Sunday, March 23, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 12, "The Long Ride"

"Really Ronald, we do have to go" Sid said calmly.

  Hubbard remained unmoved, locked in his own gaze. Sid thought the man might actually drool. Hoping to gain Hubbard's attention, he slowly slid a huge vase of flowers toward the edge of the plinth on which it stood. Reaching its tipping point, the crystal vase and its cargo hung there for a moment, then crashed to the ground, shattering, and along with it, Hubbard's trance-like state.

  "What the fu . . ." Hubbard stopped in mid-word when he noticed Sid standing there, wearing a slightly bemused expression. "I, uh, well, I was looking at this, uh . . . nevermind, what was it you were you saying?"

  "I said we really should be leaving for the keynote. Remember? We dropped Steven off at the Convention Center to prepare?" he said, one perfectly shaped eyebrow arched for effect.

  "That seemed so long ago, but I guess it was only . . ."

  "Yesterday. It was just yesterday." Sid interrupted.

  "I'll never get used to this place." Hubbard said, shaking his head.

  "Oh, trust me Ron, you will. You will." Sid put his hand on Ron's shoulder as they walked, "But first you'll go quite mad. I certainly did. One can only meditate for so long, believe-you-me. You try everything to stem the creeping madness, really. Suicide doesn't work. It all hit the fan for me right around 250 years in, give or take a decade. You really have no idea how long that is. I've been here ten times that. You'll come out the other side with fresh perspective if you can keep your wits about you, but it can be a hell of your own making. The thought that this might last forever still haunts me from time to time. I mean, the universe has to end sometime, heat death and all that, but what if we're outside it somehow? Intriguing, don't you think? Ron? Hello?" He waved a hand in front of his now frozen companion's face.

  A fear gripped Ron unlike any he'd ever known. He'd always gone on about billions and trillions of years in his space operas and colorful yarns about the whole-track, but he knew this was different. Sid was talking about going crazy after just a couple of hundred years. This was impending eternity, and it felt like standing on the edge of a bottomless chasm, it made him feel sick.

  "Oh, but I seem to have alarmed you. I do apologize. How incompassionate of me. Come along Ron, that lovely car of mine is just across Pierce Street." They stepped out into the simulacrum of a brilliant, Florida day.

  "I half expected that we'd be back in Vegas once we passed through that door." Hubbard said, trying to be funny, but he was still shaken.

  "The journey of a thousand miles, Ron . . ." said the Buddha with mock profundity.

  "Yeah. Right." Ron grumbled.

  Ensconced once again in Sid's sleek car, they cruised through the streets of Clearwater. Unlike his recent car rides, there seemed to be normal traffic here. Hubbard tried to peer into the cars to see who was in them, but the other vehicle's windows were all tinted, or slightly mirrored.

  "It all seems so real. Is there even anyone in those cars?" Hubbard asked, betraying more than a little discomfort in his voice.

  "You never know in this reality, Ron. In a way, we're each of us, alone here. There is interaction with other realities. Intersectionality as I prefer to call it. Karen, Lisa, and Shelly, for example. They weren't leaders as you were. They had no followers in their time. They were peripheral to you. Others like them can intersect with you, but they don't necessarily dwell here. 'Where' the others go is still a mystery to me after more than two millennia. Do they live other lives? There's no shred of evidence that reincarnation exists. I wish it did." Sid looked almost wistful. "I mean, I can tell you it was quite a blow to my ego to end up here. Others react differently. Poor Ayn, she just hated the fact that she survived death. She'd made such a big deal of being an atheist and a materialist. Chris Hitchens won't come out of his hotel room. He's not in a loop either. He simply refuses to see anyone. He was clearly wrong about materialism, but atheism? Well, I'm not so sure. Two thousand years and I haven't seen so much as one god. Not even a small one. We all have a lot to learn, Ron, but for what purpose, if any, I just don't know."

  This kind of philosophizing would have thrilled Ron at one point in his life. Now he just felt panicked and slightly nauseated.

  Sid's phone gonged in the console. The words "Call from Steve Jobs" appeared on the big screen between them. "Answer call" said Sid. There was a moment while the phone connected and then Sid went on, "Hello, Steven, how's the talk coming?"

  "Fine, I suppose. I'm still writing it. I'm nervous. I never used to be nervous about a talk. I wasn't a nervous guy, Sid. I don't like this." Jobs said. He sounded as sour as ever. "Oh, by the way, is he coming with you?"

  Ron leaned into the console as though Steve might actually be in there somewhere, "Yes I am, and don't ask me why, I'm just along for the ride these days."

  "Sid, am I on speaker? What the fuck, Sid? Really?" The man in the phone sounded incredulous.

  "Now Steven, calm down, we're all in this together. I think you two have a great deal to learn from each other. Really, I do." Sid said soothingly.

  "Right. Whatever. I mean, you're the Big Bad Buddha, right? Just let me know next time, OK? I was going to say 'I don't have time for this shit,' but I guess that's all I really do have." There was a long pause on the line, a sigh, then, "See you when you get here." The phone chimed and went silent.

  "Is he always like that?" Hubbard said making a face. "I mean, what the hell did I do to him?" Hubbard was not used to non-deferential treatment.

  "The man only recently died, Ron. And he died relatively young and unnecessarily. He was a man in control. He thought he was the king of the world, and in some ways, he was. He always thought he knew better than the next man . . . until he didn't. And now, all he can do is watch that world moving on without him, so he feels a bit let down by things. His wife moves on. His children grow. His yacht sails without him. He really loved that yacht."

  Hubbard snorted and rolled his eyes.

  Really Ron, I'd think an old sea dog like you would have a bit more compassion about that. Well, I imagine he'll cover it all in his keynote." Sid touched the screen in the middle of the dashboard. It had become a map of Clearwater again, a tiny, pulsing dot representing their progress.

They were now on the Campbell Causeway headed for Tampa. Hubbard could see that the bridge disappeared into fog bank dead ahead. The sea fog that rolled in from the Gulf could be formidable. He found himself wishing that Sid would slow down a bit. But instead he heard the motor whine and felt the car make a great leap forward as they shot into the soupy gray.

  "Uh, say Sid, don't you think we might want to slow things down a bit in this fog?" He was really nervous now. He could see the digital readout passing 100 miles per hour. The car was still accelerating with an eerily quiet smoothness.

  "Alarming, not being in control, isn't it?" Sid said casually. There was no menace in his voice. He looked over at Ron with the faintest trace of a smile, and then, he took his hands off the wheel.

  Ron was tempted to grab the controls, but for some reason, he thought better of it. Sid just looked at him. He was hypnotically calm. Ron sat back in his seat and looked straight ahead. He could see nothing but gray. It didn't even seem wet. He could see no road. The speedometer read zero. The clock was all zeroes. The map still showed a pulsing dot, but in a featureless background. No guard rail. Nothing but a gray void. "What the hell is this?" he asked.

  "A little shortcut I know" The Buddha said casually.

  Some time passed, or did it? It's hard to tell time in a void.

  "Are we even moving anymore?" Hubbard wondered aloud.

  "Were we ever?" Sid smiled at him and opened the sunroof above them.

  Nothing.

  No wind. No roar of the tires on pavement. Hubbard put his hand out tentatively. No discernible temperature to speak of. It was deeply disturbing. Then . . .

  BAM! A blast of pressure on his hand! A roaring of wind and road, a cold damp and the sense of movement once again.

  "How the hell did you do that!?" Hubbard was agog. "Can I learn how to do that? And speaking of learning, what about all this mind reading stuff that goes on here? And don't say . . ."

  "All in good time?" Sid interrupted.

  "Yeah. That. Don't say that!" This guy could be really maddening.

  "It really comes to you when it comes. Look at how quickly you managed to manifest what you desired. Clothing and your fine watch. Food. Drink. Old friends . . . and foes. I heard about what happened at the party."

  "Oh, that. Well, I, uh . . ." Hubbard's face reddened.

  "We all have our faults, Ron. All of us. Did it surprise you to see Alisa after all these years?" Sid asked.

  "Uh, sure. Yes, but not so goddamned much as her introducing me to Lenin! A goddamned communist . . . the goddamned communist!"

  "Were you jealous? What did you feel when you saw her?" Sid probed.

  "I . . . I get mixed up with  . . . feelings, you know. I've never been good with that sort of thing" Ron blustered.

  "And your son? How was it seeing him again?" Another question.

   Silence. Then, "I don't want to talk about him! I won't talk about it! You can forget about that whole thing, mister! It's done with and that's all there is to it!"

  "It hurt, didn't it? Our trespasses are terrible to deal with" Sid said compassionately.

  "I'll be the judge of that" Ron mumbled.

  "The only judge, Ron. The only judge. And one with many verdicts over time."

  They drove in silence until it grew dark. Hubbard figured they had to be in Alabama or Georgia by now. Then Hubbard remembered the last drive they took. Who could say where they were? The fog had lifted and they were driving on a featureless highway. No roadsigns. No other cars. Just a ribbon of asphalt reeling in at a tremendous rate of speed.

  "So, Sid, why aren't we there yet? Hell, why are we driving at all when you can just whisk me from Vegas to Clearwater in the blink of an eye? Torture?"

  "I didn't whisk you. You did. You run things up to a point and then . . . well, intersectionality rears its head. Besides, there are things to see, Ron. People to meet. Comings. Goings. We'll be there on time. But first, I'm rather hungry, aren't you?"

  Hubbard was hungry, and tired.

  "How do you feel about French food, Ron? I've grown to love it. There's a little place I love to stop in at once and a while. We can have a fine meal and get a couple of charming rooms for the night."

  "Sure. Swell, let's just get there in one piece, please." Hubbard was getting irritable at this point.

  "Café Enfant de la Lune it is, then." And with that Sid began decelerating and after about a quarter mile, he flicked the right turn signal on and they started down a long, dirt road. There seemed to be crops growing on either side of them. Fireflies flickered in the dark between the trees. Once again, moonless moonlight illuminated everything in a soft, blue/white glow. After a passing a few tumbledown, sharecropper shacks, Ron saw lights up ahead. The illumination was coming from a collection of a dozen or more old mobile homes arranged in a circle with hundreds of light bulbs strung festively between them. 'What a dump' Hubbard thought. Glowing above the crazy assemblage on a tall, metal pole was a neon sign depicting a small child fishing from a crescent moon with six stars arranged around him. It said "Café Enfant de la Lune" in yellow cursive neon. A more ramshackle destination Hubbard could not have imagined. Still the scene before him did seem like it could have an odd sort of charm. Under the lights were picnic tables with candles and checkered tablecloths These were full of chatting diners all enjoying each other's company on what appeared to be a warm, summer evening.

  "This is where we're going?" Ron asked incredulously.

  "Really? I thought you'd find it rather homey, Ron. Don't fret, old boy, I think you'll enjoy yourself once you tuck into Jean's ratatouille. It's simply divine!" Sid parked the car and the two travelers got out and stretched in the warm night. The Buddha thought about what one might pair with ratatouille and produced a bottle of Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac 2004, from a leather Gladstone on the back seat. Ron fixed his hair in his reflection in the door window and then the two travelers made their way to what looked like the office of this tatty little enclave. 

  They entered the shabby trailer and stepped over two sleeping Tick Hounds to approach what Hubbard assumed was the front desk. The desk, if you could call it that, was a home-made affair comprised of fake wood paneling and formica. On that counter, next to the cash register there was a gold, plastic Buddha, a Virgin of Guadalupe votive, and a chipped coffee mug that said 'Nixon's The One in '68!' in red and blue letters. Behind the desk, there was what appeared to be a plump, middle aged man in a wifebeater, sweatpants and slippers dozing in a ratty Barcalounger in the corner. He had a deer-stalker cap pulled over his face and an enormous Maine Coon sleeping on his belly. The man's recliner was in front of an old television and surrounded by massive stacks of books. Hardcover. Paperback, Illuminated manuscripts. Magazines. There were several TV trays with scraps of paper and piles of notebooks on them, plus one that seemed to be expressly for beer. Man and cat were bathed in the blue static leftovers of the Big Bang.

  "Máo!Rúhé dìyù, nǐ hǎo ma?" said Sid in what sounded to Hubbard like perfect Mandarin.

The sleeping man snorted violently and tried to roll over unsuccessfully. The cat shifted to compensate, yawned and went back to sleep. The man had one arm hanging over the side of the chair with a cigarette lodged between his index and middle finger. The ash hung precipitously over an overflowing pie tin of butts. 

"Shàngshēng! Dìguó zhǔyì zhě zài ménkǒu!" the Buddha said forcefully.

  It was with those words that several things happened. The man's cigarette ember finally reached his fleshy fingers. The searing pain caused him to scream out, launching the formerly dozing cat into the beer tray-table sending empty cans clattering to the ground. The can cacophony roused the seemingly dead Tick Hounds who scrambled unsteadily to their feet and began stomping about in circles baying at the two strangers in the makeshift lobby.

  "Well, Sid, I'm still waiting for the charming part." Hubbard said snidely.
  
  Now the portly man who had been so soundly asleep, began to shuffle toward them. "Gǔn kāi, gǒu! Gǔn kāi, gǒu!" he yelled at the dogs, swatting at them over the desk with a sheaf of note paper that had been on his lap. His black hair was a greasy mess but his face was utterly unmistakable, this was Mao Zedong, the founder of the Chinese Communist Party. 'What was this? Commie Day in the afterlife?' Hubbard wondered to himself.

  "Shut. Up. Fucking. Dogs!" Mao roared coarsely, followed by a splendid belch. The dogs ignored his admonishment and kept baying with gusto. "Sid! You madman, what the hell are you doing here? Who have you brought us this time?" the Chairman said looking over his reading glasses at Hubbard.

  "Zedong, old man, how the hell are you?" Sid said shaking Mao's hand vigorously over the desk. "Where's your better half?

  "In the kitchen. Where else?" said Mao with a gesturing with his thumb toward the saloon doors to his right. "Jean mon amour, nous avons plus de bouches à nourrir" he hollered in perfectly accented French.

  Bursting through the double doors with a loud "what now?" came a vibrant, beautiful woman in her forties. She had short cropped hair and bright blue eyes lined with care and kindness. Her sudden smile was radiant. She was practically bursting with glee upon seeing Sid. She rushed around the counter, past Hubbard and embraced the Buddha heartily, taking care with the large Sabatier knife in her right hand.

  "Goodness me, I'm glad you're on my side!" Sid laughed as he held Jean out at arms length to have a look at her. "Beautiful as ever."

  "You've been gone so long! We miss you when you're on the road!" the woman said with a strong French accent. "But, forgive me, who do we have here? A new friend?"

   Sid took the woman's hand and turned to Hubbard, "Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, Madame Jean de Vouthon and Mao Zedong, the proprietors of this happy establishment. I believe you would have known of Jean by her more common name, Joan of Arc."

  More historical figures. "Well, why not?" Hubbard said, extending his right hand to the chef, who was busy wiping her right hand on her well-used apron. "Enchanté" he said, bowing slightly.

  "So, what am I, chopped liver?" said the founder of the People's Republic of China.

  "Oh, uh, sorry, there. Mao, is it?" Hubbard said, shaking his hand.

  "'Great Helmsman' is fine with me, we don't stand on formalities here. Not anymore." There was an uncomfortable silence and then Sid and Jean burst out laughing. Mao rolled his eyes. "You forget jokes already?" He was a master of the deadpan reply. "Anybody see where Shao Qi went? My cat? He ran off." 

  "Don't look at me, I'm just along for the ride." Hubbard said.

  Then the Maid of Orleans said, "Chien! Silénce!" The dogs stopped barking instantly and went outside. "Ze, mon amour, get these two dangerous looking rogues some rooms and set them a table, they must be famished. Tonight you're in luck, we're serving ratatouille!"  

  Mao rolled his eyes again and said wearily "we only serve ratatouille. Nobody is surprised my dear."

  "Well, if it's any consolation, I'm surprised." Ron said, always eager to earn some kind of points he might redeem in a future pinch.

  "Just get them set up, you? I have to get back to my kitchen. Sid! I love you! So glad you're back, and Lafayette, welcome. Eat up and enjoy!" And with that, she banged through the saloon doors and began shouting instructions in French at some unseen kitchen help.

  Mao sighed and pulled out a ledger book for them to sign-in and gave them each a key to a trailer. "We got no bellhops. You get your own bags." And with that he shuffled off, scratching his ass and looking for his cat.

  The two Tick Hounds escorted Ron and Sid back to the car where bags had materialized in the trunk. They made their way, two men and two hounds, walking single-file through the crowded dining area and over to trailers 4 and 5 which were opposite the office/kitchen trailer. Using his suitcase to block a particularly persistent hound from entering, Ron found that the accommodations were surprisingly homey and comfortable. He unpacked, ran a comb through his thickening hair and headed back out to find Sid. 

  The two travelers met at a table where an aproned waiter beckoned. The server pulled out Hubbard's metal, folding chair and placed a large, plastic covered menu in his hands. It had one word typewritten on it: "Ratatouille." He flipped it over and there was a mimeograph of a drawing of the Enfant de la Lune sign under which they sat. 

  "Well, I suppose I'll have the ratatouille" Hubbard said ironically.

  "Mais oui, a superb choice!" the waiter said enthusiastically writing down the order on a pad. "And for you sir?" he asked Sid.
  
  "Oh, I don't know, what do you recommend?" said the Buddha with no hint of sarcsm whatsoever.

  "May I suggest the ratatouille? It's magnifique!" said the garçon with no small amount of pride.

  "How can I say no to that?" replied Sid with a bemused look. The waiter dashed off to put in their order.

  "Alright now, what kind of cockamamie place is this?" Hubbard was in no mood for nonsense at this point.

  "Really Ron, just a place for weary travelers and friends to meet up, eat some ratatouille and rest on the road. Nothing more."

  Ron just gave him a suspicious look and they sat listening to the laughter and happy conversations around them for a while. Their officious waiter had reappeared with water and wine glasses for the bottle that Sid had brought to the table. He uncorked the wine and decanted it ceremoniously. He bustled off to return moments later with a hot baguette and olive oil. Then came a beautiful consommé followed by the Ratatouille. It wasn't a let down. It was simply fabulous—one of the most delicious things Hubbard could ever remember eating. 

  He was just about done cleaning his plate, swabbing up the last of the ambrosia with a piece of the freshly baked baguette when Hubbard noticed their host shuffling toward them through the crowd of diners. He had been stopping at various tables to chat with diners. Mao had found his enormous cat who he was cradling as if it were a baby. Ron hoped he would pass them by, but sure enough, he made his way to their table, pulled up a rusty folding chair and sat next to Hubbard. 

  "So, Ron, I been reading about you" Mao said with a knowing tone. He set the cat down, which wandered off to beg for scraps. "Very interesting business you had there. Very interesting. I never heard of you, but Jean told me a little bit about you and I thought I should definitely read up. I do love books, you know."

  "Well, no, actually. I didn't know how you felt about books. I'm afraid I don't have a terribly high opinion of you, sir, if truth be told. I know all about what you folks did." Ron said in his best haughty tone.

  "Smoke?" Mao said pulling a pack of Chinese cigarettes out of the breast pocket of the plaid shirt he'd thrown over his wifebeater. "I know you like a good smoke, Ronnie."

  Ronnie. Nobody ever called him Ronnie. "Look here, Mao . . . " 

  "No! You call me Zedong! We're brothers now, you and I," Mao said ingratiatingly. "We're brothers in the celestial kingdom." He gestured upward grandly, staring intently at Hubbard.

  "Well, whatever your name is, I'm not your brother! Wherever we are." Hubbard ratcheted up the dudgeon.

  "Oh, I think we have more in common than you like to admit, Ronnie." Mao took a deep drag off his cigarette. "I have to live with what I did." The chairman was punctuating each line by pointing his cigarette toward Ron. "The lives lost to my greed and self-importance, they're beyond counting. I spent a decade in my loop writing down name after name after name of those lost in the terror I created. You have no idea, Ronnie. No idea. But you! You called us evil! You were the big, bad commie fighter! Then what do you do? You copy us! You used some of our most insidious mind-control on your people. The thought stopping exercises. The cruelty of 're-education,' the horrors of jiǎntǎo, the self-criticism. You say I'm a monster, and I was, Ronnie, I was. I'll spend the rest of my time here trying to wrestle with what I did. We're all monsters here Ronnie. So, what are you? Why are you here? What are your crimes, Ronnie, what are your crimes?

  Mao's rage abated. Slowly transforming into a strange calm. The chairman rose, smiling that beatific smile that still beams out over Tienanmen Square to this very day. "Who knows?" he said leaning into Ron's face. "Maybe you thought I was doing a good thing, after all weren't there 'too many chinks?' in China Ronnie?" He stood back and walked away, laughing bitterly and shaking his head, "too many chinks, what an asshole."

  Ron sat frozen. A mass of conflicting emotions flew around inside him like panicked birds. They fluttered and they darted and kept banging into the walls he'd erected in his psyche until they finally lay unconscious and unfelt inside him. Then he noticed it. He was alone. Sid was gone, as were all the diners and revelers that had been there moments ago. He looked toward Nº.5 and saw warm light emanating from Sid's trailer. The Buddha was inside, getting ready for bed. As he scanned his surroundings he noticed that he wasn't entirely alone; Jean was sitting on the deck in front of the office. She was drinking out of a bottle, smoking a cigarette and petting one of her Tick Hounds. She gestured for him to join her. He really was tired, but there could be advantage in having an ally—points he could cash-in at some future date.

  He walked over and sat next to her on the steps. "So, what are we drinking?" he said picking up the bottle to examine the label. An Islay single malt. It smelled of peat and smoke.

  "Take a swig Ron. Would you like a smoke?" Jean said offering him a crumpled pack of Galloise.

  He pulled out one cigarette and she drew his hand close to her and lit it with her own. He took a big drag and coughed violently. He washed it down with some whiskey and coughed even harder. They both laughed.

  "Strong medicine, no?" she said. 

  Jean was really quite radiant, Hubbard thought. Not especially pretty, a little mannish actually, but simply radiant. 

  "Zedong gave you some strong medicine too, I hear." she said. 

  Hubbard just looked off into the distance.

  "I know Ron. It's hard. Awful at times, examining what we've done. Zedong suffers greatly. I know you don't see it. But I do. When I found him in his loop, his hand was calloused and twisted from writing down the names. Millions and millions of names of those who died as a direct result of his policies. His edicts. He thought he was so right about everything. He still did when he came-to. He didn't even know what he'd been doing for almost ten years. Much like your own loop. I hear tell you were typing. Do you know what you wrote?"

  He had no clue. "I think it might be in folders I have" he said seriously. "Back at the hotel. I suppose I should read it." He really didn't want to.

  "Did you notice the other diners tonight?" Jean asked.

  He hadn't, other than the din of their conversation and laughter. He was usually hyper-vigilant. He really didn't give them a second glance. "No, not really." he said sheepishly.

  "If you had, you'd notice that they were mostly Chinese. Remember the young woman, Lisa that you encountered the other night?" Then, more intently, "do you remember her Ron?"

  "Sure, sure. Remember? That's not something I'll ever forget." He was getting used to everyone knowing everything about him by this point.

  "Well, imagine that times a few tens of millions. Zedong has a lot on his conscience. They're not all that intense, some connections are more direct, others very distant. But for them to be free, they need to intersect with him, Ron. Like you did with Lisa. We don't know where they go, if anywhere. But we think it's freeing for both parties." She took a swig from the whiskey and a slow drag on her Galloise, blowing a long plume of smoke up at the stars. "So, we serve them, Ron. His people and mine, too. I have a body count as well, mon ami. People died in my god-fueled mania. Be glad you have so few followers, Ron. You should be able to get through this fairly easily. It begins with acceptance. Accepting what you've done."

  Was that another dig at him? 'Be glad you have so few followers.' He wanted to protest, then he thought better of it. Jean seemed to look right into his core. It was very uncomfortable. She gripped his hand tightly and said "I know of what I speak, Ron Hubbard. And now, I'd better get some sleep. That ratatouille isn't going to make itself, you know." And with that, she picked up her whiskey bottle and said something to her dog in French and they disappeared into the office trailer.

  The neon sign and the strings of lights all switched off in random order as he made his way back to his trailer. He laid down on the bed, fully intending to get up after a few minutes and prepare for bed, but the next thing he knew, it was morning. There was a rap at his door. He opened it and there was Sid in a beautiful celadon green silk shirt and pleated, creme, wool trousers with matching pigskin belt and loafers. He had his suitcase in hand and a straw trilby at a rakish angle on his head.

  "Well, I guess we're leaving" Hubbard said wearily. "I'll get my things." He turned around to grab his bag. 

  They walked across the circle of trailers and loaded the bags into the trunk of the Tesla. 

  "Should we say goodbye?" Hubbard asked.

  "No, I don't think so. They usually sleep-in. They only do lunch and dinner here. We'll pick up something on the way." 

  Hubbard was going to mumble something about coffee, when he noticed there were two steaming travel mugs in the console of the car. 'Plusses and minuses' he thought to himself regarding his new situation.

  "Plusses and minuses, indeed" Sid said thoughtfully as they made their way back down the country road to the highway. They were in some rural area, lightly wooded, the road was dirt and the shacks he had seen by moonlight were even more dilapidated in the light of day. 

  They were coming around a corner when Sid suddenly slammed the breaks on to avoid hitting two people in the middle of the road. A little boy stood over an old man who was in a fetal position in the road. The boy was crying inconsolably, trying to rouse the old man.

  "What did I do? What did I do?" wailed the little boy. 

  Sid and Ron emerged from the car to see what they could do. Sid tried to comfort the boy, but he ignored Sid, unwilling to leave the old man, whose body was now beginning to decompose right before their eyes. Hubbard watched in horror as the corpse turned to ash, leaving just a windbreaker, jeans and cowboy boots behind. A stick poked through a pile of ash that had once been a gripping hand, on the stick was a colorful sign on which was printed in big black block type, "GOD HATES FAGS".

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 11 "I once was lost . . . "

  Crying. He hated crying.

  Hubbard just never knew what to do with someone so afflicted. He couldn't stand there forever and just let her blubber like that. And who, exactly did she hate? What was that all about? Then it suddenly occurred to him, she was dead. She looked so young! He felt panicked again. Was it because of something he'd done, some random, bennie-fueled HCOB he wrote in a fury? Something his enemies would lay at his feet?

  "Now, now, Shelly. What's the problem?" He was using his patented "affable" voice.

  "Look at me!" the young messenger screamed. She steadied herself with the wall and rose to her feet. "He did this to me!"

  He could now see that she was badly bruised, especially her neck. Around her throat were two horrible, prune colored hand prints.

  "Well, uh, who did this to you, Shelly?" To be honest, he really didn't want to know. He had a feeling that this was going to be another one of those rub-it-in-your-face moments for him.

  "That asshole husband of mine! That goddam, counterintentioned, out ethics, cocksucker!"

  She was yelling quite loudly now. At least she'd stopped crying. Hubbard looked around to see if anyone was watching. The colonnade was empty. Just the shrill call of the frogs and the hum of the pool equipment to be heard.

  She turned to Hubbard, eyes pleading, "You would have stopped him. You would have saved me . . .  wouldn't you?"

  He knew who she was talking about now. Miscavige. He did this. Those were his handprints. 'That little asshole is ruining my afterlife in a big way' he thought to himself. Hubbard put his hands on Shelly's shoulders and she winced. "I'm sorry hon. Really I am. You . . . you shouldn't be here yet. Of course I would have stopped this if I could have. My girls were the only ones I really trusted, and you were my favorite back in those days."

  "Have you seen what he's done? Have you seen it?" She said gesturing toward Fort Harrison avenue.

  "Shelly, I'll be honest with you. I'm only just waking up here after 28 years. I haven't seen anything at all. How long have you been here?"

  "This happened in 2008!" she said pointing to her neck. "I did everything he wanted. Everything. I humiliated myself, gave up everything. He called me 'out ethics, low toned.' He said I was a fucking suppressive and that I was a traitor and was going to lose my eternity!" She was trembling with rage.

  Shelly was always the smartest of the messengers. The other messengers were merciless to her behind her back. The back-stabbing intrigue of the Sea Org onboard the Apollo would have made any Medici blush.

  "He was leaving for Italy with Lou to go to Tom and Katie's wedding, which was happening because of my hard work. He came up to the Rim of the World, to CST, to tell me I wasn't going. Well, that was it, I confronted him with his affair with Lou and I just lost it. I slapped the hell out of his face and messed his hair up. His perfect, fucking hair. Nobody could ever touch his damn hair. But I did. I pulled the fuck out of a bunch of his plugs." Her hand was clenched in a fist and she examined it proudly, as if his hair was still between her fingers. "Well, that did it. The little fucker grabbed me around the neck and I fell back and hit my head on the hearth. That was the last I remember before waking up in this place. So much has happened since that day." And then with the rage subsiding, a stern sadnesss, "It's all coming apart, sir. All of it."

  He wasn't sure what to make of the last outburst. Tom and Katie? Lou? Had Miscavige gone queer? "So, he was out 2D with some man?" he asked.

  "Oh, god no . . . at least, I don't think so. But, I wouldn't put anything past him. Lou is Laurisse Stuckenbrock, his communicator. No, sir, his 2D is all around being beaten and humiliated . . . and his damn puppets. Oh, he made me do it for years, I guess it's her turn now. The leather, the whips and clamps. Smashing his balls is his favorite thing, but you have to do it just right. Exactly the right pressure with your foot. He's such a fucking control freak that even his micromanages his masochism. God, how I hated it."

  Puppets? This was more, way more, than he needed to hear at this particular moment. "Uh, look, Shelly, you really don't have to go into any more detail. That's quite enough."

  She continued, "I guess he found a soulmate in Lou, a sick, cold, back-stabbing soulmate. Oh, I have a feeling she just loves crushing balls. I swear that bitch would drown a bag of puppies without blinking an eye . . . " She noticed that Hubbard staring, slackjawed at this point. "Sorry sir," she laughed, "I guess that's all kind of gross, isn't it?"

Then he noticed something quite remarkable. Shelly had aged, no, actually, she was still aging right in front of his eyes. This damn place again.

  "Are you doing that on purpose?" he asked, waving a finger at her.

  "Oh, it was the thing with the balls wasn't it? And the puppets. Oh shit, I'm sorry, sir, you really don't need to hear all that" she said apologetically.

  "Nevermind" Ron mumbled, gesturing toward the lobby door. "Seeing as you're of age now, I think we could both use a drink, how about we hit the bar for a nightcap before turning in?" Then it occurred to him that might have sounded bad. "I mean, uh, you do have a room here, don't you?"

  I actually live in . . . another place. I heard you were here and I wanted to see you.

  "Missionaries?" he asked dryly.

  "Yes. How did you know?"

  "It's a theme."

  "Oh. Well, anyway, my . . . friend, Uwe dropped me here this morning and I waited for you. I'm sorry I was so emotional, but I started reliving all the abuse and . . ." she trailed off. More tears and then she composed herself again.

  "You know, you looked like you were about 12 when I first saw you. How does that work? I mean, I looked like hell when I first woke up from that infernal loop thing. Then there was this . . . incident with . . ."

   "Lisa?" she asked.

  Hubbard nodded.

  "Lisa found you first, didn't she." Shelly said gravely.

  "I'll say she found me. What the hell was all that spook-house business about? I'll be honest, that gave me quite a case of the wim-wams." Hubbard said trying to sound nonchalant.

  "Lisa was a loyal Scientologist, a clear. She died during an Introspection Rundown in that room, sir. She was trapped here. She couldn't move on without confronting you. It's kind of a thing around here, especially if the connections are deep. You don't even have to know someone and, bam, they show up in the weirdest ways. I'm afraid there may be others. Come to think of it, my mom's not too happy with you either."

  "Swell." He grumbled, looking about nervously, "what about that drink? Will this Ooowee you mentioned be picking you up?" He didn't recognize the name. The guy was probably another angry, dead Scientologist.

  "Something tells me he'll be in the bar waiting for us. That kind of thing happens a lot around here. You'll get used to it." She took his arm and they made their way to the small bar just off the lobby.

  There was an intense looking young man seated at a table in the corner. He gave Hubbard a stern look as he rose to greet them. "Mr. Hubbard, I am Uwe Stuckenbrock."

  Stuckenbrock. That name again. He pondered how this guy might be related to the ball-smashing woman Shelly had mentioned.

  "Ah, yes. She's my . . . widow, sir. You were wondering . . . just now?" the young man said with a clear German accent. "I was your former Int Base Security Chief."

  "I see. So, Uwe, how did you . . . well, you know . . . get here?" Hubbard was guessing that this was a common topic of conversation among the dead. Weird.

  "Multiple Sclerosis. Turns out MS is quite resistant to auditing and vitamins. Saunas too." There was a tone of dark sarcasm in his voice.

  "Well, that's, uh, terrible. Terrible, Uwe. I'm sure you were urged to see doctors, weren't you?" 'Here comes, the knife' Hubbard thought.

  "What I was urged to do was to keep working and audit. So I did. And, in doing so, I waited too long for treatment that might have slowed things down a bit. Your winzig fuhrer ordered Laurisse to divorce me when I was first diagnosed. They might have at least let me go home to Germany, to my family, to die, but evidently I knew too much. I died in the RPF, Mr. Hubbard. It wasn't peaceful."

  Hubbard had nothing to say to this. He looked at Shelly.

  "Uwe, I'm sure this wouldn't have happened if the Commodore had been alive, would it sir?" She looked at Hubbard hopefully.

  No response.

 Uwe just looked at Shelly. Her misplaced loyalty was heartbreaking. He clasped her hand tightly, "You are my reward for all the suffering I was handed in life, liebeschen. But, look . . . you've been crying . . ." he touched her cheek.

  Hubbard squirmed irritably at the emotions on display. "So, what are we all drinking?" he blurted out. And, as he said that, one of the robotic CMO girls who he'd recently hidden behind came up to take their orders. She glared at Shelly.

  "What can I get for you Commodore?" the girl said unctuously.

  "Jack Daniels rocks, with a water chaser. You two?" he asked his companions.

  "Nothing for me sir" said Uwe.

  "I'm fine, thanks" Shelly demurred.

  The statuesque blonde pivoted and slipped behind the bar to get Hubbard's whiskey. He watched her walk away. "Talk about doll bodies . . ." he muttered under his breath.

  There a sudden commotion out in the lobby. "Shelly!" Hubbard heard a woman say from the entrance to the bar. "Darling, it's me, Karen!" The woman strode over to the table.

  Shelly and Uwe rose to greet a radiant looking Karen Black. They embraced warmly.

  "Won't you sit with us?" Shelly gestured toward the empty chair next to Hubbard, "as you can see, we have a special guest."

  Miss Black looked like she smelled something awful. "Oh, Shell, come on. You want me to sit next to him? Really? Honey, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for that asshole's life advice. I would've been good for another ten years at least. The only reason I came to this shithole is because Ayn invited me to her book party and never takes no for an answer."

  "Well, if it isn't Karen Black. Did the Mormons bring you here, or did you just hop on your broom and come of your own accord?" Ron said with as much acid as he could muster."

  Karen leaned down and said, "Oh, Ronnie, I'd slap you, but shit splatters." She let out a laugh and stood back up. "Shelly, you call me, hon. And really, wake up, baby. You're smarter than all of 'em. Be good to her Uwe, she deserves it." And with that, she swept out into the lobby where a pack of paparazzi were waiting with flashes popping.

  "Fucking actors. I never trusted that bitch" Hubbard said with a sneer.

  Shelly looked sad. Uwe stood suddenly and said "I think it's time we turn in, my darling. Come. You can talk to Mr. Hubbard in the morning."

  Shelly rose with him and leaned over to kiss Hubbard on the cheek. "I know you would have helped him. I know it," she whispered. "We'll see you in the morning, sir." And with that, she took Uwe's hand and they left the bar.

  Hubbard wiped his cheek with a napkin once they were out of sight. Saliva. Ugh. He finished his drink and walked out to the front desk. There were two of his nearly identical CMO gals waiting to help him. "Any messages for me?" he asked, half joking. The taller of the two turned to find his mail box and pulled out several slips of paper. "Just these, sir. Let us know if there's anything you need, Commodore."

  He strolled as he read the three messages. The first was from Ayn: 'Divine to see you again Ronnie. Stay safe and keep your heart and your eyes open. Much Love, A.' The next was a phone message from Sid: 'Sorry about the sudden shift old man. Remember, holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. I'll come round to pick you up tomorrow.' What the hell was that supposed to mean anyway? He crumpled the note up and read the last one. No sender, it just said: 'You left me there. How could you do that?' Oh shit, what was that about? He felt another chill even though the night was warm. He crumpled up the remaining two notes and chucked them on the ground. Hubbard reached Nº. 174 and opened the door to his room carefully. It was clean and blessedly free from his past. He locked the door and chained it. Undressed and slipped into the clean sheets of his meticulously made bed, and drifted off to sleep.

  He was awakened by that damn phone thing. It was chirping and buzzing on his dresser at the same time. Hubbard made his way over to the phone. It said 'Shelly' on its face. He picked it up and pressed the button to answer like Ayn had shown him. "Good morning, Shelly," he said with as much cheer as he could muster before coffee.

  "Commodore, please meet me in the lobby. I want to show you around. I'll see you in fifteen minutes." The phone went silent. She had hung up, and she sounded rather cold and distant, too. That didn't bode well for the day. On the bright side, he saw that there was a beautiful seersucker suit with a freshly pressed shirt and white buckskin loafers on the valet. A pale blue ascot was draped over the shoulder of the suit. He loved ascots. So dignified, yet casual. They spoke of leisure and luxury to him. He showered and shaved. Everything was new. The soap, the razor blades. He could get used to this. There was a steaming cup of hot coffee on the counter of the kitchenette when he emerged to dress. Nobody around. Interesting. If only the MEST universe had been like this. But it all seemed real enough, so who could say? 

  He finished dressing and walked down the colonnade toward the lobby, enjoying his coffee with the rising sun slanting through the palms. The morning was quiet and balmy. Shelly was pacing alone by the front doors. The two messengers behind the front desk were eyeing Shelly, whispering to each other and giggling. They snapped to attention as Hubbard entered the lobby. 

  "Bitches" Shelly said bitterly as he walked up to her. 

  "Now, Shelly, you shouldn't let them get to you. I hear tell they're not even really people."

  "That's easy for you to say, sir. They're not sneering at you."

  "Well, what's this you want to show me today? You made it sound urgent."

  "Come with me, sir. I want you to see what he's done in your name." She took his hand and led him to the front door and out onto South Fort Harrison. Two messengers opened the doors for them and they stepped into the sunlight. Above them, there was a bridge leading to a huge building across the street. Massive. It dwarfed the hotel. They walked across the street and to the intersection with Pierce and he saw "Flag" in large script above the door.

  "What the . . . is this what you were telling me about the other night?"

  "Oh, it's only the tip of the iceberg, sir. Only the tip." She took his hand and led him up to the entrance. They entered a lavish reception area with a huge circular counter, and there was another Commodore's Messenger behind that counter. "Welcome to Flag Commodore!" the CM said enthusiastically.

  "Nevermind her" Shelly said, as she pulled Ron purposefully into a vast, multi-story space. Was it some kind of temple? There were huge, bronze statues. They looked like faceless spacemen. There was marble everywhere and a huge fountain as well. There was a café down at the far end of the room.

  "So? What do you think? This is what it's all come to. This is the building of buildings here in Clearwater. Dave raised more than two hundred million bucks for this thing. Everyone calls it the Superpower Building. Of course, he only spent a hundred mil and change on it. I know where the rest is and so will the feds if they ever raid CST. The whales will tear the little bastard limb from limb when they find out how they've been had."

  "All this? For me?" She was kind of shocked. Hubbard looked pleased.

  "Wait. You don't get it. This is all there is." He wasn't listening to her. "The Church is practically dead. There are no new public. No new auditors. There's a handful of people, rich ones, on the bridge. Most of them are foreigners. Russians especially. Mobsters wives and kids. They all want to get the hell out of Russia, so they go to St. Hill to do their TRs and OT courses. Dave is fucking scared to death of them, but he can't live without their money. He launders it, they keep the doors open. But it won't last for long. It's a pyramid scheme and the foundation is crumbling. Your oldtimers are dying or broke. They all hate Dave. Everybody does. But they're scared of him. Of losing their eternity. If they only knew . . ." she said looking around bitterly.

  Hubbard was still staring at all the bling that surrounded them. "So, you say this pile cost a hundred mil? Not bad for a pulp fiction writer . . ." he trailed off.

  "Sir, I don't think you understand the gravity of the situation. He's killing your legacy. He keeps regging the public for money to build what he calls Ideal Orgs all around the world. He drains them of everything to buy and remodel the buildings. Then they have to rent them back from Religious Technology Center, but they have no new public. No book sales. They have nothing but debt and shiny, empty buildings. Sir, are you listening?"

  "He gets them to pay for the buildings and then rent them back? That sounds pretty smart to me!" Hubbard said admiring a huge portrait of himself on the wall.

  "I'm beginning to think Uwe might be right about you, sir." She looked like she'd lost her best friend, mankind's best friend. "I tell everyone that you were good. That you wouldn't let this kind of thing happen. Uwe said you were the monster at the root of all this. He says that Dave was your ultimate creation, a kind of you-on-steroids. I've defended you. I've fought for you."

  Hubbard continued to admire his portrait.

  "I said I've defended you! Do you hear me, you monster!" she pushed him. "You sonofabitch!" now she shoved him. Hard.

  Nothing.

  He was utterly enthralled by his own image.

  Then she heard a warm voice behind her. "Liebschen. I'm so sorry." It was Uwe. He held his arms open and she ran to him sobbing.

  "Oh, god, Uwe," she cried, "I thought . . . I believed. So much wasted, Uwe. My mother . . . so much wasted . . ." she buried her face in his chest and wept.

  Uwe looked at Hubbard, standing there completely entranced by his own face. The painting was looking directly at him now. It was too creepy. Uwe turned away and led Shelly past the cold woman at the desk and out into the warmth of the Florida sun. As they walked slowly down the steps, they passed a tall, elegant man sporting a crisply tailored, navy, linen suit and black Ray Bans on his way up. Both parties paused briefly, "He's in there, Sid," Uwe said, gesturing toward the Flag entrance. "Good luck getting through to him, I think he's finally found the love of his life."

  A moment later, Mr. S. G. Lokavid strode through the reception area and into the great hall where Hubbard stood trapped in his own gaze. "Ron!" he said, casually cleaning his sunglasses with his pocket square, "come along, I believe we still have a keynote to attend."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 10, "Don't Cry For Me Trementina"

  "Ronnie! There you are you sonofabitch!" The tiny woman put her drink down on the table and pushed two men aside like they were saloon doors and came charging around the pool toward Ron.

  "Well, well, well, if it isn't my old pal Alisa! Look at you, you haven't changed a bit" Hubbard bellowed, with a "goddam know-it-all bitch" muttered under his breath as the diminutive woman approached.

  They embraced with the air kisses of false affection, their cigarettes dropping ashes down each other's backs. Rand's coterie across the pool had sad expressions, like dogs at the back door.

  "My, my, Alisa, your friends over there look rather lost without you. I think we'd better join them" he said, looking at the crowd staring at them from across the pool.

  "Oh, if we must. They'll just mope like that 'til I get back and start to talk. So annoying, and as for our meeting here, don't rub it in," she said poking him in the chest .

  "Beg pardon?" Hubbard said not quite following her line of thought.

  "This afterlife business, or whatever it is. So humiliating to be so wrong. And who's the first one to shove my nose in it? That prick, Paul the seventh." She took a long drag of her smoke and let it out pointing to a small man in a chaise lounge near the bar. She waved at him stiffly. He was a kindly looking bald man who had combined voluminous bermuda shorts with black support hose as fashion. He hoisted his cocktail in salute.

  "The Pope, eh?"

  "We're crawling in fucking popes here, Ronnie. Crawling in them! They're not all bad. Darling, little JP 1 is a sweetheart but he cheats at Poker. His left eye goes like this," she was scrunching up her left eye spastically, "see what I'm doing here? That's his tell. I clean him out every time."

  "I'll be sure to remember that." Hubbard remarked dryly. It was going to be a long night.

  They were walking around the pool when she stopped to ask him, "Where are your people? Don't you have your caretakers yet? Or are you too fresh out of the loop? How long has it been?"

  "Since what?" Hubbard said with some irritation.

  "Since you came-to, Ronnie. Since you woke up in this . . . place. I came-to right about the time that little bastard who stole your organization had you all drugged up in Creston. I felt bad for you, I always had a soft spot for you, even if you were a bit of a blowhard." She was smiling now. "Remember that night in Manhattan? I was staying at the Barbizon and you wanted to take me dancing. Me, an older woman." She grew awkwardly coquettish. "You were such a rake back then, Ronnnie. Such a rake. I'll never forget that you were so taken aback at how forward I was about sex. It must have been what, 1932? I had just sold my first screenplay and you had just dropped out of George Washington University. What dreams we had for the world Ronnie, what dreams!"

  "Oh, it was a time, alright. I couldn't walk straight for a week!" he said, laughing nervously.

  "Ach! Still the same old Hubbs," she said bitterly. "You probably don't remember a minute of it, do you?"

  "Of course I do. I had seven dollars and sixty cents to my name, and I took you to that high-class, mob speakeasy up in Harlem. We had quite the repast and danced all night . . ."

  "And we walked out with that seven-sixty still in your pocket, as I recall." she said with eyebrow raised. "How did you do that, Ronnie? I never did find out."

  "Misdirection, dear Alisa, misdirection. That poor goombah at the door was so confused and flustered by the time I was through with him . . ."

  "So was I, Ronnie. So was I."

  "Oh, now, let's don't play the wounded flower, dear. You're one tough customer 'Ayn,' I learned a lot from you." He emphasized her nom de plume with no small amount of sarcasm.

   "Don't I know it." she said wearily. She looked over at her followers clustered around the table where she'd been talking with them. They looked like they were going to burst if she didn't come back over to them. "Ronnie, I'm parched, lets get another drink, shall we? Then, I'll introduce you around."

They continued around the pool, and back to the waiting acolytes who mobbed her with attention, shutting Hubbard out of their circle.

  "Back!" he heard her shout as the group of men and young women backed away from her deferentially. They looked like they had just been caught chewing on the couch, and skulked off to the sidelines, leaving more of the other guests in view.

  "Now, Ronnie, I believe you know Joe and Brigham?" Sure enough, there were the two founders of Mormonism. Joseph looked as impeccable as he had the night he ushered Hubbard into the cab with that awful little man (Mental Note: he'd need to audit that memory out). And, Brigham, well, nobody seemed to even notice the blood. Most likely everybody here was used to it, or worse. The pair held up pink drinks that looked like Shirley Temples in a toast. "And, I believe you know Mrs. Eddy." The woman who had watched him write (and god knows what else) stood under a tiki torch a good ten feet away. She looked at him furtively, waved weakly, and looked quickly away. "She's a charmer alright" Ayn Rand said sarcastically. "Oh, there's someone you really should know, Ronnie, my dear comrade and my mentor when I first got here." She moved into a crowd around a table and returned with a smiling, tan, stocky man in tow. He was sporting a bushy, sun-bleached beard and his head was covered with a broad straw hat. A loud Hawaiian shirt, white shorts and huaraches rounded out his overly casual appearance. The men at the table he'd been plucked from were similarly disheveled.

  "Que pasa, Ron!" he said with a thick Russian dialect. "You call me Vlad! Such a crazy thing this is, no? What you drinking, Ron?" Vlad waved at a bespectacled man with a thick shock of misbehaving hair, who he'd been sitting next to at the table. "Leon! Amigo! Mas cerveza por favor!"

  "Uh, I think I had a Mai Tai if I'm not mistaken" said Ron looking under his tiny umbrella. "I could definitely use another one."

  "Leon!" Vlad barked again "You heard the man, a Mai Tai, tovarich!" The man in the loud shirt turned back to Hubbard "We get you hooked up my friend. Leon is fantastic bartender." Leon was now busy in the thatched-roofed, outdoor bar, chipping away nervously at a block of ice with a big silver pick.

  "Well, it looks like you two are getting along famously" Rand said slinking up to wrap her arm around Vlad's muscular torso. Two of Rand's male followers glared at them.

  Hubbard looked this Vlad character up and down. What did she see in this beach bum?

  "So, uh, Vlad, what do you do here, or should I say what did you do . . . you know, back . . . then . . . before?" He was unsure of how to refer to one's former existence.

  "Really? You don't know? Well, I give you hint. Back then it was all proletariat this, and workers that, you know? The USSR? The October revolution? I make this? Lenin? Rings a bell, no?"

  "The hell you say! Vladimir Lenin? Alisa?" He was completely shocked. They'd always hated communism with such passion.

  "Oh Ronnie, we were all going to change the world, weren't we? Vlad was no different. He had such good intentions Ron, you have no idea. Suffered such loss! Things haven't exactly gone well for his endeavors in the last half century or so. You think your successor was a little monster? Well Vlad's was the monster of the century. How would you like to have that on your conscience? Your little tyrant squirreled away a few hundred mil, slapped a few executives and broke up a few families, boo hoo. His killed tens of millions!"

  Vlad interjected, "You have no idea, Ron. After I die, everything goes south. Then every time some jackass thug pins a red star on his hat, kills a few million people and it gets laid at my feet. Not fair Ronnie, not fair at all. I tell you this, if that slob Stalin ever comes out of his loop, I don't know what I'll do to him. But as it stands now he spends his days burying the dead at a vast, ugly gulag along the Kolyma. Day after day. Over and over again. He can rot there forever for all I care."

  "Excuse me, but may I cut in here?" said a sleekly elegant, blonde woman. Her bleached hair was pulled back in a chignon and she wore white linen capri pants and bolero jacket over an olive green halter top. She had come click-clacking out of the crowd on impossibly high heels and inserted herself forcefully between Rand and Hubbard. "Ayn, cara mia, who is this man and why have I not met him?" She turned to Hubbard and grasped his arm, "Señor," she said breathlessly, "my name is Maria Eva Duarte de Perón . . ." She paused expectantly for some kind of recognition to set in. When it wasn't forthcoming, she continued," . . . and what is yours?"

  The woman was so intense Hubbard actually backed away slightly, he thought she might try to eat him.

  "Down girl" said Ayn. "Really Eva, give the man some room to breathe, piranhita. I'm sorry Ron, someone is a bit starved for fresh meat."

  Ron was flattered, "I remember you, my dear. I seem to remember hearing a recording of the musical about your life Mrs. Perón. What was the song? Don't Cry For Me . . ."

  ". . . Argentinaaaaaa!" the blonde woman sang painfully, "the truth is I never left you. All through my wil . . ."

  "Enough Eva! Whose party is this anyway? Mine, that's whose. You write a book and we'll hold one for you, now run along! Vamoose muchacha!" Rand shooed the dejected blond into the cocktail crowd. The combo started playing a jazzy version of that very song and Eva was making a noisy attempt at getting up on the bandstand to sing.

  Lenin looked pained. "I better go ward off disaster, bublitchka. I see you later, up in suite. Good to meet you Ronnie! See you round the circuit." he walked toward Eva who was tussling with the vocalist of the jazz combo. "Eva, baby, look over here! Let's go get cocktail . . ."

  "I don't know what I'd do without him." Ayn took Ron's arm and they strolled toward the bar. "Well, Ronnie, we really are a couple of pikers aren't we? I mean compared to most of these folks here, we barely made a dent in history."

  "Well, now, Alisa, I wouldn't say tha . . ." Ron began to protest, but she cut him off.

  "Ron. For all my writing and lecturing, all I managed to accomplish was to create a slavishly unthinking, pampered, selfish whining class. Reason without compassion is monstrous, Ron. Monstrous. And you? You really haven't had time to see what's been done in your name, have you?" She looked softer. Concerned. "I suppose you really haven't had the time to unpack all that you've done. It isn't fun Ronnie. If it weren't for Vlad . . ." she trailed off.

  "Exactly what's been done in my name? Joe and Brigham went on about how I made mistakes and started to show me some computer thing the other day with Mike Rinder and something about Miscavige and buildings. I couldn't really follow, to be honest."

  They reached the bar and the bespectacled man with the wild hair handed him a fresh Mai Tai. "I think you find this one a bit better than hotel drink" said the Russian.

  Hubbard pulled the umbrella out, ate the fruit off the stick and took a sip. It was spectacularly strong. "Well, Leon, that's a hell of a drink you've made there! What do I owe you?"

  "Introspection, Ron. Real introspection" he said with intensity. And with a curt salute, he returned to the group of scruffy, bearded beachcombers at the table by the pool.

  "What the hell did he mean by that, Alisa?" He felt the weight of the charm bracelet in his pocket and willed away the fresh memories that were bound to it.

  "Let me see it, Ron." Ayn was holding out her hand expectantly.

  "Aw, fercrissakes, not you too! Can everyone here read my mind?" he said.

  Again, a sudden silence. No music. No talking. And everyone was looking straight at him. Time, or whatever passed for it in this place, stopped.

  "Ron!" Ayn was shaking him violently now. "Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, snap out of it!"

  Everything slammed back to normal. What the hell was that time stopping thing? It was just like the incident with those drunk men back at the Bulgravia Arms.

  "What is that, Alisa? Why can't I do it? And don't tell me it takes time." He was really spooked.

  "It's a feature of this continuum, Ron. You do get used to it after a while. But don't change the subject, back to the business at hand. The bracelet please. There are clues in it, if you look for them."

  He reached into his pocket with his free hand and pulled out the gold bracelet. He handed it to Ayn/Alisa and she examined each one carefully.

  "Ah! See? This one, here. The little mask. You know what that one's about?" she asked.

  "The Three Musketeers?" Ron said uncertainly.

  "No! It's Guy Fawkes, the famous traitor. He plotted to blow up Parliament."

  "In England? Does this have something to do with St. Hill?" he wondered.

  "There's been a development. A group formed recently. A group opposed to Scientology, Ronnie. Anonymous. He's their symbol. The protestors wear that mask for anonymity."

  "Protestors? Well, we'll find out who they are and sue them. We'll ruin them, that's what we'll do!" Ron was getting agitated at this news.

   "It's not so easy Ron, not with the internet. Nobody is afraid of your lawyers anymore. Everyone knows all your secrets. I mean OT-III, let's face it, hon, it wasn't really your best work, now was it?"

  He leaned in closely to her. He was almost whispering, "Alisa, I . . . I was so high when I wrote that. I really thought it was true. My followers, they were lapping up the Space Opera stuff. I think I was convinced that it was a real memory . . . I thought . . ."

  Ayn interrupted him. "Oh, and this one. It's the symbol at the Trementina base, the one you can see from orbit!" She was fingering a filigree charm, made up of two interlocked circles with two interlocked diamond shapes.

  "Trementina? What in Sam Hill is that?" His life was, evidently, weirder than he thought.

  "It was a project of Miscavige's, to create an underground bunker where all of your works could be stored on steel plates in titanium caskets for eternity. There are several bases, actually."

  "What? How the hell much did he spend on . . . " then he did an unintentionally comedic doubletake, "did you say 'eternity?'" He was warming up to the idea. It sounded important. But his reverie was short lived. Taking form before him was an interesting sight. If he wasn't mistaken, The King of Rock and Roll was charging angrily toward him from the lobby door, with a gaggle of excited young women trailing behind.

  "Ayn! Goddamit, why didn't you tell me this bastard was gonna be here? I'da brought a fuckin' gun!" bellowed Elvis Aaron Presley. The gaggle of fans squealed with delight. "Shut up!" he commanded. They complied, looking suddenly contrite.

  Hubbard was instinctively calculating an escape route. The singer looked like he meant to do him some real harm. The cocktail crowd parted like the Red Sea for Moses. Elvis was nearly upon him when Ron suddenly found himself surrounded by . . . girls. They were his messengers, come to protect Source.

  Ayn thought it was quite a sight. Two grown men, surrounded by posses of young women, facing off by a swimming pool.

  "Outta the way, babes!" the King snarled angrily.

  Hubbard gathered more of the girls in front of him.

  Elvis ratcheted the tone, "Come outta there! You messed with the wrong country boy's family you sonofabitch!"

  He had to be talking about Priscilla and Lisa Marie. Hubbard remembered reading GO reports of the effort to secure her back in the '70s. This could get out of hand quickly.

  "Elvis! Elvis, stop it now! We can all talk abou this like adults!" Ayn was hopping up and down in front of Elvis' caretaker/fans, holding her hands up in front of her (as if she could stop them). "Please, you know how I feel about displays of force. This is my soirée and I won't have it." She was getting the upper hand, now. Elvis was visibly calming down.

  "That bast . . ." Rand shot him a look. "uh, sorry, ma'am, that man over there, conned my ex-wife and my beautiful little girl out of millions of dollars That was my money he stole! My money!" It looked like Presley was getting hot under the collar again.

  Elvis looked young. This wasn't the fat, druggie Elvis that Hubbard had mocked when he died in 1977. This was the sleek, young Elvis that his fans remembered from the '60s. Elvis had rudely rejected Ron's overtures to visit the Celebrity Center and Hubbard never forgot it. His famous sneer was now directed at Hubbard.

  "Aw, hell, I guess it really doesn't matter, anymore. My little girl's all grown up and she told you where to go, Mister. Called your cult worse shit than I did, and she did it in song. Ain't that a kick?" He was laughing with pride now.

  What did he mean by that? Did Lisa Marie blow? Was she a musician now? Hubbard was too fresh out of the loop to follow a lot of the facts being thrown at him. But he surely didn't appreciate the joking and degrading from this fellow. He thought he should put an end to this with a display of humility. "So, uh, I suppose we might just shake hands and be done with this disagreement." Hubbard said as casually and affably as he could.

  The singer regarded Ron suspiciously. Then Rand poked Elvis in the side and said "shake," like she was scolding a bad dog. An "aw shucks" look washed across the King's face and his girls parted for him. Hubbard wasn't taking any chances and reached through two layers of  messengers to shake Elvis' hand.

  And that was it. The King turned away and went to sit with the Russians, though his fans continued to give Ron the stink eye.

  A mixture of relief and guilt swirled through Hubbard. He wanted to kick himself. He had hidden behind teenage girls! He hoped it wasn't too obvious to everyone else. With the danger past, his young messengers turned their attention back toward him. The dozen lovely young ladies were wearing their CMO dress whites, and they all appeared to between 15 and 20 years of age. They fussed over him, one brushed off his suit, another lit a fresh Kool and placed it in his mouth and one proffered a clean ashtray, while another took his drink and held it at the ready. Funny. He didn't recognize any of them. They all seemed to know him though.

  "So, where are you girls from?" he asked in a fatherly tone.

  They said nothing. They just smiled blankly and stood by a few feet away.

  "They won't talk much, Ronnie. They're caretakers. They aren't real people, so they don't have much to say. To paraphrase Dickens, they're the chains we forged in life . . . or something. None of us know much about what's behind this continuum, but the caretakers are part of the package. Not the sharpest tools in the shed. There are a few who might join you who were alive once. But you'll recognize them. They won't be so . . . generic.

  Come to think of it, all these girls looked like they could be sisters. Blonde. Tall. Shapely. At least they seemed better behaved than Elvis' excitable troop. "Will they do my bidding?"

  "Anything. But take care. Sid and I think they might be some kind of test." She looked deadly earnest.

  "Ah, Sid. So you know the ol' Buddha, then?"

  "Of course, we all do. We're all big fish in this small pond, Ronnie. Some of us are just bigger than others." She shrugged and took his arm again, shooing the messengers away. "Leave us girls, he's safe now." The messengers moved away to sit over by the fire pit. They never took their eyes off him.

  "So, uh, Alisa," he cleared his throat nervously, "what do I do next? How will I know where to go? I was on my way back to my hotel when I ended up here? Should I try to go back to that awful flea bag?"

  "If it's still there. It may not be. You see, we're not sure any of this is really here. Things are so fluid at times. Here," she said pressing an object into his hand, "I want you to have this, it has my number in it." It was one of Steve Job's Apple phones. She showed him how to turn it on and how you would slide your finger around and the screens would change function. Then she introduced him to Siri.

    After his lesson Ron asked, "So, is she, um, real, this Suri?"

  "Siri" Ayn corrected him.

   "Whatever, what I mean is, does she understand my questions?"

  "As far as I can tell, it's just a program in the phone's memory, but as I said, things are fluid. Just say, 'Siri, call Ayn, and pronounce it correctly, Ron or you'll get somebody else, I really don't go by Alisa anymore."

  "Well, you'll always be Alisa to me." Were those feelings again? Affection? Regret? Resentment? They mixed together and swam around in his head until he shook them off.

  "It's been a long night Ronnie, I think I'll go up and join Vlad, have a nice fuck and get some sleep." She watched him for a reaction.

  "You still know how to make a fellow blush, now don't you, Alisa?"

  "Good night, Ron. I'll be seeing you around." And with a peck on the cheek, she walked back to her pack of followers. "Alright! Alright! Who has to tinkle before bed? Come on everyone, let's go . . ."

  The party was winding down. The Russians were heading inside with some other party goers. Joe and Brigham were nowhere to be seen. A few Sea Org drones were cleaning up and that Perón woman was leaving with the band. She saw Hubbard and mouthed "I'll call you" pantomiming a phone with her hand. He waved back, somewhat relieved and turned back to find his messengers, but they were gone. Hmmm. Did they only show up when you were in trouble? And where did they go when they went? It was all just as well that it was ending. He was tired now.

  The hotel was ablaze in floodlights. He didn't remember it being quite this grand back in his day. There was a chorus of frogs somewhere out in the warm night. The frog's shrill call combined with the sweet perfume of jasmine on the warm air was quite beautiful. The grit and racket of R6 City seemed a distant memory. He walked down the long colonnade toward his room, reminiscing about the first time he saw Clearwater, and how he pulled the wool over the eyes of those chumps on the city council back in '75. He was thinking that his 'United Churches of Florida' scam really was a bit of genius, when he heard someone crying. It sounded like a girl.

  He saw where the tears were coming from. There was a young messenger sitting in front of his door, she was hugging her knees with her head down. Her long blonde hair covered her like a golden mantilla. He never knew what to do when someone was crying, so he said "Now, what could a Commodore's Messenger possibly have to cry about?" trying to sound kindly.

Ayn had said he might recognize one of his messengers someday, and he did, the instant a 12 year-old Shelly Barnett looked up at him, red-eyed, sobbing, "I hate . . . him, sir. I . . . hate him so fucking much."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

LRH: The Target 2 Chronicles, Chapter 9, Death for the Dead

  'Commodore' the girl had said, 'Now, that's more like it,' thought Hubbard. And such a lovely young lady, too. Tall and attractive in her crisp navy suit. He noticed that she was wearing a charm bracelet filled with strangely familiar symbols. He'd given Mary Sue such a bracelet with a charm for each child (of hers) when Arthur was born. But this one was different. He noticed an ARC triangle. A tiny cherub. A gorilla. That angel from the Mormon spire. A crescent moon. A buddha. An odd, grinning man's face wearing a wide brimmed hat (a Musketeer?) and dozens of others.

  The young woman saw that he was staring at it. "Isn't it pretty? Each one means something very special. I love how they jingle!" she chirped, shaking her wrist merrily.

  He smiled and then he caught his reflection in the mirrored wall of the front desk and recoiled. He looked like a bum.

  "Would you like me to show you to your room, Sir?" the young woman said with a note of concern.

  Hubbard took one more sweep of the lobby to see if Sid had followed him in. Empty, except for a couple of Sea Org cadets pushing a cart of bulging file folders who snapped crisp salutes as they passed. "Well, I suppose I can't refuse an offer like that from a lovely young lady like you," he said suavely, unable to resist turning on the charm, even in his present state.

  "Do you have any baggage with you today, Commodore?" she asked earnestly.

  "No, no, I'm, uh, traveling light, you see. Top secret business." He had now turned the charm up to 11. "This getup, the stubble. You see, I've been doing a bit of research into the Whole Track. Very hush, hush, you know."

  "Oh, Yes, sir. Of course . . ." Lisa said, nodding conspiratorially.

  Was she stifling a laugh? She'd better not be. Maybe she was just sneezing. 'Don't be so paranoid,' he thought.

  The young woman turned and began searching for a room key in the rows of boxes. They were all empty except for one. She pulled the key out . . . "One seventy four!" she said holding the key up triumphantly. She was displaying a little too much verve for Hubbard. He loathed a simulacrum of enthusiasm. "It's the Tropical Terrace Room for you, sir!" the young lady said rather theatrically. She seemed to be doing her best to evoke the mystery of the islands.

  Hubbard felt a twinge of . . . something. 'What was she up to?' he thought. But now she had him by the hand and was leading him through the lobby at an ever quickening pace.

  "Oh, you are going to love this room, Commodore! It has all the comforts, sir, all the comforts. And it has peace and quiet. Your research can continue in complete and total silence. Like I said, you're going to love it!" They were almost jogging at this point. She was growing more manic as they approached the room. Lisa was squeezing his hand really hard now, and, if he was going to be honest, she was getting a bit scary.

  She released his purpling hand. The front desk girl was shaking as she put the key into the door. Alarming at first, she was just getting annoying now. The young woman finally got the door open and without taking her eyes off him, she bowed dramatically, scraping low to usher him in.

  All at once she sprang into action. Miss Lisa McPherson, Clear, was now speeding around like a coke fiend.  "This, this, this is the door. The door. The door! The doooooooor!" she sang in a fake operatic voice followed by shrill giggles. "The closet door! The cabinet door! The door to the bathrrrrroom. The commode-door!" A shrill laugh, then, "the bathroom is for, well . . ." she cackled hysterically, her voice pitched high, "the bathroom is for shitting shit all over the place!" More uncontrolled cackling, almost crying now. "Shitting shit, shitting shit, shitty, shitty, shit-shit . . . SHIT!" she was barely able to get the last 'shit' out when she suddenly resumed with enhanced intensity, "the windows, you can see through them. See? See how you can see? Outside. Through the glass?" More cry/laughing. "These are drawers you can put . . ."

  "Stop! Shut up! Just shut up!" Hubbard bellowed. "For gods sake, be quiet and get your restimulated ass out of here! You, young lady, are clearly stuck in some kind of incident! Go get some auditing! Out!" The young woman was now out of control veering between tears and hysterical laughter. He steered her to the door, pulled the key from the lock, and with a final shove, ejected her out into the colonnade. He slammed the door behind her.

  Silence.

  That was strange. The young woman stopped laughing the second he shut the door. Like turning off a switch. Well, it didn't matter. Maybe he could finally get some rest and clean up.

  Hubbard turned around and headed back toward the  . . . bed. Wait. Where was the furniture? And what was that smell? There was furniture when he came in here a moment ago, and art on the walls, but now the room was stripped, save for a mattress on the floor. But the walls. The walls were smeared with . . . well, he didn't want to know. He pulled his sweater collar up over his face. No use. It was gagging.

  Well, he may have been exterior for 28 years, but he was still the Commodore, goddamit, and he was going to get to the bottom of this. He charged for the door in a right fury. But something stopped his hand as he reached for the doorknob. A fear. A terror, really. He froze.

  This was silly. He was already dead, what the hell could happen to him? But that dread. It was the girl. He could feel her there, right other side of the door. Just . . . there, waiting for him. There was no peep hole in the door, but he knew it. He could feel it. He put his hand on the door and it was freezing cold, so cold he was afraid his hand would stick to it. He backed away. The door was giving off a frozen mist now, like the dry ice fog in a cheap sci-fi flick. It gathered just above the floor, pouring out to fill the room. He was transfixed. She was there. He knew it.

  He instinctively backed up. He kept backing up until he hit something with his heel. He spun around but now the mist was about thigh high, so he could see nothing below his waist. The mattress! It was the fucking mattress! He started to laugh, with the stress and fatigue of it all. "Old man, you still know how to scare the crap out of yourself after all these years," he said to himself, but his bravado and smile quickly faded. He looked back at the door, mist was now pouring down it like a waterfall. There was a chain lock and a deadbolt. He made his way through the waist high fog and pulled his sweater off to use as a glove against the cold. He locked the deadbolt and slid the chain into place. There. He was safe.

  Then he heard it.

  What was that? Panting? A faint, shallow, raspy breathing? It was behind him in the room.

  "Alright! Who the hell is doing this?" he said, trying to sound tough.

  The door was so cold he had to move away from it or freeze. He pulled his nasty sweater vest back on and moved toward the kitchenette on his left. There was nothing in the drawers or cabinets to use as a weapon. The breathing continued, weak and rattling with pleurisy.

"Bang!" went the metal skin on the fire-door as it popped in contraction from the assault of cold. Hubbard shot forward and fell over onto the mattress.

  He wasn't alone.

  If he could have shit or pissed himself, he surely would have. He couldn't move. A cold, dry hand grasped his arm. He recoiled, but the nearly skeletal hand held tight. He couldn't really see for all the mist around him, but he could hear. And what he heard was a jingle. The jingle of charms.

He tried again to wrest his hand free, but this time the whole body came forward with it. It was Lisa, but her beautiful face was almost cadaverous, covered with sores and eyes sunken deep in their sockets. She was trying to talk.

  "Q-q-quiet" she barely whispered, gasping short, sharp breaths between words, "I'm . . . clear . . . no . . . sick" she said pleadingly. "Just . . . need . . . quiet. Rest. Introspect . . . " she trailed off, coughing weakly, her rattly lungs betraying her condition.

  "What do you want? Who are you? What happened to you?"

  "Come . . . closer, I . . . don't . . . have . . . much . . . time." she rasped.

  He had no choice. Her hand may have been barely skin and bones, but he wasn't going anywhere until she was done with him.

  "Did . . . did I . . . do this?" Hubbard asked, afraid of the answer. Now he was shaking.

  She just looked at him with her graying pupils. "You know . . . who," she said.

    "I know what?" he asked softly, but her hand had relaxed, her breathing had stopped. She was still. He lay there in shock for what seemed like an eternity. Finally he rolled off the mattress onto the floor and backed up against the wall. The mist was dissipating. The front door looked normal again, save for all the condensation that had pooled at its base. He turned to look back at Lisa, but she had gone all translucent. She was evaporating with the wisps of fog around her. Only her circle of golden charms remained.

  Death for the dead.

  Death for the dead. Those words kept repeating in his head. Where had he heard them before? Death for the dead. He was still shaking badly and felt like he might vomit. Opening the bathroom door, he expected more excrement, but he saw instead that the room had returned to its previous, pristine state. There were fresh, white towels and flowers placed on the back of the commode . . . and it didn't smell. He shut the door behind him and staggered to the toilet. Clutching the rim, he dry-heaved a few times. Nothing came out. 'Not always safe' Smith had said. "Not safe. No shit," Ron announced bitterly to the porcelain bowl before him.

  He got to his feet, peeled his stinking rags off and showered for the first time in, what . . . 28 years?

  After all that he'd been through, the hot water was paradise, and the soap smelled of sandalwood, which reminded him of his first wife, Polly, and a life so very long ago. He luxuriated in the shower until the stench of death for the dead was gone. The thick towels were like the ones he'd insisted on when he was kitting out St. Hill. So long ago. When he emerged dripping and refreshed, there was a fine, English shaving kit with a ceramic mug full of lather and a boar bristle brush waiting next to the sink. He scrutinized his reflection as he shaved in front of the bathroom mirror. Not bad for, what was he? Seventy-something? He looked more like fifty. His teeth even looked better, his hair fuller and less gray. What was the other thing that Joseph Smith had said? 'That could change?' "Well, I guess it has" he said to the mirror, feeling rather pleased with himself.

  The idea of putting on those horrible, stinking rags he'd been wearing was unappealing, but he couldn't wear a towel everywhere, so he headed out of the bathroom to see if there was some soap to wash his clothes out in the kitchenette. He was only half surprised to find the room fully furnished, the kitchenette stocked. Best of all, here were fresh undergarments and beautiful blue suit arranged on a valet next to the closet.

Ron Hubbard loved luxury and he especially loved fine clothing. He savored the experience of putting on a crisp, fresh shirt and a perfectly tailored suit. It all smelled expensive. On the bureau, there were ruby cufflinks and a watch. But not just any watch, it was a gold Vacheron Constantin Reference 4178 Chronograph, the one with the alligator strap. He bought it for himself when Dianetics went on the best seller list the first time. He reached for the timepiece but stopped, noticing the charm bracelet sitting next to it. Feelings again. Was that sadness? Regret? Maybe, for a moment, then he shook it off. Hell, he was young again! And hungry! He fastened the jewelry and watch, pocketed the bracelet and admired himself in the full length mirror of the closet door. He was back.

  Feeling a bit more like himself, L. Ron Hubbard walked purposefully to grasp the doorknob, and . . . hesitation. The hesitation was slight, but it was there. But, she was gone. He'd watched the girl exteriorize right in front of him. Nothing could be done about whatever happened to the her. It wasn't any of his business anyway. He didn't even know her. He grabbed the knob and opened the door. No Lisa. Just the perfume of a balmy Florida evening and the boozy sound of a jazz combo coming from the pool area. He strode out into the night to reclaim Flag as his own.

  There was a cocktail party by the pool. Finally. Some human company. Fashionably dressed people were all milling around with drinks and, (yes!) cigarettes. The party was gay and the chatter, lively. The center of attention seemed to be a small, intense brunette who was holding court by the buffet table. Her audience hung on her every word.

  "Commodore?" A Sea Org waiter appeared proffering a lit Kool and a rum drink with a festive umbrella in it.

  "Uh, thanks, son. So, tell me, who's that little broad over there with all the men around her? I can't quite make her out . . . " he asked pointing across the pool.

  "Oh, that's Miss Rand, sir. This is her book party. She's staying in the Presidential Suite. I hear she's very interesting."

  "Oh, she is, son, she is . . ."