John pushed his shovel into the ground and pulled another lump of dirt up. He started to break the soil and sod up to get it ready to start planting in it. John sighed, things were going to get very tight for him and Jessica now that the mines had closed down and the price of everything was getting so blessedly high. At least they had their garden to fall back on for food, but that would go only so far. That’s why he was working on preparing more of their land to expand the garden. With the way things were going, John wouldn’t be surprised if the government came and seized the vegetables they did have.
John was grateful for the rich dark soil that made up his land. It should be a good foundation for a healthy crop come end of season. Plus the bigger the garden the less lawn he would have to mow and care for. John frowned when he realized that he may have less lawn to mow, but he was going to have more garden to weed, and he wasn’t sure that was a good trade off.
John pushed the shovel into the ground and prepared to pull another lump up when he heard a voice from behind him. “Are you Mr. John al’Forge?”
John let go of the shovel and turned to see who had addressed him. A man in a black suit with black horn rimmed glasses stood looking at him anxiously. John shook his head. “I was mostly joking when I said it, but is the government here to claim my food already?”
The man pushed his glasses further up his nose and shook his head. “No, I’m not part of the government. I was sent here with a message for you from Mr. Daley.” The man held an envelope out to John.
John reached out and accepted the envelope and tore it open. He pulled out a small folded piece of paper and read the note scribbled on it. “John, I would like to meet with you and discuss the future of the rebellion. We must move carefully in this time of chaos and careful scrutiny. Please choose one of my mining sites to meet me at, Scott.”
John shook his head. “Come on into the house, it’ll just take me a moment to write out a reply to him.” John headed to the back door and allowed the messenger inside before he followed him in.
The messenger looked around at John’s home appreciatively. “This is a lovely home you have here, Mr. al’Forge.”
John set the letter down on the table and moved toward the refrigerator. “Thank you, my wife did most of the decorating. Could I offer you anything to drink? I think Jessica mixed up some peach tea before she left for her bible study?”
The messenger held up his hands. “No, I’m fine, thank you.”
John nodded his head and poured a glass of tea for himself. The ice cubes clinked against the glass as John carried it over to the table. John picked up a black pen and turned the note over. He wrote down, “I’m not certain that the rebellion has much of a future, but I’ll meet you at your mining site just outside of Hope’s Landing tonight at nine o’clock. John.” John folded up the letter and put it back into the envelope. He took a sip of his tea and handed the envelope back to the messenger.
The messenger accepted the letter. “I’ll make sure that Mr. Daley gets this right away.” The messenger walked out the back door and shut it behind him.
John sighed. He had hoped that there would be more to this visit than that. Looks like he would be back outside digging up more of the lawn to expand his garden. He set down his glass of tea and followed the messenger out.
John made his way around several mounds of dirt and stone situated next to abandoned mining carts. Daley Devices mining methods were so different from those of the governments, they relied on machinery much more than they did manpower, and the equipment scattered throughout the site was proof of that. A voice called out, “I’m over here, John!”
John made his way over to where the voice had called from, and held out his hand to Scott. “It’s been awhile, Scott.”
Scott took John’s hand and shook it. “I apologize for my absence, but I thought that the rebellion was going in a dangerous direction, and I couldn’t afford to risk the company’s involvement being discovered. You understand, of course.”
John grunted. “Oh, I understand. We haven’t been overly active lately anyway, so you haven’t missed much.”
Scott nodded his head. “That was a very wise move. I understand that you have lost your position at the mines lately, so I wanted you to have this.” Scott pulled a bulging envelope out of his jacket pocket and handed it to John.
John pulled it open and looked at the plastic cards that filled the envelope and he whistled. “That’s a lot of quills. Are you being this generous with all the miners that lost their jobs?”
Scott sighed and shook his head. “No, I understand that times have gotten tough for you, and I wanted you to have that as thanks for all the hard work you put into managing the rebellion.”
“If you really wanted to thank me you could offer me a job instead.”
“Sorry, but I’m afraid that you don’t have the proper training to operate the machinery. Otherwise I would love to offer you a position. But that’s not why I asked you to meet with me. “
John shook his head. “I don’t know what there is to discuss. With the way things are now it’s far too risky for the rebellion to make any moves. I think it would be better to just disband or go dormant until this ordeal with the masked man blows over.”
“I disagree. I think that the rebellion needs to change their tactics. It’s time to go on the offensive, to stage more attacks like those of the masked man. The government is clearly hurting, the rise in prices and security is proof of that. We need to strike now while they are positioned to topple.”
John replied, “More attacks like the Masked Man? I don’t have a job anymore because of what that masked nuisance did! You want to put more people out of work? That’s not what the rebellion does.”
“You’re not thinking clearly, John! Look at how the government is reacting. This is our chance to hurt them! Think of how much good this could do for this planet in the long run. I think we should try and bring the Masked Man in to help us.”
“This isn’t like you, Scott. Before this you didn’t want to take any risks, you didn’t even want to try and help us rescue Kyle. Now you want to ask this mad man to help us take risks unlike anything we’ve done in years! This is just too dangerous.”
Scott put an arm around John’s shoulder. “Ah, but perhaps what we need is a little danger. I’ll agree that this man is too dangerous to be allowed to continue to act on his own, but with our guidance, we could harness the power that he wields. I would have already reached out to him, but I have no idea how to get a hold of him. Maybe someone in the rebellion knows who he is.”
John hesitated and then sighed. “The Masked Man approached me before his attack on the mine. He wanted to get the rebellion involved with his plans, and told me how to set up a meeting with him if I was interested.”
Scott patted John on the back. “Excellent! See, it’s almost as if it was meant to be! Go ahead and set up a meeting with him for the two of us two days from now, back here. This is it, John, we’re going to make a difference on this planet like no one has before us.”
John walked through the empty streets of the market. He couldn’t believe he was going through with this, after all the trouble the Masked Man had caused he was going to work with the man. He clutched a red ribbon in his fist and the ends fluttered in in the gentle breeze blowing down the street. Merchants excitedly shouted out for John to come and sample their wares, desperate for any chance of a sale.
These streets should be full of the people of Aquore, buying food and other supplies for their families, but because of the Masked Man’s actions, they were empty instead. More and more merchants were packing up every day. It wasn’t right, it just wasn’t right. How could more of that man’s actions make things better?
John reached the corner of Milton and Malor street and he tied the red ribbon with the time and place of their meeting written on it around the lamp post that sat on the corner. There, it was done. The whole business made him feel dirty inside. He decided to stop at the Miner’s Stop for a couple of drinks to try and forget what he just did for a little bit. Jessica wasn’t going to like it though. She felt that anything with alcohol in it was the devil’s brew and didn’t want him to have any part of it. If he paid for it with the quill that Scott gave him, she wouldn’t ever have to find out though. Now this Masked Man was driving him to lie to his wife. He was going to need an extra drink to help him forget about this.
Tarren sat on top of a large mound of earth at the mining site that Scott and John had wanted to meet with him. He watched Scott and John nervously talk to each other and considered why they would want to meet with him. Perhaps John asked him here so that he could kill Tarren, or maybe Scott wanted to get his hands on Tarren for taking that glove from his house. Either way, Tarren really couldn’t blame them after all the harm that he caused this planet.
Thoughts of leaving filled Tarren’s mind. They didn’t know that Tarren was here yet, or if they did they hadn’t given any indication that they did. He could slip away without them ever knowing he had been there. He was certain that putting that mask and glove somewhere no one would ever find it and forgetting that he had ever seen it would eventually help things to go back to normal. At least he hoped that it would.
Tarren sighed. He had wanted to talk with John to see if he had any ideas for fixing the damage that had been done, and this was as good an opportunity as any. He cleared his throat and said in a deep gravely voice. “Good evening.” John and Scott jumped and looked around the mining site for the source of the voice. Tarren continued, “I wanted to start this meeting off by saying how sorry I am for the events that my actions have brought to pass. This was never my intention, and I came here tonight in the hopes that you would share some wisdom with me on how to fix this situation.”
Scott finally found Tarren and smiled. “Ah, the Masked Man. It is truly an honor to meet you. Those attacks of yours has certainly gotten this planet into a bit of an uproar.”
Tarren flinched at his words and replied, “I only want to try and make right what I have done and help things to go back to normal.”
Scott shook his head. “It’s too late for things to go back to normal I’m afraid. Our only option is to continue with your attacks. It’s the only way that this planet will be freed of the tyranny of the government. I think that we need to keep hitting the government hard and where it will hurt them the most. We want you to keep attacking the mining sites, including one of mine. The government will have no choice but to increase the guard on every mining site, which will spread them thin. Once they are, we can do one final assault on the Pedestal and get the senate to a position where they have no choice but to negotiate with us.”
Tarren shook his head. “At what cost? Look at how bad things have gotten for everyone from just two attacks? If we do more the Enforcers might start striking out at the people, and I don’t want more innocent blood on my hands.”
Scott sighed. “It’s already too late. If we turn back now the government will see it as a weakness, and know that they can use the people against us to get anything they want. We have no choice but to continue what you started.”
Tarren paused. What Scott was saying made sense, and it did seem like it would make things better for everyone in the long run. “What you are saying makes sense, but I don’t know if I’ll be lucky enough to get away if the Enforcers are waiting for me again.”
Scott smiled slyly. “Not to worry, you won’t be going in alone. We want you to work with the rebellion on this. Together we’ll be stronger than either of us was before this.”
Tarren turned and looked at John. “You have been pretty quiet, John. If I remember correctly you said that you would see me dead if I ever tried to contact the rebellion. What are your thoughts on this?”
John’s hands formed into fists at his side. “This whole business if foolish and risky. We are basing the future of this planet and the families that live here on this plan, and if we screw up, there are no second chances.” John sighed before he continued. “But I feel that Scott is right. We have no choice but to move forward at this time if we ever want things to get better. The rebellion will welcome you into our ranks, if you so choose to work with us.”
Tarren sat in silence for a few moments thinking about Scott and John’s arguments. Finally he replied, “I will work on this with you, but I do not want to be a part of the rebellion at this time.”
Confusion filled Scott’s face. “Whyever not? John tells me that you were eager to join with the rebellion the last time you met with him.”
“I’m sure there are many miners in the rebellion, like John, who resent me for what I have done. They may think things will get better if they were to turn me over to the Enforcers. Not only that, but as long as I don’t know who you are, and you don’t know who I am, if one of us is captured we can’t betray the others. I wish to work in anonymity for as long as I can.”
Scott nodded his head. “I can respect your wishes, though I don’t know how the rebellion will take it. They may not want to work with someone that they don’t know.”
Tarren turned away from Scott and John. “I can walk away right now and you won’t have to worry about the whole thing any longer.”
Scott shrugged. “Very well, we will proceed as you wish. John and I will call a meeting with the rebellion and discuss our first strike. I’m assuming that we can get in touch with you the same way that we did today?”
Tarren nodded his head. “That is fine. I will await your next meeting request. Until then, may the chaos that is consuming this planet leave you untouched.” Tarren lept off of mound he was standing on over to the next and made his way away from the mining site.”
Scott watched the Masked Man leave the mining site, and hurried after him in an effort to try and give him an idea of where to look for him. It didn’t take long for the Masked Man to pass from his sight, and he doubled over breathing deeply. John hurried over to his side and looked at him with confusion. “What were you trying to do?”
Scott replied in between gasps of air. “I’m trying to figure out who he really is. You want to know too, don’t you?”
John nodded his head. “Of course I do, but what good is chasing after him going to do? Did you expect him to take his mask off once he was out of our sight?”
Scott shook his head. “I have several people that I suspect may be the Masked Man, but after seeing the direction that he left, I’ve just ruled Tarren out.”
John’s eyes opened wide. “Tarren? You think that Tarren is behind the mask?”
Scott shrugged. “You have to admit that these attacks are something that Tarren would want to do if he could.”
John nodded his head. “You may be right, but how could he do anything like this? He doesn’t have access to the type of technology that this Masked Man uses.”
“Who knows where this Masked Man got his equipment? It’s not important though, he’s going to work with us now. I have a cold dinner waiting for me at home, so I’m going to call it a night. Set up a meeting with the rebellion for two nights from now. We’ll discuss how to move forward then.”
Obediah’s basement was filled with anxious chatter from the members of the rebellion as they waited for the meeting to begin. Obediah made his way down the stairs and over to where John was leaning against the wall. “That’s everyone as far as I can tell.”
John nodded and made his way over to the table that he used as a stage at these meetings. He said is a loud, deep baritone voice, “Thank you all for coming, I have a lot to talk about tonight.”
One of the men in the crowd called out, “What is this all about, John? I didn’t expect the rebellion to be doing anything until this Masked Man was captured.” Many in the crowd nodded their heads and shouted their agreement.
“I have spoken with Scott and he feels that the rebellion needs to use what the Masked Man started to our advantage, and finally bring the government down. In order to do that, Scott and I have met with the Masked Man, and we have decided that we will aid him in his future attacks.”
Angry shouts of disagreement filled the room with complaints ranging from the danger of getting involved with the Masked Man to them bringing about the destruction of their planet. John fought to get the crowd under control, but they continued to shout over them. Finally Matthew whistled and the crowd grew quiet enough to hear what he had to say. “I think it would be wise to avoid making such a ruckus before the Enforcers overhear it and want to know what we are up to. I also think it would be wise to listen to what John has to say before we dismiss it outright. We’ve trusted him to lead us so far.”
John bowed his head. “Thank you, Matthew. I think we have all felt the effects of the Masked Man’s attacks, either through the rise in the price of everything or being out of work because of the damage he did to the mines. While they are troubling for us, they are a sign of how much his attacks have hurt the government. They are weakened, and the more attacks that there are, the more they are going to be hurting. If we can do enough attacks on the various mining sites across the planet, it will force the government to increase the security on them. It will weaken their defenses on the Pedestal to the point where we’ll be able to finally stage an attack and take the government down. I won’t force anyone to take part in these attacks; many of you have family and they come first. I understand that, but I welcome any that are willing to join with us in our attack. Are there any volunteers?”
The room was silent as everyone looked around to see who was going to volunteer. After about thirty seconds a young man named Thomas raised his hand, hesitantly, and Tristan, who was standing next to him raised his. Slowly other hands raised up around the room until twenty men and women had volunteered. John nodded his head. “Thank you all for your courage. When we look back on this night, you will all be remembered as the heroes that helped to change this planet.” John looked around at the volunteers and frowned. He fixed his gaze on Tarren and looked at him suspiciously. “You don’t want to fight against the Enforcers, Tarren? This seems like the type of thing you have been calling for since you joined the rebellion.”
Tarren shook his head. “The actions of the Masked Man haven’t brought about anything good. Because of him the orphanage no longer can get two day old bread from Obediah, and we can’t afford to buy it either. I thought that taking the fight to the government was a good idea, but if this is the result, then I don’t feel it’s worth it. Not only that, but if we are caught, the damage that me being there could do to the children is unthinkable. I am going to sit this one out.”
John smiled. “It seems that you thought this through quite well. It would seem that you are maturing, Tarren.” He turned his focus back onto the volunteers. “Our first attack will be tomorrow, at one of Scott Daley’s mining sites. He wants us to meet him there just after sun down to help remove any suspicion from him.”
Obediah’s eyes opened wide. “He’s going to be there for one of the attacks? That is very unlike him. Usually he wants to keep his involvement to advising.”
John shrugged. “It seemed strange to me as well. He says he wants to monitor the attack on his site to make sure we don’t do more damage than we need to. Before we break up this meeting is there anything else that anyone would like to discuss?”
The members of the rebellion tightly gripped their shovels, picks, and wrenches as they nervously waited outside of the mining site with Scott. Scott whispered to John, “Where is he? You did leave the ribbon for him to find, didn’t you?”
John nodded his head. “Of course I did. Maybe he didn’t see it, or perhaps someone took it down before he had a chance to retrieve it.”
Tarren appeared out of the night wearing the mask and cloak that had earned him the title of the Masked Man, and John and Scott jumped a little. Scott hissed. “You’re late!”
Tarren shrugged. “I’m sorry, I ran into an Enforcer patrol on my way over and it took forever for them to leave so I could continue on.”
John’s eyes opened wide in panic. “An Enforcer patrol! Did they see you?”
Tarren shook his head. “No, I was careful not to be seen. Let’s do this so that we can get out of here.”
Scott nodded his head. “I agree. There is only one guard on duty tonight, but he doesn’t know anything about tonight’s attack. Make sure that you attract his attention so that he sees you before you knock him out. Whistle once you’ve done that and we’ll get to work.”
Tarren watched the site for movement and finally picked out the form of a man walking around. He vanished into the night and after a few seconds Scott heard a hollow thud followed by a deep grunt and a whistle. Scott motioned to the members of the rebellion and said, “Go ahead, the coast is clear.”
The members of the rebellion got up from their hiding places and spread across the mining site, placing small explosives on every piece of equipment that they came across. They put half a dozen of the explosives into a mining cart and pushed it into the mine. Once John activated the detonator, nothing of value should remain at this site.
Scott felt a hollow pain in his chest as he thought about all the equipment and resources they were about to destroy that his scientists had spent time and his money to develop. He wanted to run out there and tell them to stop, that this was crazy, but he knew that this was a sacrifice that was worth every penny. The fact that he made sure that all of this equipment was covered by his insurance policy certainly helped too.
The members of the Rebellion made their way back over to where Scott was watching the progress, and once everyone was off of the site, Tarren punched the supports that framed the mine until they collapsed and the tunnel was sealed off. He made his way over to where the rest of the rebellion was gathered and nodded to John. “Everything is ready, go ahead and do it.”
John pulled out a small radio device and pressed a button on it, and the mining site erupted into a giant fireball and a rain of scrap metal. Scott shook his head and blinked back tears. “You did good work tonight, team. Let’s get out of here before anyone comes to investigate that explosion. We’ll tell you what the next target is at the meeting in a couple of days.”
Larry Craig, the guard that had been on duty the night of the attack stood before the senate in the Pedestal the next day. “I heard something behind me, and I turned and there was the Masked Man. I reached for my cudgel but he knocked me out before I could grab it.”
A senator looked at Larry with curiosity. “You’re certain it was the Masked Man? It sounds like you only saw him for a moment before he attacked you.”
Larry nodded his head. “Yes, it was him. He had on a brown hood and an iron mask over his face. Who else could it have been?”
The senator nodded his head. “It certainly sounds like him. Can you remember anything else that happened that night?”
Larry shook his head. “I’m afraid not. He knocked me out and when I woke up everything was destroyed, all the equipment, the mine, everything. I sure hope that you will find whoever is behind this.”
The senator replied, “We most certainly will look into this, Mr. Craig. You have given us much to discuss, if you will give us some privacy?” An Enforcer approached Larry and lead him out of the room. The senator waited until the door clicked shut before he turned his attention on his fellow representatives. “Does anyone else find it suspicious that the Masked Man attacked a privately owned mining site after two attacks on government property and persons?”
Another of the representatives nodded his head in agreement. “It does seem a bit odd, but perhaps he is a fool that doesn’t know the difference between the privately owned site and the ones under our control.”
A senator snorted in reply. “Better for us that he knew exactly what he was doing then he be a fool. If he is a fool, there will be no way to predict what he will do next.”
Another of the senators nodded his head in agreement. “Yes, I believe that the location of the attack was intentional as well, perhaps to remove any suspicion from Mr. Daley. I suggest that we send someone undercover to investigate his business and find out if there is anything nefarious going on.”
A senator held up his hand. “I second the motion and suggest Private Jonathan. He is an experienced soldier and after his recent demotion it would make sense if he was to leave the Enforcers out of frustration.”
A senator from the back row said, “Agreed, he would be an excellent choice. I believe we should send some others to get an official statement from Mr. Daley. I would like to see his reaction to all of this to see if he will give anything away. Can we all agree that we need to increase the guards we set on the other mining sites?”
Troy stood up. “I second the motion, we don’t know where the Masked Man is going to strike next, but we have to do everything we can to see that he is captured and pays for his crimes.”
Thank you for checking out my story, if you liked this and want to see more stories like it, check out the other stories I’m working on writing, here: Tales of the Imagination, check out my facebook page for updates on the stories here: Facebook, and follow me on Twitter here: @EJBorchardt. Please like, comment, and tell your friends if you like what you’ve read. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my review of what happened previously in The Super Morpher, as well as a sneak peek at what will happen in the next chapter. Then come back on Monday when I will post part of one the next chapter of The Super Morpher, and check out my newly published book, The Kids on the Case.