Lords of Being
Chapter 13: The FBI Knows. Keep up the Good Work
It’s about noon, just outside Valdosta, GA. The RV has just passed the Florida/Georgia border, heading South on I75. Aboard are Rosamund, Neville and Zabeth, when Zabeth mentions that there is a motorcycle that has been pacing us for quite some time.
Glass is working on the circuits he’s drawing on the section divider on the plane, which has just taken off from Ames. Hearing Zabeth’s concern, he reports this to the others in the plane. “This may not be good.”
Zabeth asks for ideas on how to deal with the stranger.
Claude asks, “Has it made any menacing moves?”
“No, it’s just tailing us.”
Hellgrammite offers, “I suggest getting off the highway and then getting back on, and see if it follows you.”
Glass counters, “Yes, but that might induce it take action.”
Mabel suggests, “I suppose you could speed up and see if it keeps on your tail.”
Rosamund observes, “I’m sure we haven’t been going an exact steady speed.”
Claude notes, “You still have about 6 hours to go to get to Ft. Lauderdale.”
Looking out the windshield, Neville points out, “That sign says ‘Rest Stop 7 Miles.’ Are we better off being on the road or being among people?”
Rosamund points out, “He’s not doing anything at the moment.”
“Yet,” adds Zabeth, dryly.
Still thinking about the rest stop, Neville asks “How are we doing on gas?”
Hellgrammite replies, “You shouldn’t need to stop before you get to your destination.” Which is rather amazing, since it’s over 1600 miles from Ames, Iowa to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Either this vehicle has some cavernous tanks, it gets amazing mileage, or it uses something other than petroleum-based fuel.
Claude asks, “Can you tell whether the driver of that motorcycle is human?”
It’s an interesting question. Rosamund goes to the back of the RV and looks. It’s a humanoid, but the features are obscured by its motorcycle helmet and riding outfit. She stretches out her life sense, and then reports, “It looks like it’s human, but it’s not earthborn life.”
Neville asks, “Does that mean it’s one of you people?”
Rosamund replies, “Well, not specifically one of us, necessarily. But like us, yes.”
Glass asks, “Is it wearing a helmet and does it (or the motorcycle) have a windscreen?”
Rosamund answers, “It is wearing a helmet. It does have a clear visor. There is no windscreen.”
Glass considers. The windscreen might have been a glass sandwich. But the helmet visor is probably some type of polycarbonate plastic. Not anything he can influence. He suggests, “It’s not worth the risk of pulling off at the rest stop. If they’re not on our side, pulling off would let them know that we know about them. It could be an ally, but they would have no idea how to contact us.”
Claude adds, “It’s unlikely that a non-human would just choose to follow you. It hasn’t taken any action yet. The safest thing to do is to continue on your way. Let’s see what happens.”
Rosamund adds one more thing. “At least you know that it’s not human. It will get into trouble if it does anything to cause a great amount of attention to be focused on us by the people who inhabit this place.”
On that reassuring note, they continue driving South on I75, with the motorcycle following.
They need more information. Glass touches the screen on his phone to open a second line, and calls Lady Diamond. After a moment, she answers. “Lady Diamond, as you know, we’re a little split up at the moment. It seems that the vehicle carrying … our friend , is being followed by… someone. We don’t think that’s a co-incidence.”
“Yes, that does seem a little unlikely”
“You wouldn’t know of any allies that might be trying to catch up to us?”
“If you are fortunate, it might be Catalyst.”
“Catalyst. Do you know how to contact him?”
“You were asking for a good copilot. I wasn’t sure I could locate him, but I did.”
“Perhaps I should go down and see if it is him.” Glass concludes the conversation, thanking Lady Diamond for her assistance.
Overhearing the conversation, Claude observes, “Oh, Catalyst? If it is Catalyst, we’re not in any particular danger. And frankly, someone like him would be very helpful.”
Glass muses, “I hadn’t thought of him as a copilot.”
Claude grins wryly. “He lives to serve.”
Glass’ phone has shifted automatically back into conference mode, so the group in the RV hear Neon. Neville asks, “Who is catalyst?”
Claude responds, “A friend.”
Glass adds, “An ally.”
Neville inquires further, “Is he one of yours?”
Glass answers, “He’s associated with the Order.”
“Yes, the Order of the Elemental Knights. His attention span has improved greatly for the role.”
Claude adds, “I haven’t seen him in a few years.”
Glass decides to keep an eye on him. Just in case.
Mabel returns from tending to Hookie, and asks, “Is he appropriately named?”
Glass replies, “More or less. He helps, he assists.”
So the RV continues south, with the motorcycle following. It should take another 6 hours to reach Ft. Lauderdale. Florida is a long state.
The plane arrives in Ft. Lauderdale shortly after 3PM. There’s paperwork and such. Before deplaning, they discuss the state of the plane with the Captain, who observes, “It’s fine for commercial aviation. But if you have something more agile in mind… it’s just a commercial jet.”
Glass notes, “We’re carrying something we want to keep out other’s hands. We want to be well equipped.”
“I don’t know what your resources are in terms of time or money…”
“More money than time.”
“If you want this to be something more than a commercial jet…”
“Is there anything you’d want to improve it?”
Captain Barren considers, then says, “I remember when I was in the Air Force, it was rather a lot of fun what you could do with infrared scopes and floods. You don’t really have that on a commercial jet. What you’ve been hinting at might make that useful. Fancy sensors might also help. Fun radars. Are you aware of stealth radar? That might be useful too.”
“OK, I see that they’re about to do something with fuel. Afterwards we should talk with the people at Sun Aviation.”
“Are you interested in talking from the plane?”
Glass looks at the Captain speculatively. “Yes.”
“There’s a lot of fun things we can do with that, too. Though I didn’t think you wanted anything off the shelf.”
Hellgrammite grins. “You’d be amazed what you can do with what’s on the shelf.”
Captain Barron glances out the window, where one of the service crew is signaling for his attention. He heads out to deal with it. As he deplanes, Mabel hears him mutter under his breath, “Order of Knights?”
Totting up the systems he plans to upgrade on the plane, Glass points at the entertainment console. “This thing that looks like a VCR. It’s a PA system. We may want to augment it.”
Claude comments, “Seems rather prudent.”
Glass continues, “Jonathan… Radar. And he also suggested something in the way of infrared, ultraviolet, photomultipliers. I do all of those things, do you?”
Hellgrammite replies, “Yes. I can deal with the electronics or mechanicals, but I’ll need a foundation to work with.”
Glass grins. “Want to come along when we go to Sun Aviation? You can look through the catalog for radars.”
Glass, Hellgrammite and Neon deplane and join Captain Barron, who has concluded his discussion with the service crew. The four head over to the Sun Aviation office. They greet us with a big pile of catalogs.
After a scan through the catelogs, the list of items we’ll want is:
Reviewing the list, the Sun Aviation representative says, “We can supply most of these, but not on the schedule you require. “
Glass replies, “That’s OK, we can do much of the installation ourselves.”
“We can get most of these materials from our local suppliers. However these galley requirements are most unusual.”
Glass grins, “One of our executives has… an interesting chef.”
“Right… We can supply the cabinets, but you’ll need to get the sinks from a medical and scientific supply house. I’m sure we can get you some names. However the water tanks may be an issue. Were you planning to install one large tank, or a number of smaller tanks?”
“I don’t think we planned this in quite that much detail.”
“Getting a large tank into your hold will be a problem. However multiple smaller tanks will be much easier, and much quicker.”
“Multiple tanks will be fine then.”
“You mentioned an interesting chef. Will you need a stove?”
“No, what’s there should be sufficient.”
The Sun Aviation representative promises to get back to us with a quote quickly.
About an hour later, Glass’ phone pings. He’s got mail. His “augmentation” to the MAE-East Internet Exchange Point backbone router in Miami has intercepted a communication from Sun Aviation to the FBI with suspicions about what we’re doing. They describe the plane as “being outfitted like Air Force One as imagined by James Bond and Julia Child.” They’re wondering if the plane is being equipped as a flying drug lab.
Glass has the server he’s suborned wait an appropriate amount of time and then send back a fake message: The FBI already knows about these people. It’s OK. Keep up the good work.
The RV is now in Palm Beach and getting into traffic. It’s rush hour. The motorcycle is still following us, but not interfering. We’re stopped in traffic. The rider is right behind us, and takes off its helmet and stares at the rear window of the RV, where Rosamund is watching.
She calls Glass, who has her hold up her cell phone camera. He remotely zooms the camera focus. This is interesting, since there are no controls on the phone to allow the user to that. Yes, that’s definitely Catalyst. He’s smiling. Bink. Glass is in the RV, standing next to Neville. “Hello Neville. That’s Catalyst behind you.”
“Should we go say hello?”
“Not in traffic, but I’m going to go wave.”
Glass walks to the back of the RV. Despite what he told Neville, he opens the door and walks back to the motorcycle. “How are things?”
The figure on the motorcycle grins. “They’re fine, Mr. Glass.”
“You haven’t noticed anybody who shouldn’t be here?”
“No, not at the moment.”
“I could unlimber the car, if there’s need.”
“Do you have a cell phone on you?”
“Yes.” He rummages in his satchel and pulls out a phone. After pressing a few keys on the keypad, he shows Glass the screen, which is displaying the phone’s number.
The jam is starting to break up, so Glass re-enters the RV and then flits back to the airport. Moments after he’s returned, Captain Barron asks to speak with him. He’s curious about the sinks.
Glass is realizing that he’s going to have to start telling him at least some of what’s going on. He and Barren go for a walk. “We’re going to be taking on more supplies than making changes here. Each time we stop, we’ll be making additional upgrades. Because we need to be mobile.”
“And are in a rush.”
“Yes. The materials that Neville is carrying are being sought by powerful people.”
Captain Barron is clearly unhappy about something. After a moment, he looks up and says, “I’ve gotta ask this. If I get the wrong answer, I’m going to walk away from this. Is this something… Are you involved in something against the interests of my country?”
“No. Absolutely not. But, the powers that are interested in what Neville is carrying don’t show much consideration and collateral damage would not be an issue for them. We’re not working against American national interests, and keeping things quiet is in everybody’s interest.”
“I didn’t notice Neville carrying an attaché case. Is this something he’s carrying in his head?”
“Perhaps the best thing to say is that it’s something that has been implanted.”
“Either that guy has some kind of guts, or he’s in some kind of trouble.”
“Yes. To both,” says Glass, contemplating the contents of Neville's guts. “I understand that it’s hard to entirely trust us. There are some fairly high stakes here. We’ll try to reveal things gradually…”
“I’m not sure if you can answer this, but I am curious about how you turned a plain piece of glass into an HD TV.”
“I left that running, did I?”
“I couldn’t help noticing it.”
“I do work in… advanced tech, as does Jonathan. Much of it’s not ready for the open market.”
“I’m not sure I’d understand the explanation if you gave me one anyway. I understand how this plane works, or I did when I got it.”
“Jonathan may want to make improvements. He has a hard time NOT making improvements.”
“Oh, one of those.”
Glass grabs a handful of sand and shows it to Captain Barren. He rubs it between his hands and says, “I’ll have to say that some of what we do isn’t technology.” He opens his hands to show a milky, glassy sphere, and hands it to Captain Barren. “I work in glass.”
“But this isn’t technology?”
“It certainly will be, some day.”
“Mister, I gotta think a while about the next question I ask you.” He hands back the marble, and walks away.
The RV arrives at the hanger without further incident. The team is united once more.
Everyone is standing around the RV when Glass asks, “Catalyst. Do you pilot?”
“From the conversation I had with Lady D, I’m pretty sure I can fly this plane.”
Glass presses for a clearer answer “You’ve flown before?”
“It’s a used plane, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Do you have any papers?”
“No. I’ve only been here a handful of years.”
“Mabel does excellent papers, and many of us can work out tracks on the net if you need it. We have a pilot. He’s human. He’s going to want to know that you’re a real copilot. You don’t happen to know the lingo?”
“So we’ll have to tell him that you’re a quick study.”
“Well, I am. You can tell him that I’m a foreigner, and I don’t know the lingo in English.”
Mabel notes, “That won’t work. English the international language of aviation.”
"See?" says Catalyst. "I didn't even know that."
Glass grimaces, “Sigh. We’ll have to break in Captain Barron soon”
Catalyst offers, “They’re a pretty resilient species. They already believe all kinds of stuff.”
“He’s wandering around. I just bent his brain with a bunch of stuff.”
Catalyst looks at the rest of the group. “Would you mind introducing me around?”
“Of course. This is Jonathan. A Lord of Chaos and one of our technologists.” Hellgrammite looks up from the piece of electronics he’s disassembling. One of his clanks waves.
Glass continues, “Mabel Anson, Lady of Order, and her companion Hookie.” Mabel inclines her head, and Hookie yips in acknowledgement.
Glass gestures at Rosamund and Zabeth, “Lady Rosamund and Lady Zabeth, Ladies of Chaos. This is Catalyst. He’s with the Knights.”
“I help things happen.”
Glass turns to Neville, “And this Neville. Strangely enough, he’s human.”
Catalyst grins. “How do you do sir?”
Glass presses on. “He is however, intimately allied with a Lord of Chaos.”
“He’s got the chunk of Asiras in him. That’s what Lady D told me.”
“Keeping him out of trouble is one of the major tasks. The other is unstuffing things.”
“Lady D said that there’s talk of getting together another team.”
“Yes, you’ll need a collaborationist team of Chaos and Order, as well as at least one Knight.”
Catalyst observers, “And there aren’t many Knights on earth.”
Zabeth looks up from the phone she’s been fiddling with and says that she’s found an interesting news item from Ames, Iowa. There are reports of some kind of loud fight or quarrel near Neville’s house last night. Nobody got a good look at the participants, but someone reported seeing monkeys in the trees.
Last Updated: Jun 5, 2009
©2009 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved