nebris: (The Temple 2)
[personal profile] nebris
~Sarah was flying first class because she could. And because the flight into LAX was eleven hours over the North Pole and she may never do this again. Even though she had a round trip ticket, she was not returning to London any time soon. Besides, rent per se was not an issue where she was heading, so why not splurge.

There were other considerations, as well. One way coach tickets on international flights into the US drew unwanted attention. A well dressed attractive white female flying first class with two suitcases full of fairly high end clothing drew an entirely different type of attention.

She used her poshest English accent, smiled at everyone, limited herself to two glasses of champagne, and slept through half the flight. No flags.

Going through Customs she kept the mantra of Pleasant and Patient in her mind. She was surprised at how free that made her feel. She smiled genuinely at the large black woman who asked her 'the purpose of her visit'.

“Sun and fun,” she said with a hint of mischief.

The woman grinned, looked at Sarah's pale skin and said, “Easy on the sun, honey,” and stamped her passport. “Welcome to Southern California.”

As she exited the International baggage claim area, she saw a familiar face; Sara – who always said “No H.” – with her sweet toothy grin. She was very blonde, tan, toned, and tattooed, wearing beat up sneakers, jean cut-offs, a tie-dyed tank top, and sunglasses. The quintessential Californian.

They laughed and hugged for the first time in real life. Sara smelled of soap and sweat. It was comforting and erotic.

“The flight okay?” said Sara.

“I played genial royalty the whole way,” Sarah laughed. “It was amazing how well it worked.”

She noticed that Sara had a Bluetooth earpiece and that her sunglasses were a high end designer's.

“Those are pretty nice,” she remarked.

“Michael is a big believer in the proper image.” She pulled up her tank top a bit to reveal her belt. “Check this out.”

Sarah cooed. “Wow!” The belt was a beautifully hand tooled leather with a gorgeous silver and turquoise buckle. She almost missed the brand new Super Phone clipped to the thing.

Sara grinned. “He gave it to me, called it a Bad Girl present.” They both laughed at that.

Sara grabbed the baggage cart. “Follow me.” They went out of the Bradley Terminal and into the warm, bright California sunshine, which felt wonderful on Sarah's skin. She lifted her face to the light. “Mmmmm,” she murmured, which got a knowing grin from Sara. Then across the street to the parking structure.

They wound up at a small 4x4 hybrid hatchback. On the hatchback door, opposite an American flag sticker, Sarah saw another sticker, green and gold with a star, saying, “Member California State Sheriff's Association”.

“What's that?” she said, pointing.

“An excellent investment,” said Sara. “Remember, we're building a new society. That includes law enforcement. Saves on traffic tickets, too.”

Sarah thought about that, looked around at the brightness flooding into the edges of the parking structure. “Through the looking glass,” she thought.

After they put her bags in back, Sara said, “It's a two hour drive.”

“I peed right after Customs,” Sarah replied.

“Then let's mount up”

As soon as they seated themselves in the vehicle Sara reached over and opened the glove box. She fiddled with something and a back panel popped open. She retrieved two zip lock plastic bags, handing one of them to Sarah. It contained a Super Phone and Bluetooth earpiece just Sara's.

“That's yours,” Sara said, while pulling a very intense looking necklace from the other bag, all heavy industrial links, decorated with blue and red swirls and with a large gem-like setting at the center.

“What the hell is that?” Sarah said.

“A wearable computer and Comm link,” Sara said. “Standard Temple issue.” She tapped her earpiece. “This is Fi-Gee back on the net.” She looked at Sarah. “Can't wear the in the airport unless you allow Homeland Security to monitor your traffic.” She made a face.” We're not big on that.”

The Super Phone that Sarah held in her hand peeped at her. She looked at its screen and saw herself, albeit from an odd angle.

Sara grinned, pointed to the 'gem' on her necklace. “It's a web cam and live up-link to our net.” Her earpiece made whispering noises. “Yes, the package has arrived safely,” Sara said to the air, then to Sarah, ”Put on your earpiece. Someone wants to talk to you.”

She did so and that warm deep voice she knew so well spoke, “Welcome to the Southland, my dear.”

“Thank you,” she purred. “It's so bright.”

The voice laughed. “It's even brighter up here, but with that Romanian blood of yours I expect you'll tan nicely.”

“Yes,” she said softly.

“The flight went well?”

“Yes. I did what you said and everything went amazingly.”

“See, I'm always right and I never lie.”

Sarah laughed at that.

“Well, I just wanted to touch base, make sure you're okay. We'll talk some more when you settle in up here.”

“Thank you.”

“Kisses, darling.”

“Kisses .” The link went silent.

“We're underway now,” Sara said to her link, and started the vehicle.

Pulling out of LAX Sara said, “He told me to take the scenic route. It's a little bit longer, but it avoids the 405.”

“The four oh five?”

“Yeah. The Santa Monica Freeway. It's a total ratfuck south of the Sepulveda pass.”

“Ratfuck.” Sarah laughed. “You're picking up all his old New York expressions.”

Sara grinned. “Yup.”

They headed north on Sepulveda Boulevard. Sarah had been to LA fifteen years earlier and it looked essentially the same, if a bit more built up. Some things had changed though.

“Is it just me or are there a lot of police around?”

“There are lots of cops around,” Sara said. “Probably because of the Freeway Sniper.”

“Fuck.”

“No worries,” Sara smiled. “He's only shooting at Asian males out on the 118.”

“How reassuring.”

“Michael thinks he's some white supremacist with China issues. Not too bright however. He shot a Guatemalan bookkeeper the other day.”

Sarah made a face. “Why the Chinese? They're no real threat at this point. I mean, they had a civil war with nukes, for shit's sake! Then lost Sinkiang and Tibet. Plus that whole nightmare in Korea.” She shuddered at that last thought.

“We're getting a lot of refugees from China and Korea here in LA. The pinheads are worried about losing jobs that don't even exist.”

Sarah just sighed.

They reached the Sepulveda Pass. Going over Sarah looked to left and could see the 405 jamming up. Sara notices.

“There's no real reason for that at this time of day. Except human nature,” She said. "We like to believe we're autonomous but we are consistently reacting to things that we do not consciously notice.”

“Knowledge of self must come before all else,” Sarah said.

Sara laughed. “Quoting our great and glorious guru?”

“So I am,” Sarah grinned.

“I'll let him know. It'll make him happy.” They both chuckled at that.

Heading up Sepulveda Boulevard to the San Fernando Valley Sarah began to see a fair amount of boarded up and burned out buildings. She had watched the riots on TV the previous summer.

“I was worried about all of you during the rioting.”

“We were okay. You could smell the smoke for a few days, but they never got near us. Besides, we're pretty heavily armed up there.”

“Yes, he said I have to learn how to shoot.”

“We are an amazon warrior cult after all. But we'll start you off with the little plunkers and you can work your way up to the assault rifles.”

Sarah looked around at the semi-ruined neighborhood. “Are we safe going through here?”

“Sure.” Sara tapped the inside of the door. “This baby is lined with Kevlar and the glass is bullet resistant.”

“Welcome to Southern California,” Sarah muttered.

At the far end of the Valley they got into the freeway and were soon winding their way through canyons and scrub desert hills climbing steadily upward. They passed substantial areas of fire blackened terrain that was now sprouting greenery.

“A lot of burning around here I see,” Sarah said.

“It's supposed to burn out here,” Sara replied. “Seasonal fire is part of the ecology. But when you build into this area...”

“They want to stop it from burning and when it finally does burn, it burns even harder and totally out of control.”

“Exactly. That is one of the positive side effects of a collapsed economy. The building has stopped.”

“I never came up here before, I mean when I lived in LA.”

“It has its own special beauty.”

“Yes,” said Sarah softly.

They drove in silence for a while as Sarah watched the landscape go by. In some places the freeway was carved straight through solid rock. In others, it passed through small valleys dotted with a few buildings, usually modest sized ranches sitting at the foot of a hillside. She was always amazed at how huge America actually was. Even this drive, short by local standards, covered a distance equal to nearly three quarters the length of England.

After about half an hour they come to the top of a ridge and a huge valley opened up before them. To their immediate left was a large concrete waterway and to the right was an artificial lake, both sparkling in the bright California sun.

Sarah held her breath for a second, then exclaimed, “It's beautiful!”

“Welcome to the Antelope Valley,” Sara said. “That's the California Aqueduct on our left and that's Lake Palmdale on the right.”

“It's greener than I expected.”

“Been raining more up here. Global warming, you know.”

Sarah made a face. “But wouldn't that make it drier?”

“That's what I would have thought, too. But it seems that because the Pacific is hotter, its storms are stronger, so they push further inland, more north and east, so we get more rain up here.”

“Duh,” Sarah said with a laugh. “How many times have I heard bout typhoon damage to Southern California in the past few years. Never thought it through.”

“You have to look at the patterns,” Sara said, then grinned. “Trust me, you're going to hear that a lot around the Karaal. That's his big mantra; 'Look at the patterns! Look at the patterns!'”

“I thought his big mantra was 'It's no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society?”

“It is. But he'll tell you seeing the patterns helps you to understand just how sick it is. And also how it is sick.”

“He is fucking relentless, isn't he?”

Sara laughed. “Yes, he is. But no worries. He's big believer in chilling out, too. Some of the festivals can get pretty wild.”

“So I've heard,” Sarah said with a grin. “Looking forward to those.”

They had now descended into the valley itself, going on a straight length of freeway that passed through a built up area. Sarah noticed that a large portion of it was burnt out.

“What happened there?”

“Arson,” Sara said. “Not that anyone's admitting to that.”

“What do you mean?”

“There was a robbery late last year. Supermarket stick up. Went sideways and badly. Sheriffs showed up while it was in progress and shoot out resulted. Seven dead. Both robbers – pair of meth heads - plus two local kids caught in the crossfire. And a Sheriff's deputy. Probably a justified shooting, but the community is stressed and there's a lot of anger.”

“Everybody is stressed these days.”

“No shit. Anyway, it was at the end of fire season, hot and windy...”

“Somebody set a fire.”

“Several fires. Starting with the supermarket.”

“So why is arson being denied?”

“There'd been a bunch of marches and protests and confrontations. The county fire department was reluctant to come in at first. Worried about getting shot at. So the fires got out of hand.“

“Oh bugger.”

“Now's there's all kinds of political bullshit and so on.”

“And the local authorities are pretending it didn't happen like that.”

“Yup. Pretty much. They're blaming budget cuts.”

Sarah sighed. “Sounds like things back in the fucking UK.”

“There's no money to rebuild either. Not yet at least.”

“Not yet?

“That's the main part of the political bullshit. The community in question is, or rather was, mostly poor and black. Economic refugees from LA who came up here decades ago. The dead sheriff was Latino. No love lost there. And the local politicos are white and Republican.”

“I though the Tea Party finished off the Republicans.”

“Nationally, they did. But they're still strong among rural white Christians.”

Sarah sighed again. “The more things change...”

“Tell me about it.”

They had now passed beyond the township area and into open scrub desert. Low mountains dotted with white turbo-electric windmills rose in the distance.

“This is beautiful country,” Sarah said looking into that distance.

“Yes. Especially at sunset.” Then in a different tone Sara said, “Copy that, Control. Request feed transfer to proximate unit.”

Sarah's smartphone began to vibrate. She looked at its screen. “Control calling”, was all it said.

“Well, answer it,” Sara said.

She did. “Hello?” There was a low buzzing sound, but nobody spoke.

“Look at the screen,” Sara said.

She did. It showed a four way split screen set of aerial views, one of them tracking a small SVU along a highway. Sarah gasped slightly when she realized that was their SVU.

“What is this?”

“Feed from one of out helidrones. Control just informed me that we had been picked up.”

...con't

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The Divine Mr. M

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