The night of the next day, Lenny Van der Meer chaired another meeting in the gym basement. George Villiers-Joseph sat by him while he stood at the podium.
Peter and Michelle sat with Tory, who came alone.
“Where’s Karen?” Michelle asked.
“Oh, she decided to stay home tonight,” Tory said with a frown. “She told me she wasn’t feeling well.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Michelle said. “I hope she gets better soon.”
“Thanks,” he said. “She’s been acting funny the last couple of days. Moping, depressed, angry.”
“Why’s that?” Michelle asked. “Is it frustration with the growing military threat here?”
“She wouldn’t say,” he said with a sigh. “I asked her, and she remained all quiet and morose. I imagine it’s the fear of another war, like in Africa, but if so, she surely would have just told me. She seems to be burying her feelings so deep down, even I can’t figure out what’s bothering her. She still grieves over our boy Cameron, but so do I, and I’m carrying on OK, as you can see.”
“Doesn’t she get any comfort from communing with his psychic energy?” Michelle asked. “I get that every night from the spirits of my mom and dad.”
“You’d think she’d get such comfort, but I suspect she doubts that the apparitions of Cameron, his energy, is real,” Tory said. “I don’t doubt its reality; she’s never said she doubts it, but I suspect she does. In any case, I really don’t know.”
“Lenny’s about to start,” Peter whispered.
“Friends, brothers, and sisters,” Van der Meer began, “recently, there has been an alarming set of developments. The United City-States of America and their NATO allies are growing more and more aware of our activities here. Not only do they know of our attempts to reverse the flooding in the Rio de Janeiro area–you may have seen the video of the Bolshivarian confrontation with Lloyd’s army division yesterday, which the UCSA doctored to make it look as if we were worsening the flooding.”
“Oh, yes, that,” Tory said. “That was despicable propaganda.”
“Yes,” Peter said, “I saw the original video online.”
“Me, too,” Tory said.
“Guys, let’s listen,” Michelle said.
“Also, our enemies learned that we’ve infiltrated the Exxon-Mobile army base here in Puerto Ayacucho. They discovered the mutilated remains of Sergeant Dan Miller, who refused to join us as Captain Finch and Sergeant West had. Both Finch and West were discovered…and killed. All the Bolshivarians housed in their bodies were slain with the toxins in the bug spray.”
A mournful energy permeated the basement during the next several seconds. Lenny and George appeared on the verge of tears.
“But none of this, as regretful as it is, is the worst,” Lenny went on. “Just as we’ve had to endure a year of war in Africa, so will we have to prepare for it here. Recall also the thinly-veiled nuclear threat. We must be steeled and ready.”
In a corner of the basement, about two o’clock from where Lenny was standing, were stacks of chairs and tables piled high enough to create a shadow large enough to hide someone. From that shadow, a hand holding a pistol emerged.
No one was paying attention to it.
Least of all, Lenny’s bodyguards.
All eyes were on him.
“We must continue watching out for any danger,” Lenny said. “The UCSA and NATO have spies everywhere. Someone informed them of our hideout in Angola, recall–that warehouse.”
And our hotel in Luanda, Peter and Michelle remembered.
“Now, we assume that the spies in Angola weren’t among us during our meetings,” Lenny cautioned. “But however unlikely it may be, it isn’t impossible for one of our people here, a non-carrier who pretends to be a sympathizer, even consciously thinks like one, to evade Bolshivarian detection, by burying their feelings deep down–“
Just as the shooter of that pistol was burying her feelings.
The bullet shot through Lenny’s left side diagonally from the back and into his heart. He fell to the floor to the right of the podium. The balls of light left his body as quickly as his blood began to flow.
A sea of screams flooded the basement. Everyone stood up to get a look where the shot had come from. The lights leaving Lenny’s body flew right over to that corner to get their revenge.
“You killed my son!” the assassin screamed as she emerged from the shadows spraying bug spray at the lights.
“Oh, my God!” Tory screamed as he looked over to that shady corner. “Karen…NOOO!!!“
Michelle put her arms around him, saying, “Tory, don’t look.”
Indeed, he wouldn’t be able to bear seeing his wife’s body torn to pieces, so he closed his eyes tight and let the tears roll down his cheeks.
Karen resisted the Bolshivarians as best she could at first, aiming her shaking pistol arm at George, but firing two bullets into the ceiling before dropping it. The hand holding the bug spray was more successful, hitting the first dozen of Lenny’s dots of light and dropping them to bounce lifeless on the stage.
Other Bolshivarians managed to evade the toxins and enter her. Michelle and Peter watched in horror as Karen’s body ripped through her dress and explode in a huge splash of blood. Michelle held Tory’s shaking body tight as he wept.
Was she the one who told the UCSA army where our hotel in Luanda was? Peter wondered. We told her about it.
George stepped up to the podium as Lenny’s bodyguards picked up his body and carried it away.
“We must have order!” George said, his eyes wet with tears. It was difficult for him to keep from sobbing. “We will bury…our comrades, Lenny and the Bolshivarians…who inhabited his body, and we will honour them all. But this act of treason…instead of distracting us from our cause, must keep us focused on it. We must prepare for war, and immediately.”
“What of our other projects?” a carrier standing at the front of the audience asked. “The quenching of wildfires, the reversing of flooding, the providing of healthcare to the poor?”
“Fear not, Karol,” George said. “Our preparations for war will not retard our progress in those areas by the slightest bit.”
“And who are the friends or family of the traitor?” Karol asked, looking back at the audience. “She was one of the non-carrier ‘sympathizers,’ was she not?”
“Yes,” George said, also looking out at the audience and frowning. “We will investigate the matter immediately.”
A swarm of dots of light flew right at Peter, Michelle, and Tory.