Tess had alerted all the instructors as soon as the traitorous Council member revealed himself, but knew she was in the best position to oversee efforts to protect the Start Guide trainees. She stood atop the podium in the mess hall at the Bass Lake Compound, the tip of her tail flicking back and forth, beating a staccato rhythm on the wood. As the focal point in the process of sealing all compounds off from everyone who was not expressly authorized to be there her eyes were unfocused, glassy with the effort of answering the dozens of questions being hurled at her telepathically; many of which she couldn’t answer.
“What about Sebastian?” someone asked. Her jaw tightened as she responded with: “All Council members are considered unauthorized until proven otherwise.” It might be an unnecessary precaution, but it was unlikely Hightower was working alone.
“How do we know we haven’t already been breached?” Came from another.
“We’re on the lookout for people who are too tightly guarded. Any we find will be appropriately …handled.” Judging by Hightower’s behavior, she was fairly sure his attentions had been elsewhere when the children were moved, but it didn’t hurt to remain watchful.
Sadly, there had been a great many secrets among the Star Guides and Guardians of late since many outside Council were no longer confident their leaders acted in everyone’s best interests. Learning a member of the Council was directly involved in the current crisis came as a surprise only to those Council members who had been refusing to acknowledge what was happening under their noses.
“How long do you think the Council’s been compromised?” A familiar voice joined the conversation; one she knew had more answers than she, but also more questions. How many indeed? Years? Decades? Centuries?
“If you ask me, what we’re seeing is the result of a very long, concerted effort. It probably started well before many of our illustrious Council members had even been born.” Phil’s words were softened by a tone meant to comfort, though Tess’s senses were set on high alert and unlikely to find release any time soon. Sensing the tension, Phil added: “You know you don’t have to take ALL the responsibility for present circumstances, nor is it your job to fix it.”
“If you ask me, this resistance was born about the same time as the first, subtle signs humanity was gearing up for the Transition appeared; some five or six centuries ago. How had they managed to remain hidden for so long? How long had they managed to infiltrate the Council and influence its agenda? Even Hightower’s position had changed hands a few times since then. How did I miss the clues?”
“There ya go, taking the entire world on your shoulders again. All 4 feet of you against the world, eh?” Tess couldn’t help but grin. Phil was right. She had a team and needed to let them do their jobs.
She knew Council’s growing ineffectualness had caused smaller groups of Star Guides and Guardians to work secretly to ensure those with the strongest skills were working in tandem to enhance individual abilities. As a result, many of them had become adept at sharing their power, thus multiplying a single person’s power and range exponentially. Their close interaction had resulted in several marriages, thereby enhancing the gene pool, and, presumably, giving birth to children whose Gifts would surpass those of their parents. Most, if not all the children currently residing in the three compounds were the direct result of this unexpected but valuable enhancement. The results of their natural science experiment were already becoming apparent as the partially trained students were showing evidence of skills which had evolved beyond those of their highly Gifted teachers.
As the timetable for training these Gifted young people continued to shorten, Tess and the Star Guides and Guardians doing double duty as instructors were confronted with a disturbing reality. Their own skills and what their trainees managed to assimilate were the only thing standing in the way of the efforts to derail the Transition. Their children and the planet could not survive more than another decade or two of the continued abuse these people wanted to perpetuate.
Phil and his team materialized in the mess hall, shaking Tess from her mournful assessment of the situation and her indecision about how to present the team’s findings. The building became a loving chaos as the rebels were alternately hugged and scolded. Many forgot to shield their thoughts in the excitement and soon, the missing Star Guides’ children arrived to add to the confusion.
Tess uttered a soft, relieved sigh that Phil was now here to brief everyone more thoroughly about their discoveries while detained in the mine, Temporarily free of the barrage of questions filling her mind, Tess spun off into another direction, allowing less pressing concerns to bombard her like a roomful of small children clamoring for attention. As one thought jumped to the forefront, Tess froze, realizing they were guilty of a serious and potentially disastrous omission.
Their efforts to protect and rectify the lack of training for the next generation had been accomplished quickly and efficiently. However, they had made a mistake which, unless corrected immediately, could still put the Transition in jeopardy.
“Good lord! We’re only training and protecting the human offspring”.
Meeting Phil’s eyes, Tess saw he had scanned the compound and reached the same conclusion, though his brow raised when he caught her unfiltered exclamation. Though fewer in number than their human counterparts, there was a significant number of children who were related to Tess, Sebastian, Claude and a number of others whose unique skill sets needed to be developed and protected as well if they expected to succeed in protecting the Transition from the Resistance movement they’d belatedly uncovered.
Fragmenting her attention with new problems did little to help people who depended on her to provide guidance and direction. Right now, they needed to learn as much as they could about Hightower’s friends. With a physical effort, she pulled her mind back to the present after adding a couple of items to the day’s agenda. Deciding the information gathered by Phil’s team was the logical place to start, she jumped to the floor, relinquishing the podium to Phil.
Adjusting his mental focus to transmit on a very narrow band which included only those in the three compounds, Phil took a moment to gather his thoughts before he began.
“As many of you know by now, a group of us, after failing to light a fire under our illustrious Council...” he paused while laughter and pithy comments followed his words. “…took it upon ourselves to investigate some anomalies surrounding the town of Adamsville. Our tenure as “guests” of our as yet unidentified hosts yielded some very disturbing news. Your presence here indicates our apparent incarceration moved a couple of Council members to action. Thanks to Tess’s efforts…”
From across the room, someone muttered good-naturedly “browbeating, you mean.”
Grinning, Phil acknowledged the fact that Tess’s methods for getting what she wanted were somewhat legendary.
“Ok” he amended, “Thanks to Tess’s browbeating, Sebastian and Ariadne recognized the importance of getting our kids to safety unobtrusively, in order to rectify their Council mandated training deficiencies. Though the very sophistication of the organization prevented our identifying the person or people behind what we now recognize as a Resistance movement, the same sophistication allowed us to narrow down the field for at least one of its leaders. Some of those who were with us in the mine have already begun following leads to identify which of our three possibilities is the actual culprit. Through him, we hope to identify his co-conspirators, though I understand at least one has already exposed himself. One thing we know is this is a very sophisticated, highly organized group. It is absolutely crucial for us to identify all members of their central command. It is equally imperative that we understand where the town of Adamsville figures into their plans.”
“So, who are we looking for, Phil?” The question prompted Tess to re-take the floor.
“Recent developments have created a need to give key pieces of information to a select few. We will create specialized units tasked with specific responsibilities. We also ask, at the discretion of those selected, you include trainees who show evidence of skills useful in accomplishing your assigned task, and…” She held up a hand as the room erupted, stemming the impending rush to take up the new tasks: ”… who have mastered their shielding and mental broadcasting skills sufficiently to prevent their compromising your part in the investigation.”
An upraised paw was all Tess needed to halt another outbreak of side conversations. Knowing everyone was impatient to take action, she chose her words carefully knowing what she had to impart was going to shock everyone to their core. It was important to mitigate any knee-jerk reactions before they damaged the trust everyone needed to have for each other.
“Let me preface this by saying the cancer I am about to reveal has not made it...