Episode 37: Precipice of War

          Elsie Lamarr was the first to meet Olivia, John, Ruby, and Ronin when they arrived at the Grid. Despite Olivia having just escaped from prison, she stepped off the helicopter and looked ready to act. Before she could, however, Elsie had news that would change things.

Elsie meets with Olivia and the others.

          “Olivia,” she started, closing in on the group. “We did it. We finally gained access to the Ship Communication System.”

          Olivia was filled with pride at the words. They had known about the SCS for a long time, but without proper interfacing they had never been able to access or interpret data pulled from the ship’s computer. If they had truly done as Elsie believed, it would change everything. Instantaneous communication on a ship-wide level would make things like the very crisis they had endured with Explorer One a thing of the past.

          “I’m glad to hear we’ve made progress,” she answered, hiding her true excitement. “I suspect it will be of great value as we prepare to launch Explorer Two.”

          Elsie nodded for a moment, but then looked Olivia straight in the eyes. “About that…”

          Oliver Lafayette and Bryan Steeles reached the elevator and stood in silence the whole way to the fourth floor of Town Hall. Both of them were tired and, obviously, outraged with the events that had unfolded over the last several hours.

          Now Rayland Walsh had the audacity to call an emergency meeting.

          The elevator door opened and the two were surprised to see Samantha Valentine waiting for them. She looked them over, then looked around them, checking the elevator like someone might be hiding in the corner.

Bryan and Oliver arrive at Town Hall.

          Finally, she addressed them directly.

          “We’re glad you could make it,” she started. “I wish I had a less concerning reason for calling you here.”

          “You? I thought Rayland—”

          “He’s here too,” she replied. “Flynn too.”

          She marched around the hallway corner and the pair followed her. There, they found Rayland Walsh and Flynn Brickshelm standing at the conference table. Flynn looked as pale as a ghost, and it gave Bryan an instant feeling of unease.

The town council meets with Rayland Walsh.

          “What’s going on?” Oliver asked, his voice more annoyed than concerned. “Why are we here so late at night?”

          “We have a situation on our hands,” Rayland Walsh replied. “I’ll let Samantha fill you in on the details.”

          Oliver turned his attention to Samantha. “Well?”

          “First and foremost, the leader of Rayland’s militia has decided to change the power structure of our small town.”

          Bryan shifted uncomfortably, and Oliver pressed. “Explain.”

          “Leonard Calgray, one of my patients, has expressed a desire to create a little bit of chaos in our relatively boring lives. At first I entertained the notion for my own selfish reasons, but ever since the move against Olivia, things have escalated far beyond my control. You two no doubt heard the gunshots tonight?”

          Bryan didn’t seem to understand the question. Oliver knew exactly what she meant.

          It was strange, not having a memory of something, and then upon seeing or hearing or even smelling something, that memory would immediately surface. Someone living in town would regularly not know something, then instantly recognize and understand it.

          In this case, it was the knowledge of guns.

          An hour ago, give or take, Oliver had been cleaning his kitchen, oblivious to anything else. As he emptied his trash into the dumpster behind his restaurant, however, he heard three distinct pops that echoed through the night air.

Oliver hears a gunshot in the night.

          His mind knew immediately. Someone in town had a gun.

          “So,” he said, contemplating this new information. “Leonard has a gun, and a group of militant citizens. Fine. What does he plan to do?”

          Samantha looked at each of them for a moment and then sighed. “Remove you from your positions as the Main Six… permanently.”

          “That’s… troubling,” Bryan said, the color gone from his face.

          “We have one advantage left,” Rayland interjected, beckoning them toward the case on the conference table. “You see, I found the gun that Leonard has now. Originally I intended to keep it for my own protection, but he soon claimed it without my knowledge.”

          “So, how’s that an advantage?” Bryan asked.

          “Because I didn’t just find one gun.”

          Rayland opened the case, revealing to the group the contents.

          More guns. A lot more. Some of them looked quite modern, while others appeared to be straight out of a historical documentary.

Rayland shows off his complete gun collection.

          “What is this?” Flynn asked. “Where did you find these?”

          “The warehouse,” Rayland replied. “I was there helping with parts for a new helicopter one day. I was just trying to be a public figure, so I didn’t plan to stay long. That was when I found these. I said I didn’t see anything of interest and then I went back later to collect them.”

          “Is this your plan?” Oliver asked. “An old fashioned shootout? Are we to arm ourselves against Leonard’s goons?”

          “I don’t know,” Rayland answered, honestly. “My hope is that we can simply reveal that we have these weapons and it’ll make most of his men reconsider their stance on all of this.”

          Everyone was quiet for a moment, until Fynn suddenly slapped his hands on the table.

          “This is stupid,” he said firmly. “You can’t start waving these kinds of weapons around and think it’s going to resolve anything. Rayland, you know the only choice here is to negotiate with Olivia and end this standoff before Leonard makes everything worse for us.”

          “It’s likely too late for that,” Samantha chirped.

          “Not necessarily,” Oliver countered. “If we get Olivia on the radio and end this nonsense now, Leonard would be expected to stand down. If he denies the order, well… then he’ll be exposed as the one stepping out of line.”

          “I agree,” Bryan added.

          Rayland looked at the weapons in the black box and seemingly contemplated his original plan of escalation for far longer than anyone felt was comfortable. Finally, he looked to Samantha and gave a deep sigh. “Alright, get me someone at the Grid.”

          “We’ve got Rayland on the line,” one of the junior Explorers announced. “He’s asking to speak with whoever is in charge.”

          Olivia looked to Elsie, but she only shook her head in response.

          “I guess that’s me,” Olivia answered, taking the radio from the young man.

          “Olivia,” Rayland’s voice was gruff and strained. “Where’s Elsie?”

          “She has given me control of the Grid,” Olivia said, while Elsie nodded.

          “Fine,” Rayland said with a heavy sigh. “We have a situation.”

          “Yes Rayland, I’m aware.”

          “Not you and I. I mean we as citizens in town.”

          This gave Olivia pause. “What has happened?”

          “I… care deeply about my citizens. In my attempts to keep them safe, I realize I might have become overzealous toward you and the other explorers at the Grid.”

          Olivia was shocked by the words. “Rayland… are you apologizing?”

Olivia speaks with Rayland from the Grid.

          “I suppose I am.”

          “If I’d known breaking out of jail would give you such a change of heart, I would have done it right away.”

          Rayland’s voice was stifled and suddenly she was talking to Oliver.

          “The Mayor’s only apologizing because we’ve got a bigger problem over here. His little militia group is plotting to overthrow the council and take control of the town. The wheels are in motion, and the only thing that can stop it now is a prompt resolution to your conflict.”

          Olivia looked to Elsie. She only shrugged.

          “Alright. Assuming it’s really that easy, I have a few demands.”

          “Demands?” Bryan asked, his voice crackling quietly on the radio too. “We don’t have time for any more negotiations!”

          “The explorer missions will be allowed to continue,” Olivia said, ignoring Bryan’s outburst. “Additionally, Mission Control is to be reopened.”

          “Fine,” Rayland said. “What else?”

          “Your militia, whoever they are, are not to answer to you. If we really feel we need some kind of defense force, they should go through the whole council.”

          “We agree to that,” Flynn said in the background.

          “Excellent,” Olivia said. “On that note, I have only one other thing to say…”

          She took a moment to collect her thoughts. She could hear the tension through the radio static, but she stilled her mind and closed her eyes. “Rayland Walsh, I am sorry that I too responded with such ferocity to your concerns. In light of the concessions you have made here today, the Explorers have agreed not to send Explorer Two to the Upper Levels. We will do as you have asked. Starting today, we will leave that area of the World Ship unexplored.”

          There was silence on the radio for a long time.

          Finally, Rayland spoke. “I am… thankful for your decision.”

          “So,” she said. “I suppose we’ll need John to help start cleaning up this mess. Stay put Rayland. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”

          With the conflict seemingly resolved, Bryan, Oliver, Flynn, and Rayland all sat back in their chairs and gave a collective sigh.

          “Wait,” Samantha said. “That’s it?”

          “What?” Flynn asked.

          “I mean, Olivia said she’d do what you want. You said you’d do what she wanted.”

          Rayland nodded. “We have little say in the matter now.”

          “Unbelievable,” Samantha said. “You could have—”

          Her voice was silenced by the ding of the elevator.

          Someone had just arrived.

          Rayland stood and got his hands to the edge of the weapon chest when Leonard Calgray and two others from the militia rounded the corner, facing the group.

          “How marvelous,” Leonard said. “You’re all here.”

          For a moment, Leonard’s eyes darted to Samantha, who had been leaning against the wall until now. He raised a brow, then looked at the others, and it clicked in his mind.

Leonard approaches the town council.

          “You told them?” he asked, expressing disappointment.

          She nodded.

          “Ah, well, doesn’t matter anymore I guess,” Leonard said. He lifted his hand to reveal his gun; a dangerous and intimidating weapon. “I already won, anyway..”

          “Not exactly,” Rayland said. His hands lowered to rest on the edge of the case as he tried his best to look relaxed. Just a few inches away from his fingertips was an assortment of firearms, but unless he could grab one without Leonard seeing him, they might as well have been miles away.

          “Care to elaborate?” Leonard asked.

          “We already resolved the conflict with the Grid,” Bryan said. “Olivia has agreed to our conditions, and we’re going to focus on repairing the damage that was done among the citizens.”

          “It’s true,” Rayland agreed. “In truth, Leonard, you’re no longer needed.”

          Leonard shifted uneasily. “You’re lying. Olivia just escaped. There’s no way she cracked to any of your demands, and I know you wouldn’t give in to hers… unless… you arranged a surrender so you could stop me?”

          Rayland nodded slightly. “Bingo.”

          Flynn stood from his chair and stepped toward Leonard. “The point is, it’s time for you to stand down. Hand over that weapon and we’ll go from there.”

          Leonard glared at Flynn, but then he looked at the gun in his hands.

          “If you use it now,” Flynn added, “it won’t be a positive spin. You missed the window on your coup d’état. So you can let this go, or you can try to follow through and deal with the fallout that you’ll create.”

          Leonard still didn’t yield, at least not right away, and everyone in the room was feeling the tension that surrounded them. The militia leader had plans, which he had no doubt been crafting since his own arrival in town. To abandon it all here, at such a crucial moment, would spell doom for whatever else he had intended.

          “Well?” Flynn asked. “What’s it going to be?”

          Leonard had a final moment of hesitation, then lowered his weapon. He took a deep breath and then waved off his henchmen before heading back to the elevator alone. As the door closed behind him, everyone in the room, including the two other militiamen that had come, sighed in relief.

Leonard departs alone on the elevator.

          “Now it’s over,” Rayland said, looking like he might pass out. “It’s over.”

          Samantha frowned. She wasn’t so sure about that. Leonard was defeated, but he still had a dangerous weapon. Maybe it was over… maybe it wasn’t. Either way, she knew she was in for some sleepless nights.

To be continued…

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