Letters from the Waste: Part V is the fifth installment in the Puritan serial. In this installment, the leaders of the Order reveal the full spectrum of their powers: manipulation and death. Click here for the previous chapter.
Today, something unexpected happened. When I arrived home from work at the station, Maria Cret, Lionel’s mother, was waiting for me in my unit. At first, I didn’t recognize her. In fact, I threw my bag of groceries at her. Fortunately (or unfortunately), my aim was not very good.
She refused to leave when I asked her. I would have called the police, but I doubt that they would have been able to remove a Vicar without some kind of repercussions. Calming down a little, I was left with no choice but to listen to what she had to say. She had a lot to say.
She claims that she wants to ensure that my child, her grandchild, is raised correctly, even if her own son will not be involved in its life. Most of all, she wants to oversee my child’s education. Although all schools are supposed to be the same across the Order, there’s no denying that some are better than others. So that my child can thrive, she wants to make sure that they are slotted into the best school in New York, and Maria says that she can do it. She even claims to unofficially know a private tutor, someone to assist me by looking after the child until I get home from work.
Every bone in my body is telling me to turn down her offers. This woman is a snake. All the same, I have to think about my child and not just myself. If she can help my baby’s future, then I have to let her. Vicar Cret has an undeniable of influence, even at the Citadel. She’s only in New York for two more days, so I have to answer her soon. I think I’m going to have to accept her proposal.
Please tell me if you and dad think I’m crazy. I don’t know what to do. I can only hope for the best.
Executive Agency of the Order
The Order of the American States
Agent Lionel D. Cret August 1, 2061
Unit 7481912 Confidential and Personal
Dear Agent Cret:
You are offered a probationary appointment to the Executive Agency of the Order, Order of the American States as a field agent in the New York branch. You will be granted an automatic 1.5 designation. Should you accept the position, your probationary period will last for an interval of one year. During this period, you will be expected to maintain a consistent record, violating no EAO codes or laws of the Order.
Please advise the Agency at once of your intentions.
Fragment 0002, Anne Milton – d
I hope that my last letter did not worry you. Everything seems to be fine. Patriarch Wade and I have continued our studies for the past week without any problems. I thought that the work would be difficult to get into, switching from an agent to, for all intents and purposes, a politician, but things have come along naturally. He even has me drafting journal entries and, while it’s a bit too similar to secondary education, it’s still better than writing up field reports and demographic paperwork.
Again, I’m sorry for the tone of my last letter. I’m doing well and I can’t wait to tell you everything, when the time comes. Please respond soon. You still have not answered any of my previous letters, and I want to make sure that everything is alright.
I miss you. I miss waking up to your blue eyes every morning and coming home to your cooking at night. Not all of your cooking, but most of it. I miss the way you smile through your beard. I’m always thinking about you.
Fragment 0209; Journal Entry, Anne Milton – a
August 10, 2061
For the last three days, the Patriarch has been away on some sort of missionary expedition. He did not tell me where he was going. In the meantime, he has asked me to write up a private reflection about my training.
Training almost feels like a strange description for the things that we are doing. Every morning, often after breakfast with the Crets or Auxiliary Wellis, the Patriarch and I begin the day with a game of chess. I still have yet to beat him. According to him, “I focus too much of my attention on taking the Queen, instead of building my strategy around the real objective, the Kings.” In other words, my aggressive tactics have yet to beat his defensive ones. However, I have shown improvement, and Maria Cret has offered to show me some tricks.
We spend most of our time meditating in his private arboretum, a closed-off garden of trees and flowers that the Patriarch himself attends to. Since our first two meetings, I have not been allowed back in his personal study, with most of our sessions being conducted in the arboretum or his central office. While he’s been gone, I’ve worked primarily in the former; as beautiful as the Citadel is, it’s too dry and too hot to go outside. The coolness of the arboretum offers a pleasant reprieve from the heat.
I enjoy the meditation. Patriarch Wade explained to me that it was important to learn the value of silence, while at the same time not letting your mind go quiet. He says that only from silence and calm can the words we speak have true meaning.
Otherwise, we dedicate our time to fairly standard leadership activities. He has me working closely with Auxiliary Wellis, his most trusted counselor, who has been guiding me through the infrastructure and responsibilities at the top of the Order. The Patriarch has also been personally instructing me through a history of governance and leadership. He places a special emphasis on Machiavelli and the Renaissance. While I find these examples helpful, I find it more useful to consider the mistakes than the successes. The successes were often circumstantial and, while the failures often were as well, they allude to a specific trend: a failure to know the difference between one’s enemies and one’s allies. If I’m going to be the Patriarch’s successor, a still shaky topic – two days ago, the Patriarch asked me for the first time whether or not I even wanted to take his place, as though he had never considered the possibility that I might not; faced with such a responsibility, however, I can hardly say no – I’m going to have figure those things out for myself. Aside from the more practical benefits, he also makes passing allusions to his own personal history and takes great pleasure in sharing his cultural insights with me. He’s an eager fan of the “oldies,” pairing our discussions of the modern Order with the croonings of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. Despite public knowledge of his theatrical persona, I had always imagined him to be a fan of opera or classical concertos, but he prefers to mouth along to the lyrics of a song called “My Way.”
Throughout the training, the Patriarch has remained extremely supportive, even though I can tell that he sometimes gets frustrated. He almost seems to be waiting for something to happen, some kind of miracle to confirm his suspicions about my importance. Nevertheless, he has never directed his impatience towards me.
The other day, when we were returning to the Dome from a visit to the Citadel Archives, the central library containing all approved and standardized knowledge of the Order, we had just reached the top of the monument’s high steps. Vicar Crudup, a secondary Vicar of the Public Communications department, was waiting for us at the summit. The Vicar claimed that he needed to meet with the Patriarch to schedule a broadcasted address, in light of Germany’s election of a new Chancellor. However, the topic of conversation quickly, unwillingly, and without any subtlety turned to me. Vicar Crudup, acting as though he had just noticed me after making his requests to the Patriarch, introduced himself to me with a bow and a kiss on the hand, an already off-putting gesture. He then rambled to me that he had heard that the Patriarch was privately grooming me for a position of some importance, although there was some dispute amongst his colleagues as to whether that position was political or romantic. Failing at any coyness and gathering nothing from the Patriarch’s grim countenance, the Vicar then attempted to save some face, noting that “you can’t blame my colleagues for their confusion; there are so few female Vicars or administrators, and especially fewer as beautiful as you. And, if you don’t mind my saying, you are still an unknown quantity in the Citadel, Ms. Milton.” Before I could reply, the Patriarch offered the Vicar’s fountain pen and signed paperwork back to him. Crudup successfully returned the paperwork to the messenger bag at his side, but Patriarch Wade refused to release the pen, as both held onto either end. With his free hand, Wade clasped Crudup’s wrist, pulling himself closer. Through a tightened jaw, Wade insisted, “It’s Agent Milton, Vicar. Yes? Now, will you be needing anything else?” Crudup shook his head, turning his eyes to the ground, and the Patriarch released him. Before the Vicar could return his pen to his shirt pocket, the pen shattered in his grip. “No! In fact, I’ll be going now,” the nervous man exclaimed, shocked back to reality and desperately insisting on maintaining his wavering smile. He cradled his left hand, red with blood and black with ink, and shook it out into the hostile air. I watched the Vicar back up, still facing us and placing one foot onto the first stair down. I watched as he failed to find footing on the second step, his polished shoes rocking around for balance and finding none. I looked on as the man fell backward, tumbled all the way to the bottom of the eighty-seven marble steps, and several people at the bottom rushed to his side. I myself moved to rush down after him, but the Patriarch grabbed my arm. “Did you do that to him?” I asked. Observing the man writhe in pain on the ground, he only answered, “you will never let anyone talk to you like that again.” He released my arm and walked into the Dome, not looking back. I followed him. I later learned that Crudup was lucky to have only broken his hip and collarbone, as well as a minor concussion. Patriarch Wade and I never discussed the incident further.
The one thing that I still can’t understand is the strange letters being sent to me. I assume that they are a part of the training, since one contained a copy of my test results, but I have yet to question him about them. They are not even addressed to the right person.
Fragment 0158 – e
Today, I came to a decision regarding your proposal. While I rejected it in the past and know that you have no reason to trust me, I’ve had a recent change of heart. I want to assist you with your private initiative. The Puritan has done wonderful things. He has also done terrible things, which he has managed to keep out of the public eye for far too long.
Yesterday, I accompanied him to Seattle after a brief stop in Los Angeles. In recent months, he has been unwilling to tell me the purposes behind most of his travel plans, and the same was true for our flight to California. However, Seattle was an exception to his secrecy. He willingly informed me that we were going to deal with a group of insurgents, reported to be very vocal and subversive to the efforts of the Order. He told me that he intended to deal with them personally, most of all because we didn’t need to risk the lives of any agents of the Order.
In many ways, initially, I admired him for the selflessness of his thinking. The APK had supposedly received credible intel that the rebels, who referred to themselves as “the Liberators of Truth,” were working on manufacturing a bomb in an abandoned warehouse just outside the city limits. Until now, the group had never resorted to any kind of violence. They only stole resource allotments and vandalized public monuments. Patriarch Wade claimed that he hoped to de-escalate the situation before they did anything more drastic. “To be a murderer is a burden that few should ever have to suffer, an unforgivable state. They don’t have to be that,” he mused. “We will not only save the lives of our citizens; maybe we can save these people’s souls too.”
Arriving in Seattle, the Patriarch had me personally drive him out to the warehouse. He told me to wait in the car, out of the rain, and to try not to worry about him too much. And I didn’t have a reason to. I know what he’s capable of. But when I heard that first gunshot, I couldn’t help myself. I took out my gun – old habits die hard – and snuck around the rusted, metal sides of the warehouse to the back entrance.
No one was guarding the back. I peered around the corner inside, to see what might have happened, still not quite ready to intervene.
In the warehouse, there were families and children. A group of armed adults surrounded the Puritan, who stood with his arms raised in the air, as though he were surrendering. One of the people near him, probably the one who fired the gun, was sprawled lifeless on the ground. I thought I could make out a pool of blood slowly growing around his head.
I went to move inside, when Wade suddenly began shouting at them. I hesitated, listening, crouching once again outside the warehouse, where no one could see me but I could watch everything. I had clearly missed half of the conversation. He began by pointing at the dead body, yelling “I didn’t want to have to do that! None of you seem to understand. I don’t hate you or your way of life. You’re all important, valuable lives, so I don’t want you dead. I never wanted you dead! I just want people like you gone. You’ve made it impossible for yourselves to serve as a part of the Order. There’s no place for you in my society. I want you to leave. To run or to hide. To get out or to shut up. Honestly, I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I mean, seriously, why can’t I, why can’t we just have a little bit of … peace? Can’t you see that’s all that I’ve ever wanted, that everything I’ve ever done, has been for that? Peace! Can’t we have that? Won’t you just go home? The reports were wrong, there’s no bomb, so things don’t have to get worse. Just surrender. It’s easier. It’s so much easier.” The Patriarch’s voice quivered with palpable sorrow. No one answered. No one lowered their guns. I don’t know what they were fighting for, but they wouldn’t yield. His nose wrinkled in disgust. “I won’t warn you again,” he growled. A child whimpered, a baby cried, a woman shouted, “fuck you!”
Every armed person in the building lifted off the ground, clutching at their throats, as though they were drowning in midair. Then, in unison, a horrifying crack broke upon the high ceiling, as in unison their heads snapped to the side, their necks and spines broken. Their empty flesh slammed into the ground. I thought that it was over. I turned to run back to the car. Then, someone screamed.
Stopping in my tracks, I watched as the broken bodies stood up clumsily, pulled by the strings of an invisible puppeteer. They were all still holding their weapons. The Patriarch held his arms out towards them, his fingers writhing in the air like the legs of a spider. The doors of the warehouse slammed shut on all sides, trapping everyone within. I could not see anything that happened next. But I could hear gunshots and people screaming. The only thing I could do was run back to the car and wait, trying to calm myself.
Less than an hour later, the Puritan emerged in an opened doorway at the front of the warehouse, balancing himself in the doorway. He marched toward me and got in the car without a word. I took my place in the driver’s seat. “I thought I could save them, but I couldn’t,” the Puritan mustered, wiping away tears. I had never noticed how old he was until he settled down into that passenger seat, the tears tracing their way down his tightly wrinkled cheeks. “They killed themselves,” he managed. “Send a report to the EAO, have them collect the bodies. There are still children inside, alive; they need to be taken care of, re-educated so that they can function again outside of this … cult.” I clutched the wheel. “Let’s go!” he yelled at me, setting the gear to drive without even touching the handle. Turning on the siren, I took us directly to his private plane. We flew back to the Citadel immediately. The whole time, he and I did not talk beyond those first few words.
I hope that telling you this will show you that you can trust me. He and I have been colleagues, even friends, for a decade now. Something has changed in him. The Patriarch must be removed from power.
The Wheel must turn onward.
Trusting in you,
Report: Los Angeles, #004
From: Los Angeles, Unit 2653589
To: The Dome, The Citadel
Contents: 1 Cadaver
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 86.1 kilograms
Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Blue
Notable Features: Facial hair