Alex and Stephen had both played out this scene in their minds over the years. They knew that they were playing a dangerous game with a group of people who have never lost. Now here they were, with Stephen driving down the highway, Alex in the passenger seat, and a stranger in the back holding a gun on them both.
“Look, I don’t know who you think…”
“I know exactly who you are”, the man in the back said before Alex could continue. “And you know who I am. At least you know who I work for.”
They did know who he was with, and knowing there was no way of talking their way out of this situation, Alex just shut up. As Stephen drove, Alex occasionally glanced in the rear view mirror, careful not to make eye contact but trying to get a good look at their captor. He knew he had never seen his face before, but there was something about the man’s eyes that drew Alex’s attention. The man couldn’t have been more than 30 or 35, but his eyes were that of a much older man. A man who had seen and experienced much more than his age could have. Alex imagined that he may have been a soldier that was recruited by ‘The Keepers’ for missions such as this, and they wouldn’t hire anyone but the best. But there was something else. As he pondered where this guy came from, the man in the back suddenly spoke up.
“Okay, take this next exit. When you get to the red light, take a left. There is a car wash on your right. Pull into the first stall.”
Stephen did just that, and a few minutes later, they were in the car wash bay. Stephen was instructed to turn off the engine and he did that as well.
No one said a word for several long seconds. Alex wondered if his friend was having the same thoughts he was. Neither man was very religious, but both were saying every silent prayer they knew as the deafening silence continued.
“I guess congratulations are in order”, the stranger finally said.
The two confused men in the front just turned and looked at each other, both too afraid to respond.
“Five thousand years. Give or take”, the man continued. “That’s how long our little group has been around. And for five thousand years there have been people like you trying to bring us down. Most of them, like you two I assume, were well intentioned. After all, a single group of people with this much power must be stopped right?”
Alex and Stephen obviously agreed with this sentiment, but were not about to speak up right now. Besides, it felt like this man had something to tell them, so they just let him talk.
“But people like you don’t know the whole story. You don’t know what it was like in the beginning. If we hadn’t done what was needed, everything would be gone. Everyone would be gone. The world was in chaos. Order was needed and that was what we provided. Imagine if you were wandering around the desert, no food or water. The few animals that were left were being slaughtered left and right by starving people just like you. People going back to their primal instincts, doing anything to survive. It was brutal.”
For the first time, Alex wasn’t afraid to look directly in the rear view mirror at this strange man. If he didn’t know any better he would swear that this man was talking from experience about these times after ‘The Event’. Then it clicked with Alex. Yes, this man’s eyes held the wisdom and confidence of a much older experienced man. But there was something else. A deep sadness. Alex no longer felt afraid, but remarkably he began to feel sorry for the man who was holding them at gunpoint.
“Now, imagine in the midst of all this mayhem, there emerged a group of people that had all the answers. They could grow food where it was thought impossible. They cured their sick, they raised animals for meat. They provided potable water and reliable shelter. Most importantly they were able to defend themselves against the many smaller groups of people that were ravaging the weaker ones. If there was a group of people like that, which side would you be on?”
Alex and Stephen listened in amazement. They began to realize that this was no paid assassin sent to take them out. This was an actual member. And if they had to guess, a high ranking one at that. But what was most amazing was that this man was not lecturing to them about how important ‘The Keepers’ were to modern civilization. He was seemingly trying to justify their existence.
“That sounds like a very noble idea”, Alex meekly replied. “But why hold onto all this information for all these years? How many people died unnecessarily so that your group could remain a secret?”
Looking out the car window, almost talking to himself, the man answered. “You have no idea, my friend. The vast majority of wars and assassinations in modern history were directly related to our group. Throughout the years there would be groups of people that thought they knew the truth about us. We even had a few members decide that our mission wasn’t right and took the information that they had to outside groups. But no one really had all the information. In the end we always won.”
While Alex and Stephen knew the power that ‘The Keepers’ had, hearing all of this from someone so high up was still a shock. But confusion was starting to sink in as well. If he was there to eliminate the threat that they posed, they would be dead right now. Finally Stephen had to speak up.
“So, what are you going to do with us? If you wanted to kill us, you could have done it back at the garage.”
The man in the backseat, still looking out the car window, but now with the gun sitting in the seat beside him, had a strange, peaceful look on his face as he considered the question.
“All these years. So many secrets, so many deaths. We have come so close to being unmasked yet here we are. We served our purpose though. I believe that.”
Alex didn’t know if he was talking to them or trying to convince himself. Before he could respond the man continued.
“So you say you want to pull back the curtain? You want to expose the lies and the truths that the world as we know it was built upon?”
“I think people deserve to know the truth”, Alex answered.
Pete Carmichael, for one of the few times that he could remember, actually laughed out loud.
“The truth? Careful what you wish for Alex. But I think you’re right. People do deserve to know the truth. And I’m here to help you make that happen.”