Sebastian had seen enough movies over the years that he knew what he was supposed to do. Which is why when James put the blindfold on him and they started driving, he took note of how many turns they took and how long they were driving. Then it dawned on him that it was a pointless exercise seeing as he had no idea where he was in the first place. He decided to just relax and wait for them to reach their destination.
James didn’t say much during the ride, only occasionally asking him if the blindfold was too tight. After approximately twenty minutes he felt the car come to a stop and James put the car in park.
“We’re here. When we get inside you can take off the blindfold. I know it might seem like overkill, but this is the way it’s done. You’ll just have to trust me.”
Sebastian kept quiet and took James’ arm and followed him on a concrete sidewalk. He had no idea what time it was, but the only sounds he could hear were occasional vehicles passing by. He didn’t know if passersby could see him from the road, but he imagined how silly he must look.
“Ok, we’re about to enter the front door”, James told him. “Follow me another few steps and we will enter another door. Once we’re inside I’ll remove the blindfold. It will be worth the wait I assure you.”
Sebastian wasn’t so sure, but followed along anyway. He was just ready to get this over with. The good news was his headache had subsided, although he had been in the dark for so long now, that he almost dreaded the light of day. He heard James open the second door and he followed him into a room. James then pulled out a chair and directed Sebastian to take a seat.
“So can I take this off now or what?”, Sebastian asked. Just then he heard what sounded like a room full of people trying to hold back laughter. He froze in place, not knowing where exactly it was that James had taken him.
James, not able to keep a straight face much longer, said, “Yeah, you can take it off now.”
So he did. That’s when he discovered that they were not alone. There were eleven other young men and women around his age sitting at the table. There also seemed to be roughly that many people standing in the background of the room, who all appeared to be around James’ age.
“It’s about time you two showed up”, Marcus Matthews exclaimed. “We were getting ready to send out a search party.”
“Easy, Marcus. The kid took a little longer than usual to wake up. But we’re here now, so let’s get to it.”
As the others in the room all began to take their seats, James reached for the conference phone system that was sitting on the table. He turned it on, and even though Sebastian couldn’t hear anyone on the other end, he could sense that someone was indeed going to be listening in on their conversation. In a group as secretive as ‘The Keepers’, it had to be someone important.
James then walked toward the head of the table and everyone in the room gave him their undivided attention.
“First off, I want to thank all of you for your patience during all of this. I know that you’ve been asked to sacrifice a lot to get here, but trust me when I say, there is a reason for all of it. By now I’m sure you all have a pretty good idea what’s being asked of you. All of you fit a specific criteria and have been thoroughly vetted by the men and women in this room. We have no doubt that all of you will be outstanding assets to our group, and when you’re ready, we will step aside and the future will be in your hands. But until that day comes, don’t worry. The men and women who have recruited you have been in your shoes. They know how overwhelming this can be. They will be there even after the transition if an emergency should arise. However, it is our hope and our goal, that after this training period is over, that you will have all the tools necessary to lead our group into the next generation.”
As James was pacing around the room, Sebastian took the time to scan the people at the table. They all appeared to be around the same age as him. There was nothing noticeably spectacular about any of them. There were seven men and five women. Based on the limited conversation going on around the room, they were all speaking English, but there were distinct accents among them. He was guessing that one of the young women was French, and one young man was more than likely Japanese. There were a couple of other American accents in the group along with several other dialects. ‘The Keepers’ appeared to have every corner of the globe covered.
“But that’s not all”, James continued. “All of you eventually will be responsible for your own territory. We all work together for the common good of the world and the group, but consider yourselves independent contractors. I know what you’re thinking. How have we survived this long with no clear pecking order? Well, to avoid utter chaos, we do have a leader. And, no, it’s not me. I just drew the short straw and had to give this little speech today. In fact, our leader is not physically in this room today. Isn’t that right sir?”
Just then a voice from the conference phone spoke up. “I’m not there in person, but I’m there in spirit. Good morning James. I trust that everyone is present?”
“Yes sir. All members and their recruits are here and ready to go.”
“Good to hear”, the voice replied. “Good morning everybody. I want to begin by saying welcome to the family. I’ve personally looked at each of your profiles and observation reports from your recruiters and I have faith that each of you are ready for what’s in store. The men and women who are going to be training you during this phase are exceptional in their own right. The world might never know their names and actions, but the people in this room have shaped the course of human history for the last few decades, as will you in the coming ones. There will be no glory in what you do, only the knowledge that what you are doing makes the world a better place. I salute you all.”
Sebastian looked around the room once more, knowing that the men and women at this table would be his partners for the rest of his life. The gravity of the situation was beginning to sink in.
“I guess I should introduce myself”, the voice continued. “You’ll never know my real name, but you will hear your mentors refer to me as The Conductor. It is an honorary position, created thousands of years ago. You guys in that room do all of the hard work. Consider me more of an office manager. I hand out assignments and put out fires when they come up, but at the end of the day, the men and women on the ground are the responsible ones. I will be here for you in the beginning, but I am in fact in the process of training my own successor. When the time comes, you will go to him for guidance and any issues that come up. But for now, each of you will go with your mentor, listen to everything he or she says and you will be fine. There will be bumps in the road for sure, but we are a team. We will not let you fail. So, until we speak again, good luck to all of you.”
And with that, the line went silent. James walked back to the middle of the table and turned off the conference phone.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get used to that. He’s not one for saying goodbye. I’m sure his successor will be the same. Alright, we’re going to step out of the room for a bit, make sure everything is ready. Why don’t you guys take time to introduce yourselves to each other. After all, you guys are all on the same team now.”
James, Marcus and the other current members left the room, leaving the recruits all alone. When the door closed, each person sitting at the table began to get up and introduce themselves to each other. The next generation of ‘The Keepers’ was born.