The week after, George chaired another meeting in the gym basement. The energy pervading the room was tense. Still, George smiled and tried to keep things positive.
“Our efforts in improving life here in South America have gone on uninterrupted, as you know,” he said. “The ruling classes of Earth are content to let us repair the damage they’ve done to the planet, as long as they don’t give us credit for these improvements. In fact, as we’ve seen on the news on TV over the past week, their media has tried to blame us for worsening the wildfires, flooding, and rising sea levels, while they take credit for any improvements. Videos that have been tampered with, manipulated to make us seem guilty of worsening things, have been sent to their media for propagandistic purposes. Some of these videos were recorded among us!“
There was no shocked reaction among the audience, as all of them, over the past week, had seen these videos on the news, as Michelle and Peter had seen.
Michelle sat among a few non-carriers, trying not to let anyone see her nervousness, and hoping neither the carriers nor the floating dots of light above would sense her tension. Burying feelings was hard for her, though she managed it.
“Hey, Michelle,” Wendy Callaghan asked. “Where’s Peter?”
“Oh, uh,…” she began, trying not to stammer. “H-he hasn’t b-been feeling well today.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Wendy said. “I hope he gets better soon.”
“Have you heard from Tory?”
“Well, he’s still recovering from the loss of Karen,” Michelle said. “That was quite a shock, a few weeks ago.”
“Yeah, he’s gonna need time,” Wendy said. “He was here last week, though. He seemed better. But I guess the grieving process has its ups and downs.”
‘Yeah,” Michelle said, hoping her smile didn’t look as forced as it felt. She and Wendy resumed listening to George.
“They have already begun the war here in South America, but they are being more covert about it this time, as opposed to their clumsy attempts in Africa,” he said. “There is an even greater troop presence in all of the military bases than the increase of the past few weeks, and they’re trying to root us all out quietly. They stake out the bases and wait for us to feel safe and let out our Bolshivarian lights. They’ve had some success with this tactic, but…”
Michelle raised her head to look behind George, in the shadows of that corner where the chairs and tables were stacked. A few drops of sweat went down her forehead.
She strained her eyes to see what was in the darkness. Then she saw it. A hand holding a pistol.
It was pointing straight at George’s head.
Though she was too far away to see in detail, she felt she could see the finger beginning to pull back on the trigger. Trying not to shake, she licked her lips.
“Ungh!” was heard from that corner. The assassin’s arm swung down to the floor, into which he fired a bullet just by George’s left foot. Screams pierced the ears of everyone in the room.
The assassin fell forward, the light revealing an axe blade in his head. A pool of blood grew around the body. The balls of light flew out of George and into the dark corner, lighting it up to reveal Peter.
Amid the screams and pandemonium, Michelle got up, waved her arms around to get everyone’s attention, and yelled, “Don’t hurt Peter! He saved George’s life! Tory was a traitor!”
A swarm of lights flew over to her. She felt their warmth. A mental message was sent to her.
Have no fear, Michelle, they told her in her mind. You and Peter told us of Tory’s treasonous intent last week. We all agreed to allow Tory to think he’d be safe hiding in the shadows with Peter, since Peter convinced Tory that he agreed to help assassinate George. Since there’s been so much burying of human feeling beyond Bolshivarian detection, we decided to let Tory and Peter hide in the corner, to test not only if Tory really was a traitor, but also if Peter was truly loyal. Your boyfriend has proven himself honourable.
“Everything is OK,” George said to the audience. “You can all sit down now. Our suspicions have been confirmed tonight. Though Tory Lee cleverly hid his true feelings beyond our probing’s ability to detect them, he has proven himself no less a traitor than his wife, Karen Finley. Both of them, out of a repressed wish to avenge the death of their son–a death caused by the boy’s rejection of our way, not a death caused by us–plotted against us Bolshivarians, revealing our hideouts to the UCSA and NATO armies, informing them of the identities of carriers hiding among their armies, and sending propaganda videos of our meetings to the ruling classes’ media.”
Peter then took the microphone to explain himself. “I’ll admit I’ve had my doubts about the Bolshivarians,” he said, “but I’ve never doubted the evil of the ruling classes of the Earth. Anyone who helps them is my enemy. That’s why I killed Tory. I pretended to sympathize with him to gain his trust, just as he and Karen had pretended to sympathize with us to spy on us. Look down at his body: this is what will happen to anybody…anybody…who endangers our lives and our hopes to save the Earth!”
The entire room exploded with cheers and the clapping of hands.
I just hope George will not disappoint me in the future, Peter thought amidst the noise.