleven o'clock, Florida time and six o'clock, Tel Aviv time, three cruise missiles were launched simultaneously from three points, each less than five miles from the Knesset, and separated by approximately one hundred and twenty degrees. The Knesset is protected by radar and an anti-missile defense system. One of the cruise missiles was destroyed, but the other two hit, simultaneously.

Of the one hundred and twenty members of the Knesset, only fifty-six were present in the Plenum, the chamber used for their meetings. Of those, twenty-four were killed and twenty-one were seriously injured. The beautiful building that the Redsons had paid for was severely damaged.

 

Michael’s Office

 

Five minutes later, Michael placed a call to the Israeli Embassy in Washington.  “This is Michael Regnant, Director of Homeland Security. I must talk to the Ambassador immediately. It is an emergency.” The Ambassador was not there, so he was connected to an attaché in charge. “Listen carefully,” he said. “We have just had a false flag attack by a group of Mossad agents on the home of Senator Long in Florida. We arrived too late, but we captured the perpetrators, and before he died, one of them, Michele Berge,  bragged that they were going to blow up the Knesset because the Israeli   Parliament was about to give in to the Aliens’ demands and disband the Mossad. Everyone has been expecting the Aliens to take out Long for defying them. By hitting the Knesset and Long on the same day, the aliens would get blamed for both, and the Mossad would get rid of the politicians they considered their enemies.”

The man at the other end of the line was suddenly agitated. “I’ll call and warn them immediately,” he said. “You are Michael Regnant, Director of Homeland Security, correct?”

“Correct,” said Michael. “I think you had better hurry and warn the Knesset. The Aliens have a reputation of close timing of related events.”

“Thank you and goodbye,” said the attaché, and the line went dead.

Michael smiled. The Mossad would be blamed for blowing up the Long home as a false flag attack to blame the Aliens and cover a simultaneous attack on their own parliament. This would surely create a lot of internal strife that might interfere with all the external strife.

Chapter 23

Homeland Security

Michael’s Office

 

“One of the last acts of the CIA was to contract with you to rescue Lisa Simmons,” said Michael. “I assume you accept.”

“You assume correctly,” said Rhett.

“Here’s your contract. Sign both copies and keep one.”

Rhett signed the contracts and handed one back to Michael.

“You didn’t read it,” said Michael.

“I didn’t need to.

“To make it look good, we had to pay you, so we’ll take some out of one of the many slush funds the CIA had. Here’s a signed, blank check, drawn on a Philadelphia bank. You can calculate a credible minimal expense for a rescue and fill in the check and cash it.”

“I don’t feel very good about taking the money for something that isn’t going to really happen,” said Rhett.

“Give it to Valerie, as a government compensation for what they did to her. The contract is for five hundred thousand dollars or cost plus five percent if the five hundred thousand doesn’t cover it, with a limit of one million dollars.”

“I don’t feel bad about compensating Valerie, and I’m sure she wouldn’t either. Will I be able to wait until we know if she still has her apartment and her bank account?”

Michael pointed at the check. “It is good for a hundred and twenty days from the date of the check and the date isn’t filled in yet. I’ll make sure that account is left alone for at least six months. That should be adequate.”

“Thanks for fixing this up for us, Michael.”

“Don’t be silly, Rhett.”

“By the way, you should be the first to know that Valerie and I are going to be married. We are putting it off until after her ‘rescue’ so we can invite you when we visit you to thank you.”

“Congratulations,” said Michael, “to both of you. I’ve been expecting it since I first met you.”

“Really? We didn’t know about it until recently.”

“It was a foregone conclusion. You are a perfect match.”

“Yes, we are,” said Rhett. “I don’t suppose you could be my best man without raising some serious questions.”

“Let’s see if we can’t work something out when the two of you come to thank me. If it were a small private wedding, who would know or care? We could always say you asked me to be your best man when you came to thank me.”

“Good thinking,” said Rhett

“Before we go to lunch, I want to talk about something else that requires the security we have here,” said Michael. He got up and began pacing around the room. “Much of the government is gone. More is going away. The CIA will be completely gone in a matter of days. Homeland Security is set to be dismantled. Most of the reasons for our project are gone or soon will be. I won’t be in this favorable position any longer, anyway. We really need to close down. The sooner the better.”

“I agree,” said Rhett. “The last couple of months have been busy, but worthwhile. We sent a strong message to dozens of countries and their corrupt governments.”

“The people seem to be waking up all around the world,” said Michael. “There are massive protests in dozens of nations. The young people are particularly active in the protests. The consensus among the pundits is that it is the massive unemployment for the young. That is probably a major factor, but I think that the young are much more likely to use the internet is an even greater factor. They are bypassing the propaganda and digging out the truth, and they don’t like what they are finding. Then, there is the message we are giving them via the Aliens. They are beginning to think for themselves.”

“And act for themselves, too,” said Rhett. “I think it helps to see the hated authority figures going down around the world. Maybe people are figuring out that other people are pretty much like they are, and the wars are brought on by a tiny percent of crooks, in and behind the governments. The people on one side of a conflict see the people on the other side being liberated from a corrupt regime and they are smart enough to reason that the people they have been blaming had no control over things. It was all the government and those behind it.”

“You have been doing a lot of liberating, lately,” said Michael.

“We got some good strikes in. The plane carrying the president of the European Union suddenly veered off course and crashed into the European Parliament building.”

“That was a good one,” said Michael. “I assume it was some sort of Manchurian candidate operation. Whoever was in charge of protecting the EU Parliament must have been frantic. Shoot down the President in case he was going to hit the Parliament or see if the plane could pull out of it. By the time he made up his mind, if he ever did, it was too late. The French president was another obvious Manchurian candidate project. Even the MSM said that. The fact that his brother denied having shot him and even passed a lie detector test proving he believed he hadn’t done it was fairly conclusive evidence the it was either some sort of mind control or he was insane. How did you get the command to him with all the people nearby?”

“We used focused sound,” said Rhett. “It makes sound into a narrow beam, like lasers do to light. We aimed the beam at the president’s brother while they were skeet shooting. The president probably heard it too, since the sound beam was several feet wide, but the others at a distance of more than ten or twelve feet heard nothing. We gave the command to put the president’s brother in a trance and told him that the man in front of him with a shotgun was a terrorist about to kill him. We told him to shoot first and save his life. He shot the president in the face. Then we brought him out of the trance, and he was shocked to see his brother on the ground, dying. He had no memory at all of having done it.”

“Finding Riggs was a stroke of luck,” said Michael. “Getting rid of the French president and several other top EU politicians has about done in the EU.”

“Every time a politician spoke out against letting his constituents vote on membership in the European Union, he only lasted a day or two. In the next few weeks most of the EU countries will be voting.”

“They are holding new elections in quite a few places,” said Michael.  Maybe they’ll be above board.”

“Speaking of elections, we’ve got one coming up. I don’t think anyone will dare try to cheat in this one. This election is going to tell us if we are really doing any good, as far as the American people are concerned. We know we made good progress with the PE and their minions, but the people are still a question mark. There have been a few small protests, but nothing like those in the rest of the world. Are they still sheeple? Are they now people? Were they somehow genetically modified to make them docile? A week from today, and we will know.”

“To tell you the truth,” said Rhett, “I’m as nervous about this election as I’ve been about any of the missions we had. If the American people let us down, I don’t know what we’ll do. We can’t follow through on the Aliens’ promise to eradicate mankind. What will we do?”

“Let’s be optimistic for a change,” said Michael. “There are some good signs. They have some excellent candidates to choose from.  They should elect better people than they have in recent memory, even if they vote randomly. Let’s polish up our exit message from the Aliens, and if the election turns out well, we can send out the e-mail the next day. If not, we can make a decision then.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Rhett. “We have the final e-mail pretty much ready. It’s been rewritten a dozen times. One more rewrite won’t hurt it.”

 

A Week Later

 

“You’re delirious, Rhett,” said Valerie.

“Why not? Not all the votes have been counted, by a long shot, but it is the biggest landslide in history. Only one incumbent in Congress won, but we knew he would win. He always did, and he was the only decent one they had.”

“We don’t know about all the local elections around the country, but it looks like it is the same coast to coast—a thorough housecleaning. I am delirious. You should be too.”

“I am,” said Valerie. “I’m doubly delirious. Tomorrow, we can send out the last e-mail and be through with it. Make that triply delirious. We can get married soon.”

“And the American people came through. “

 

The day after the elections in the United States, the following e-mail was sent around the world:

 

To the people of Earth:

Sheladarians, both those advocating the eradication of Earth people and those opposing it, have been favorably impressed by recent events on Earth. However, questions remain. Are the people of Earth changing? Are the recent positive events on Earth due, in part, to the people of Earth or solely to the efforts of the Sheladarian task force? Is it safe to leave the fate of Earth in the hands of Earth people?

As the immediate threat of nuclear holocaust has been averted, it has been decided to let the people of Earth show they are capable of behaving rationally, will do so on a consistent basis, and therefore, deserve to survive.

We will immediately cease direct involvement in events on Earth. We have removed many major obstacles to your rational existence. You must now complete what we have started, achieving and maintaining a fair and ethical society.

Perfection is impossible. However, perfection must be your goal. You must maintain a relatively continuous progress toward freedom and justice for all. The Panel we instituted will continue to provide you with guidance, which we advise you to follow. We leave behind an extensive network of observers to monitor the validity of the Panel’s recommendations as well as the people’s response to them. Should you regress substantially or fail to improve steadily until an acceptable state is achieved and to maintain that state thereafter, the Sheladarian people on Earth will return to Sheladar, and Earth will be cleansed of human life. 

Sheladarian scientists have agreed to attempt to develop special weapons that will target people according to specific characteristics of their personality. We have no way of knowing if this is possible or how long such a project might take. Should it become necessary to eliminate Earth's human inhabitants, such weapons would allow us to terminate only those people contributing to the problem through intentional acts or by failing to act responsibly. Those who support progress toward a populace of sovereign, responsible individuals and actively oppose a decline in such progress would not be eliminated. Until new discriminatory weapons become available, all human life on Earth is at risk.

A major flaw of the people of Earth is their apparently overwhelming desire to control the behavior of others. They seem incapable of understanding that any institution capable of forcing anyone to do anything is or will be capable of forcing everyone to do everything and is an instrument of tyranny. Everyone must be free to do as he pleases as long as he doesn’t obstruct the right of others to do the same. It should be evident that you must do away with all coercive institutions. Since everyone has the right to do as he pleases, with certain conditions, no one has the right to force anyone to do anything.

Another dominant defect of Earth people is their failure to distinguish between desires and rights. You may desire a possession of your neighbor, but you have no right to it, unless it was formerly rightfully yours and he stole it from you. Taking the property of anyone without their permission is theft and is forbidden violence against the person.

You have made a good start with the recent weakening of your governments. We will measure your progress by how much you further weaken your governments, while living in relative harmony, until ultimately, you have no government and live in maximum harmony.

Our last reminder is perhaps the most important for Earth people. Historically, your societies have been arranged in a pyramid with the individuals at the bottom. This is the opposite of the order you must adopt. Your new world order must be an inverted pyramid with the individuals at the top. Any organizations for cities and towns, which are subordinate to the individuals  are next. The next political level may be counties, which are subordinate to the cities and towns. Then. state or provincial entities, which are subordinate to the counties.  Next are national entities, which are subordinate to the states, and last are any global entities, the weakest of all, which are subordinate to the nations. The top and most powerful group is composed of the individuals, which are sovereign and trump all the subsequent political entities. No political or any other entity can ever have coercive powers to force any individual to do anything against his will. Political entities, if any, must exist only to provide a service just as a company or individual might provide lawn service or baby-sitting service. Government will have no more right to give orders to the individuals they serve than would the baby-sitter or the person cutting the lawn. This is the opposite of what has been traditional on Earth. We have mentioned this in a previous message, but we repeat it due to its extreme importance. We suggest that the panel emphasize that any time you allow any political entity to dictate individual behavior, other than to prohibit the initiation of violence, you will be acting irrationally and immorally.

We bid farewell to the people of Earth, with the hope that we do not return unless it be as welcome visitors to savor the complete success of our efforts.  From this moment on, it is up to you, the people of Earth, to assume responsibility for yourselves and for your actions. If you do not, you will certainly regret it.

 

 

A Few Days Later

Denton's Broadcast Studio

 

“And that wraps up today’s edition of Smart Talk,” said Denton. “My heartfelt thanks to our lovely and multi-talented guest, Charlene West, who I hope will return soon to continue our talk.”

“I’m sure we can arrange that,” said Charlene West.

When Denton removed his lapel microphone, she removed hers and handed it to him. “I enjoyed that,” she said. “I believe this is the first time that essentially the entire interview concentrated on ideas and not gossip. Everyone else wants to cover romance, my next picture, my leading man, and other trivia that is all over the news already. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have a lot more ideas than romance in my head.”

“As you say,” said Denton, “everyone knows you are the famous daughter of a famous father; that you are a supremely talented actor, director, script writer, musician, and composer. That is global knowledge. I consider it a tragedy that the best part of you, your mind, gets so little coverage, and I hate tragedy.”

“You cheer me, Kirk,” she said.

“I subscribe to the idea of Buckminster Fuller that “ninety-nine percent of what a person is can’t be seen or touched,” said Denton. “In fact, I think that ninety-some percent of what a person is takes a long time and a lot of analysis to comprehend.”

“I like that concept. I am not familiar with Buckminster Fuller,” she said. “Should I be?”

“He was a multifaceted person too,” he said, “with some good facets and some bad ones. He was an inventor, engineer, and a philosopher. He had a great intellect when it came to a lot of things, but he was a rather naïve sort of socialist, thinking, for instance, politicians and industrialists that committed atrocities did so inadvertently and merely needed education. I can agree with many of his conclusions about what has happened and what it would be nice to have happen, but not his ideas of how to accomplish advances in society, via a benevolent big brother world power making us all well off in every way. You take the good ideas and dismiss the rest.

“When it comes to agreeing, I imagine you and I agree on quite a lot,” she said. “I guess you could call me a disciple of yours. I discovered your writings in my freshman year at college. Until then, I had thought I was out of step. Suddenly, I realized I was one of a minority that was in step. I’ve always admired you.”

“That is a signal honor, coming from someone I have long admired,” said Denton. “It gives me a bit of a paternal feeling, and I would be in good company there, given the caliber of your father.”

“You never had any children. Did you?”

“No. I never married,” said Denton, wistfully. “I had my heart broken beyond repair when I was young.”

“That is one more thing we have in common,” said Charlene. “I don’t know if my heart was broken or deeply disappointed. I was just discovering the joys of freedom, individualism, and self-reliance, while he was moving in the exact opposite direction. We were building a wall between us.”

Her last sentence struck a chord in Denton. If he remembered correctly, those were the exact words Michael had used when he was talking about his former romantic attachment. Could this be she?

“You went to Harvard, I believe,” said Denton.

“That’s right.”

“This must be my day for Harvard people,” he said. “At any moment now, a crew from S.M.A.R.T. will be attending a press conference with another Harvard graduate, who, I believe, was probably there at the same time you were. You may have known him, since the two of you have a lot in common, as far as your ideas and ideals are concerned.”

“What is his name?”

“Michael Regnant, the Director of Homeland Security,” said Denton, watching her reaction closely, while not appearing to. “

Obviously surprised, she said, “Do you seriously think I have a lot in common with Michael Regnant? I find that hard to believe.”

“You probably have the stereotype opinion of him,” said Denton, “as, I regret to say, did I for a long time. Yet, he is the one who pushed me to get out of my ivory tower and do something besides pontificate. He arranged the funding for this program and for S.M.A.R.T. in general. You probably know that I am on the Aliens’ Panel.”

“You are in charge of it,” she said. “The Aliens obviously thought your ideas were in line with theirs, which means mine are too.”

“I like to run my thoughts by Michael Regnant when I can,” said Denton. “He has had a great influence on me.”

“He’s part of the Power Elite,” she said. “Isn’t he part of the problem?”

“He is part of what is left of the Power Elite. His is one of the few Power Elite families not decimated by the Aliens. Why do you think he was spared?”

“I see what you mean,” she said. “Perhaps I misjudged him. I did know him in college. In fact, he is the one I spoke of before.”

“Really,” exclaimed Denton.

“Really,” she said.

“Well, to tell the truth, I think there was a period in his life when he felt he was an anomaly in his family—out of step as you said. He tried to suppress his strong instinctive sense of morality and rationality, but eventually gave up, quite a bit later.”

“So it would seem,” she said. “When will the press conference be on your website?”

“Barring some unforeseen event, it should be there late this afternoon.”

“Good. I will definitely watch it,” she said.

“Michael will also be on Smart Talk this Friday,” he said. “You might want to watch that too.”

“I will watch that too,” she said. ”Please don’t tell him what I said about him, especially about him being the reason for no subsequent serious romance in my life.”

“Of course not,” said Denton, thinking she hadn’t really said that. “I wouldn’t think of doing something like that, not without express permission.”

“Good,” she said. “I would love to hang around and talk with you, but I have a busy schedule and I should have left before now.”

They stood, and he escorted her to the street and hailed a taxi for her. She gave him a hug and said she hoped she would come back sometime for another session.

 

The White House

 

"Well, Michael," said the President. "What's on your mind?"

"I think I've contributed all I can, Mister President. It's time for me to move on."

"You're abandoning me?"

"Hardly. I've brought you to where you are, safe and sound."

"I'm still breathing," said the President, with a smile. "I guess that is success in politics these days. The Aliens are cutting us loose, and letting us prove our ability to cut the mustard, as it were. Do you think we can?"

"I have no doubt that Americans can make a go of it. They certainly can. Whether they will or not is another story.  There was never a moment when they couldn't have stood up and put the government in its place, but they didn't. They seem to have come to their senses. As long as they realize that if they don't cut the mustard, as you say, the Aliens will come back with the necessary equipment, and without warning will terminate human life on earth, they should be able to keep their mind on their duties as citizens. We can only hope. If they can't, we are wasting our time. We should be living it up, while we can."

"I think that a lot of the time," said the President. "It seems so long ago that I was enthusiastic. My goals were--let's say they were somewhat self-serving and quite ambitious. Lately, they have been to make it to the end of my term alive. It looks like I will do that. I feel I owe you a lot of the credit for that. You guided me toward a less belligerent stance regarding the Aliens. Because of you, I may go down in history now, as the President that came to terms with the Aliens."

"That may make you one of the most famous of all," said Michael. "Putin will surely outshine any person in Russian history, although he doesn't have much competition. Come to think of it, neither do you, not if the truth be told."

"Perhaps you're right," said the President. "We'll see how my successor does. The first post Alien president may automatically merit a high place in the history books."

"Only if he smoothes out the inevitable chaos," said Michael. "It will be turbulent for a few years, but when things settle down, I think it will be better than ever before. Let's hope so."

"Lord knows, it should be easier for him than it was for me. It should be a lot easier to tear things down than to build them up."

"I don't know about that," said Michael. "There wasn’t much government torn down for a long, long time. Not before the Aliens came along and shall we say convinced us that less government was a good idea."

"They certainly did trim it back, didn't they?"

"Well, Mister President, I'll make it official." He handed the President an envelope. "This is my resignation. If there is anything I can do to help the next director with his job of closing things down and wiping the slate clean, let me know."

"Do you have any recommendation for your replacement? Not many people want such a short term job."

"Alan Stockman has done a great job of making the CIA disappear. He really enjoyed it, too. He might enjoy erasing Homeland Security off the map just as much. I'll be glad to consult with him if necessary, or with whomever you pick, if they have any questions about what I did or was doing. Stockman would really love cleaning house at the Department of Transportation. You may remember that they put the kibosh on his super automobile by demanding two hundred and fifty cars to test before he could sell one. Don’t offer him that job though. As much as he would hate doing it, he would have to turn it down because of a conflict of interest. He’s going to be manufacturing his supercar now that we aren’t an oppressive police state any longer.”

"I'll talk to Stockman about Homeland Security," said the President. "Nobody works better than someone who really enjoys his work. I don’t suppose I need to ask where he got the financing for his supercar.”

“No. I guess you don’t.”

“I accept your resignation, Michael, and I wish you well, not that you Regnants need much well-wishing."

"Everyone appreciates being wished well," said Michael. "I know I do. The same to you, Mister President. Goodbye and good luck. I’ll look forward to reading the book you have to be thinking about. You should make a fortune.”

“Actually, I have been approached already,” said the President. “I don’t really need more money, but then you know that isn’t the only reason for making more.”

 

From the White House, Michael went back to Homeland Security to pick up a few personal items and to meet with the press, whom he had alerted just before he left for the White House.

There were about two dozen reporters and several television and radio crews waiting for him on the front steps.

"Good afternoon," said Michael as he came out the front door.  Met with a barrage of rapid-fire questions, he held up his hands. "Easy. You will all get a turn."

After he had answered all their questions, he said, "I would like to make a statement to the public via the media. I wonder if you will do me the favor of broadcasting it."

"S.M.A.R.T. will if no one else does," said a young man on his right.

The others nodded and made affirmative sounds. If S.M.A.R.T. was going to broadcast it, they had to.

"Good," said Michael. "I just resigned as head of Homeland Security. Homeland Security will soon be gone for good, as well it should be. It should never have existed in the first place. It is good that we are dismantling the American police state. It is shameful that visitors from another planet had to make us do what we, as Americans, should have done on our own, long, long ago.

"We are Americans. We can be categorized in an almost endless number of ways, but over and above all our divisions and differences, we are Americans. We live together and we need to get along and respect each other's sovereign rights. Yes, we are Americans, but we are also human beings, the most advanced species on earth. Human beings come in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and abilities. They speak a variety of languages. Over and above all their divisions and differences, including nationalities, they must be human beings. Human beings live together. Human beings need to get along and respect each other's sovereign rights.

"We Americans live in what was once the richest, greatest and freest country on earth. We blew it. As human beings, we are capable of analyzing and understanding just about anything we can fit into our magnificent minds. There's the problem: Before we can analyze and understand something, we have to first get it into our mind. We have to concentrate on it. Unfortunately, we can only concentrate on one subject at a time, which is why shell games and magician's tricks are effective and why our enemies worked so hard to keep us distracted. We were so distracted that we allowed our freedom to slip away little by little. Our freedom, our self-reliance, our morality, our common sense, our integrity, everything we could and should be proud of, we let slip away. Amazingly, we were still proud. What could we possibly be proud of? Being more in debt than any people in the history of the world? Bringing back the evils of torture? Spreading fear and death across country after country? Of having victoriously attacked such dangerous places as Haiti, Grenada, and Panama, each a tiny, weak, defenseless little spot? Should we be proud of the million plus innocent, defenseless Iraqi civilians we slaughtered? Of being more poorly educated than a number of third world countries? Of being dupes and pawns of the Republican and Democratic parties? Recently, Americans have been ridiculously proud, with precious little to be proud of. We were proud of the illusion that we had something to be proud of. We were proud of what the propagandists told us we should be proud of. We were proud of hype and lies. We believed them because we wanted to believe them. We wanted something to be proud of. There was nothing that we actually did that we could point to with justifiable pride, so we clung to our illusions. We were proud, while rightfully, we should have been ashamed.

"We had to have our faces rubbed in the truth before we acknowledged it," he continued. "It may be that we were subjected to mind control by our government and those behind it. I would like to think that was the reason for our actions. I would like to think the American spirit that once made this country great was only drugged, and the Aliens have led us into sobriety.

"It's time to put the time of our foolishness behind us. It is in the past. It is as much in the past as the Roman Empire and the Greek philosophers. We made mistakes. Instead of moaning and groaning or wringing our hands. Let us learn from them. We let our enemies get too strong. We won't do that again. The Aliens got rid of the worst of our enemies. They put us back on track and in charge, but it is up to us to stay there. All we have to do is maintain the momentum. We are where we are now. There is nothing we can do to change where we are. We must start from right here. However, where we are tomorrow, next year and the next century is up to us and us alone. We have important things to attend to. If anyone gets the idea of tricking us again, they can forget it. Americans will never let anyone take their freedoms again. We have been there and done that. From now on, we will guard our precious freedoms. We have learned from our experiences in the college of hard knocks, but the lessons are permanent. We accept the responsibility for our actions. From here on out, it is onward and upward. America is back in business. If people think we were great in the past, just wait. The best is yet to come.

"That is about all I have to say," he said. "I want to express my gratitude to the Aliens for putting mankind back on track. I am very confident that we will stay on track, and they will not have to come back and liquidate us. I have always believed that all humans beings are born immensely rich, in that they have the ability to do anything that has ever been done before and many things that have never been done. In the past, a great many were prevented from using that incredible ability to any significant degree. The era of the sovereign individual is arriving at last. Now, it is up to us, every one of us. We can each be as great as we dare to be. Thank you and goodbye."

All the members of the press applauded.


Chapter 24

Two Days Later

Denton's Broadcast Studio

 

"So you are a civilian again, Michael," said Denton.

"I was always a civilian," said Michael. "Well, maybe I was a soldier of a sort."

"Michael, the archangel," said Denton.

"Hardly," said Michael.

"The crew is setting things up. We'll be starting in a few minutes. I hope that's okay with you."

"That's fine with me. How is the show working out?"

"You mean the online video, I suppose, not the radio show."

"Okay, both. How are they going?"

"The radio show on the airways is doing well, but the online radio is phenomenal. The good thing is that those that don't get to hear it when it's broadcast can listen to it any time after that. I have a bigger audience among those that download it than those that listen at broadcast time. The video is doing quite well. We put every program on YouTube and every other online video outlet, as well as our own websites. We're growing at about twenty-five percent a week. Last week, we were up 37% in overall views."

"How are the students working out?"

"They are fantastic," said Denton. "They are getting pretty worked up about the subject matter too, which is great. They are such hard workers, and they know their stuff. I think they are almost as good as the people I had at the network. Sure, they are a little slower to figure new things out, but they are students, after all."

"I may look for other ways to use the same strategy of work for scholarships," said Michael.

"When these kids graduate, they will have some good experience," said Denton. "They will be able to go anywhere they want."

The two of them sat opposite each other at a small round table. The lights were adjusted. A young lady brushed their faces with a bit of powder.  A young man at a control panel held up his hand and dropped it.

"This is Kirk Denton with S.M.A.R.T. bringing you today's edition of Smart Talk. My guest today is Michael Regnant, who until two days ago was the Director of Homeland Security. Welcome to Smart Talk, Michael."

"Thank you, Kirk. I'm glad to be here."

"Let's set the record straight, Michael. You resigned on good terms with your old boss, the President. Isn't that right?"

"Yes it is, Kirk. As you and your listeners surely know, Homeland Security will soon be phased out, along with several other government agencies or departments. I felt I had done my duty when the Aliens were a scare at the beginning, and I tried tactfully to identify them without alienating them, if you can alienate an alien."

"That's a thought," said Denton, with a chuckle.

"But now the Aliens have put us in control of our own destinies, and we are on our way to being on good terms with just about everyone. They don't need me to close the doors and dismantle what should never have been. I have more important things I'd rather be doing."

"Such as?"

"As most people know, the Regnants have numerous business ventures," said Michael. "I'll be kept busy managing them. We also have an interest in keeping an eye on how the people of the world are maintaining the momentum on the Aliens' drive to keep planet earth safe and its inhabitants free."

"That's very humanitarian of you," said Denton.

"We are hardly doing it for humanitarian reasons," said Michael. "I cherish my freedom. This may come as a shock to a lot of people, but I know for a fact that if one American can have his rights trampled on, so can two, and three, and four, and on and on and on, until everyone has lost his rights or is at risk of losing them. If I want to protect my rights, I must protect yours and everyone else's. Until recently, that was impossible to do. Now, it is becoming possible."

"You mean because of the Aliens and the Aliens' Panel?"

"That brought it on, but I see, or think I see, a renaissance of interest and consciousness in a once numb population of sheeple. I'm glad for that, for those who are awake and aware of their surrounding on a general, national, and global scale are people I can identify with. If the people ever go back to being a herd of mindless sheep supporting a tyrannical system, they will become my enemies, because they will endanger me, my life, and my property. I can understand why a lot of people on Sheladar wanted to just exterminate them. If they didn't care for their own existence as human beings, why should anyone else? I had long suspected that there was something in the water or in the air or subliminal in the television hypnotizing a majority of the people. Whatever it was, if there was something, it has stopped or has been somehow overcome in recent months. With the ratcheting down of government, and strict limits put on their activities, we'll see if people become fully alert and interested in their freedom and the quality of their existence, and I'm not talking about how many goodies they have."

"I'm sure many listeners will be surprised to hear a member of the famous Regnant family talk so fervently about freedom and rights. Is this something new?"

"It is something new to talk so much about it,” said Michael. “Until recently, there has been no freedom to talk about. The Regnants and a few, all too few, others ached for freedom, but we were outnumbered at the polls by the mindless robots I spoke of before. The government was the enemy of any but those who could and would make sizeable ‘contributions’ as bribes came to be called in the doublespeak world. Notice that the Regnants were not targeted by the Aliens. On the other hand, a great many of those who had condemned us for years were on the Aliens' list. Actually, you were pretty hard on us for a long time, as I recall."

"I was, indeed," said Denton. "I admit that I have a better understanding of you and your family now. I publicly apologize for most of the things I said about the Regnants in the past."

"We started the Regnant Foundation for Freedom, well before the advent of the Aliens. We were hoping over the long term to accomplish what the Aliens with their greater power and bravura were able to pull off in a much shorter time."

"The Regnant Foundation for Freedom has been extremely supportive of S.M.A.R.T.," said Denton. "It wouldn’t exist today without that support."

"Don't get me wrong," said Michael. "We Regnants are not a family of sacrificial lambs, out to save the world. We want to live free in a free world. We have money and people with money are even more at risk than those without it, because we attract those who want to take our money. We want a free world because we want to live in a free world. It may be nice to be able to afford a flock of bodyguards, but I believe it is much nicer to live in a world where bodyguards are unnecessary. If we help make the world free, everyone will benefit, and we like that, but that isn't why we do it. We do it for ourselves. Many so-called liberals are always harping about the underprivileged. The existence of the underprivileged implies the existence of the privileged and even, perhaps, the over privileged. A privilege is a special right, immunity, or exemption granted by an authority.  Unlike our God-given rights, privileges are given or sold by rulers or governments. I am in favor of no privileges being given to anyone. Let us all have the natural rights due all human beings. Protect those rights, and let the chips fall where they may. No privilege for anyone means there can be no underprivileged, since there are no privileged."

"A lot of people had been surrounded by bodyguards until recently in America," said Denton. "The Aliens were a godsend for the bodyguard business, until they pulled out. From the way you talk about the Aliens, it sounds to me that you believe they really were extraterrestrial beings. Do you?"

"Obviously, I can't say for sure," said Michael. "Actually, it doesn't matter to me. What matters is what they have accomplished. Whatever they were, they did a great job, as far as I'm concerned."

"And you say that even though the change in government will surely reduce the cash flowing into the Regnant coffers."

"For a while, it is likely to cost us significantly. But a good businessman can succeed on a level playing field," said Michael. "We were in the government funded business because the people foolishly insisted on letting the government take all their money. If you wanted to make serious money, you had to go where all the money had gone, to the government. Now, we will be concentrating on pleasing the consumers, because our profit will now depend on how well we can do that. We welcome the challenge, and we look forward to it."

"For months, I've been telling the people that if they had been minding their own business, the Aliens would never have had to mind it for them," said Denton.

"You might consider that, according to the polls, two-thirds to three-quarters of the American people previously thought it was perfectly acceptable for America to force a false liberty on non-Americans at gunpoint, even if we had to kill millions of them to get the survivors to accept our so-called freedom. They should clearly understand that the Aliens took the same position, except there is nothing false about the liberty the Aliens forced on them."

"Good thinking," said Denton. "They are finding out that what goes around really does come around, or as someone once said, 'As you sow, so shall you reap."

"The way I see it, people have been extremely lucky," said Michael. "Even though everyone was soon aware of the existence of the Aliens, the years of apathy and blissful ignorance had taken their toll, and few people bothered to really look at what the Aliens were telling them. People were so accustomed to the superficial sound bites they were unable to absorb several consecutive thoughts. In my position as Director of Homeland Security, I had to analyze every syllable of the Aliens' messages. Yes, the Aliens have backed off and left it to the people to finish what they started. They are giving us a chance to prove we merit inclusion in the human race, along with the Aliens. If too many of the people slip back into apathy and indifference, everyone will suffer. We must shun apathy and willful ignorance like the plague. We must make absolutely sure willfully ignorant and apathetic people never have any say in anything affecting the rest of us. That is all-important. We must never again turn control of our lives over to those who won't even look out for their own interests, the kind of people that for generations completely ignored the government, the most influential force on their lives and ours. They nearly obliterated mankind. We must remain vigilant, not only for incursions by government, but for even the slightest change that gives one group of people the slightest control over another group of people. That would be the equivalent of a crack in a dam, a foot in the door, the sowing of a seed, and we must not tolerate it, ever again. Remember too, that anyone suggesting such an evil thing as the suppression of anyone's rights should be viewed as totally evil. There is a saying that the devil knows scripture, and a lot of devious devils certainly led us astray in the past, but we can't let it happen again. Even if the Aliens wouldn't come back and wipe mankind off the face of the earth, we never want to get back in the horrendous situation we seem to be getting out of now. A very bright man, named Albert Einstein, once said, ‘A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.’ I think that as long as we are talking of man being restrained rather than coerced, the words ‘after death’ should be unnecessary. While one can understand people doing some evil things for fear of punishment, a decent person should be decent because that is the way people should be, not because he fears punishment. I'd like to say to everyone who may ever hear this, and I hope they tell it to everyone they know, until everyone on earth has heard it: If there is an election, and you aren't well informed about the candidates and the issues to be decided, don't vote. Vote only if you feel sure you are casting a well-informed vote that can't result in the infringement of anyone's rights. The minute you cast a vote against my rights, you become my enemy and the enemy of all mankind, including yourself. You have initiated violence against us, and we are completely justified in doing whatever it takes to stop you. Think about that. I am morally justified in doing whatever it takes to stop the infringement of my rights. If you don't care enough to make sure you are looking out for your own freedom, that's your problem. But when you start taking mine, intentionally or not, you are my enemy, and I will be searching for a way to neutralize you."

"You feel very strongly about that," said Denton.

"Every one with a speck of common sense should feel strongly about freedom,” said Michael. “Feeling strongly about freedom is something that was once every American. It may be again. I certainly hope so."

"A lot of people might say that people have a right to vote, period."

"Yes, there are a lot of senseless people," said Michael. "To say that people have a right to vote, regardless of the result of their voting makes as much sense as saying people have a right to shoot, no matter who they hit. They may have a right to pull that trigger, but the minute they shoot at me, I'm fully justified in killing them. A politician that proposes a law to take away anyone’s rights is evil and should be removed promptly from office. He must be opposed, even by those his law might seem to help, for in the long term, it will do violence to everyone. Voting to take away or in any way infringe on the rights of others is violence against those people. I can’t emphasize this strongly enough. Voting to harm you and yours is a serious attack on you and yours. Such people are worse than child molesters; their evil works against all mankind, while the child molester harms only a small number of children. You must hold people responsible for the results of their actions—all their actions. No one has the right to take away our rights, our life, or our property by any means whatsoever, including voting, and if they do, they are waging war against us. Look how far the American people went in thinking they had the right to do anything with impunity. We invaded small third world nations that did nothing to us, never even threatened us. If they shot back, we screamed, ‘how dare they shoot at us.’ We even called them ungrateful. We wanted to show the people we attacked that they couldn't shoot back at us. We could slaughter them, burn them to crisps, and blow them to tiny bits, but they were supposed to sit and take it. We even thought they should be glad we did it. They would learn to mess with America. Who messed with whom? It is a law of nature. If you attack people, no matter in what way you attack them, they have a tendency and a right to defend themselves. Don't shoot at anyone not shooting at you unless you are prepared for the possibility they might shoot back and kill you. Why is that so hard for this generation to understand? I would think any five year old could grasp that simple concept."

"It does seem rather evident," said Denton.

"If someone breaks into my house at night, opens my safe and steals, let's say, five thousand dollars, and I get my gun, go downstairs, and catch him, I am completely justified in shooting him, no matter what any government says."

"Okay."

"Suppose I move to a small town with three voters, including myself. I have a lot of money. The other residents are flat broke. They put a measure on the ballot for a ninety-nine percent tax on everyone making over a hundred dollars a week, meaning me, and if they move away, they have to pay the tax before they are allowed to move away, and the measure passes with two votes for it and my one vote against it.  I contend the two voters are no better than the burglar that I had the right to shoot. I have the right to shoot them just as I had the right to shoot him. In that hypothetical situation, working within the system is obviously a waste of time, because the crooks outnumber me. That essentially is the way it has been for some time. Working within the system was completely futile, because the crooks outnumbered the good guys."

"You classify the majority of voters as crooks?"

"They may not do the actual stealing, but they are certainly hoping for a share of the loot or some other benefit from the evil they vote for," said Michael. "If not, they are even dumber than I thought they were. The majority of voters have been like the drivers of getaway cars. They get the robbers to the bank, wait while the robbery is under way, and then help the robbers avoid capture and prosecution, all for the promise of a payment that they may never even receive. The Aliens have given those accomplices to the government’s endless crimes a chance to turn over a new leaf and go straight. We'll see if they are bright enough to take advantage of the opportunity."

"I have to agree with you," Said Denton, “but most people would say a lot of voters were unaware of what they were supporting.”

"Let’s think about that,” said Michael. “Suppose the bank robbers stop a man on the street and tell him a sad story about their daughter needing an operation and they need to go to the bank and get the money to pay for her operation, but they don't know how to drive. They are loaded down with weapons, but say that is just in case someone tries to hold them up on the way to the hospital. If he will drive them to the bank and wait for them, he will be performing an act of mercy. The idiot drives them to the bank, waits outside, listening to a lot of gunfire. The robbers come out with bulging satchels and jump in the car, and the idiot drops them at the hospital, where they catch a taxi. The idiot drives off with a warm and fuzzy feeling that lasts for days. In his closed little mind, he never connects the news of a robbery at the bank and the massacre of all the tellers and clients with his errand of mercy. Does his stupidity excuse his crime? Such are the unaware criminals people are so quick to excuse. They contribute to death just as much as those who pull the triggers. Strangely enough, I would guess that essentially every one of the unaware voters would understand that little allegory of the bank robbers and they would think the man that drove the robbers to the bank shares in their guilt. Yet, they would never see the correlation with their own guilt in destroying their country, the lives of their fellow citizens, and countless innocent people around the world through their ignorance and apathy at best, if not greed and malice."

“In these last moments,” said Denton, “I would like to touch on the subject on inequality and the rich and the poor. You are extremely rich, while others are extremely poor. Can you say a few words on that?”

"I was born to wealth," said Michael. "I have never wanted for the necessities. That doesn't mean my life has been all happiness and no grief. I know there is much more to life than material possessions. Surprisingly, a great many people that would swear that they too know that, act as though they didn't know it. They envy anyone with more money or possessions than they have far more than they will envy someone with more happiness or love in their lives. Yet, which is better? Rich people suffer tragedies, just as the poor do. They go blind, become crippled, and die. Would a blind rich person trade his wealth for sight? I certainly would think so.

“As to the distribution of wealth, some of it is legitimate and some not. If you hire someone to build a house and someone else to build a doghouse, it would never cross your mind that you should pay them both the same amount. So, one is going to get more money than the other. You should get estimates from both and pay each one up to but no more than the product they produce is worth to you. Most people preaching equality are inferring a nurse’s aide that empties bedpans should get the same salary as a brain surgeon. If that were the case, there would surely be no brain surgeons. In a free world, exchanges are made of items of approximately equal values to the exchanging parties. It is only right that Gil Bates, who improved the world for millions, should be rewarded appropriately, while Joe Doe that improved the world for no one, not even much for himself should also be rewarded appropriately.

“That being said, I have to say that in the last century, especially, the transfer of wealth from the many to the few went on at an extraordinary pace. The fault, however, is not so much with the rich few as the increasingly poorer many.  The masses mistakenly thought that an all-powerful government would take the money from the rich and give it to them. The masses always think that, and they are always wrong. They allow the government to get far too much power, and that power is inevitably used against them. Whenever the government gets powerful enough to do as it pleases, the people with money will take control of the government and use that power for their own benefit. Wealth is created by labor, be it manual or cerebral. The masses trade their labor for money. Producers use their money or borrow money to create products. They employ the masses. The products created have value. People trade their labor for money and trade the money for goods and services. What has happened in the last hundred years is that a segment of the Power Elite took control of the money supply and really stuck it to the masses. The masses worked hard producing goods and services. The bought and paid for government went to a money system in which money was debt. The new money was created by banks out of thin air and loaned to government, businesses, and people at interest. Therefore, on thin air, banks earned interest. The more money they could loan, the more interest they received.  If you can create a million dollars from nothing and loan it out at six percent interest, you will, at the end of twelve years, have two million dollars, which cost you nothing but overhead. Likewise, a trillion dollars will return as two trillion in twelve years at six percent. Of course, the government and the people got whatever they were buying with this borrowed money, but two times the cost of those goods and services ended up free and clear with the banks on essentially zero investment.  Who is getting rich in this system, and who is being victimized?

“The government power was used to impose this con on the masses that invariably called for more government power. Hopefully, people are realizing that government can never be allowed to have the power to coerce people and steal their money.”

"It looks like we have run out of time. Thank you for talking with us today, Michael Regnant. I hope you can come back another time soon."

"It would be my pleasure," said Michael.


Carmel, California

Charlene West’s Home

 

Charlene West extended the remote control and clicked off the large screen television on which she had been watching Kirk Denton’s interview of Michael Regnant. She sat there on her sofa, silently, motionless, for a long time. After about ten minutes, tears began to run down her face. Eventually, they dried. She took the telephone off the table at the end of the sofa, and reached for her purse on the low table in front of the sofa. She rummaged in the purse for a while and pulled out an agenda, which she thumbed through. She punched in a number on the telephone.

“Hello, Kirk. This is Charlene West.  Fine, how are you? Good. I was wondering if you have a number to reach Michael Regnant. People like him are hard to get in touch with. Just a second.” She pulled a pen from the cover of the agenda and took down a number. “Thank you, Kirk. I just finished watching your interview of Michael Regnant. I think I have to talk to him.” She paused, “Of course, I’ll keep you posted. Thanks a million, Kirk. I’ll be in touch.”

She got up and walked out onto a patio. She paced back and forth for several minutes. Glancing, at her watch, she went back inside, got the telephone and the agenda, and returned to the patio. She sat down at a little table where she often had coffee in the morning. Finally, she punched in the number for Michael Regnant. She almost hung up several times as the phone rang and rang, but she didn’t. Finally, she heard a voice at the other end.

“Hello,” said Michael.

“Michael, this is Charlene.”

After a long pause, Michael answered, “Charlene West? My Charlene?”

“Yes. I got your number from Kirk Denton. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Mind? Don’t be silly. I’m just a little stunned to hear from you. Pleasantly stunned that is. To what do I owe this pleasure, Charlene?”

“Two days ago, I watched your press conference after you resigned as Director of Homeland Security. This evening, I watched your interview on Smart Talk. Once upon a time, I chastised you for your attitude and philosophy, with which I disagreed. I thought it only fair to commend you on your current attitude and philosophy, with which I agree wholeheartedly.”

“Thank you, Charlene. Your commendation makes me feel almost as good as your chastisement made me feel bad, and that is saying a lot.”

“I know what you mean,” she said. “How have you been?”

They talked for nearly an hour, before Michael said, “It feels like old times. It feels like we were together yesterday. We just picked up where we left off.”

“It does feel that way,” she said. “It is incredible.”

“Not really,” he said. “I always thought we were meant for each other. People meant for each other shouldn’t become unmeant with time.”

“Unmeant? Is that a word?”

“I guess it’s a neologism,” he said. “Seems perfect in the situation.”

“I often wondered if I had acted stupidly,” she said.

“Never say that again,” he said. “Just be glad we talked before we were using walkers. I really think we should continue this conversation face to face. Where are you?”

“I am in Carmel.”

“California?”

“Yes.”

“Is there an airport there?”

“Yes. There is one called the Monterrey Peninsula Airport. It’s about twelve miles away and takes about twenty minutes.”

“I have to go to a wedding tomorrow. Can you meet me there the next day?”

“Yes.”

“Can I call you at this number to tell you when to expect me? It will probably be in the afternoon. I’m assuming we have a plane available. Otherwise, I may have to make other plans.”

“This number is good,” she said.

“I will let you go for now,” he said. “I have to get busy. I need to make my preparations.”

Chapter 25

The Next Day

 

Michael walked out onto the terrace, where his family was having breakfast.

“I’ve been thinking, Michael,” said Claude Regnant. “The Aliens turned the world on its ear. They didn’t have to whack all those people. Just telling them that everyone had to comply with their list of demands or else would have given most of them a heart attack or a stroke.”

“Isn’t that the truth,” said Alice, with a little knowing smile as her eyes met Michael’s. “The Aliens are our new founding fathers.”

“More like founding godfathers,” said Claude. “Well, it’s over, and we survived it.”

“Let’s see if we survive the Aliens’ new world order,” said Albert.

“We couldn’t be sitting any prettier,” said Michael. “We are almost entirely in real assets, not currency. A lot of very rich people are going to be not so very rich suddenly, because they are in bonds and some stocks with a grim future. The Aliens’ Panel has said that money the government borrowed from those who created it out of thin air will be paid back in thin air.”

“I didn’t think they were going to pay off any federal debt,” said Claude. “I thought that since the government was illegal and we’re going back to the Articles of Confederation, all the government debt would just vanish.”

“Apparently not,” said Michael. “Those debts deemed moral obligations will be settled.”

“Where are they getting the money for that?” asked Gerald.

“Eventually, they’ll be selling a lot of stuff,” said Michael, “including a lot of land and buildings. The settlements may not be a hundred cents on the dollar. It’s too soon to know. Besides, they intend to keep paying all those on social security, while those currently enrolled will be able to opt out or stay in. No new people will be enrolled.”

“I guess that is only fair,” said Alice. “I imagine a lot of senior citizens don’t have anything else to live on, and an agreement is an agreement.”

“The bonds are just as much of an agreement,” said Claude. “Yet, you say they are going to default on them, Michael.”

“Only on those bought with nonexistent money, meaning by banks and the Federal Reserve,” said Michael. “They will try to pay off the rest. Still, monetary affairs are going to be confusing for a while, but it will soon smooth out. Using real money should soon stabilize things.”

“How fortunate that we have so much gold and silver,” said Albert. “I guess we owe that to you, Michael.”

“In a way, we owe you for the fact that we are even alive, Albert,” said Michael. “When you brought up your concerns about us losing our heads like the French aristocrats, you got us started on getting our act together and polishing our image. That surely saved us from the Aliens.”

“That’s right,” said Claude. “But for that, we would all be stone cold dead. So glad you got us started on that, Albert.”

“We’ll be forever grateful, little brother,” said Gerald.

“At least as long as we live,” said Alice, glancing knowingly at Michael.

Albert smiled, obviously enjoying the accolades.

“What are we going to do in this new environment,” said Claude. “Our interests in defense are going to be pretty depressed.”

“Since defense spending is going to really be for defense and not offense, we may not need even another bullet for a long time,” said Alice.

“The plants that make arms can make commercial products,” said Michael. “We just have to decide what to make. We should be able to adapt to making cars, namely the Stockman super car. In addition, I think there is going to be a boom in new business ventures once things settle down. I have been doing some thinking about a string of incubation centers that help new businesses get off the ground, for a stake in the enterprise. Maybe we can do something in that area. We have done some venture capital work, and this is similar. We set up a place where startup companies can have an office, conference room, maybe a showroom if necessary. We can supply funding and services like consulting, accounting, communications, copiers, drafting, and even light manufacturing. We can set up factories to which they can farm out most kinds of manufacturing, and we might provide advertising and sales support. We would have to work it out. I envision entrepreneurs coming to us with an idea and a business plan; we evaluate it and decide whether to take them under our wing for a percentage of the company. We could make a fortune, if we choose well. Developing countries might be even more interesting than the USA for something like that, although we all know how depleted the USA is in the manufacturing area.”

“That sounds very interesting,” said Claude. We could set up in a few spots and see how they do. If it looked good, we’d keep going.”

“Who wants to take this on?” asked Michael.

“I thought you were already on it,” said Gerald.

“No,” said Michael. “To do it right, we have to do a lot of quick planning, and as Father said, set up one or two, work the bugs out, and if they look good, get moving. If we don’t move rapidly, someone is going to move in while we are piddling around. It is a full time job, and I have too much on my plate to take it, unless no one else can. Of course, we all can put in our thoughts and suggestions, but one of us has to ramrod it.”

“I’ll do it,” said Albert, “if you’ll give me a hand now and then, Michael.”

“You know I will,” said Michael. “After all, you are my brother. I’d do just about anything for you. By the way, I’m reminding you that I’m going out of town today. I was returning tomorrow, but my plans have changed. I’m going on to California. I’ll probably be gone a few days. I’ll keep you posted on my plans.”

“What’s in California?” asked Claude.

“It’s personal,” said Michael.

“Well, well,” said Albert. “Where in California?”

“Monterrey,” said Michael. That was close enough, he thought, and true as far as it went. “I’m taking the Gulfstream. I hope none of you were planning on using it the next few days.”

There was no response.

“I guess that means no one was,” said Michael. “Good.”

 

 

The Next Day

The Bonnie Dwaine Bed and Breakfast

 

“I now pronounce you man and wife,” said the minister in the sitting room of the Bonnie Dwaine Bed and Breakfast. “You may kiss the bride.”

Rhett embraced Valerie and kissed her tenderly.

Lynn and Michael, who had stood by them as Maid of Honor and Best Man, gathered around them, congratulating them.

“This is a fitting place for celebrating,” said Rhett.

“There is so much more than a wedding to celebrate here,” said Michael

“I’ll never stop celebrating our victory,” said Valerie.

“Let’s not stop celebrating our wedding either,” said Rhett.

“It’s so good,” said Michael, “not to have to worry about being discovered, to wonder what to do next, whether we are overlooking something, and to be able to concentrate more on living our lives as we want to live them.”

“We are starting a new life in a new world,” said Valerie. “It’s not perfect, but it is a far, far freer world.”

“Only because the individuals are freer,” said Michael. “I concur with your idea of starting a new life, though. I have often felt happiness in my life, but the emotion our success has given me surpasses happiness. I suppose you could say it gives me joy. The joy of achievement, of reaching a difficult and extremely worthy goal. It makes happiness seem so pale in comparison. I seem to remember someone having said that joy must be shared if it is to exist. Right now, I am sharing this joy with you two. I have a feeling that, like the two of you, I may soon have someone to share this and all my future joys with. I’ll let you know how that works out.”

“Anyone we know?” asked Valerie.

“No. Not yet,” said Michael. “It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I have very good feelings about it.”

“No one deserves it more than you, Michael,” said Rhett.

“Amen,” said Valerie. “The whole world owes you, big time.”

“Don’t be silly,” said Michael.

 

Four Months Later

North Island in the Seychelles

 

It was the evening of the fourth day of their honeymoon on the North Island resort in the Seychelles. Michael and Charlene sat on the deck of their villa, looking out over the Indian Ocean. The waves were small and made little noise as they broke on the shore. 

“How did you ever find this place, Michael?” asked Charlene. “I have been to a lot of exotic places in my life, but I have never seen any place as exotic, erotic, and romantic as this.”

“When you agreed to marry me,” said Michael, “I began to wonder if there was any place on planet earth romantic enough for our belated honeymoon. I spent quite a few hours scouring the Internet for a suitable spot. This was the closest I could come to being adequate. I’m glad you like it.”

“Like it? I adore it. I don’t know how I could possibly describe it. Rustic hardly fits. Pagan, it might be in some ways. It is too romantic for the word ‘romantic.’ “

“It doesn’t surprise me that you would try to find a word to describe it,” he said. “I had the same problem. It certainly is romantic, but that doesn’t give any insight to the architecture. It isn’t primitive, because it has all the modern conveniences. Actually, their website skirts the issue. They never really describe the architecture. They say it is natural and ecological, but that doesn’t give you any idea of what it might look like. You have to see it.”

“I’m so glad you found it.  Have you thought that we might make a place like this somewhere?”

“Funny, you would say that,” he said. “We have an island in the Bahamas that we need to do something with, and another in the Bay Islands off Honduras that we might develop. What if we made a resort like this? We would be closer to home, especially in the Bahamas. We could approximate this on some mainland locations, such as the gulf coast or in the Florida Keys. The closer it is, the more convenient it would be for us.”

“Yes. I would love that.”

“I think it would be a good business in the Bahamas or the Keys,” he said. “This is nice, but it is a bear of a trip to get here.”

“I would think it would be popular,” she said. “If you made it a bit more affordable, it might be better.”

“We’ll work on it,” he said. “Right now, there is something I feel I need to tell you. It isn’t something you really need to know, but I don’t feel right about not telling you.”

“I hope this isn’t a confession about previous romances,” she said.

“You were my only romance,” he said. “No, this is nothing like that.” He told her about discovering his true father, and explained why he didn’t want to tell Claude Regnant.

“That is pretty dramatic,” she said.

“That is only part of what I have to tell you,” he said. He went on to tell her of the project with Rhett and Valerie. This took a long while, as he went back to the first meeting in the sanitarium parking lot and finished with his resignation as Director of Homeland Security.”

“Good God, Michael,” she exclaimed. “What a movie I could make of that story. Of course, it can’t be done, but I can just picture a lot of it. I had no idea when I agreed to marry you that I was marrying a man that had saved mankind from serfdom. At least, I hope you have, and it would appear that it has a good chance to turn out that way. I feel even luckier than I thought I was to get you and that’s saying a lot.”

“I’m so glad it didn’t upset you.”

“How could it?” she said. “How heroic can it get?”

“I hardly think of it as heroic,” he said. “Just self-defense.”

“Against the greatest odds ever known,” she said. “It boggles my mind to even contemplate such a project. I don’t think anyone ever embarked on an endeavor of such magnitude, not since the beginning of time.”

“Anyway, I’m glad to get it off my chest,” he said. “I don’t want any secrets between us.”

“Now I understand why you were so friendly with Rhett and Valerie. Not that they weren’t nice people, but they seemed as close as your own family. I can see why. Can they know that I know, or would you rather they didn’t?”

“Of course they can know that you know,” he said.

“In a way, it saddens me,” she said.

“Why do you say that?”

“It was bad enough thinking of all the years we had missed being together. Now I realize that I missed being part of the most exciting event in history.”

“If we had been together, I might not have considered doing it,” he said. “I would have had so much more to lose, had it failed.”

“You just took away the sadness, my hero.”

“It’s getting dark,” he said. “It’s beautiful the way the rising moon makes a silver band on the water, running right up to our beach.”

“You know,” she said, “when I think how much freer the world is now, after the Sheladar Affair as they are calling the episode with the Aliens, it makes me feel even more fortunate to know that the wonderful man behind making the world free loves me. Everyone in the world is better off, but I am the luckiest one of all.”

“You are the second luckiest.”

“A tie?”

“Okay.”

“I’d like to ask you one thing,” she said,

“Go ahead.”

“I gather from all that you told me about your project that you feel it was necessary because of the apathy or ignorance of the people. Is that true?”

“That is true, but it’s not the whole story. It wasn’t only ignorance and apathy, in my opinion. I think even more than that, it was the absence of real moral or ethical standards in spite of whatever they might have professed. People that accept government money have to know it is the product of plunder. Many people bemoaned the power elite getting government money, even as they lined up or voted to get some of the same government money themselves. They weren’t against stealing; they were just against not getting a share of the loot.  It should have been obvious to anyone who would spend a few hours of their life thinking about it that the solution to most of society’s problems was a government without the power to steal people’s money. Of course, no one wanted that, because nearly everyone was hoping to get some loot.  Even worse, as far as morality goes, were those supporting government theft, not because of their own wants or needs, but ostensibly for the benefit of the poor.  While governments that gave some sort of aid did so for purely selfish reasons, progressives and liberals did so for the short-term benefits of feeding the starving and so on. The end result was a huge segment of mankind dependent on others for the necessities of life, a result intended by the governments, but unintended, we hope, as far as most supposedly compassionate liberal voters were concerned. So you see it wasn’t just ignorance and apathy, but an ample portion of larceny and the failure to reason and to consider long term consequences.“

 “Okay,” said Charlene. “I can go along with all that. Do you think that people have really changed, or are they just afraid of getting wiped out?”

“I don’t know,” said Michael. “If I had to guess, I’d say it is a little reformation and a lot of fear.”

“Isn’t that depressing?”

“Not really,” said Michael. “You have to remember that there were no significant advances in those areas in recorded history. Any gains at all are almost infinitely greater than those of the last two or three thousand years. That people have begun to reason at all when it comes to interpersonal and intrapersonal relations is nothing short of miraculous. We can only hope that Leonardo Di Vinci was right when the said the greatest joy is the joy of understanding. If people get great joy in understanding a few things, they will be motivated to understand a few more, and a few more, and so on. A world full of people that actually make use of the treasure between their ears would be phenomenal. I hope it comes about. If not, for the time being at least, we seem to have halted the race toward universal tyranny. For that, I am completely grateful. As long as the majority of the people don’t threaten me due to their failure to take advantage of their abilities, it is their problem. However, I believe all people are born to greatness, and I feel sorry for those that settle for mediocrity or nothingness.”

“I seem to remember that the Regnants were financing entities that helped foster human advancement,” said Charlene. “I am not in your league, but I’d like to help you in that if I could. If you are successful, the odds of things slipping back into the darkness we seem to be escaping would be lessened. What do you think?”

“I agree with you wholeheartedly,” he said. “We’ll do our best. Mind you, I’m doing it for us. I think people work harder and better for their own benefit, and in the end, they do more good for others than they could possibly do for unselfish motives. If you aren’t healthy both mentally and physically, you are worthless to anyone. Take care of yourself first, especially if you think you might want to help someone other than yourself. I would think anyone who couldn’t see the logic in that is a complete idiot.”

“And you are no idiot.”

“That makes two of us.”

“I’m sure your father will want in on it,” said Charlene. “That makes three of us.

“Three going on seven billion.”

The End

Epilog

 

“And there you have it," said Victoria, as she closed her laptop. She stood up and stretched.  

"It's incredible," said Andre. "It is all the more fascinating because my own grandparents were the ones behind it.  You didn't know anything about it, Dad?"

"Not until now," said Brett. "All the time your mother and your sister have been working on this book, they refused to talk about it. I asked several times, but they told me to wait until the book was finished."

"It's hard to believe it didn't leak out in all these years," said Andre. "There had to be a lot of people involved. It is hard to believe not one of them let out the secret that there were no aliens."

"Most of those that knew what they were doing believed they were working for the Aliens," said Valerie. "Every effort was certainly made to make them think that."

"I think the most incredible thing for me," said Victoria, "was how disconnected the people were before the Aliens woke them up. It is hard to imagine the people letting things get as bad as they were. Grandmother was targeted because she pointed out treasonous corruption. You would think they would reward something like that, but they tried to kill her. In school, we heard that things were bad before the Aliens came to save us, but you don't hear many details. We only scratched the surface in the book. Grandmother told us so many horrible things that were happening, but the most horrible thing was that the people were unconcerned about it."

"It was a brilliant idea to use the Alien story," said Martha. "It is easy to see why you want to keep it secret. I remember my parents and my grandparents talking about how bad it was before the Sheladarians came along. They said that if the people weren't afraid that the Aliens would come back and wipe us all out, things would soon be back like they were."

"Maybe, after a few generations of people being responsible for their own well-being, and accustomed to being free to do as they please, the story can be told," said Brett. "A large part of the population was born into an irrational world. The old ways may be dormant to a greater or lesser extent in them. I don't think you want this story to come out for at least fifty years."

Everyone agreed that to let the story out in less than fifty years would serve no purpose and might have serious consequences.