Kelley had kept his word. When Ryder awoke the next morning and went downstairs, he saw his mother moving with ease back and forth between the kitchen stove and table. She was humming softly. He knew that meant she was in a good frame of mind; had she known about last evening’s escapades, he would have been awoken at first light with a stern, “We need to talk, Mister.”
He was not always successful in his stealth night moves. Sometimes, more often than he cared to admit, the front door would creak as he pulled it open to enter or exit, especially in warm damp night summer weather. The noise, albeit subtle was enough to alert his mother, whose bedroom was just off the front foyer, that someone was entering or leaving the house. Keesha, Ryder, and Deacon had met several times at the Data Pods. Wandering across the vacant grassy fields, down into the tunnels that ran like river tributaries beneath the city out and beyond into RO territory. They had to know if what Keesha was discovering on the RO data base was true. They had to see for themselves. Of course, the threat had still been largely theoretical; or at least it had been until the ground shook just the day before. That was the proof they needed.
Ryder’s mother has been a light sleeper ever since her husband’s disappearance. Punishment for Ryder’s night movements usually involved being grounded or a few extra rounds of chores helping the elderly neighbors up and down his block, in lieu of stick ball or ice cream with Deacon and Keesha. Last summer, she had even impounded his bicycle for two weeks, so that he could not ride to the swimming pool five miles across town. How could he possibly explain to her, or to anyone (other than Deacon or Keesha … and now Uncle Kelley), that they had secretly been following the movements of colonizers.
Now, in the morning light streaming through his kitchen window, Ryder was beginning to wonder if they had just imagined it all. Had they imagined the record of memos passed from Romer Onyx CEO to the development team to work in secret with known frackers; people whose work in mining energy from beneath the earth’s surface was being used for a parallel other agenda. Had they imagined the maps and charts Keesha has mined herself from the depths of the RO database showing the strategic geographical locations of the sites RO would be targeting? No. They had printed records of it all. With Kelley’s help, they now also had a plan.
“You got a letter, Ryder. It’s from the Indigenous Intersection Group,” his mother was saying. “I suppose they’ve reviewed your application to work next spring with the Water Makers in Arizona. Isn’t that where Keesha applied, too?”
Decolonized zones all over the country networked together outside the bounds of the corporate colonizers to provide skills, natural resources and knowledge to one another in exchange to provide what each other was needing. The bottle water crisis and lead water poisoning epidemic which started with Flint, MI, motivated decolonized peoples to find ways to stop the poisoning of their people. Hydraulics experts and geologists worked in tandem to direct water sources including rain water collection centers to local agriculture.
Spending three months training with the water makers meant likely spending three months with Keesha. Ryder’s heart raced a little. Her experience in the ceramic arts made her a shoe in for this project. Ryder, fascinated with science and engineering, wanted to understand better how it was that the artist activists from Arizona figured how to use specific clays and minerals via a filtering process, to get clean potable water from nearly anywhere. The goal was to bring this training back to the community and creating working cooperatives to deliver goods and services. More importantly, Ryder had learned a great deal more than that.
In his preparation for his Arizona internship, Ryder had studied fracking: learning how it harmed the water systems, and from there deduced what RO was doing. But now, after his conversation with Kelley, he knew Arizona would have to wait. Kelley had agreed to help with their plan. But his use of this knowledge he had gained would matter more than ever.
“So, can I assume you are going to accept this internship, Ryder?” His mother had a strained expectant look on her face. He hated lying. He was horrible at it. Forcing his best poker face, Ryder smiled and shook his head “Yes.”
“Good!” I’ll make arrangements with the child care partners to cover for me so I can get you out there safe and sound. “It’s nice to know that Keesha will be there too, to keep an eye on you.” She gave him a sly grin.
“No!” He sounded a bit too alarmed. She pulled her face and shoulders back, and frowned.
“I mean, um…” Think Ryder! He said to himself. “I mean, Uncle Kelley wants to take me.”
“Uncle Kelley? When did you discuss this with him?”
She was too damn astute.
“At debate group. Yesterday afternoon. We just ran into him. He was asking me how everything was going…”
He lowered the high pitch in his voice. This lie was becoming a little easier now. He had a story built up.
“So I mentioned the Arizona application to him. He said he wanted to get away…vacation, I guess. Has some friends out that way he wanted to visit?” Was she buying any of this? He added, “And Keesha’s decided to take a different internship.”
Ryders’ mom paused, considering this new information. She walked toward the kitchen sink and turned on the faucet, and started rinsing the dishes. She sighed. “Well, I guess that’ll be alright.” She bent over and kissed his forehead. “I’m gonna miss you, though.”
“I’m gonna miss you too, Ma,” he said, leaning into her with a sweet nudge. “But its only eight weeks.”
Only eight weeks, he heard himself repeating over and over.
They had eight weeks to stop Romer Onyx.