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1979 Crown Publishers Alongside Night Cover

Alongside Night
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 25

Mr. Harper led the couple to a door Elliot had always thought concealed a janitor’s closet. Inserting a key, Harper opened it. There was an elevator waiting. It was the same elevator Elliot and Lorimer had been experimenting with when challenged by the Cadre Guard. They got on, Mr. Harper inserting his key into the control panel.

Lorimer had Elliot look at the panel. “Wait a second,” he said. “This elevator shows ten floors, and this building only has five stories.”

Mr. Harper smiled slightly.

Elliot looked indignant. “‘Maximum security floors’ indeed.”

When the elevator doors opened again, they were on Aurora’s Terminal floor, Harper explaining that this was in the building’s cellar. He led the two to the security alcove, inserted a photo badge into a console on the empty desk, and pressed a key twice. A concealed wall panel in the alcove slid open, revealing a second corridor. Elliot-realized that aside from a reversal of direction, the plan was the same used in Auld Lang Syne.

After reclaiming his badge, Harper preceded Elliot and Lorimer the several hundred feet to the steel door. Upon the insertion of his badge, it slid open. Elliot looked past the threshold. “Dad?”

Beyond the door was an anteroom to a suite of offices, identical to the one in Auld Lang Syne, only completely outfitted. Inside were Dr. Vreeland, Jack Guerdon, and Ansonia’s headmistress, Dr. Fischer.

Elliot saw only his father at first. “How did you get here?” he asked. “Are Mom and Denise with you? They weren’t in Utopia.”

Dr. Vreeland looked at his son gravely. “They’re not with me. I don’t know where they are…. aside from my assumption that they’re still in federal custody. As for how I got here, Dave Albaugh acted as go-between.”

“But why — ?”

Harper touched Elliot on the arm. “That’s what this is all about.”

Elliot looked over, seeing Jack Guerdon and Dr. Fischer. He exchanged nods with Guerdon first and said, “When is the service?”

“Nine thirty, tomorrow morning,” Guerdon replied. “You’ll be expected to say the eulogy for Phillip, as I will for Chin.”

Elliot nodded, then turned to his headmistress. “Hello, Dr. Fischer,” he said wearily.

“Elliot,” she replied gently. “I’m sorry the circumstances of this meeting are no happier than our last.” She turned to Lorimer. “I assume you are Ms. Powers?”

Lorimer nodded.

“Well, everyone’s present,” Harper said. “About time we got down to business?”

“I thought Merce Rampart was supposed to be here?” asked Elliot.

Dr. Fischer led them into the conference room. “Merce Rampart is already here,” she said, taking a chair at the head of the table. “Shall we begin?”

After pouring coffee for those who wished it, then for herself, Dr. Merce Rampart turned to Elliot’s father. “Dr. Vreeland, you are the only person ever allowed into Aurora without first allying with us. Everyone else at this conference is contractually obligated to keep our secrets. But when you leave here, we will have no way — short of methods we never employ — to assure your silence. Yet we must be assured of it if we are freely to discuss our possible cooperation.”

“You have my word,” said Dr. Vreeland. “What I hear will not leave this room.”

“Thank you, Professor. As I believe you already know, we will be holding our first news conference in about an hour. This will be the first time our organization has ever formally gone on the record. We wish you to attend us, announcing at the conference that your supposed death was a defense against the government aggression toward your family, and that your wife and daughter were kidnaped by them to blackmail you into cooperation.”

“You know the risk I took in coming here,” Dr. Vreeland said, tapping his fingertips together professorially. “It is likely that simply through my refusal to follow through on my agreement with the Administration, I have already condemned my wife and daughter to death. Must I make certain of it by publicly embracing you as well?”

“If that is how you feel, Dr. Vreeland, then why — ?”

“You know why,” Dr. Vreeland said angrily. “I cannot honor a contract with murderers . . . no matter what the personal cost.”

“I would have expected no less of you,” Dr. Rampart answered. “But the cost may not include your wife’s and daughter’s lives. In a kidnaping, whether or not the ransom is paid — in this case your cooperation being the ransom — has little to do with the kidnapers’ future behavior, which is based on their view of current self-interest.”

Lorimer nodded. “Bureau statistics show almost the same chance for a kidnaper to release the victim whether or not the ransom is paid.”

“And you believe,” said Dr. Vreeland, “that publicly revealing the kidnaping would shift the Administration’s interest to releasing Cathryn and Denise?”

“Yes,” said Dr. Rampart, “if there’s any modicum of sense left in their camp. This Administration is in the most precarious political balance of any Administration in this country’s history. While it is wholly unlikely that they can save their rule, they might wish to save their necks. There is a spirit of blood lust in the air.”

“Dr. Vreeland,” said Guerdon, “this revolution has been, all along, a war of propaganda and counterpropaganda. The Utopia prison atrocity has just given the government the worst publicity possible. Whichever group — or groups — offers the public order in such chaotic times will gain support — perhaps the critical balance. I doubt the government will wish to appear lawless at this time. In the past, the government has preferred to bargain with the barrel of a gun. With the military strikes, they have just lost the gun. If they now wish to seek the support of human beings, they will now have to utilize the civilized methods of human beings. Whatever chances your wife and daughter have at this point rest with our ability to pressure the rulers into realizing this. And whatever else we may think of them, I do not think they are less analytical than we are.”

“Even if this is so,” Dr. Vreeland said, “why should I appear at your press conference, aligning myself with your Cadre?”

“May I be so impolite as to point out,” Harper said, “that through your son’s association with this school you are already — in the Administration’s view — aligned with the Cadre. The difference between a radical and a revolutionary is an esoteric one at best, understood by those involved in the factionalism and few others. Don’t expect the differences in our philosophy to be understood by Lawrence Powers. So long as you advocated reforming the State, instead of advocating abolition as we do, you were tolerated — perhaps even considered counterrevolutionary. In fact, without your support of the moderates in Citizens for a Free Society, the government might have fallen months ago. Remain silent, and the Administration will fall,anyway . . . perhaps deciding to take your wife and daughter with them as revenge. Publicly align yourself with us and accuse them of the kidnaping . . . and they might back down.”

At that moment, the door slid open, a gray-haired man in Cadre uniform entering. Elliot recognized him as the man on the screen who had announced the G-raid alert. He walked up to Merce Rampart and said, “We found two. ”

She nodded. “May I introduce our chief of security, Ron Daylutan? Dr. Vreeland, his son Elliot, and Ms. Powers.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

“Descriptions?” Dr. Rampart asked.

“Very professional work. Would have blown half the building. My guess is that it’s a present from the CIA — their style of work.”

“Any possibility there are more?”

Daylutan shook his head. “I’ll bet my life on it.”

She smiled. “You have.”

“Uh — I’ll check again.”

The security chief left, the door sliding shut after him.

“Damned terrorists,” said Guerdon. “I don’t know what this country’s coming to.”

“I don’t understand,” said Elliot. “Why would the CIA bother at this point? Aren’t they as finished as the rest of the government? No tax revenues, no official currency to pay employees with.”

Mr. Harper shook his head. “I’m afraid we’re not so lucky. They are very much alive and will remain so for quite some time, though somewhat less potent, of course. In addition to private business interests both here and abroad that the CIA owns, no doubt it will continue receiving backing from those most dependent on the State for privileges.”

Merce Rampart turned to Dr. Vreeland. “Well, Professor?”

Dr. Vreeland drummed on the table. “I must know where you stand,” he said, “what your plans are. Are you writing a constitution? Do you plan to hold general elections? Will you impose a ‘temporary benevolent dictatorship’? — oh, a most anarchistic one, I’m sure. What’s your foreign policy?”

“It is the policy of the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre to deal with foreigners,” said Dr. Rampart. “Assuming they also wish to deal with us. Your other questions assume we are — or intend to become — a government. But we are agorists: propertarian anarchists. Our prosperity to date has come by following agoric principles and we envision even further prosperity when agoric principles are generally adopted. Why would we abandon market principles we have found efficacious in favor of hegemonic ones that have led society after society into ruin?”

“I have no wish to argue elementary libertarianism,” Dr. Vreeland said. “Whether or not you call yourselves a government, you are a large organization of ideological components, raising a military, and seem to have a natural monopoly on the prime functions traditionally performed by governments.”

“I’m afraid our board of directors is nowhere as optimistic on that point as you. We expect severe competition — immediately from agencies such as the CIA, later from protection syndicates, independent militias, trade unions, and counterrevolutionary movements, each wielding as much force as we will.”

“And what will keep these groups from each other’s throats?”

“What keeps anything as innately aggressive as governments from warring, except a realistic appraisal for conquest and the eventual realization by the ruling parties — usually fragmented — that they have more to gain by peaceful commerce than expensive wars? Why play negative-sum games when positive-sum games are available? But even when these groups do fight, I doubt it will prove as chaotic and damaging as the wars states engage in. Without territorial identification, war levies, and conscription, masses of people will no longer be dragged into every single conflict. We can afford nothing less in this age of potential total holocaust.”

“Yes,” said Dr. Vreeland, “but how long will your Cadre — this agora of yours — survive?”

Merce Rampart sat back in her chair and smiled.

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” she said.


Next in Alongside Night is Chapter XXVI.

Alongside Night is
Copyright © 1979 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.

Now in production: Alongside Night. Look for it in 2013!

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