Alex, the infiltrator

Excerpt from the book:

Cedric didn’t want it to become common knowledge that the NS had a command post right across the street from Occutopia. If people found out, it would undoubtedly destabilize Occutopia and possibly spark an incident that would have a regrettable outcome. He hoped that no one would even spit in the direction of the charcoal-gray building.

One evening, about 200 young people gathered in the street between Occutopia and the NS command post. Cedric and Utah, another member of the Security group, were in the office when one of the Occutopians came and told them there was some kind of party happening outside in the street. And it was big.

Cedric and Utah hurried to the front entrance to see. A large group of people was gathering in the street, right in front of the NS command center. Utah told Cedric that it was probably the silent dance party, which showed up at random places around Portland. They often blocked traffic while they danced for a half-hour or so, and then they’d move on and go someplace else.

Cedric knew this situation could become dangerous very fast. He agonized, should he tell Utah and the rest of the Security group that the NS had a command center right there, across the street? They would wonder why he had withheld that information from them. Maybe the situation would blow over. Cedric told Utah that he was going to monitor the situation from the fourth floor. Utah stayed to watch from the front entrance. Cedric raced up the stairs to his best lookout window. He watched the street party through binoculars.

The young people in the street were dressed in novelty used clothing and costumes. The crowd filled the street and the sidewalks, up to few feet away from the mirrored glass windows of the charcoal-gray building. The partiers were standing around, talking and laughing. A couple of people set up a folding table with a water dispenser. A pink and orange van was parked at the end of the street. It was probably the short-range broadcaster. Cedric worried—the party couldn’t be mistaken for an activist rally or a direct action, could it? There were no protest signs, and no one was shouting on a megaphone.

The NS command center immediately went on red alert. The agents saw the young people gathering outside their mirrored glass windows and shouted, They found out we’re here! They’re going to attack! The commander ordered snipers to get on the roof. The agents passed out guns and took up positions. They waited, tensely.

Suddenly, inexplicably, the crowd began to dance. There was no band and no music—the dancers cavorted rhythmically in silence. The pulsing mass of humanity was unaware that, just a few feet away, the NS was watching them through mirrored glass windows. The agents stared, uncomprehending.

‘What the f*ck is going on?’ screamed the commander. No one answered.

‘One of you idiots get out there and see if you can find out,’ he said. ‘Alex, you go.’

F*ck, he had to pick me, thought Alex. He went out the back door and around the block.

At Occutopia, Cedric watched anxiously from the fourth floor window. He saw the NS snipers hidden on the roof of the charcoal-gray building, ready to shoot. Then he spotted Alex making his way through the crowd. He was evidently making a reconnaissance trip to find out what was going on. That meant the NS snipers were probably not going to fire on the young people. Alex mingled in the crowd. He was obviously stressed out—his brow was furrowed with confusion, but he flashed a fake smile a couple of times. He tried to act cool and pretended to dance. It was so funny and Cedric laughed so hard, he had to put the binoculars down.

He recovered quickly and checked the snipers on the roof again. They were watching the crowd dance with guns set aside. The neighbors had come out of their houses to see what was happening. The crowd stopped dancing, suddenly.

Cedric focused on Alex. He now had a piece of paper in his hand, probably a flyer for the event. He disappeared. The crowd was getting larger; it was beginning to fill the side streets around the charcoal-gray building. Alex was barely able to slip back into the command center without being seen.

Back inside, Alex handed the flyer to the commander.

The commander read it. ‘Silent dance party,’ he said, incredulous. ‘So what the f*ck is that?

‘It’s a dance party where everyone wears headphones and tunes in to music,’ said Alex.

The commander rubbed his forehead. ‘Stand down. Tell the snipers to get off the roof.’ He sat down heavily in a chair next to one of the desks and stared at the floor. There was a tentative relief in the room.

‘So,’ he said to Alex, ‘do you think they know we’re here?’

‘No,’ said Alex.

The room was silent. Then the commander got up and paced the floor in short, rapid steps. It would have been comic if it hadn’t been terrifying. Then he stopped and faced the group.

‘I just about had a heart attack because of this goddamn dance party. I can’t believe that one of you idiots couldn’t collect at least one copy of all the f*cking flyers that these f*ckers are cranking out,’ he shouted.

Everyone was silent. The commander stared into mid-space.

‘You know what I think?’ he asked the group in a high voice. ‘I think we’re overstaffed. Get everyone in here and report for duty.’

In a few minutes, the entire unit was standing in rows at attention. The commander began walking down the first row, looking at the agents. Then he pointed at one of the operatives.

‘You’re fired,’ he said. The operative clenched his jaw, but he stood still.

The commander proceeded at a slow pace down each row, looking at each agent, and telling some of them they were fired. The commander looked at Alex and passed on to the next agent. Alex closed his eyes with relief. The commander fired half of the agents.

When he was finished selecting agents for termination, he took his place at the front of the formation.

‘Those of you who are fired have five minutes to get your things and get out,’ he said, ‘starting now.’

The agents who had been fired quickly cleared out of the room. The remaining agents closed ranks.

‘Those of you who are remaining at this command center are under orders to bring Occutopia down by the end of the year, or you will be given a dishonorable discharge,’ said the commander quietly. ‘Dismissed.’

–End of Excerpt.

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