It went over about as well as he expected. After the cursing and yelling was starting to die down, James Ellison, ever the calm, natural leader, finally spoke up.
“Okay, I think we all need to take a deep breath and relax. Conductor, or whatever your real name is, you have to know this is a lot to take in for all of us. This is our life’s work you’re talking about. Please explain what you mean by ‘The Keepers are no more’.”
“James, thank you as always for being the voice of reason. But I mean exactly that. This group assembled today will be the last group of ‘Keepers’. It’s time for the young people of the world to take over and decide their own fate. I know from meeting with them that the world is in good hands.”
For the first time today, Hideki stood up and began to speak.
“Enough. Conductor, I’m sure you mean well. You are incredibly important to the success of this group, I have no doubt. But you are one man. Look around this room. There are twelve active members here along with nine of our recruits. You may have gotten to Sebastian, Marie and Shin, but we are still the majority. I had plans to retire and hand over my operation to Shin. Just like you planned by the way. Now you want to end it all? Why? A guilty conscience all of a sudden? No, nothing is ending. Shin will come back to me too. He trusts me. We will continue without you if we must. I’m sure I speak for the rest of us in this room that I will stay on as long as necessary to find a replacement for you and continue or work. We have a mission and it is bigger than all of us. Including you.”
As Hideki took a seat, there was a renewed confidence in the room. They did have the numbers and the collective knowledge and experience to keep this thing going. The Conductor was just one man. Who was he to say it was all over?
“Hideki, I understand your frustration. I understand all of you being upset right now. But you have to trust me that this is for the best. I want this to be a group decision though. I’m going to step outside and let you discuss this as a group.”
With that, The Conductor walked towards the front door. Before exiting though, he pointed his clicker at the projector and turned the slideshow back on. He wasn’t even out the door before the arguing and yelling continued inside the room.
After a couple of minutes the familiar images on the slide show were interrupted by what appeared to be a local news station.
The first was a story about an explosion and fire at a oilfield supply warehouse. Apparently everything inside was destroyed. In the middle of that breaking news, the slideshow switched to a different new station. This time a reporter was talking as an aerial view of what looked like an old silo engulfed in flames was on the screen. As Lynn and James tried to get over the shock at their respective secret locations being destroyed, each member in the room looked on as story after story from news stations around the globe reported apparent random buildings being lost to fire or explosions.
The current members were so upset and preoccupied with what was happening on the screen that most didn’t notice that there were now more of The Conductor’s guards in the room than usual, six to be precise. Wilhelm was the first to recognize this and made the mistake of making eye contact with one of them. He could have sworn that despite the veil covering his face, he could detect the slightest of smiles on the guards face. Just then one of them closed and locked the door. The six guards slowly walked towards the table, Wilhelm too shaken to be able to warn the others.
“Mother of God”, were the last words uttered by a member of ‘The Keepers’.