This doesn’t seem to have an end. At least, not any time soon.
“It’s not nice to stare at someone, you know,” said Lawrence quietly.
Jerome averted his eyes, but Austin ignored the comment and continued to fix his gaze on Lawrence, as though he was trying to imprison him there with nothing else but piercing looks.
“There’s a lot of explaining you have to do, Lawrence,” said Austin coldly.
Lawrence sighed. “Where do you want me to start?”
They were alone in the resting room, sitting around the only table. Lawrence fingered the cup in his hands, waiting for an answer. Evan and Ethan had insisted that they be present at the explanation, but Lawrence had convinced them otherwise.
“I think it would be better if you began at the beginning, Lawrence.”
“Yes, well, that is a bit of a problem,” said Lawrence, looking back up at them.
Jerome and Austin looked confused. “What do you mean?” asked Jerome.
“Well… okay. I’ll tell you, then. Or at least as much as I’m allowed to.”
Austin sat back and folded his arms. “Begin, then.”
“You must understand, some of this will not make any sense to you at all… and it’s difficult to say all this in words.”
Austin remained passive.
“Well,” began Lawrence, “I think you might have gathered that I’m not exactly Lawrence Matthews, the intelligent, helpful, energetic student that you’re all familiar with. It’s one of my few aliases, and certainly the most rewarding. Before you ask, I haven’t got a name. I never got named anything. It’s one of the few results in being trained by the academy.
“The academy is a training location. It belongs to an international, independent organisation. Don’t ask the name of the organisation – there isn’t one. It’s simply referred to as The Organisation. The academy is the location where people are trained to become The Organisation’s elite, the main workforce.
“The Organisation’s main objective is to fight terrorism. It might seem like a rather idealistic, oh-they’re-the-good-side objective, but we fight terrorism with terrorism, so you might say we’re terrorists on terrorists.
“This entire place-” Lawrence gestured around him “-is one of the offshore bases of the Organisation. In fact, it’s the only one remaining now, after all the other ones got destroyed in the embassy attacks.
“Yes,” said Lawrence, looking at Jerome’s and Austin’s astonished faces, “most of the offshore bases were in embassies, and we received an order to destroy all of them. There’s been an information leak, you see, and here, we can’t let anything get out at all.”
“So you… you were the one that set fire to all of the embassies?”
“No, no, no,” said Lawrence. “You’ve seen Evan and Ethan, right? The twins? Yeah, they’re part of my team here. We fired missiles at all the embassies and destroyed the evidence there. Part of the entire intelligence is that the missiles make it look like a case of arson. But don’t worry, it isn’t.
“You remember the day that I vanished suddenly in the middle of English, right? I told you my mother had a heart attack? Well, the truth is, there was no heart attack. I don’t even know who my mother is… it’s all right,” he added, spying Jerome’s compassionate look. “I got over that fact a long time ago, and hey, I’ve survived so long without parents, I think I can live without them.
“If your memories have come back completely, you should remember that you came to visit me here hours later, right?” The two of them nodded. Lawrence continued, “That was the first time you turned up. After that, we performed a memory wipe on both of you. That’s why you had no recollections of this place at all – at least until I fell on you during the assembly yesterday. You know why that triggered a recall, don’t you?”
“Because you did the same thing here?”
“Exactly. After that, we were no longer permitted to perform another wipe. Protocol dictated that we had to keep the knowledge of this location secret at all costs. In the Organisation’s words, ‘at all costs’ means… the worst way of keeping secrets secret. Killing.”
Lawrence’s stomach felt heavy saying those words, but he knew that it was inevitable. He briefly registered their faces of shock before leaning back, watching the smoke dance above his own mug. He wondered if he should say anything more, but no… that would be breaking regulations. As if he wasn’t already bending them, telling Austin and Jerome about the Organisation.
“Is that it?” asked Austin, looking disappointed.
“That’s it.” Lawrence’s stomach gave another churn at the lie, but it was necessary.
Everything was necessary, reflected Lawrence.
There was a gentle beeping noise in the room. Lawrence felt a soft vibration on his leg and he knew what was happening. But he didn’t bother checking the incoming message.
“Feel free to help yourselves to anything in here,” said Lawrence, waving an arm around at all the food and drink stocks. “One of the reasons why you’re in here is because there are no emergency switches or anything.”
Lawrence turned away and left. His heart felt ever heavier knowing that Austin and Jerome were utterly confused, but there was nothing that could be done anymore. They’d have to work everything else for themselves.
It was only when he had passed three more corridors did he pull out the beeper and check the message. How thoughtful of Ethan, to not page him over the speakers and send the emergency by a much less interrupting technique.
A standard emergency? Well, it would certainly have to be quite interesting for Ethan to have informed Lawrence about it. Lawrence stowed away the little black device, breaking into a run as he headed for the control room.
“What is it?” inquired Lawrence, stepping through the hydraulic doors and looking towards Ethan’s desk.
“Keep working on it,” said Lawrence. “And tell me when you’ve got something.”
Evan and Ethan exchanged dark looks. “That’s exactly the problem, Lawrence,” said Evan swiftly. “You see, Ethan and I… well, we…”
Lawrence raised an eyebrow, knowing full well what they were saying. But he wasn’t going to help them get there.
“Let’s just say… we have our own arrangements for the night. So we really can’t be here, watching over the progress…”
A sudden inspiration came over Lawrence, and he said the words before he could even think about them.
“Can I join you guys?”
Evan and Ethan looked taken aback. “Are you serious?” asked Ethan in a hushed voice.
“Yeah,” said Lawrence matter-of-factly. “So can I?”
Evan shrugged and looked at Ethan, who nodded. “Sure.”
There was a blank silence.
“I think I’ll go check on Austin and Jerome now,” said Lawrence, backing out of the command room slowly. “Just set the computer onto updating services and that should be fine. Well, then, see you later.”
Evan and Ethan looked bewildered as Lawrence left. He managed to catch a few of Evan’s unbelieving words before the doors hissed shut.
“Was that really Lawrence who said he wants to do it with us?”