Jonathan pulled the front door to Daley Devices Inc. open and walked inside. He nervously smoothed down the front of his black suit and approached the front desk. He had never done any undercover work before, and he hoped that he would be believable. At least the most important part of his cover, the fact that he was upset with the senators in the Pedestal, was true. That should make it easier for his story to be believable.
The receptionist looked up from her computer and smiled at Jonathan. “Welcome to Daley Devices Inc. How can I help you?”
Jonathan cleared his throat. “I heard about the recent attack on one of your mining sites, and I was wondering if you were hiring any more security guards on at this time?”
The woman frowned. “Mr. Daley hadn’t mentioned anything about hiring additional security on at this time, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask. Do you have any previous experience in a security position?”
Jonathan nodded his head. “Yes, I was the commander for the Aquore Enforcers up until the Masked Man’s attack on the first mining site. Even though everything that happened was out of my control, the Pedestal demoted me as a result of that incident. I think that my talents would be better appreciated here.”
The woman’s eyes opened wide. “Former commander of the Aquore Enforcers, I would say you’re certainly qualified! We’ll still have to see if Mr. Daley is interested at this time. Can you hold on for a moment while I ask him?”
Jonathan smiled. “Of course.”
The woman returned his smile. “Okay, just have a seat over there, sir.” She pointed at a group of three padded chairs pushed up against the wall. Jonathan nodded his head and moved over to sit behind the chairs. He tried to appear to be lounging nonchalantly, but really he was trying to listen for any useful information that might be exchanged. “Hello, Mr. Daley. I have a gentleman up here that was wondering if we were hiring any more security guards on after the attack on the mining site.” She paused while waiting for a response. She held her hand over the receiver on the phone and stood up. “What is your name, hun?”
Jonathan replied, “Jonathan Brooks.”
The woman nodded her head and put the phone back up to her ear. “His name is Jonathan Brooks, and he is the former commander of the Aquore Enforcers. I really think that someone with his background is exactly what we need to make sure another attack like that doesn’t happen. Yes, sir, I’ll send him back right away.” The woman placed the phone back down on the receiver, and she smiled at Jonathan. “He wants to meet with you, so if you will just follow me, I’ll make sure that you get back to him.”
Jonathan got up from the chair he was sitting on and walked over to the front desk. She led Jonathan down a hallway and stopped in front of a door. She pushed the door open and winked at him. “Good luck!” She walked back down the hall and Jonathan entered into the room.
Scott got up from behind his desk and held his hand out to Jonathan. Jonathan hid his grimace when he noticed the slight trail of blood leading from Scott’s nose and the glazed look in his eyes. Was this man seriously using scrock? And at work of all places! Jonathan covered his disgust with a smile. “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, Mr. Daley.”
Scott shook his head. “Hmm? Oh, well it’s not every day that we have an opportunity to add someone with your reputation onto our security staff. Please, have a seat.” Scott returned to his desk and sat down, and Jonathan sat across from him. “Which brings me to my first question; why are you applying for this position?”
Jonathan frowned. “When the Masked Man attacked the mining site near Hope’s Landing, the Pedestal placed the blame on me for allowing him to escape. My men weren’t trained to deal that kind of an intruder, and the result was disastrous for us. I understand that you have recently suffered an attack from the Masked Man as well, and I wanted an opportunity to get even with him. I can think of no better way than to come and protect your mining sites in case he attacks you again.”
Scott nodded his head. “It certainly sounds like you would have the experience and drive to exceed at this job.” He chucked nervously. “I can’t help but think that this would be an excellent way for the government to get a spy inside of my company to learn more about my operation.”
Jonathan shook his head. “You don’t have to worry about that, I don’t want anything to do with the government. They used me until the needed a scapegoat, and then they callously tossed me aside.”
Scott leaned back in his chair. “Welcome aboard, Mr. Brooks. You can begin your training today, not that it sounds like you’ll need much besides learning the company’s rules. If you would go back out to the receptionist, she’ll show you the way to the security guard’s locker room. Larry Craig will be able to help you with your training. He’ll also make sure that you have all the gear you will need for the position.”
Jonathan stood up and reached his hand out to Scott. “Thank you, sir. You won’t regret this decision.” Scott smiled and shook Jonathan’s hand. Jonathan wasn’t sure if he would find any evidence that Scott was involved with the Masked Man, but he already had proof that he was using illegal substances.
Jonathan walked into the guard’s locker room and saw a man sitting on a bench in a grey uniform with his arms crossed frowning at him. “You must be Jonathan.”
Jonathan smiled at him. “Yes, and I’m guessing you must be Larry? Scott said that you would be showing me how to be a security guard today.”
Larry grunted and nodded his head. “Yes, I am the one that will be training you to replace me. I can’t believe that Mr. Daley is so cruel to force a man to train his replacement. At least he could come out and tell him that was what he was doing.”
Jonathan shook his head. “I don’t think that is Mr. Daley’s intention at all. I came in and asked if they were hiring more guards to beef up security because of the Masked Man’s attacks. It wouldn’t make sense to get rid of guards when the Masked Man has shown how vulnerable their sites are.”
Larry shrugged and held his hand out to Jonathan. “I suppose they wouldn’t want to downsize while he’s still running around. So, I understand that you used to work for the Aquore Enforcers?”
Jonathan nodded his head. “I used to be their commander until the Pedestal decided to fire me because of the Masked Man’s attack.”
Larry grimaced and shook his head. “I heard about the damage that he did to that mining site. At least this somewhat comes out to Mr. Daley’s advantage.”
An intrigued look came over Jonathan’s face. “How’s that?”
Larry shrugged. “Out of all the mining sites that Mr. Daley owns, that was the only one that had pretty much exhausted its supply of quorite. All the equipment was going to be shipped out to a different site next week. This saved them the hassle of having to move the machines, and they were all insured. If they had attacked any other mining site it would have been much worse for the company.”
Jonathan nodded his head. “That is some crazy luck that Mr. Daley has.”
Larry nodded his head. “Indeed. But we shouldn’t be sitting around gossiping. Come with me and we’ll get you your uniform.”
Jonathan walked out of the front door of Daley Devices next to Larry. Larry nodded his head. “You sure seem to be adjusting to this position well. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were working on your own by the end of the week. Anyway, have a good night, Jonathan. See you in the morning.”
Jonathan smiled and waved at Larry. “See you in the morning.” He started heading toward his car. Once he was inside he started his car and began to drive way. He pushed a red button on his dash, and a voice responded. “It is about time! I have been waiting to hear your report all day, Private Brooks.”
Jonathan replied, “Forgive me, Commander Timothy. Our plan went better than expected and I started with Daley Devices today.”
“Excellent. What have you found out?”
“Mr. Daley is most likely using some sort of an illegal substance for recreational purposes. My guess would be scrock.”
Timothy replied. “That could be useful for bringing him down in the future, but that isn’t what we sent you there for. Have you found anything connecting him to the Masked Man?”
“Nothing for sure, but one of the guards let slip that Scott is in position to benefit from the attack. They were about to close down that site and move all the equipment to a different one, not to mention all the machines were insured.”
Timothy hesitated before responding. “That isn’t proof that he is involved with the Masked Man, but it certainly warrants our suspicion. Continue on with your mission and report to me if you discover any proof of his involvement.” The radio clicked after Timothy’s statement, signaling that he had ended the transmission. Jonathan tightened his grip on the steering wheel. He wondered how long he was going to have to work at Daley Devices before he found the proof he needed to bring Scott down.
Tarren walked through the crowded streets of Hope’s Landing toward Frederick’s office. The market place was filled with cries for help and assistance instead of the cries of marketers trying to sell their goods. Tarren flinched at each of their calls, knowing that it was because of him that things were like this. He silently whispered for them to hold on, that he was going to make things better than they were before, they just needed to hold on a little longer.
Tarren’s eyes rested on a woman in dirt streaked clothing crying for help surrounded by a defeated looking man and children. Horror filled Tarren’s face once he recognized her; this was Martha Garrets, the woman that he had been sent to collect from last week. He tried to make his way past her, but she saw him and shouted out, “Run, you coward! You didn’t want to get your hands dirty, so you gave us false hope and sent your bullies to come and take everything from us!”
Tarren paused, sighed and made his way over to her. “What do you mean? I am in charge of collecting your debt and I was going to come out to collect today. I thought you would have had plenty of time to finish bringing your harvest in by now.”
Martha shook her head. “Go ahead, pretend not to know that you sent your goons out to take our combine from us! You aren’t fooling any one!”
Tarren shook his head. “No, this isn’t right. I told Frederick that there wasn’t anyone at the farm to collect from. He was going to let me go out today. There has to be some mistake.”
Martha chuckled. “Oh, there has been a mistake alright. Because we weren’t given the extra time promised, we couldn’t harvest our crops and we lost our home!”
Tarren clenched his hands into fists and shook with rage. “I don’t know why this happened, but I’m going to do everything I can to see that this mistake is corrected. I will get you your combine and your home back; I promise!”
Martha sneered at Tarren. “What can you do? Making promises like this will only make you feel better. I bet that we’ll never see you again!”
The man sitting next to her, presumably her husband, rested a hand on her shoulder. “Dear, you need to settle down. This man said that he was going to try and help us, which is more than anyone else is doing.” The man looked up at Tarren with appreciation in his eyes. “Please, don’t just be giving my family false hope.”
Tarren wiped tears away from his eyes. “I will do everything I can to help you.” Tarren turned and walked toward Frederick’s office, his eyes filled with determination.
Tarren threw open the door that led into Frederick’s office, and stomped over to Frederick’s desk. Men gripping knives and cudgels appeared from deeper in the room and rushed toward Frederick’s desk until he raised his hand. The men glared at Tarren, but slowly made their way back to where they had been resting. Tarren pointed a finger at Frederick’s face and said, “You were supposed to let me collect that family’s debt, today!”
Frederick frowned. “Whatever are you talking about, Tarren?”
“I’m talking about the Garrets! I went out to their farm to collect from them last week and they weren’t there! You said it would be fine if I went to collect from them today instead!”
Frederick leaned back in his chair and shook his head. “They were there when I sent my men to go and check on them after you left. The woman screamed about the promises you made her to give them more time. You shouldn’t have lied to me, Tarren. You made it harder on everyone.”
Tarren shook his head. “How can you sit there and be so uncaring? You just ruined the lives of that entire family!”
Frederick shrugged. “That is the business that I’m in. Those people knew full well how this worked. They knew how much time they had to get me the money they borrowed back when they made the deal. I held up my end of the bargain and gave them the money they wanted at the agreed time, they were responsible for doing the same.”
Tarren pounded his fist down onto Frederick’s desk. “You have to give them back their combine; once they finish bringing in their harvest they will have the money they owe you! They just need a little more time.”
Frederick sighed and started rubbing his temples. “If I agree to give them more time, then all my customers will want more time to get the money they owe me. Pretty soon, no one will ever pay me back, and I will be put out of business. The service I provide for this community will be gone, and everyone will suffer for it. It’s a tough business, but it’s a necessary one.”
Tears steamed down Tarren’s face. “You don’t do this for the community, you do it to fatten your pockets!”
Tarren headed for the door, but Frederick called out, “Before you leave, I have a job for you, Tarren.”
Tarren turned and glared at Frederick. “I’m not going to help you hurt the people of this planet any more.”
Frederick smiled at Tarren. “Of course not, you are simply going to do the job that Eugene agreed you would. If you don’t, I’ll be forced to send my men to collect on the orphanage’s debt. That wouldn’t be a problem, would it, Tarren?”
Defeat filled Tarren’s face and his fists opened and hung loosely at his side. “Fine.”
Frederick shook his head. “I can’t have you walking around moping like that. I’ll make you a deal. You collect what is owed to me from all the people on this list, and I’ll let the Garrets rent their combine from me long enough to get what they need to pay off their debt to me. Then I will return their combine. How does that sound?”
Hope filled Tarren’s face and he stepped toward Frederick’s desk. “Who do I need to collect from?”
Frederick handed Tarren a list with three names and addresses written on it. “These three families debts are due. Collect them without complaining and I’ll write out the certificate with the new deal on it.”
Tarren took the list and headed for the door. “I’ll be back with what these people owe you in no time! You had better just hold up your end of the deal!” Tarren ran out of Frederick’s office and slammed the door behind him on his way out.
He hurried down the street to where the Garrets were crying out for money or food. Martha saw Tarren coming and prodded her husband. “Were you able to convince him to give us more time?”
Tarren smiled. “I made a deal with him, and he’s going to allow you to rent your combine from him until you can pay back your debt. I just need to collect a few debts for Frederick, and then he’ll give me the certificate. It’ll just be a little longer, but I’ll get you back your combine.”
Tears filled Martha’s eyes. “Thank you, you are far too kind to be working for a man like Frederick.”
Tarren nodded his head. “I agree, but I do what I have to take care of those I love, just like you.” Tarren started walking down the street, and he looked over the names of the people on the list. These were all people that lived in Hope’s Landing; it shouldn’t take him too long to collect these.
Tarren somberly walked back to Frederick’s office with a bag full of quills over his left shoulder, and a chest full of jewels under his right arm. Tears flowed from his eyes, leaving trails down his cheeks to the wet spots on his shirt. He had been so happy when the first two that he called on had the money that they owed Frederick, they just hadn’t had time to get it to him. The third stop broke his heart though. The woman cried and begged for more time, and Tarren broke down and cried with her, explaining that he had to do this. He had left the woman sobbing on the floor, begging Tarren not to take her family’s jewels, that they had been in her family for generations, but he had had no choice. How could the other men that worked for Frederick do this sort of thing everyday?
He made his way up the stairs to Frederick’s office. He pushed the door open and walked toward a smiling Frederick. “It looks like you didn’t run into any troubles this time.”
Tarren dropped the chest of jewels and the bag of quills onto Frederick’s desk. “I kept up my end of the bargain, now you need to hold up yours.”
Frederick nodded his head and pulled out a sheet of paper. “Of course, that’s how this business works.” He scribbled a few notes down onto the sheet of paper and signed it at the bottom. He held the sheet of paper out to Tarren. “Just give this to the Garrets and tell them to bring it to my office if my terms are acceptable.” Tarren took the sheet of paper and headed for the door. “Tarren?” Tarren stopped and looked at Frederick. “This gets easier the more you do it.”
Tarren shook his head. “I very much doubt this will ever be easy for me.” Tarren walked out of the office, and returned to the Garrets.
He held out the sheet of paper to Martha. “Here, this is the offer that Frederick is extending to you. If you find the deal acceptable, you are to return to his office and finalize the agreement.”
Martha looked over the certificate with tears flowing down her face. “Thank you! I’m sorry for what I said about you earlier, it wasn’t called for.”
Tarren shook his head. “No, I deserved it, and worse for what I had to do today. I just hope that you are able to get your home back.”
Martha’s husband took the sheet of paper from her and looked it over. “He’s going to allow us to rent the combine out for only twenty quills a day! We should be able to finish up the harvest in three days if we work hard at it, this is much better than what I thought he was going to offer us!”
Tarren turned and walked away from the Garrets, who were hugging each other excitedly. Maybe there was some good in Frederick, but he still didn’t like the business that he was running. Perhaps the Masked Man could pay him a visit some time and have a talk with him about his business.
Tarren pushed a broom through the sanctuary that was empty except for him and Pastor Gary. Pastor Gary looked up from the bulletins that had been left on the floor and said, “How are you doing, Tarren?”
Tarren shook his head. “Not so good, Pastor. How could anyone be good with everything that’s going on? The Enforcers are being more brutal than they ever have before. They don’t need much of an excuse to beat on you and drag you off to the dungeons, everything costs at least three times as much as it did two weeks ago, and then there are all those attacks by the Masked Man! This planet is decaying around us, and we’ll be lucky if we survive any of it.”
Pastor Gary nodded his head. “Things do seem to be pretty bad right now, but we believers can take comfort in the fact that this is all a part of God’s plan. God promises that he will use all things for the good of his people, and that includes the violence of the Masked Man and the government. We might not be able to see it now, but someday we’ll look back on this and know that this was necessary to bring on the future we need.”
Tarren’s shoulders slumped. “How do you do it, Pastor? How do you keep your faith in the middle of all of this suffering? It seems like God has rejected us and left us to fend for ourselves.”
Gary smiled. “I can continue to believe that God is in control because I can look at the history of the church. There have been countless instances when the world faced dark times, times when everyone gave up hope and accepted the end, but God kept his promises and brought his people safely through. We can look back at those instances and see that those dark times were necessary to bring about the good ones. It is those examples that I find confidence that he will do it again with this situation.”
Tarren offered the pastor a weak smile. “I’ll try to keep that in mind and to have a faith more like yours.” Tarren went back to sweeping. If Pastor Gary was right, then God could be using his work as the Masked Man to bring good for the people of this planet. Tarren could continue to fight the government if he was sure that this was all part of the plan to make things better.
Tarren walked down the stairs into Obediah’s basement and looked around at all the people gathered for tonight’s meeting. He shook his head at the low hum of whispers that filled the room. This wasn’t normal; the room should be filled with laughter and shouting. He wasn’t sure if it was the fact that they were working with the Masked Man, or if it was because of the Pedestal’s reaction. Either way, it weighed heavily upon him.
Obediah followed Tarren down the stairs and looked around the room until he spotted John leaning up against a wall. He nodded to John, and John made his way over to the table he used as a stage. He cleared his throat, and said, “If I could have everyone’s attention, we’ll get this meeting started.” He waited a few seconds and after the whispers faded away, he continued. “I have been in touch with Scott, and he has told me the site that he wants us to attack next. We’ll be heading to the mining site near Aquore’s Crater and doing the same thing to it that we did to Scott’s site.”
Someone in the crowd interrupted and shouted, “How can you continue to work with that maniac? Because of him, the Enforcers took my son away because he was playing outside after curfew. His mother and I have lost our five year old son because the government is mad at the Masked Man. Why should we be helping him? Maybe we should just turn him in and let things go back to the way that they used to be.”
John’s shoulders slumped and he said weakly, “Perhaps we could convince the Masked Man to mount another rescue attempt on the Pedestal and bring your boy out safely.”
The man’s hand formed into a fist. “I don’t want anything to do with the Masked Man! He’s brought nothing but suffering to this planet!”
John sighed. “I know that it’s hard to see it now, but the Masked Man is helping us get those in the Pedestal into the position we need them in so that they will negotiate with us. I don’t agree with his methods, and some day he will have to answer for his actions. Not to those bureaucrats up in the Pedestal, but to us. Until then, we need to use him so that we can get to that day.”
The man crossed his arms and frowned. “Very well, you can continue to work with this terrorist, but if anything happens to my son, I won’t hesitate to turn him in.”
John nodded his head. “Thank you for your patience. Scott wants the attack to take place two nights from now. How many of you will volunteer to work with us?”
Tarren watched the man that had spoken up push through the crowd while John counted the volunteers. That didn’t look like a man that was satisfied with the situation he had found himself in, and Tarren could understand why. His heart nearly broke when he heard about the fate of his son. If this plan of Scott’s didn’t bear fruit soon, he wasn’t sure he would be able to keep it up.
The next day Charlie, the man that had spoken up at the meeting the night before, made his way through the marketplace. The rebellion couldn’t understand his family’s pain; that was for certain. If they could, they wouldn’t continue to work with the Masked Man. If they wouldn’t do anything about this situation, perhaps Charlie could trade the Masked Man for his son.
He continued up the road that led to the Pedestal, but before he could make it to the gates, an Enforcer stopped him by leveling a spear at him. “What is your business at the Pedestal?”
Charlie held up his hands to show he was unarmed and said, “I am here to speak with the members of the Pedestal. I would like to make a deal with them.”
The Enforcer shook his head. “Do you have an appointment? My orders are that no one gets into the Pedestal without an appointment.”
Charlie shook his head. “I don’t have an appointment, but I do have information that the Pedestal will be very happy to hear. Please let me through and let me give this information to them.”
The Enforcer shook his head. “I’m afraid I can’t do that. I can take your message to them for you though.”
Charlie looked at the Enforcer hesitantly. This was his best chance of getting his boy back. He sighed and said, “I have information about where the Masked Man is going to strike next, and when.”
The Enforcer stood up straight and stared at Charlie intensely. “You’re right, that will make them very happy. Give me the details and you can be on your way.”
Charlie shook his head. “I won’t tell you anything unless you promise me that you will release my son from your dungeons. He is only a five year old boy that was foolishly playing outside after curfew, he doesn’t pose any threat to you.”
The Enforcer nodded his head. “Yes, yes, of course. We’ll make sure that you and your son are reunited. Now where and when is this attack going to happen?”
Charlie opened his mouth to respond, but then it occurred to him that the other members of the rebellion would be there as well. He couldn’t just turn them over too. “I have one other condition. You may find other people with the Masked Man, perhaps aiding him. You must promise to let them go as well. Otherwise, I’ll tell you nothing.”
The Enforcer sighed and rolled his eyes. “You have my word that we won’t arrest anyone that we find with the Masked Man. Now tell me what you know!”
Charlie nodded his head. “Alright, I have heard rumors that the Masked Man will be attacking the mining site at Aquore’s Crater in two nights. Now when do I get my son back?”
The Enforcer swung his spear butt into Charlie’s stomach. Charlie doubled over and fell onto the ground. The Enforcer grinned down at Charlie and said, “Oh please, did you really think that I wouldn’t realize that you were part of the rebellion? How else would you know where the next attack was going to be at? I’m guessing that those other people that will be with the Masked Man are going to be more rebels, so I have quite a bit too thank you for. I just might get promoted over this.”
Charlie gripped onto his stomach and wheezed out, “You lied to me. You said you would give me my son back.”
The Enforcer shook his head. “No, I said that the two of you would be reunited. I’ll make sure that you get to share a nice cell with him in the dungeon.”
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 a summary of 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 twelfth chapter of the Super Morpher, and check out my newly published book, The Kids on the Case.