As we approached the kitchen backdoor, a few cult members wearing hairnets stopped talking and hitting their vapes when they saw us. Three of them booked it for the kitchen, but Randy caught up to the last one before she shut the door on us, pushed her away and wrenched open the door for the rest of us rush in. As we moved through the kitchen, another cultist tried to tell us to leave. Randy mushed his face with his big hand and shove him out of the way, sending the guy crashing into a pan filled with red sauce, staining his white upper robe. A cultist looked as if he wanted to come up on us from behind, but Darla sternly warned him to stay back, which he did. As we exited the kitchen, we overheard someone call out for security. We move our way through the common area as cultists ate or stop eating to stare at us. Mike pointed us to the set of doors we needed to go through. Soon as we exited the common area into the main foyer, we saw security coming toward us from the opposing hallway.
“Quick, up the stairs!” Mike directed us.
While we ran up, a security guard came down the stairs towards us. Randy grappled with the guard and moved him aside for the rest of us to get by, then he used his foot to push the guard out of his grapple and into the pursuing security, sending pith helmets flying everywhere. We got to the top, but a couple more security guards popped out from around the corner and managed to grab Calvin. Mike, Darla, and I wrestled them off him before Darla held one for me to knock the wind out of, and Mike slammed the other against an adjacent wall. Randy then blindsided him with a well-placed haymaker.
“Everyone, this way!” Mike proceeded to beckon us.
We ran down some hallways and we came to a juncture that led to paths left, right, or forward.
“Which way?” Darla asked.
Just then, we heard security coming behind us and in front of us.
“Uhh, right!” says Mike unsure of himself.
“You sure?” asks Calvin.
The commotion drew closer, and we begin to head right before Mike changed his mind. “Wait, wait stop! It’s left!”
“You sure this time?” asks Darla, right when security appeared in front and behind us.
“I’m sure about it, let’s go!” Mike hurriedly stated while running in the new direction.
We ran down the hallway, turned the corner, and spotted a set of double doors guarded by two guards, who made their way towards us as we quickly closed the gap ahead. After bum-rushing through both guards and knocking them to the floor, we burst through the doors.
It was a circular room with a large circular window above in ceiling at the center. Ahead of us were all twelve chairpersons of the Apostles Council at their seats, with the largest and central seat vacant. As I suspected when the rest of the club first met Master August and Master Octubre, all of them had names based off the months of the year.
“What is the meaning of this intrusion?” an enraged August inquired after they all quickly stood up startled.
Calvin whipped around to me, Darla, and Randy. “Close the doors!” he exclaimed.
I turned around and saw security in the hallway rushing towards us. As we three closed the doors and barricaded them with our bodies, August looked at Mike and points his wrinkled finger. “Taggert! You have something to do with this sacrilege?”
“They have something important to tell the council!” Mike urged them.
“You know the rules, Taggert! We decide which member gets heard and when! Members, Taggert! You are not a member anymore, but a liaison we now have on payroll!”
“You’re making a mistake keeping us out!” Calvin stated aloud with conviction. “We can be of further benefit to your-”
“Hold your tongue, outsider!” August interjected with his frail yet surprisingly booming voice. “An associate to a putative, penitent liar, has no right to speak to any member directly, for risk of tainting our judgement!”
“The Seekers wouldn’t have gotten this far with the visitors without our help! You still need our help if you want to progress!”
“Silence, insolent toad! Security!”
We couldn’t hold the doors closed any longer due to the security's constant pushing and heaving from the other side. Darla, Randy, and I fell back to join Calvin and Mike, as the doors swung open, and security came pouring in to get us. They were about to lay their hands on us when a loud command was then given.
The security stopped dead in their advance. Everyone turned to face Octubre as he still held out his aged palm, wearing the usual stoic expression he wore under his mostly white beard and smartglasses.
“Master Octubre, what are you doing?” asked August shocked, as Octubre smoothed out the bottom half of his upper robe, straightened his fez, and sat back down in his seat.
“With respect to my fellow apostles, these outsiders have proven that they do still hold vital knowledge of which we currently lack.” stated Octubre, drawing August to lean closer to him.
“With all due respect, -”
“With all due respect, Master August,” interrupted Octubre, “did we not embarrass ourselves repeatedly inquiring angels to reveal secrets of the universe, just to get nothing? The only one able to speak to them in their language was one of the outsiders, whom by the way was the one that brought us to them. They’ve earned, at least, a moment of our time. I call on a council vote.”
All the chairpersons sat down back in their seats.
“I say we let them say their piece to determine if partnership with this group of outsiders is worth further exploration. All in favor, raise your hand and say, ‘Aye’.”
“Aye.” said Octubre and six others.
“All oppose, raise your hand and say, ‘Nay’.”
“Nay.” said August and the last four.
“That is 7 Ayes, 5 Nays. The outsiders get time on the floor. Security, stand by and await further orders.”
Calvin walked up to the central podium as the security moved away from us and stood with their backs against the walls. Calvin cleared his throat and began to speak.
“Council, we’ve come to-.”
Octubre loudly clears his own throat and says, “The council reiterates that outsiders associated with those branded as penitent liars, cannot speak directly to members of the Seekers and can only speak to those designated as liaisons of the Seekers. Liaisons receive membership perks for a reason. Mr. Taggert, please step up to the podium and let him speak to you clearly.”
Mike walked up to Calvin, and both face each other.
“This isn’t right.” said Calvin.
“I know, I know,” sighed Mike, “Let’s just give them their money’s worth.”
“So, Mike,” Calvin as he rolled his eyes, “I’ve heard that the Seekers of Nephiliham have been getting flooded with applications and are lowering their entry standards.”
“You have heard erroneously,” said August, “we are only considering the option of lowering our entry standards.”
“Why do that, Mike? You, a penitent liar yourself, are living proof that not every applicant is a believer. If you were able to slip your lies by so easily with the current standards, just imagine what riffraff would gain membership if the standards were suddenly lowered. How much money would be lost to a bunch of secret heathens, who have no interest in salvation whatsoever? If you don’t lower standards after all, I still assume the process of inducting new members alone can get rather expensive, not to mention time consuming. Time and money, which should be dedicated to helping the angels, before the government does something…unforeseen.”
“We know most of this,” said August with growing impatience, “that is why we were considering the option. Where are you getting at?”
“Yeah, man,” spoke Mike through his teeth in an urgent and hushed voice to Calvin, “where are you getting at?”
“Well, Mike,” starts Calvin, “what if I told you that instead of looking for more members, we should be looking for volunteers? Volunteers who don’t care about salvation, but are willing to dedicate their own blood, sweat, and tears, for an incentive they think has nothing to do with it; unwittingly making them take the first step towards possibly becoming a believer. Trial by dedication! Come for material rewards, stay for eternal rewards. All this in addition to saving money, saving time, saving the angels, and saving souls. Of course, it would be hard for a believer to see from a non-believer’s perspective to appeal to one. If there was a group of outsiders who can tap into such perspectives, who are readily available to run this campaign, who you know will keep all sensitive information among only those directly involved…”
The Apostles Council intensively whispered among themselves and were pretty animated. I felt a lump in my throat. This could go either way. They continued for a good minute or two before Octubre addressed Mike. “Mr. Taggert.”
Mike expressed surprise. “Yes, Master Octubre?”
Octubre gestures towards Calvin. “What is your friends name?”
“Calvin Kinski, Master Octubre.”
Octubre waves Mike away, which Mike obliged straightaway.
Calvin seemed slightly confused and a little nervous at first, now that he found himself looking directly at the council. “Yes? Err…Master Octubre?”
Octubre slowly leaned forward with his hands in prayer near his lips. After what felt like the raising of a guillotine passed by in a tense second, he said, “You have our full attention, Mr. Kinski.”