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DONA NOBIS PACEM:
by Jeff McCoskey
«11:23 12 AUG 1995»
A near-empty bottle of bourbon and a gold ring on a dog-tag chain.
«19:22 14 AUG 1995»
Brian answered the knock on his trailer door. He'd cleaned the bottles and liquor stains earlier, so it wasn't necessary to pretend he wasn't home like he'd done for Greg earlier. As the door opened, his face turned in unpleasant surprise.
"Sheriff Kincaid." Brian looked around the older man, but did not see any accompanying deputies. "Don't I get a 'good cop' this time?"
"May I come in?" Brian hesitated, not taken with the idea. "In a strictly unofficial capacity." Reluctantly, Brian ushered the Sheriff in. The living area of Brian's trailer was littered with plastic video-tape cases and old newspapers. Kincaid moved several aside and sat on the lumpy sofa, still toying with one case.
"Did ya manage ta catch 'Hot Scoop!' tanight? Int'restin' piece on Councilman Blalock."
"I guess you've found your man, then."
"Yessir. We got a preview of th' tape a few nights ago. Even without the McNalley woman's testimony, we can piece togehteh enough for a conviction. But if we can't, thet piece tanight'll nail his coffin. His wife's connected family'll see ta thet."
"I like seeing justice done," remarked Brian.
"Got thet in common with th' Eye of Justice. Got a lot in common with him it seems." Sheriff Kincaid pointedly spun the plastic video case in his hands.
Brian's face was frozen in surly annoyance. "Excuse me?" he asked carefully.
"Let's see, a drug dealer in Calhoun. A conspiracy out at th' Fort. Now a Calhoun politician. We're kinda off the beaten track fer a Atlanta Omega vigilante ta take such...consistent...notice. An' like th' Eye, you've got some electronics schoolin'. You'd know your way around the Fort. Not ta mention some unexplained moves throughout this McNalley affaih."
"Am I being arrested for something?"
"You got me wrong, son. Ah'm just havin' a conversation heyeh. If I thought I was talkin' ta the Eye, I'd sure tell him a town this size is too small ta operate in. If a small town Sheriff can piece it togetheh, it ain't but a matter a time. He needs ta get lost in a big city lahk Atlanta."
"Is that what you'd tell him?"
"Yessir. Hate ta see the Eye get nabbed on some crappy criminal trespass chahge when he's puttin' folks behand bars. Fact is, if he was ta git the drop on anotheh...situation, you'd be ruled out altogetheh. Bein' held on witholdin' evidence, an all."
Brian felt like he was hearing the conversation through jello. "I don't understandI am under arrest?"
"Only if th' Eye drops anotheh tape, an' you're not aroun'"
"But if I'm not around, I couldn't be arrested."
"Paperwork might read diff'rent. An' my story ta anyone thet comes askin'."
Brian's face was carefully frozen. "Kinda sorry I'm not the Eye then. Be a solid alibi. But the Eye'd have to have a solid lead on something else to make it work."
"Well, ah cain't tell the man his business. Ah'm sure he knows all about thet Alpha retreat out at Mount Zion. Might just be the next Church of th' Risen Omega, waitin' ta happen."
"I'm sure he does know about it." Brian stepped aside as Sheriff Kincaid stood to leave. Kincaid tossed the plastic case back on the couch.
"Withholdin' evidence, ah kin hold a man fer eight weeks. More'n four an' somebody'd have ta know. Blalock goes ta trial in March. 'Case police procedures int'rest you. Keep the nose clean, Brian. An' tell your pop I said howdy."
Brian closed the door behind Sheriff Kincaid, his head spinning behind his frozen face.
«23:12 30 AUG 1995»
Greg tilted his head back to get the last swig of his beer, his hand falling naturally on PB's head. The dog's tail thumped once in awknowledgement of his master's attention. Greg tossed the empty can on the pile in his faux fireplace.
"And that, mein freund, is that." The ring of finality was entirely on purpose.
"I reckon it is," answered Brian softly.
"Y'know I always figured you'd be the last to leave Calhoun, Bri. Place won't seem right without you."
"You had your wild oats in college, man. Fair's fair. My turn now. 'Sides I'll only be down the road in Hotlanta. Not like we won't see each other again."
"True enough. But it's not the same. Whiskey Wednesdays'll be few and far between."
"That's why my last night in town had to be Wednesday. Which I appreciate the couch, by the way." Greg dismissed the remark as if it didn't merit comment. Brian's trailer had been towed to a new trailer park just west of Atlanta earlier that day, and Brian delayed following it for Greg's sendoff. "Look at it from my point of view. I had a wage slave job at the mill. Sheriff Kincaid keeps bugging me about Roger's trial. Even hauled me in for a photograph and fingerprinting the other day. My family's all moved away, Sharon is gone...."
"Hey man, you parted friends. After all these years, that's more than you banked on. The hole in your life'll fill. Think of it as getting a little more shallow every day."
"Yeah, well, I just need a clean break, you know? Long as I'm here, there's too many memories keeping it from filling in. Not completely."
"Bri, you're going to make a hole when you leave, too."
"I know Greg. Hey, you'll do alright though. You got your engi-nerd buddies. Alien landing managed to cut the investigation short so the Fort is still...."
Greg raised a hand. "Ah ah. Not Fort anymore. Now that SIRECOM's running the show, we've got a new, Omega-friendly name."
"Sorry. The 'Elizabeth Anderson Corrections Complex.' The worker bees were all cleared thereyou came out smelling like a rose."
"If you consider going from high-paid government contractor to low paid government employee 'doing well.'"
Brian threw a snide grin at Greg. "At least I hear the benefits are good."
"Screw you." Greg's comment was not at all bitter, but the two fell into an uncomfortable silence. "I'll miss ya, man."
"You're not getting my beer, Greg." Greg managed a sad smirk.
"Dibs on your couch during the Olympics."
«20:48 30 SEP 1995»
==The kwik brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Ten. Nine. Ate. Seven. Six. Five. Fore. Three. Too. Won.==
Brian shut down the receiver on his video recorder. All his equipment had been triple checked, and functioned perfectly. His wrist video receivers, directional mikes, throat mike, remote recorder, voice recog firmware, all repaired since the physical fight with Blalock.
But if he truly intended to infiltrate the Alpha compound, Brian knew a body-mounted camera was a bad idea. Once a tape hit TV, those in the compound would realise there was a traitor in their midst. His best bet was to fake an intruder with the remote receivers, if he could plant them convincingly. The RF remotes worked fine too.
Actually, the technical side was the least of his problems. Spread out on the table, Brian looked at the meager false identification. He'd mailed in a promotional photo ID card offer under the name of his missing brother-in-law, Patrick Solosbee. Ever since the Omega wannabe had run out on his sister Denise, Brian had considered him a useless excuse for a human being.
"Got his uses after all, I guess." The ID card had led to an NRA membership, and a public library card. Brian had a picture of his sister and nephew, which he included in his constructed wallet. He felt a pang of guilt as he put in a video membership card and a Master Card. Brian had visited Chip and Denise on 'unemployed' pretenses to palm the cards he knew were still mailed to Patrick. Technically, Patrick and Denise were still married, and Denise had a bad habit of hoping for the best. She never threw them out.
Next to the cards was the fist book Brian had checked out under his false identity. "The Children of Adam, an Alpha Manifesto," by Kenneth Black. Brian had read it cover to cover, and didn't know whether to be embarrased or outraged. At himself.
Sure, some passages were over the top. The assertion that mankind were 'Alphas' created directly by God. Omegas were a corruption of God's creation and inherently less divine.
The assertion that for Omegas to find redemption they had to resist the temptation to use their Omega. To use it was to fall under the sway of Satan. It was hard to imagine Floater, an Omega from high school whose only power was to levitate six inches above the ground, as a tool of Satan.
The assertion that magic existed, another of Satan's assaults on God's natural order.
But other passages made a twisted kind of sense. Too much sense. In some passages, it seemed to be speaking to him directly, such as the assertion that society was falling under the spell of the Omega, and that Alphas were increasingly marginalized. Political and economic power was being diverted to Omega problems at the expense of more traditional concerns like poverty, rule of law, education, and environment.
The assertion that the Government had fallen under the sway of powerful Omegas no longer seemed like idle paranoia after the Dynamax horrors were revealed.
And the assertion that in view of Omegas increasing political amd economic influence and obvious physical supremacy, all an Alpha could truly safeguard was his own spirituality, and that was the ultimate battle.
Brian's own vigilante motives were so tied up in being human in an Omega world, that part of the text made a lot of sense. "I'm going to look pretty stupid if all I tape is the guy being right. Wonder if Kincaid'd still alibi me then?"
Disquieting as the initial investigation had been, mulling over it now was only putting off the inevitable. Brian looked at himself in the mirror. A brand new pierced ear glimmered with a gold "alpha," which matched nicely with his thick goattee. Brian didn't look a tremendous amount like Solosbee, but with enough radical alterations, he might pass for a radically altered Solosbee. To an organization that didn't know him.
Brian heaved a deep sigh. Enough stalling. He brought the electric razor to his head. His brown hair fell to the floor in thick clumps.
«8:20 7 OCT 1995»
Brian finished refueling his dirt bike, but had not yet shaken the shivers. Fall in north Georgia was not the best time to be at highway speeds on a motorcycle without a fairing. His newly-bald head seemed to whistle in his helmet, making it seem like his skull had reconstituted in ice.
He'd have taken his Ford, but that was traceable to him directly. Without a plate, and with the VIN numbers ground out, the bike was as anonymous as could be hoped for.
Brian blew into his gloved hands, and stepped into the Flying J convenience mart for some coffee. He grunted ugly at the old man behind the counter, careful to match attitude to appearance. He sat near the window and looked over the last remnants of fall's colors on the surrounding hills. Civilization seemed worlds away, and even that was too close.
"You boys shootin' the mess out of the hillside ain't ya?"
Brian slowly turned to regard the man that had spoken to him. He was a balding man in hunter's clothes that might have sprung from Georgia clay as easily as been borne. "What do you mean?"
"No offense, son, but I couldn't help notice yer earring. You boys is doin' fine work out there. The Missus and I go hear Reverend Black ever' chance we git. We respect the hell outta anyone that lives in Adam's Garden. Younger or older, and I mighta joined ya. Yer doin' God's work out there, son." The man finally closed his mouth in the face of Brian's impassive regard.
"Amen," said Brian.
The man burst into a huge grin. "Amen, brother. You keep strong, son. Tell the Reverend Mt. Zion is behind him. You tell him that, ok?"
Brian nodded as the man walked out to his pickup truck, waving. There were side-by-side bumper stickers on the back. "God, Guns and Guts made America Great," and "AlphasGod's First Team."
Brian finished his coffee, and returned to the counter. "Where do I find Adam's Garden?"
«18:20 7 OCT 1995»
Brian put down his binoculars. From the hill beyond Adam's Garden, nearly Mount Zion itself, Brian had studied the compound from three different angles. The setting sun had finally given way to dusk too dark to see. As near as he could tell, the compound was heavily fortified. It held commanding views of approaches from all sides. In several places, it appeared woods had been cleared away on adjacent property, leaving no cover for a serruptitious approach. The property was surrounded with barb wire, and a secondary set of hillocks behind almost seemed to be trenches. If not for the regular line it presented, it could easily have been a fold of the terrain. Brian had spotted ceramic caps on the posts that strung the barb wire. That meant it was either electrified or alarm rigged, or both.
There was a covered shooting range in a hollow that appeared hidden from surrounding hills. He only identified it by the muffled reports, and the commune dwellers' traffic. The path to the firing range led through large fields of crops, which were now fallow.
The main house was large, and lit up at the first sign of dusk. Behind that, three large rows of barracks constructed of still-bright wooden planks crested the hill. There was a large barn that seemed to actually be two barns built side-by-side in the heart of the property. Outlying storage buildings surrounded the structure, preventing any reliable view of the barn's lower walls, let alone inside. Beyond the double-barn, the property seemed to slope into a wooded hilside. A line of commune dwellers seemed to move slowly through the woods, each carrying a candle. Brian marked their approximate position on a map of the area, by the light of a muted red-lensed flashlight.
A dirt road wound through the property, past a decent-size chapel of new contruction. There was a greek "alpha" mounted on the arms of the cross atop the spirethe only clue that this was not a simple rural farm.
Brian packed up his binculars and map, and pulled out a compass. Way back in his scouting days, he'd excelled at orienteering. Though not an avid hunter himself, he made extra money guiding parties of acquaintances every hunting season.
Some quick calculations with compass and map, and Brian stole through the woods. He circumnavigated the Adam's Garden hill, approaching instead from the wilderness side.
He checked the woods in the center of the property, and still saw the clustered glow of the commune. Hopefully, that meant no guards during an evening service or something.
Even the far side of the property had been cleared of cover. Brian paralleled the fence in the fading light, until he found a spot where the ground dipped slightly between posts. Brian crawled up a de-forested slope, and reached the fence unopposed. Crushing himself into the dirt, Brian crawled under the lowest strand. He managed it without brushing the wire. Once inside, Brian quickly oriented on the abandoned firing range, though it was almost two miles of straight-line hiking to get there.
The facility was a crudely constructed overhang with standard marksmanship targets down-range. Between the lay of the land, nearby woods and the cover itself, the firers and their weapons were completely shielded from the air and surrounding terrain. Brian positioned a video receiver that could film both targets and most of the firing line.
Brian then stealthily made his way through the fallow fields to the double barn. He stopped at one point where the path to the range turned sharply, paced off 100 steps and buried two receivers under the field. The thick smell of turned earth was maddeningly normal contrasted to his clandestine action.
At the barn, noises were coming from inside the great structure, and Brian opted for the better part of valor. He positioned one receiver on each of two storage buildings, pointed at each great double door. As he was positioning the second remote receiver, one door opened wide. Brian hugged the roof he was balanced on and turned his stocking-capped head to the sudden light. The door rumbled shut again, and soft footfalls trudged towards the main house.
Brian reminded himself to exhale and quickly dismounted and ran for the woods. Brian's last stop was the glowing congregation on the hillside. He forced himself to slowly approach, as crashing through brush was a sure way to be heard at night.
After almost two hours of maddeningly slow approach, the glowing candles were close enough to render silhouettes of robed shapes in a wilderness chapel. The melodious strains of "Blessed Our God" sifted through the black forest like an echo of divinity. Brian was in time to witness the Recessional.
The worshippers formed a line behind a man barely recogniseable as Reverend Kenneth Black in the flickering firelight. The long line of candles began winding their way through the woods back to the compound. If Brian's heart were beating slower, he might have considered it beautiful.
After the last were gone, Brian positioned two video receivers in different crooks of trees, focussing on the crude wooden altar and amphitheatre-like log seating arrangement.
It took the rest of the night to slowly make his way back to the gap under the fence, and from there to his original spy position. Brian threw a hunting tarp, which had wrapped his equipment on the back of his dirtbike, over the overworked motorcycle.
Brian quickly cycled the remote receivers he had placed, checking their image on his Watchman. A full moon had risen recently, springing one ghostly image after another across the small screen. The abandoned firing range, two views of the barn, two views of the amphitheatre in the woods, two views of blank screen. Brian had built the switches into his electric razor, and spent several minutes memorizing which combination of switches selected which camera. That done, the last thing was to test the «RECORD» button. It worked as well.
Brian hid the recorder and directional mike with the bike. The only equipment he would take in would be his Watchman (which would likely be confiscated by the religious leaders), the electric razor switcher, and his throat mike. Brian had found a clunky cross-and- alpha rosary set in town. He had restrung the beads on the connection coax, and the mike into one of the beads. If he connected either the Watchman or razor to the necklace, he'd transmit and get annotation on video. But it wouldn't look too good, electronics attached at the neck.
==Dere Mom. Next time you see mee, ile be a moony.== Brian clicked off the Watchman as the words scrolled by. The sun came up as Brian cleaned himself off, and put on his last clean street clothes. A series of ethereal bells chimed from the small chapel by the front gate, inviting all to Sunday services. Brian finished proofing his bike and equipment against the elements, and wandered back to the road. He was going to church.
«06:32 11 NOV 1995»
"Patrick Solosbee, Kristen Shepard, James Cochranyou came to us lost children one short month ago. Through hard labor, hard study and hard prayer, you have cleansed yourselves of past sins and past lives. You came to us thick with the taint of a world that embraces dilution of God's plan. Devotion and dedication have stripped layer after layer of corruption from you, until only God's pure creation remains.
"'Lo where the Omega is the end, the doomsday, the Corrupted; so are Alpha's the beginning, the genesis, the Created. We welcome you now back to the Created. Rejoice friendsfor as our brethren are created anew, so are we all. Blessed art the Lord! Blessed art the Alphas!"
'Pat' smiled to Jimmy and Kris as Reverend Black led the congregation in applause. Their lot had been a miserable one. They had been relegated to menial taskschopping wood, cleaning dishes, polishing the wood chapel. Their days had started before sunup, been filled with sore muscles and inadequate food, and ended long after sundown. The only respite from back-breaking labor had been long prayer meetings and worship services.
There had originally been seven of them. Three left after the fifth day of little sleep, and 'Pat' had been hard pressed not to leave with them. Segregated as the neophytes were, Reverend Black could have been running a major drug factory and Brian would not have known.
Brian stuck with it half because he needed to know if the Alphas were legitimate or not. So much effort needed a payoff of some kind. But he stuck with it half because of the way it made him feel. He still missed Sharon, but she was no longer a raging black hole in his emotions. The hard labor and continuous prayer had seemed to literally clear scales from his mind.
Every so ofteneither chopping firewood under a cloudy sky suddenly yellowed by sunlight, or under the soft candle glow flickering across the wilderness altar, or at night with crickets chirping in a chill breeze as his aching muscles unwoundhe would suddenly get a sense of tremendous Glory, just out of sight. Like sensing a great waterfall without seeing or hearing it, just feeling the majestic rush.
His family had always been good Baptists, especially his mother. But Brian hadn't felt this close to God since, well, Christmas as a child. It was both frightening and thrilling.
The only thing keeping Brian from committing completely was the stocatto reports of weapons fire that shattered the coming winter days. His newfound devoutness was becoming precious to him, and the gunfire bred doubt that it was legitimate. That alone was why he maintained the Patrick Solosbee lie, despite the guilt.
Reverend Black concluded the ceremony. "Welcome new Alpha's, to the bosom of God's love. You have rediscovered your souls. Tomorrow you will join the rest of us in protecting the greatest of God's gifts, and in bringing it to the rest of the Alphas who do not yet understand what they are losing."
«00:16 20 DEC 1995»
A thunderous crash split the night, followed by a shrill scream. Brian immediately felt for his electric razor, Watchman (which had been returned after he was no longer a neophyte), and rosary-mike. When he realized what he'd heard, he rocketed out of bed, jumped into the commune's burly winter parkas and hiking boots, and tore out into the snow. His closely shaven head felt like icy teeth were clamping down on it. Behind him Jimmy and Paul also stomped out.
"What's happening? Pat, you see anything?"
Brian searched the bitter cold darkness. "Oh no. The generator!" Unusually heavy snowfall had toppled a branch on top of it, and flames licked from the shattered fuel tank. Brian took two steps towards it, then turned and clomped back. "Get back! Everybody get back..."
His words were interrupted as the generator exploded. Brian dove into the cold snow, hoping the others did the same. Immediately, the low hum of the barracks' heaters wound to silence. The main house, which always burned lights, went dark.
Brian rose, shaking from the cold, as the rest of the commune raced out into the commons. Kristen approached, still wrapped in the three wool blankets the commune issued. The cold temperature and distant fire made her freckles appear blood red.
"Pat? What happened?" Her breath misted with her question.
"The generator blewour heat is out."
"I heard a scream. Is everbody all right?"
Before Brian could answer, another scream tore through the night. It came from the married couples' barracks. "Olivia!" Olivia Mosely was pregnant when she arrived with her husband George, and the baby was about due. "Not now. It can't be now."
Brian and Kristen stomped over to the barracks, followed by Jimmy and many more. Brian opened the door to see George looking panic stricken.
"Did I just hear the heat go out?" he asked quietly.
Brian nodded. "This is way dangerous." A glimpse at the thermometer on the door had shown 5 degrees. "We've got to get some heat in here. Kristen, go get Reverend Black." She nodded with wide eyes, the started clomping off towards the main house. "Jimmy, Paul, grab some guys and start chopping wood. We're going to need a h...a whole lot of it. Maria, round up the children and bring them all in here."
George quickly firmed his resolve. "What can I do? I need to help."
"Let's get those carpenter's tools and see if we can't fashion a fireplace in here." Everyone was starting to shake from the cold.
When Brian and George returned, Reverend Black was with Olivia. Maria and Kristen were organising the older children to collect all the blankets from the barracks and bring them in. Some of the younger children were crying from the cold. Outside the feverish whacking of axe strikes echoed across the snow-covered hills.
Black turned, nodded to them, then returned his attention to Olivia, who appeared to be in a great deal of pain.
The power tools were useless, and Brian's hands were starting to stiffen. He stacked several beds on top of each other and was cutting into the wall near the ceiling. Kristen quietly joined him, spelling him on the hand saw periodically. George led several men back into the bathroom with prybars. As Brian took over again, Jimmy returned with the first load of wood.
"How soon Pat? We can barely hold the axes. Paul cut himself pretty badly."
"Twenty minutes, half hour. We need way more wood, Jimmy."
"God help us."
"He will, Jimmy. Count on it."
George hauled a bathtub they'd pried from the wall over to where Brian was working. "Shall I start on the chimney?"
Brian nodded as he breathed into his hands, then returned to the cutting.
George started whacking at a large sheet of corrugated aluminum. The violent metallic clanging of axe on metal caused the children to start crying loudly. Reverend Black did not take his attention from Olivia, but started humming. Maria picked up on it and began singing "Ave Maria." The children quieted to sobs, then started singing along.
That was when Brian knew they would make it. George made a bathtub-sized notch on one end of the aluminum, and a smaller tab on the other. Between his crew, Kristen and Brian, they bent the sheet into a cylindrical chimney around the bathtub. Brian nailed the metallic tab to the hole he had cut in the wall, venting smoke outside. Kristen helped warm his hands as the rest piled wood into the tub.
Starting the fire was easy, thanks to the burning generator.
A cheer went up from the children as well as some thankful sobs from the adults as the fire climbed to life inside the tub.
Olivia was gently moved close to the fire, as were the children. The commune clustered together before the fire, blankets wrapping everyone. Someone had filled a cooking pot with snow, and was heating it for Olivia. Maria led everyone in Christmas carols.
Kristen snuggled close to Brian and they both lent their voices to "Silent Night."
It was Brian's first Christmas away from home. He had called his parents during a supply run to town and said he would be spending the holidays with Sharon out West. The conversation had not gone over well. Now that conversation was as far from Brian's mind as possible, shivering next to Kristen, surrounded by beatific singing, the faint heat of a bathtub fire crackling on his face and bald head.
The singers quieted as Olivia's cries became more intense. Reverend Black's voice was calm and even, though it was doubtful he had ever delivered a baby before.
The baby shivered violently as it was brought into the world. It did not cry, which Brian had always heard was a bad sign. For several bad moments it did not move at all, and gazed upwards with vacant eyes. Reverend Black began chanting in what Brian assumed to be Latin, though the syllables occaisionally bordered on the profane. The baby coughed suddenly, then wailed loudly. A muted cheer burst from the breathless watchers, followed by joyful tears and laughter.
Reverend Black mopped his brow and announced it was a boy before starting a group prayer. They prayed it would be free of Omega Corruption, and that God should bless it before his truly Created Congregation.
In the morning, Reverend Black performed a short baptism, then made an announcement.
"Brothers Solosbee, Cochran, Mosely and Sisters Johnson and Shepard are to be congratulated for their quick thinking last night. They may have saved us all, and they certainly saved the babe, Kenneth." The congregation broke into warm applause, which Reverend Black presided over with a smug smile. "However, their stopgap measures are not a permanent solution. Until we can effectively restore power, which should be in a few days once the roads clear, we need to move underground.
"A select few of you have been working on tunnels underneath the farm. These tunnels were meant as a defense should Satan bring force of arms to bear against us and our Holy work. As we bring revelation to the world of God's Divine Will, Satan will surely try to strike down our good works. As he corrupted Alpha into Omega, so will he try to corrupt us thorugh all means at his disposal, including a blind and atheistic government. While we abhor armed conflict, we abhor acquiescence to the Devil's Omegas more. The Lord will not reward those who falter in their faithwe can be killed but once and our reward will be eternal. Though we pray it not come to it, if necessary we must stand up as men. As the faithful. As Alphas. Mr. Cochran, if you please, distribute the flock to their new havens."
Brian looked sharply to Jimmy, who appeared to have been one of the select who worked on the tunnels. Though they had grown close, Jimmy had never mentioned it.
Jimmy led the commune to the oversize barn. Inside, a ragged hole in the ground led downward about twelve feet before levelling off into railroad tie-braced tunnels. Jimmy positioned people, seeming to have a plan in mind. It was clearly not ad hoc.
Brian noticed the families with younger children were positioned in bunkers near the center of the farm, whereas single females drew positions further out. Single males were the farthest outlying, which gave Brian a chance to see the entire layout. Tunnels seemed to lead to each building in the compound. Each entrance had a keystone support with a wedge in it. If the wedge were hammered home, thousands of pounds of dirt would fill in the tunnel entrance.
The most chilling sight was a large armory in the center of the web of tunnels. Heavy machine guns, recoilless rifles, grenades and countless stores of ammunition were stacked neatly and precisely in tripods. A silver cross was mounted on one wall, with the a golden alpha attached to the arms.
«13:25 25 JAN 1996»
Brian was spending his meditation time as he always did. After learning of the hidden tunnel network, Brian had dug up the remaining two remote receivers and hidden them in the dirt walls of the armory. It was clearly the strong point of the fortification.
Brian meditated by monitoring the room on his Watchman. He'd already devoted nearly one hour of tape to a general scan of the property and firing range footage. Brian had always insured that he himself stayed in the video's deadspace before activating the cameras. It was harder to stay off-tape when the receivers weren't strapped to your wrists.
While the footage showed signs of fortification and illegal assault weapons being used, it was far from conclusive. Brian had provided some counterpoint footage of the outdoor masses, but those were mostly just prayer and devotion.
On the small screen, Reverend Black met with several men. Jimmy and George were clearly visible, and Brian recognised the others as long-time commune residents. All of them were among the most vociferous in the anti-Omega portions of the theology. The weapons were clearly visible in the artificial light behind the gathering, as was the cross with alpha.
Brian listened in on an earplug. At Reverend Black's first words, Brian engaged the remote recorder.
"Friends, I have seen the sign from Cincinati."
"Praise be the Lord."
Brian provided narration through his rosary/microphone. As usual it was translated imperfectly through his minimalist voice recognition firmware. ==The speker is Jimmy Kokran.==
"Indeed, friends. Praise him indeed. Satan's Omegas are massing against us. Soon we prove our Love to God, and provide a beacon for the world. Soon we show the strength of faith. I have summoned you, whose faith is strongest. Who must we watch for signs of weakness? Who might Satan use against us?"
==The speeker is Reverend Blak. He is talking of armed battel aginst the law.==
"Father, I fear for Maria and some of the other women. I fear their feelings for the children may overrun their duty to the Lord."
==The speeker is Jorje Mosely.==
"Is your wife prepared to reinforce their faith?"
"Yes, Father, as are some of the older children themselves. They are among our greatest strength."
==They mean to use children as soljers.==
"What of the passive believers among us? Those with faith who are not yet ready to accept me as more than a preacher, but as a prophet?"
"Solosbee, Shepard, Johnson, Daly, that whole crowd. Their faith is strong. With the rest of us guiding them along, they will do what is right."
==The speeker is Jak Armingten.==
"I believe you are right Brother Armington. I have special news for you, as well. With the sign in Cincinati, I believe the Lord will return your son to us. He will truly be blessed, for he is to be the lance in Satan's side. Bring him to us."
Armington covered his hand with his mouth, and his eyes widened and shone. "Thank you, Father."
"Thank the Lord."
«02:36 2 FEB 1996»
As snow gently fell through the bare midnight trees, Brian fumbled with the tarp over his dirtbike. He had had to wait nearly a full week, until a nighttime snowfall would erase his tracks. He'd used the time to retrieve his remote video receivers, and rebury them.
Brian extracted the video recorder, and replayed the tape. The tarp had done its job. The tape played perfectly. Brian had done well too. He had manged to avoid capturing himself on film. While it was less than the Eye of Justice's usual 'smoking gun,' there was plenty of menace between the lines. At a bare minimum, someone would have to investigate the illegal weapons.
Brian extracted a zip lock bag from the tarp. In it was a copy of Black's "Children of Adam." Brian had cut a rectangular hollow in the pages, just the size to fit a videotape. He wrapped the tape with a prepared "Eye of Justice" label addressed to Ian Rutledge of Hot Scoop!, then fitted it into the book.
He wrapped the book with a prepared label to Charles Kincaid. There was no return address, or acknowledgement of Kincaid's title, Sheriff.
As the moon shone on the snow-covered hills, Brian looked down to Adam's Garden, his home for four months. Smoke curled from the barracks that held Jimmy, Olivia, and baby Kenneth. And Kristen. All the people that had taken Patrick Solosbee into their hearts.
As usual, lights burned bright in the homey main house. The barn was menacingly dark, half hidden by the outlying buildings. The fields he'd worked were whitely blanketed, glowing in the moonlight. Snow clung to the chapel's roof, the spire piercing through to the deep black night sky. Gentle flakes drifted down on it all.
"Lord help me. Am I doing the right thing?" whispered Brian.
He'd had far too much Bible study lately to avoid compelling analogy with Judas Iscariot. His throat lumped painfully, but he'd come too far not to mail the video. Judas had had his reasons too.
Dona Nobis Pacem continues in Covenant!
(then back here in V9)
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