THE MORAL INDIVIDUAL

Strategy

When everyone was again gathered at the Blake's farm, Connor told them what he and Briana had discovered.

"There is a tunnel but it can only be reached from the sea. It's pretty well hidden, and the navigation buoys would keep most sailors from getting near it. We have no idea what is actually in the cave, how long it is, or whether it is the way to the top of Stove Pipe Hill or not. We're convinced it is the only possible way the Trashers can be coming and going from there," Connor explained.

"If we're going to rescue Brittany and Philip, it looks like that is the only possible way," Lester said. "If we use it and are successful, it would be a miracle. They would be sure to know we were coming."

"Maybe not," Peter Arnault said.

"What do you mean?" Jasmine asked.

"I mean we may be able to create a diversion that will get the Trasher's attention," he said.

"Peter and I have discussed it," Veronica said. "We thought of using rockets to gas the whole place, but decided it would be just as dangerous for Brittany and Philip as the Trashers. But the rockets are still a good idea. With Lester's help we could build the rockets and launchers. We have all the chemicals. We could set up a rocket barrage that would get their attention while we try to get to where Brittany and Philip are and rescue them."

"Oh, a 'super-bull roarer,' Eddy said. Only Yuwon, Lester, Jasmine, Anthony, and, Veronica knew what he was talking about.

"Something like that, Veronica said. Only more modern."

"The problem is, we have no idea what's inside the tunnel, how long it is, whether it's guarded, or how we get to where the Trashers are holding Brittany and Philip," Connor said. "We are convinced the tunnel is the way, but don't know anything about it."

"I could find out," Freddy said.

Everyone was a bit surprised by Freddy's sudden suggestion.

"How could you find our?" Megan asked.

"I'm still in a Forbidder school, and there are lots of kids who do drugs and deal with the Trashers. Maybe I could find out from one of them, or one of the Trashers. Maybe I could become a Trasher. They're always recruiting.

"If I can't find out that way, I could have a look inside the cave. If they're looking at all, the Trashers will be looking for a boat. But I could swim in, mostly under water, and see what I could learn."

No one said anything, but some were shaking their heads.

"You know, Freddy, both those ideas are good ones," Connor said, to everyone else's surprise. "I don't think becoming a Trasher would be necessary, but you might be able to learn something just by keeping your ears open. If nothing happens on its own try an innocent question, like: "Someone told me there were a bunch of people trying to climb Stove Pipe Hill and there was shooting. Wonder what that was."

"As for exploring the cave, I think there is a way to use that too. I have an idea I want to work out. We'll get together later Freddy, is that OK?"



When most everyone else had left, Connor, Briana, Megan, and Freddy did get together.

"I hope I didn't make a foolish suggestion in there," Freddy said.

"You didn't Freddy. What prompted you?"

"I want to do something. I always feel a little like I'm taking from all of you, but not contributing very much. All your parents are Nochose, and your whole view of life is different from my parents, those I go to school with, and their parents. When I'm with all of you is the only time I feel I am with people like me.

"Did you know my grandfather was a friend of your grandfather, Connor?"

"No I didn't," Connor said.

"His name was Hyram Cross, and he worked with your Grandfather, Stuart, on what was called the Underground back when Nochose were in constant danger. My parents consider him a renegade and no one has a good word to speak about him, but from all I've learned he was a real hero."

"If you want to learn more about him I'm sure Uncle Anthony could provide you with some interesting records. I learned more about my dad from Uncle Anthony than I did my Mom," Connor said.

"I'd like that," Freddy said. "Now what was it you wanted to talk to me about."

"First, you know Briana, Megan, and I are the only ones who have actually seen Brittany, and I think it is probably the three of us who will actually try to rescue her and Philip. We started with four before Philip was grabbed by the Trashers. I think we still need four. Would you be willing to be the fourth?"

"If you really think I'd be a help, I'd love too."

Both Megan and Briana assured him they'd be delighted to have him join them.

The truth is Freddy was not only entertaining with his dry wit and sardonic humor, he was very bright and almost always won the question games, in fact he won most of their games and always very cleverly. He was also an excellent swimmer, though he no longer competed, because he couldn't abide by the absurd Forbidder school rules.

"In that case I want to tell you what my plan is. I don't think we are really going to find out ahead of time how to get to the top of Stove Pipe Hill through the cave without actually doing it. I don't think we'll have more than on chance to do that, just as we'll never be able to climb there again.

"Still, Freddy had a good idea. If we go in with a boat they'll be certain to know we're coming, and Freddy is the best swimmer. If he goes in first to see as much as he can, especially if there are guards. We need to know how far we can go in before we will meet resistance. Perhaps he can take out the guards, or at least come back and let us know where they are."

"How would he take out the guard?" Megan asked.

"According to Uncle Eddy there is only one answer to such questions. 'shoot him!'" Briana said.

"Uncle Eddy would be right in this case. But we need to talk to my father again before it will work. Gunfire is sure to attract a lot of attention," Connor said. "Can you come by my house this evening," Connor asked Megan and Freddy.

"Of course we can," they both said.



"Oh Hi," Jasmine said greeting Megan and Freddy at the door. "Lester, Briana, and Connor are downstairs in the workshop. Go on down."

Briana and Connor were leaning up against a bench opposite Lester who was working on something.

"Come and see," Briana said to Megan and Freddy when they arrived. They went over and stood on the same side of the bench as Briana and Connor."

"I was just explaining how this little canister attaches to the guns you'll be using. When it's attached it will make the gun's much quieter. They still make a noise, but it's more like, 'boof, boof,' than a loud, 'bang, bang,'

"Can you demonstrate?" Briana asked.

"I can, but the gun will need to be cleaned afterward. If there's a volunteer, I'll put on a show."

"I'll clean it," Kenny volunteered.

"Thank you Kenny, but I really had Briana in mind," Lester said.

"Oh goody," Briana said. "It will take me ever so long and it will be too late to go home when I'm finished, and I'll have to stay over," Briana exclaimed.

"That's the idea," Lester said, winking at Briana.

"Then we can have that demonstration?" Megan said.

"Of course," Lester said. He led them all to his own firing range in another part of their huge cellar.

When he was set up he asked for a volunteer.

Megan, who loved guns and shooting, volunteered.

"Here are two identical guns. One, as you can see has the canister installed. The other is just the way you would usually use it. Just fire three rounds with the regular gun with your ear protectors on. Then fire three rounds with the second gun. You won't need your ear protectors. The rest of us will stand back here," Lester said, indicating a line about ten feet behind Megan which everyone moved to.

"Begin whenever you're ready," Lester said.

Megan put her ear protectors on and picked up the gun without the sound suppressor. She carefully aimed at her target and fired three rounds, 'bang, bang, bang.' which all hit the target at the edge of the target center, overlapping each other.

She laid down the pistol, took off her ear protectors and picked up the pistol with the sound suppressor. Taking careful aim she fired three shots, 'boof, boof, boof.' They all hit the target at the lower edge of the center but were just as closely overlapping as the first group.

She turned to Lester with a question on her face.

"The suppressor does decrease the energy of the bullet a little, but not the accuracy. You noticed your shot group was lower. It was not you, it was the suppressor. Remember that.

After that everyone was allowed to shoot both pistols. Lester was surprised by the shooting skills of all of them, especially Freddy, about whom he knew the least.

"Where did you learn to shoot like that, Freddy," Lester asked him.

"Next to swimming, hunting and shooting are my favorite sports," Freddy said.

Later when Freddy and Megan had left, Lester said, "How did you happen to pick Freddy as your fourth? I don't think you could have done better."

"Actually he volunteered," Connor said, "but I've watched him and just knew he was going to be the right one."

"You've grown very discerning, Son." Then said to Briana, "guess we better get busy cleaning these guns." After Connor left they started cleaning the guns but spent more time laughing than working. Briana had come to adore Connor's father, and the feeling was obviously mutual.

While they were working, Lester said to Briana, "what does Connor plan to do?"

Briana was a little confused. "Do about what, Dad?"

"Well, at one time I thought he might like to join my business, to take it over when, well, when I won't do it any more. But he doesn't seem interested, so I was wondering if you knew what he is interested in doing."

"I don't know," Briana said. "We've never talked about it, but it's probably because of something he once said to me. Some things seem so obvious to him, he assumes they are obvious to everyone. You know Connor. I'm sure he knows exactly what he's going to do and just supposes it's obvious even though it's a complete mystery to you and me."

"You're a wonderful woman, Briana. In many ways you remind me of Jasmine. I think your explanation is right. I really should not even have asked the question. I do know Connor, and I know whatever he chooses to do, he will be successful, and you two are going to be has happy as Jasmine and I have been.

A little later, when Lester and Briana had cleaned the guns, Briana found Connor in their little reading room listening to music.

"What are you doing, Sugar," she asked.

"Just thinking," he said. "Come sit with me and I'll tell you what I was thinking."

Briana cuddled up to Connor. "So what are you thinking, my love?"

"I was thinking about you, Darling. It's your sister that was the start of this whole thing, you know. Now they have Philip. We're going to risk the lives of Megan and Freddy to rescue them, and I'm just trying to understand whether what we are doing is right. What if the Arnaults and the Blakes with the help of the Jacksons just paid the ransom?"

"What if they paid the ransom and Britanny and Philip were just killed? Would you trust the Trasher's word? I don't see any other way, Darling."

"What if we did nothing?"

"Really?" Briana said. "You actually considered that?"

"Yup. What would the Trashers do if nobody did anything. They wouldn't get their ransom, they'd have two people on their hands they wouldn't know what to do with. Not even the Forbidders tolerate murder."

"Would you consult the Forbidders?" Briana asked.

"No. Of course not. But someone else could."

"Oh, Connor. Are you serious? I'll be devastated if we don't rescue Brittany and Philip, or at least try, whatever it costs."

"So will I, Darling. I was just telling you what I was thinking. We're going to rescue them. Then all we'll need is someone to rescue us."

"What do you mean?"

"I think we'll be able to get to that building on Stove Pipe Hill, and I even think we'll be able to get Brittany and Philip out, but somewhere along the way we're bound to meet resistance from the Trashers. We're going to need a back-up when that happens.

"I suppose you have that all planned as well," Briana said.

"I have an idea," Connor said. "But I'll tell you about that tomorrow. Let's go to bed," he said.

"Together?" Briana asked.

"Yes," Connor said. "You in your room, and I in mine."

"Oh," Briana said. "I'd love to sleep with you, Darling. I mean just to sleep, but I suppose that's not possible."

"C'mon," Connor said. "My room's not as pretty as yours, but if you want to sleep in it. By the way, I don't wear anything to bed. Just so you know."

"Well, I do. I'll get my nightgown from my room. Just so you know," she said.

"Well, this is it," Connor said when they got to his room. He took Briana in his arms and said, "I love you my nervy Darling, more than you'll ever know," and kissed her.

Connor went to one side of the bed, undressed, and put his clothes in the chair beside the bed. He was aware that Briana was watching him and turned to wink at her just as he crawled under the covers.

"Can I use this chair for my clothes too," Briana asked.

"Of course," Connor said.

Briana proceeded to undress carefully laying her clothes in the chair on top of Connor's. Connor watched her and when she was about to put on her nightgown, she laid it carefully on the other clothes and said to Connor, "move over," and crawled in beside him.

"This is heaven," she said cuddling up to him. "Is it wrong?" she asked.

"No!" Connor said, then hugged and kissed her. "How can heaven be wrong? I love you my Briana." They hugged and fell asleep in each other's arms.

***