Without hesitation, Emorick told the Rebels, “We can’t do much of anything in these sewers! Let’s get out of here and find a place to figure the rest of it out.” Gwynivara and the other Rebels knew that they could have figured that out on their own, but it felt so refreshing to get an order from him again! Gwynivara could tell that they respected her leadership, but his encouragement and strategic skills were priceless, values that only got iterated by his absence! The joy of this reunion emboldened their spirits, which gave them the spark of energy that they needed to move forward again. Kierram and Riley scooped Emorick up again, and they continued trekking through the sewage system.
The pipe-way they followed led to a drain large enough for them to walk through, and they found themselves on a dirt patch in a green field. They could hear an excited buzz from a large crowd nearby the spot, and when they traversed the small hill in front of them, they beheld an enormous football stadium with numerous people trickling in! A group of attendees passed by them with patriotic shirts and accessories on, and Gwynivara realized, “Oh, we’re at the rally!”
Before Emorick could ask what really she had meant, a passerby chimed in, “That’s right, sister! You made it here!”
A woman in that same group ushered them, “Come on, we don’t wanna be late!” The Rebels hesitated a bit. They were already wanted by Virginia authorities for evading quarantine and by the FBI for a trumped up charge, and after that stunt they pulled at Emorick’s court martial, they knew they would get placed on the most wanted list for the state of Maryland and the military too. It seemed reckless to even consider attending an event with so many eyeballs, each set only increasing their odds of getting reported, but so far, none of the people that went by looked rattled by their presence in any way except in wondering why they just stood there. Everyone’s enthusiasm for the occasion appeared to have siphoned their entire focus, so Gwynivara didn’t think that anyone would think to keep a lookout for any fugitives. She thought that they could blend in with the crowd and then slip into the woods that she saw behind the stadium, but then Emorick, in a low tone so that only the Rebels could hear him, inquired, “Is this something we might benefit from attending?”
The possibility of actually going to the rally hadn’t actually occurred to her until right then! She heard enough of the nonsense that came out Rialowe’s mouth already, and she didn’t relish the idea of hearing more of it, but Emorick raised a good point. If Rialowe really was working for Rafeneita, then it could prove helpful to see his strategy unfold in front of them! She now grew curious on whether or not he might mention her in an indirect way, and she wondered if Rafeneita had the gall to actually show up to one of these things! At the very least, Emorick only got a small summary of what they learned about their enemy during his time in a coma, so he would most likely gain a lot of perspective on the situation by going to this. Technically, Emorick did have a presence at the battle against her, but apparently, he didn’t remember anything about that day. She made a mental note to delve into how he had been able to do that, but for now, she thought that the leader of the Rebellion should knew these details, so it now made absolute sense for them to attend this thing. She replied to him by nodding, and with Emorick’s consent, they followed the folks flocking to this event.
As they approached the venue, everyone lined up and slowed their pace. Bernadette peered over everyone’s heads, and then she reported, “Oh, it looks like they’re going through security.”
“Security? Does this guy actually qualify for secret service?” Kierram questioned.
“It looks like it.” Bernadette observed them a frown.
The Rebels began to fret until Riley reasoned, “This isn’t a bad thing! They’re probably just checking for weapons, so we’re fine! If he had hired his own security guards, you know who would have just told them about us…”
They got reassured by his logic, but John fretted, “I hope she didn’t plant people on the inside in case we stopped by!”
“I don’t think she expected us to make it out of the courthouse let alone attend this… genius’s rally…” Niqun obviously edited her words in case anyone outside of their group overheard her.
“She probably doesn’t even know that we made the connection between her and him,” José pointed out.
Emorick stated, “If she had any clue we would attend this rally, she would’ve stopped us from coming a long time ago!”
The person behind them piped in, “She sounds like a real bitch!” The Rebels wholeheartedly agreed with him on that!
As they neared the secret service team, everyone’s hearts beat rapidly! To their relief though, they simply waved a metal detecting wand over them, and when they found nothing, they motioned for them to go inside. They made their way to the vacant seats in the back with the full expectation of getting ambushed at any second, and the fear became so pronounced that Gwynivara wanted to suggest turning back to leave. The breath got sucked out of them when a very large man suddenly stood in front of them and grunted, “Hey!” Fortunately, he quickly followed with, “Nice shirt!”
He pointed to the anti-glove tee shirt that Cody wore, and everyone got flooded with relief when they figured out that the man’s intention was simply to compliment them! Cody had clearly forgotten about his disguise, but he speedily recovered by saying, “Thanks, man!” The guy gave him a high five, and then everyone returned to making their way to their seats.
Once the Rebels had sat down, they began to visually canvass the area. The arena had gotten thoroughly packed, and the crowd hardly had any space between them. She spotted ushers sprinkled throughout the area, but the sheer volume of people didn’t allow them to move much if at all. Gwynivara pondered if Rafeneita might have warned the ushers about them, but she rationalized that if she had plants in this event that she would have made it easier for them to maneuver through the aisles. She wanted to express this notion to the others, but Emorick incredulously read out loud, “Lie to me!”
Gwynivara glanced up and saw what he alluded to. On two big projector screens, the woman from Rialowe’s ad posed for a poster advertising Rialowe’s candidacy, and while she had heard her say that she would permit lies on the commercial, it made her cringe to see that Rialowe used it for his campaign slogan! It did please her to see that Emorick had the right reaction to this premise, and as they lowered the stadium lights to convey their readiness to begin, Gwynivara confirmed to Emorick, “Yes, you read that right! And yes, that’s a sucker by her lips too!”
Emorick’s face twisted in revulsion, but before he could comment any further, that same woman from Rialowe’s propaganda entered onto the stage, which prompted the crowd to cheer. She paused to let them escalate their excitement, and then she spoke into a microphone, “Hello, Silver Park!” The audience cheered for her again, and after they finished, she continued, “Nice to see you! For those of you who don’t know, I’m Bella Dolion, the chief spokesperson for the Rialowe Seventy Six campaign! I just wanted to come out and thank you for your support! Thanks to you, we now qualify for the presidential debates next week!” The crowd celebrated wildly, and the Rebels gave each other a foreboding look before Bella went on, “We’re about to change the world, can you feel it?” Everyone responded quite vehemently. “Yes, I love it! That sounds like freedom! Are you to be free?” They all indicated that they did. “Then it sounds like you’re ready for the man of the hour- Don John Rialowe!”
Rialowe bounded onto the stage and drank in all of the fervor that the crowd gave him. Beaming broadly, he took the microphone and addressed the crowd, “Hello, patriots!” He let everyone roar for him, and then he continued, “I hope you didn’t come here expecting to hear more of the same old guff that the rest of the politicians give you!” They all expressed how much they didn’t want to hear that, which made Rialowe’s grin widen. “I didn’t think so! I’m sure you’re tired of of their doom and gloom! They only want to give you the worst case scenarios, and they claim that it’s facts! Then, if someone like me wants to tell you all the good that’s happening, suddenly I’m lying! They don’t seem to get that you’d much rather hear one of my ‘lies’ than their so called truths! So, how about it? Who wants me to lie to them?”
The entire stadium began chanting, “Lie to me! Lie to me! Lie to me!”
Once the chanting died down, Rialowe enspeeched, “My fellow Americans, the future is bright for our country! We’re going to wriggle out of the arms of oppression, and for once, we’ll know what it likes to live in the land of the free! No more being criminalized for just trying to live your life! If you want to speak out, you’ll no longer be silenced! If you work hard to earn a living, you’ll no longer get so much of your paycheck taken from you! If you want to live in your dream neighborhood, Uncle Sam isn’t going to stand in your way anymore! Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter want to get elected to control your every move, but I want to be your next president so you can get that control back!” His supporters all regaled him with noises of approval. “You know they both support the PHC’s recommendation to have everyone wear gloves?” All of the attendees, except for the Rebels, booed at that reference. He held up a pair of thin gloves and stared at them judgmentally. “Really? This piece of cloth is supposed to keep me safe from a deadly disease? How fake does this pandemic sound?”
Gwynivara and the other Rebels all bore an expression of sheer disgust at his antics. While he spoke, Gwynivara noticed a small creature scurrying over the back side of the seats in a row ahead of them. It almost resembled a salamander, but it had much sharper features. She nudged the Rebels around her to bring it to their attention, and as Rialowe continued speaking, they watched it with great interest. Gwynivara wanted to go down to destroy it before it bit someone, but she caught wind of the closest usher’s gaze. He glared at her as if to signal not to interfere, which perplexed her completely for a second. It then occurred to her that Rialowe literally was in the middle of explaining how preposterous the concept of Venenatus Sanguis sounded to him, and pointing out a manifestation would prove its existence. She understood that his sycophants wanted to make sure that he didn’t get contradicted, but this bothered her! The creature would bite someone and spread the viral disease further! The afflicted may not make it, and if they did, they might infect others who wouldn’t! She considered risking detection to put an end to this dangerous allowance, but it was too late! It bit a woman’s shoulder, and when she saw the beast attached to her, she didn’t freak out! She simply shrugged it off, and then she laughed about it amongst her friends! This horrified the Rebels beyond measure- people were getting infected with Venenatus Sanguis and didn’t care! The depth of Rialowe’s poisoned words became evident, and whether he worked for Rafeneita or just did this vile action on his own, he needed his sinister efforts to get thwarted immediately!
After Rialowe finished, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. As he exited the stage, he got received by both Bella and a mysterious woman who kept her face concealed. Gwynivara felt a cold chill go through her, and her gut told her that they were in Rafeneita’s orbit! She could tell that the other Rebels felt the same way based on their faces. As they eyed this woman suspiciously, Gwynivara desperately wished that she could have ambushed the stage and confront this person. Even if her theory on her identity got proven wrong, these people were dangerous! No matter who she was, the whole team needed to get confronted! Unfortunately, the flow of the crowd became too strong. Everyone was streaming out of the exits, and they had no choice but to follow.
As soon as they could break away from everyone else, Gwynivara probed, “So, how do we get back inside?”
Emorick used his facial gestures to allude to something ahead of them. “We don’t!” The Rebels all caught sight of what he saw, and their eyes grew wide…