Friday, March 9, 2007

Chapter Thirteen: Remembering the Plan

The dam hadn't broken, but it was a start. Just a crack, but it was something.

Allyson realized that a large piece of her memory had just returned to her, and now she was being called on as an expert witness to her own thoughts and plans by these people - her friends and colleagues. Initially, she simply looked back at each of them, not quite sure how to respond to their eager anticipation of her next words. They all seemed so confident in her, and that scared the hell out of her - she wasn't confident at all.

Not yet, not now
, she told herself before she finally met Anderson's reassuring smile. He was slowly and slightly nodding at her, and as she looked at him, she could feel herself remembering more and more. Feeling the now-or-never threshold moving up through her body, Allyson leaned forward, placed her hands on the cool metal surface of the table, and push herself slowly to her feet.

"Anderson," she said softly, "will you join me up here?" It was, after all, not just her plan. They had worked on it together all those months. He nodded, stood, and walked to meet her at the head of the table with Tyler. But Tyler was stepping aside, moving to take his own seat at the table.

"It's all yours, you two," he spoke with a tint of happiness in his voice as he passed them.

Allyson looked at Anderson intently, concentrating hard on her memories, trying to realign her thoughts and reasoning.

"Anderson, I don't know if I can do this, I -"

"Yes you can. Just take it slow. If you need help, I remember most of this still - although I thought we'd never get to use it - and I'll do what I can to help."

"Thanks." Allyson looked away from him and back out amongst the rest. They were still waiting, but she felt as though they were all behind her - no one looked impatient or upset. They were happy to have her back, and she was beginning to feel wonderful for having them back. Allyson drew in her breath slowly, and then began.

"From what I remember - correct me, though, if things have changed - two men oversee Lancastle sector. One of them is Councilman Remus of the Collective, and the other is General Xan, one of two leading commanders of the Vanguard army. Now -"

"Actually, Allyson, one thing has changed - sorry to interrupt," Anderson interjected. "General Xan is no longer stationed at Lancastle. Actually, no one really knows what happened to him. But now," his voice became tight, "now, the commander of the Vanguard in Lancastle is Deiana Wilson, who destroyed the Inn where you were being treated."

All of them gathered in the hall became uneasy at the mention of Deiana's name. Allyson felt a pang of some kind in her thoughts which manifested itself as a hot sweat, but she wasn't entirely sure about why she felt that way. Coupled with the reaction in the room, Allyson assumed that Deiana held some importance with the Returners. She made a mental note to ask Tyler about it later. Feeling the discomfort in the room, Allyson returned to her plan.

"Alright, so, there's still two people overseeing operations in Lancastle - Remus and now Deiana Wilson. But if this Deiana is Vanguard, I'm sure that her mentality must be similar to Xan's, so that shouldn't affect the plan much. The idea behind the whole thing was rather simple - the execution of the operation was to be much more difficult."

"The two sides of rule, the Collective and the Vanguard, don't cherish much love for one another. Because the Vanguard holds all of the government's military technology, the Collective has built a tenuous relationship with the leaders of the army - one based on mutual preservation through power and glory. By infiltrating government ranks, and after building layer upon layer of trust within the Collective, the Returners were prepped to breed distrust and dissent into the administration through Councilman Remus. Once Remus had become convinced of the Vanguard's corruption and an impending coup d'etat, the Returners would arrive and be secretly accepted into the sector by the Collective. Our operatives would be given code keys to the sector's power stations. By sabotaging these stations - I think there were three of them - the entire sector would be destroyed."

There was deep silence in the meeting hall now - every member of the Returners present was hanging on Allyson's every word. She felt confidence seeping into her mind, and throughout her body. For the first time as long as she could remember, Allyson felt like she knew who she was. And she felt like herself again.

"By 'destroyed,' I mean that the land would not be harmed - only the buildings and infrastructure of the city - Gladefall would be preserved through our post-operation undertakings. The Collective would, of course, be assured of their safety by our agents - however, we never planned to let them live. Anderson and I were to escort the Councilman out of the city moments before the explosions. Instead, we planned was to incapacitate him and leave him to die with his own kind."

Tyler was nodding at them from his seat, he began to stand up and move back towards the front of the room as Allyson concluded.

"Of course, now that Anderson and I are out of Lancastle, and because of my ... incident ... I don't see how this plan can still work. Tyler, this is all that we had planned out - I don't know what you have in mind at this point." At this point, Tyler had regained his place with them at the front.

"I know Allyson, and thank you - you too Anderson - for outlining your plans. You're right, Allyson, the plan can't work exactly as you originally intended. But, the ultimate goal of the plan can still be realized."

"How?" Allyson wondered earnestly. She wasn't sold on Tyler's confidence yet - it had taken her and Anderson months to outline the specific details of their plan. But then, she realized, it had been over a year since then...

"Well, Allyson, since you've been gone, a lot has happened. As you now know, Xan is gone from the Vanguard. And you were almost right about him, Anderson - not many people know where he's gone. But I do. And we've been in contact for the past two months." Gasps of shock rose all over the room - Sandra was the first to speak.

"What the hell is this, Tyler? You've been in contact with the Vanguard? What are you trying to do to us? If he knows where this place is, we're all dead! And it'll be on you, Tyler! If -"

"Sandra!" Tyler shouted, "Sandra, calm down! Sit down and keep quiet until I've finished."

Sandra stood there for a minute, her eyes flaring and her breathing heavy. Within moments, however, she had regained herself, and was returning to her seat - small tears welling up in her eyes as she looked down to the floor.

"Yes, I've been in contact with General - or should I say - ex-General Xan. And he's left the Vanguard. And the Collective. He's just a civilian now, and he's sympathetic to our cause. Now, I know this sounds unbelievable, but I trust him. And he's given me information vital to the success of our plans - of your plan, Allyson."

Allyson didn't know what to think at this point. She remembered Xan as being a monster of a human being, committing so many atrocities that she had fought against over the years. She shared Sandra's disbelief, but not her anger. She didn't have the capacity to feel angry yet. She still wasn't comfortable with her life again. She wanted to trust Tyler, so she did.

Archer, who had not spoken for some time, interjected at this point. "Tyler, if Xan's defected, how can he be of any help to us in Lancastle? It just doesn't make any sense - and I just can't trust him at this point."

"I know how you feel, James," Tyler was sympathetic to his friend's concerns, but he hadn't yet revealed his big secret. "I know how you feel, but hear me out. You're right, Xan can't help us in Lancastle directly. But he can give us something of great importance: the code keys to the power stations. As a Vanguard general, he was privy to this information, and he took them with him when he left the sector because he felt that they could help our cause. We need only rendezvous with him, get the codes, and then we're in!"

Tyler looked out among the others. Their emotions ranged from Dorian's vivid disbelief to Sandra's quiet tears. He knew that this wasn't easy to swallow, but he also knew how important this operation was to the success of the Returners. They would have to understand him, they would have to trust him. And that trust would have to be the most complete that they had within them. But Tyler knew that this meeting had brought up a lot of bad blood, and a lot of concerns and emotions. He knew that the planning would have to be finished later - that night, perhaps, if it was possible.

"Listen, there' s been a lot said here this morning. Let's adjourn for now, and return to this plan tonight. Let's all get a little more rest, and then we need to organize for patrols, recon, and raids. We'll be using Epsilon Routine rotation this week, so you know where you'll need to report and when. Until then, let's break for now."

Even though emotions ran high throughout the room, they all reiterated their mantra:

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Then they dispersed. When the noise of movement quieted, and the Returners had returned to their own dreams and restful (and restless) sleep, Allyson and Tyler remained in the meeting room. They both had more to say to one another.

For them, the meeting would continue into the rising sun's dawn.


Kristi said...

I have to admit that I hadn't read all of your chapters (except for the first one and a few inbetween), but I still have a sense of what is going on, and I feel that you did a really good job continuing with the heavy dialogue base that Jeremy was using in the chapter before.

Fillmore said...

This whole story feels like an epic mini-series, and the way you've made it very character-based gives it a Dune-ish quality, which is nice. Both sweeping and personal at the same time.