The fifth installment of the first draft of a novel written by our old friend Terra Cognita. For the next little while it is our Sunday Serial.
Terra welcomes all suggestions and feedback — this is draft — you can note them in the comments.
A young SO member stopped in front of Doug and me. She held my routing form in one hand and a clipboard in the other. Her name tag read “Roxy Brand,” and she looked about nineteen. Shiny blond hair just touched the top of her ears. “Rick,” she said. Come with me.”
Doug and I rose from the couch and followed her up to the fourth floor to the back of building. She stopped in front of a door with a brass plate on it that read Chief Justice. I wasn’t excited. After knocking, a voice from inside said, “Enter.”
Our young page told Doug that he could wait on one of the chairs across the hall before opening the door for me. I went inside. All my sensors on high alert.
A fifty or sixty-year-old man with piercing blue eyes rose from the other side of wide desk and extended his hand. His nose was narrow and short hair was completely white. His smile made it as far as the bags under his eyes before fading into a spider web of wrinkles. I wondered why the fuck a church needed a “chief justice.” The man looked like a high school principal.
“My name is Sam Donaldson,” he said, shaking my hand.
“Like the old news anchor,” I replied.
“I’m not familiar with him.”
“My dad and mom used to watch him on the nightly news.”
He smiled and sat down. “So…I hear you’ve had quite a day.”
“That’s an understatement.”
“I’m sure it is.” He opened a manila folder with my name on it and thumbed through the first few pages. “I’ve been reading all about it.”
I was under the impression that everything that went on in-session—in an auditing session—was confidential. Apparently, I was mistaken. I nodded my head anyway.
He looked up a half minute later. “As you can imagine, this is a very sensitive issue.”
I nodded again.
“We need to make sure this turns out well for all concerned.”
Like for Joan’s husband, Bill? And their son away at college?
“From what I’ve read,” Sam Donaldson said, “you have a few trepidations. Am I correct?”
“You could say that, yes.”
“I’d be surprised if you didn’t. What happened was truly horrible.”
Joan dying? Or the subsequent cover up?
He tilted his head slightly and stared into my eyes. Hard. TR0 times ten. “I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page.”
I nodded. Trying hard to maintain my own TR0.
“What happened is regrettable and I wish we could turn back the clock, but we can’t. So the question is, where do we go from here?”
I nodded, not sure trusting what might have come out of my mouth.
“Not only do I want to make sure all our stories match, I want to impress on you the severity of this situation.” Significant pause. Hard stare. “The last thing I want is for you to go to jail.”
Along with Doug and Brenda, and the four guys who’d dealt with Joan.
“Wouldn’t be ideal,” I managed.
Sam leaned back in his chair and glanced out the lone window to his right. “In case you didn’t know, we’re under attack.”
I raised my eyes. “Who exactly are you referring to?” The Huns?
“Us. Scientology. Scientologists. The more we win, the more it drives the psyches insane. Their purpose is to destroy the planet. Ours is to save it. They don’t want man to get better. We do. We’re the only ones who stand between a better world and complete annihilation. We’re the only ones who have the tech to stop the insanity.” Significant pause and hard stare number two. “You get what I’m saying?”
I got what he was saying. I wasn’t sure I believed the hyperbole. One thing for sure, though, Scientology hated the psychiatric industry with a passion. I nodded anyway.
“What happened with Joan is exactly the sort of incident the psyches would love to use to paint a black picture of Scientology. And we can’t let that happen. LRH is depending on us. The planet is depending on us.”
LRH had been dead for years. Had to admit, though, would have been a shame to see the planet go up in smoke.
I nodded again while I waited for Sam to say something else. Like what his big plan was for thwarting the psyches. And when he said we were done and I could go home. I flashed on the party on Mockingbird Lane and glanced at my watch. If Doug and I left within the next hour, we could make it just as the band was kicking into high gear.
“I want you to go away for a while,” Sam said.
My head jerked back involuntarily. “Away?”
“Just until this all blows over.”
“I have school. And I don’t have the funds to go traveling. So…”
“We would pay for everything.”
“The Church. Room and board. Everything. All expenses paid.”
I didn’t nod. I didn’t shake my head. I just sat there with my mouth hanging halfway to hell.
“We have a beautiful compound just south of here,” he continued. “All the amenities. Pool, tennis courts, great food, everything a man could want.”
Everything? “How long are we talking about?” I asked.
“Not long, I’m sure.”
“A rough estimate?”
“A week. Two? Three at the most.”
“And it wouldn’t cost me anything?”
“Not a dime. In fact,” he paused and nodded as if he’d just thought of something inspiring, “we could even provide auditing for you.”
“I definitely couldn’t afford that.”
“Again, you wouldn’t have to. We’d provide it all for you. Free. Without any cost. And let me say, we have the most highly trained auditors on the planet. Their level of technical expertise is unsurpassed. You’d come back a whole new person.”
I stared out the window. I didn’t see any stars. Or angels. Or anything particularly celestial.
“Let’s do this,” Sam said.
I took a deep breath. Go away for a week or two? Until everything blew over? Until the coroner had ruled Joan’s death was accidental. And that she’d died in her tub. At home. Of natural causes.
Almost as if he could read my mind, Sam said, “You know Rick…Joan died of natural causes. You were there. There was no foul play. You did everything you could have done to save her. It was just her time. Simple as that. Chances are, she’s even picked up a new body by now.”
Scientologists didn’t just die. They dropped their bodies and “picked up” new ones—as far as I knew, ones still in the womb. I didn’t know how the whole process worked. I just knew this was LRH’s theory. And what every good Scientologist believed. Still no sign from outside the window.
“We have to make the best out of horrible situation,” Sam said. “And do what’s best for the greatest number of dynamics.”
LRH had divided man’s basic “urge to survive” into eight “dynamics.” The First Dynamic was the urge to survive by being oneself. The Second was surviving through sex and family. The Third was surviving by belonging to groups. The Fourth through Mankind. The Fifth through all other living things (plants and animals). The Sixth through matter—most everything else not living. The Seventh, surviving as a spiritual being. And finally, the Eighth Dynamic had to do with survival and God.
In Scientology, the optimum solution to any problem was that which benefited the most Dynamics while doing the least harm to all the others.
WTF. I nodded. Because I didn’t know what else to say. Or what to think. I halfway believed what Sam was selling. There was nothing else I could have done. Joan had died the moment she’d hit the floor inside the sauna. She’d been old, overweight, and out-of-shape—a heart attack waiting to happen. Paramedics weren’t gods. They wouldn’t have made a difference. If they’d managed to get her heart beating again, at best, she would have spent the rest of her life brain-dead and vegetative. Which was no way to live. It was better that she’d ended her life then and there so she could pick up a new body.
“I suppose maybe I could spend a little time away,” I said. “If you gave me the directions, I could go home, pack, and drive there tomorrow. Or the day after.”
Sam smiled. “Let’s do this right now.”
“But all my stuff is back in Santa Barbara. Car, clothes, toothbrush, everything.”
“We’ll provide all those things for you. You won’t need a thing.”
“Rick, if you return to Santa Barbara…things could happen. Things which might cause this whole situation to blow up in your face. Which is precisely what we want to avoid. There’s a much greater chance of something bad happening if you go home. The press could show up at your doorstep asking uncomfortable questions. And they can be relentless. Especially if they smell blood.”
Mine or Joan’s?
“The cops could take you in for questioning,” he said. “And if they didn’t like your answers, they could even arrest you. In fact…the more I think about this, the more I’m sure you’d be much better off anywhere but back in Santa Barbara.”
“Where exactly would I be staying?”
“Wait in hall while I make the arrangements,” Sam said, picking up his phone.
I didn’t spot Doug when I walked outside of Sam Donaldson’s office. Roxy, the young page who’d been assigned to me, told me he’d already left. Gone back to Santa Barbara.
“Want something to eat?” she asked.
I wasn’t hungry. “Sure,” I answered.
“Let’s go across the street to the canteen.”
“The little cafeteria downstairs. Come on, follow me.”
We skipped down the back stairs, went outside, and crossed L. Ron Hubbard Way to another gigantic blue building. I grabbed a turkey sandwich, bag of chips, and soda in the canteen but when I pulled out my wallet at the cash register, Roxy waved me off. “Already taken care of,” she said.
I followed her to an empty table in the adjacent dining room and sat down.
“You don’t want anything?” I asked her.
“I’m not hungry,” she replied.
“So…how long you been in the Sea Org?” I asked. Her adult manner made her seem older than me—barely. Her pixyish face and short, blond hair enhanced the contrast.
“I’ve been on staff for a year now. But I’ve always been a Scientologist. Born into it. My parents were staff members at the Valley Org for years before joining the Sea Org and moving back east.”
“And they didn’t mind you skipping high school and doing this?”
“They actually encouraged it. Believe me, the SO is more of an education than I could have ever gotten in the Wog world.”
“Wog stands for Worthy Oriental Gentleman. Basically, it means anyone not in Scientology.”
“Sounds kinda elitist.” And racist.
“Not at all. It just means they don’t have the LRH tech and policy like we do.”
“Which means, they’re not able to operate optimally like us.”
Sounded elitist to me.
“Want to blow this joint and go to a party?” I joked. Sort of.
For a fraction of a second, her eyes flicked away. “Very funny,” she smirked.
“Neither of us has a car anyway,” I said.
“And I don’t have a driver’s license.”
“So how long we gonna wait before I get whisked away?”
“I don’t know. Shouldn’t be long.”
A minute later, her cell buzzed, and we were out the door.
A gray van sat idling at the curb when Roxy and I walked out of the canteen. A young SO member stood by the open side door. The driver stared straight ahead, his left elbow resting on the open window.
Roxy held out her hand, “Your chariot awaits, my lord.”
I bowed my head slightly and climbed inside. Both two rows of back seats were empty. I chose the one directly behind the front passenger. Roxy sat down next to me behind the driver. The guy standing outside shut the door, nodded at the driver, and we were off.
I turned to Roxy. “You’re coming with me?”
“You didn’t think I’d abandon you, did you?”
“I was ordered to see you safely to the Base.”
A few minutes later we merged onto South 101.
“So…you’ve been in Scientology your entire life,” I said to Roxy. “How’s that been for you?”
“It’s been great,” she said. Quickly.
“But don’t you feel like you’ve missed out on a lot of life? Like normal, kid stuff? Like movies and parties and vacations and stuff like that?”
“I’ve been to parties and movies and a few years ago, my family and I drove to the Grand Canyon for a vacation. It’s not like we live in a vacuum, you know.”
“I noticed you’re not carrying a smart phone.” Her cell looked ten years old.
“Don’t need em.”
“Like you don’t need access to the Internet?”
“Ninety-nine percent of the Internet is entheta.”
“Entheta is a Scientology word for bad stuff, right?”
“Right. Theta is good stuff. Entheta is bad stuff.”
“Well, I don’t know where you get your figures but ninety-nine percent of the Internet isn’t bad. It’s true there’s lots of bad stuff. But there’s tons of good stuff, too. Everything from how to get from point A to point B, to how to adjust the derailleur on your bike.”
“I don’t have a bike.”
“But if you did…”
“But I don’t. And I don’t need one. And if I did and my derailleur needed adjusting, I’d just take it down to maintenance and have them do it. And as for getting from point A to B, I’d just look at a map. Or just have Larry drive me. He knows where everything is. Right Larry?”
“Right,” he answered from the front seat.
“What about social media?” I asked.
“What about it?” Roxy said.
“Wouldn’t you like to be able to communicate with friends all over the world? Exchange pictures? Experiences? Stuff like that?”
“The short answer: no.”
“And the long answer?”
“The long answer is I don’t need all that stuff. All my friends work with me at Pac Base.”
“Pac Base stands for Pacific Base, right? Basically all those blue buildings on L. Ron Hubbard Way?”
“Right. All my friends are there. And we’re all, on-purpose, working for the same goal. We’re saving the planet. We’re making a difference in the world. Unlike most people. So, no, I don’t have time for all that crap on the Internet.”
Even if I didn’t believe all the hype, I said, “That’s all cool. But it still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to communicate with each other via social media.”
Roxy shook her head. “Like I said, the Internet is mostly full of entheta. Like full of psych propaganda and stuff like that. Like why would I want to expose myself to that crap? The less I read newspapers and surf the Internet and watch TV, the happier I am. You should give it a try yourself.”
I didn’t see the benefit of arguing the point. Much less, giving up TV and the Internet. And life. So I shrugged. And leaned back in my seat and watched the cars zip by in the fast lanes. Just after we merged onto the 10 East, I closed my eyes and let the rolling van lull me to sleep.
I awoke to the sound of an electric motor pulling on a wrought-iron gate. A guy in a blue uniform stepped out of a small kiosk just inside the fence line and held up his hand. Larry pulled up and stopped and said, “Hey, Kirk, how’s it going?”
Kirk nodded and said, “Hey, Larry. They’re waiting for you.”
Larry nodded and shifted back into drive.
“Why the concertina wire on top of the high fence?” I asked.
Roxy smiled. “To keep out the bad guys.”
“Like psyches and reporters?”
Larry wound the van through a quarter mile of curving road, passing a good score of new and well maintained buildings. The grounds were immaculate, the landscaping perfectly manicured. No weeds, no cigarette butts, no errant Mc Donald’s wrapper blowing in the wind. I almost felt like we’d entered a new part of Disneyland: Scientologyland!
The only people I’d seen since we’d rolled through the gate were guys patrolling the grounds. Or at least, that’s what I thought they were doing. All were dressed like Kirk manning the front gate. I’d seen two carrying holstered guns on their belts. I wondered what was so valuable that the place would need armed guards.
We stopped in front of a two story, white stucco building stretching the length of the parking lot. The big lot was empty save for two other vans.
“I’m just dropping you guys off,” Larry said. “Gotta get back to LA.”
“Thanks for the ride,” Roxy said.
Larry nodded and drove away.
I slipped my cell out of my pocket to check for messages. It was just after midnight and the service sucked. One bar. And then none. And no messages.
“So like are you gonna stay with me the whole time?” I asked.
“Looks that way. I’ve been assigned to you for the duration.”
The duration. “Cool.”
“Come on. Let’s get you settled.”
I followed Roxy inside. A twenty, twenty-two, year-old guy in a white, button-down shirt got up from behind a small desk just beyond the doors. “Rick and Roxy, I presume,” he said. His accent sounded Eastern European. The tag on the front of his shirt read “Stan.” Probably short for Stanislav.
“That’s us,” Roxy returned.
“Great. Welcome to Int Base. Follow me.”
“What? No routing form?” I said
Stan narrowed his eyes at me. “You are making a joke?”
“It’s just that this is the first time I’ve ever checked into a Scientology organization and not been put on one.”
“We are at Int Base,” Stan said. As if that explained everything.
I refrained from telling him to chill. Roxy told me not to worry.
At the end of the hall, Stan knocked on a door that said “DCO” on its brass plate.
“What’s a DCO?” I asked.
“Deputy Commanding Officer,” Roxy said.
“He’s still awake this late?”
“Twelve is not late for the Sea Org.”
“Come,” called a woman from inside.
Stan held open the door for us. The DCO staid seated and motioned for Roxy and me to sit down in the two chairs in front of her wide, dark desk. Apparently, it was too late to stand and shake hands.
Her immaculate office looked as if dust wasn’t allowed to settle and everything larger than a dime had been arranged using a ruler. A folder with my name on it sat perfectly centered in the middle of her gleaming desk.
“I am Captain Heidi Baumgartner,” she said. As with Stan, I detected an accent. German or Dutch, I thought. Captain?
I pegged her at between fifty and sixty. Though she could have been forty-five. Her gray hair was cut short, and her clean, wrinkle-free white blouse sported epaulets with colored bands on the shoulders—as if she was in the military. And not a church.
“Welcome to Int Base,” she said. “I trust your stay here will be pleasurable.”
“Thanks,” I said. “So do I.”
“We have prepared a room for you. Everything you need will be provided.”
I wondered if the “you” was singular or plural. I said, “Cool.”
Captain Baumgartner glanced down at my folder. “I am up-to-date on your situation.”
“If you need anything, go through Roxy.”
I smiled and asked in an exaggerated voice, “Go through? What exactly do you mean?”
“If there is anything you need, ask her first. She is the first in the chain of command.”
“Sounds kinda like the military.”
“It is efficient. And one reason why we are able to accomplish so much.”
Wasn’t sure what accomplishments she was referring to but nodded anyway.
Roxy and I got up and left.
A middle-aged guy in a blue uniform was waiting for us outside the door. He didn’t introduce himself. Just told us to follow him. He had bad skin and he wasn’t carrying a gun. In another year, he’d be completely bald.
“C Block,” our escort said. “Second floor. Room two-o-three.”
“C-Block? Sounds like the name of a prison building,” I said. Kinda looked like one, too. Not that I’d ever been in prison. But I’d seen em on TV.
“Everything you need should be there,” he said before turning and leaving.
I guessed the building was a dormitory judging by the dozen, evenly spaced doors on each side of the hall. Roxy and I climbed the stairs to room two-o-three and went inside our room.
“Small. And Spartan,” I said.
Early on, I’d learned that Scientologists were big on knowing the exact definition of words. Whenever one encountered one he didn’t know, he was supposed to “clear” it using a “good” dictionary. I pulled out my phone to Google the definition. No reception.
“The Spartans were big on frugality and severity and shit like that. So today, the word Spartan means just having the basics. No adornments. Stark. Like this room. Nothing on the walls. No art. Just the two single beds. One dresser. And what I assume is behind door number one, a small closet.”
“It’s not like we’re gonna be spending much time here,” Roxy said.
“And I didn’t know the Sea Org was into coed living.”
Roxy turned away. To conceal a pair of red cheeks? “They’re not,” she said.
“So you’re not staying here with me?”
She turned back around. “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna try anything.”
“Well that’s unfortunate.”
This time, I definitely saw a blush.
I smiled and tried door number one. Yep. Small closet.
“Bathroom?” I asked.
“At the end of the hall.”
“Are they coed, too?”
“Boys are to the left. Women to the right.”
I checked the dresser drawers in case everything that was supposed to have been “provided” for us had been stashed inside. All four were empty. I looked around the room for any hidden caches I might have missed. Except for the pillows and thin blankets on the beds, that was it. Austere central.
The air felt a little stale so I walked over to crack the window. As if we were in a high-rise hotel room, the double panes didn’t open.
“I’m gonna hit the head before I turn in,” I said.
“Me, too,” Roxy said.
Out in the hall, Roxy turned right. I turned left.
The two sink, two toilet, two shower-stall bathroom was equally bare. No toothpaste, no spare toothbrushes. No towels. No toilet paper. And except for one desiccated, cracked, fragment of soap lying over the drain in stall number two, not much with which to wash. At least there was hot water.
I took a quick, suds-less shower and used my tee shirt to dry off. Roxy was lying on one of the beds when I returned. Fully clothed. I wasn’t. She turned away while I hung my damp shirt over the closet door and climbed under the covers. Of my bed.
“Want me to get the light?” I asked.
“I got it,” Roxy said, getting up and stepping over to the switch next to the door.
I almost felt sorry for her when she lay back down on her bed. Still fully dressed. “I take it this isn’t regular.”
“What isn’t regular?”
“You and me. Unattached male and unattached female. Sleeping in the same room. Like you’re not even allowed to kiss in the Sea Org without being married, right?”
Roxy didn’t respond. Which was sort of surprising. Because TR 2—training routine two, “acknowledgments”—was a big deal in the church. Good communication demanded that people always acknowledge each other.
Boy and girl in the same bedroom. Lights out. One dressed, the other not. I couldn’t help but think of sex and that Roxy was virgin. “Ever had a boyfriend?” I asked.
“Like that’s any of your business?”
“Just asking. No big deal.”
“She just broke up with me.”
“Did you see the chaplain? Or get off the grief in session?”
“No to both questions. It was bound to happen sooner or later. So it wasn’t all that unexpected.”
“Were you together long?”
“Less than a year. She was older than me. Looking for something more permanent.”
“Like getting married?”
“Exactly. So…you never answered my question.”
“And I said it was none of your business.”
“What’s the big deal?” I asked. “A simple yes or no is all I ask.”
I heard a big expulsion of air from the other bed. Then, “No.”
“How old are you?”
“Like someone my age should have had a boyfriend by now?”
“That’s not what I’m asking.” That was exactly what I was asking.
“Must be hard in the Sea Org. With the rule that you gotta be married before you can even kiss a guy…like how do you even get to know someone?”
“You just do. You communicate and…then you just decide.”
“You just decide you want get married? Like that’s all there is to it? Sounds kinda clinical to me.”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“So enlighten me.”
“I’m a Sea Org member. Here to clear the planet. Saving mankind from extinction. That’s our purpose. Everything else is secondary.”
“But if guys and girls didn’t get together, there would be no human race. So I’d hardly call hooking up secondary.”
“There are plenty of others to carry on the race. In case you hadn’t noticed, the population of the planet has been increasing forever. One or two SO members having babies isn’t going to make much of a difference.”
“Maybe not. But there are other reasons for hooking up besides just having babies. ‘In case you hadn’t noticed’.”
For all her bluster and focus and SO uptightness, Roxy was a good looking girl. And I was a naked guy lying four feet away. I couldn’t help imagining what it would have felt like slipping out of my bed. Sitting down next to her. Slowing unbuttoning her white blouse. Lowering my lips onto hers.
I was feeling brazen. “You ever kissed a guy?” I asked. Because if she hadn’t, I was willing to show her the ropes. “I’m assuming you’ve never been married.”
“And that I’m a virgin? Is that what you’re asking? You’re such a fuckin Wog.”
“I’m not judging. I’m just making conversation. I figure since you and I are gonna be together for a while, we might as well get to know each other.”
Roxy didn’t respond. Somewhere outside, I heard the low rumble of diesel engine. Could have been from one of the vans I’d seen in the parking lot. Except vans didn’t have diesel engines. Or did they? I glanced over at the shadowy form lying on the bed on the other side of the dresser. My desire to slip out of my bed and into hers hadn’t lessened.
“You know…” I said, “I promise not look if you want to change out of your clothes and get under the covers.”
“Then again, if you want me to look…”
“Not my strong suit,” I said.
“Yeah, I can tell.”
“I’m rolling over on my side so I’m facing the wall. So you’re free to do…whatever you want to do.”
A few seconds later I heard the rustling of clothes and the sound of someone walking across the room and opening a door. Roxy hanging up her clothes in the closet. Pulling back the covers. Lying down. Pulling them back up to her chin. I would have bet anything she was still wearing her bra and panties.
I smiled to myself. “Now that that’s out of the way…”
“Aren’t you tired? Like don’t you want to go to sleep?” she asked.
“I should be tired. What with all I’ve been through today. But I’m not. I wide, fuckin awake. Want to go for a walk?”
“I just got undressed. In case you hadn’t noticed.”
“I noticed just fine, thank you very much. So if you need me to turn my back on you again, I will.”
“We’re not allowed to wander around the grounds.”
“I’m not suggesting we break into any buildings. Or anything like that.”
“There’s a curfew.”
“Which is when?”
“I don’t know exactly. I just know there is one.”
“But you said SO members work really late. Like sometimes all night. So it wouldn’t make sense if there was a curfew. Come on…just a short stroll. I promise not to climb over the fence.”
“Well I’m going one way or another. If you don’t want to come with me, that’s up to you.”
I swung my legs out of bed, opened the top drawer of our dresser, and pulled out my pants.
“Wait,” Roxy said.
“You coming with me?”
“Only because I’m supposed to stay with you.”
“Not because you love my stellar company?”
“Turn you back.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Then fuck you.”
And then Roxy threw back the covers and climbed out of bed. Brazenly 2.0. And I’d been right; she was wearing a bra and panties. Our bare window provided just enough light to let me see she wasn’t wearing the bra for support.
“You know,” I said. “You definitely have nothing to be ashamed of.”
“Thank you.” Keeping “in” her TR2—acknowledgements.
I put on my Nikes while she slipped into her blouse and pants. And then she put on her shoes and we walked out the door and down the hall to the back “emergency” exit, where we made it down the stairs and out the door undetected. Since Int Base was located just outside of Hemet, California, in the Mojave Desert, the temperature hadn’t dipped much. Or maybe it had and seventy-five degrees was a major plunge.
“So here we are,” Roxy whispered. “Now what? Where do you want to go?”
I shrugged and took off up a crushed granite path running in the opposite direction from the front gate. Roxy fell in beside me. During the day, the olive trees on either side of us would have provided shade from a hot sun. A pair of doves called to each other somewhere in the dark. I felt like taking Roxy’s hand.
The path veered right until it passed a pair of tennis/basketball courts. A basketball lay in the far corner of the first one. I asked Roxy if she played.
“No time,” she answered.
I walked through the gate into court and toward the ball.
“Don’t,” she said.
“Don’t what?” I asked.
“The ball. Dribbling it will make too much noise. So just leave it where it is.”
“Afraid we’ll get caught playing b-ball?” I shook my head. “Big crime.”
“Don’t be a dick.”
“Don’t be a pussy.”
“Geeze, you want to get caught? We shouldn’t even be out here.”
I rolled my eyes and did an about-face and walked out to the path. We passed a soccer field before coming to a small lake. Or big pond. Considering the dry environment, I wondered where the place got all its water. And if using so much of it for lawns and ponds wasn’t an overt.
I pointed to some kind of big structure next to the water. “Whoa. That looks like a pirate ship.”
“It kind of is,” Roxy replied.
“Out here in the middle of the desert?” Maybe this was part of Disneyland.
“LRH was into boats and ships and stuff like that.”
“So this kinda pays homage to him.”
“Can we board the thing?”
“Let’s go check it out,” I said, taking off up the path. Roxy had no choice but to follow.
Wooden stairs led up to the deck of the dark, double-masted vessel. I bounded up two at a time. Fuck the “Off limits” sign.
Roxy grabbed my arm at the top. “We shouldn’t be here,” she hissed.
“Oh my god. This is so cool,” I responded.
She pulled at my wrist. “Come on. We gotta get out of here. We could get into a lot of trouble.”
She could get into a lot of trouble. What could they do to me? Send me home with a note to my dad that I’d been a bad boy? Suddenly, a beam of light flashed on the mast towering above our heads. Reflexively, I grabbed Roxy by the shoulder and ducked behind a big square box. Probably where they stored the spare rigging. Before she could say anything, I put a finger over her lips.
The light moved up and down the mast, then swept from left to right, across the deck. A voice called out, “Anyone there?”
I felt the muscles in Roxy’s shoulder tense. As if she were about to jump up and yell, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! It’s only me, Roxy Brand.” I pulled her tighter and whispered in her ear, “Everything’s cool. Just don’t move or say anything.” One of us was trembling and I was pretty sure it wasn’t me.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” Roxy muttered.
“Don’t worry. I got you.” I didn’t know what else to say.
The circle of light continued to move back and forth, and the voice called out again. “Anyone there?”
I ran my hand down Roxy’s smooth, straight hair. And then down her back. Over and over again. Until she finally stopped trembling. I caught the faint scent of shampoo. Or maybe it was just her. I took another deep breath. I liked what I smelled.
I put my mouth to her ear. “Everything’s gonna be fine. Don’t worry. We haven’t done anything wrong. We’re just checking out this boat. If worse comes to worse, I’ll take total blame. Say it was all my fault. That you tried to stop me. But I overpowered you. Or something like that.” Suddenly, I kissed the soft curve of her ear. Couldn’t help myself. Not that I was trying real hard to resist. It just happened. Like a natural reaction. Or something. Roxy stayed where she was—pretty much in my arms. Frozen.
We waited another five or ten minutes before moving. Roxy didn’t say anything the whole time. Neither did I. We just sat there. Me with arm around her shoulders. Her with her face somewhat pressed against my chest. For me at least, the arrangement wasn’t unpleasant.
“I think he’s gone,” I whispered in Roxy’s ear a while later.
She didn’t respond. She’d stopped trembling and her breathing had become slow and even. She might have fallen asleep. I checked out the stars.
The Big Dipper made me think of the ladle I used inside the sauna to create steam on the hot rocks. Which made me think of Joan lying on the floor outside the box. Which had actually happened the day before. Midnight had blown by hours ago. Or so it seemed. Could have been one o’clock. Could have been two. Might have been three.
Except for the girl resting against my chest, my life was fucked. For the millionth time, I told myself I should have called the police. Come clean. Revealed exactly what had happened. If the press skewered Scientology, so be it. If I got arrested, I’d deal with the situation. I knew what had happened. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I’d panicked but I was innocent. Shit happened.
Roxy stirred in my arms. But didn’t wake up. The temperature had dipped a couple of degrees and an owl hooted close by. Though it might have been one of the doves. Just for the hell of it, I pulled out my cell phone and checked reception. Zero bars. I closed my eyes and leaned back on the deck—with Roxy still attached.
Sometime later, she jerked awake, looked around, and muttered, “Oh, fuck.” I detected a faint glow to the east.
“How long have we been here? What time is it?” she asked.
“Sun’s rising in the east,” I said.
“Holy fuck. Come on, we gotta get out of here.” Stiffly she got to her feet.
Stiffly, I rose up on mine. The arm that had circled Roxy was as dead as the gray planks lining the deck. I followed her numbly down the steps to the path and back to C-Block. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any security guards. Unluckily, the back door was locked.
Roxy and I crept around C-Block to the front doors and peered inside. Stan was slumped over the front desk, his head cradled in his arms. I could almost hear him snoring from outside.
I glanced at Roxy. “Might as well go for it,” I whispered.
She nodded and reached for the door handle. We made it as far as Stan’s desk before he raised his head and said, “Stop. What are you doing?”
“Ah…just going for a walk,” I said. “Get a little fresh air. Couldn’t sleep.”
“It is not permitted. There is curfew. Return to your room.”
“Okay, sure. Whatever you say.”
Not until we were safely back inside our room did Roxy say, “That was quick thinking.”
“Though undoubtedly this will all show up on our next sec check,” she added.
“What’s a sec check?”
“It’s short for security check. It’s where you get off all your overts and withholds while on the meter.”
“In other words, some kind of procedure where someone gets you to cough up all your crimes. And the e-meter is the lie detector.”
“It’s not like that.”
“Then how exactly is it?”
Roxy turned her back on me when I started to pull down my pants.
“Overts and withholds are what hold people back from going free. They prevent case gain.”
“And how exactly is that supposed to work?”
“When you go in session, you can’t have all sorts of extraneous stuff clogging up your mind. Like getting in the way of finding those incidents in your past that are holding you back.”
“But you just told me that it’s the overts and withholds that are holding people back.”
“Yeah, those too. It’s just that you gotta be clean to make case gain.”
“Your ‘case,’ being your reactive mind, right?”
“Exactly. Like if you go in session but all you’re thinking about is that bank you robbed the other day, you won’t have the mental power to concentrate on the more important stuff.”
I wasn’t sure I was buying what Roxy was selling and I was sure I didn’t want to be interrogated by someone like Stan or Heidi. Once I was naked, I slipped back under the covers. For the first time that night—or morning—I felt thoroughly exhausted. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. And turned my attention to the girl in the room. Sounded like she was hanging up her clothes in the closet. Padding across the floor. And slipping into bed.
“Night, Roxy,” I said. “Sweet dreams.”
A minute later, she asked if I was asleep yet. I turned over in her direction.
“So…about what happened tonight,” she said. “Like on the ship. I would appreciate it if you didn’t tell anyone about it.”
“My lips are sealed.”
“Because if someone found out we could be in really big trouble. Or at least, I could.”
“For just taking a walk? Doesn’t seem like that big a deal to me.”
“You’re not in the Sea Org.”
“Pretty strict, are they?”
“It’s just that there’s a lot of policy about stuff. I mean…it’s all for our own good. You know…like to make things run more efficiently.”
“So what does taking a leisurely midnight stroll have to do with efficiency? It’s not like we were hurting anything. Or being particularly inefficient.”
“But just think if everybody did that. Nobody would get enough sleep. It could cause the stats to go down.”
“Because people would be so tired they wouldn’t produce as much and therefore their statistics would be down. Right? Like instead of producing ten of something, they’d only produce eight.” Bummer for Earth.
“I get what you’re saying, but still… Talking a little walk hardly seems like it’s gonna cause the downfall of Scientology.” And the planet.
“Of course not. But if everybody was doing it…”
“But everybody wasn’t. It was just us. And taking a walk isn’t the sort of thing of you do every night, anyway. I just don’t think what we did was such a big deal. Want me to rub your back?”
“Rub your back. Give you a massage. Release all that tension in your shoulders.”
“My shoulders are just fine, thank you.”
“A good massage will put you right to sleep.”
“No fraternizing until married, right? Sea Org rules.”
“Let’s just see if we can get an hour or two of sleep before we have to get up.”
“I don’t know about you, but I plan on sleeping all morning.”
“Course starts at nine.”
“For you maybe.”
“And for you, too. You’ll be doing a course while you’re here.”
“I was promised auditing but nobody told me about doing a course. And considering the last twenty-four hours, I’d be half-dead anyway and in no shape to study anything.”
“You just make it go right.”
“Like I just decide not to be tired? And presto, I’m wide awake? I don’t think so.”
“Breakfast at eight-thirty. Course at nine.”
“In your dreams, Roxy.”
“If I have to drag you out of bed…I will.”
“You can try.”
“Listen, Rick. I’m getting tired of all your counter-intention.”
“In my universe, you’re the one who’s counter-intending that I get enough sleep.”
“I’m responsible for you.”
“No, you’re not. I can take care of myself.”
“Not while you’re at Int Base. While you’re here, I’m responsible for your well-being.”
I rolled over on my back. “In that case, take responsibility for my beauty rest and tell whoever’s in charge that due to circumstances, I’m dog-tired and in no shape to study jack shit.”
Roxy didn’t reply.
“In fact…maybe you’re the one who should give me the massage,” I added. “I am feeling a little tense.”
“I could give you a nerve assist.”
“Something LRH developed to get the electrical energy in your body all aligned and flowing. Something like that. Makes healing happen a lot faster.”
“What does this nerve assist entail, exactly?”
“You just lie there while I run my fingers up and down your back and arms and legs.”
While under the blanket? Or on top? Because in case Roxy had forgotten, I wasn’t wearing a whole lot.
“Seriously?” I asked.
“Well…okay then. Let’s do this thing.”
“Turn over on your stomach.”
I threw off the blanket and rolled over. Half a minute later, after Roxy hadn’t moved, I told her I was ready.
After another half minute, I asked, “You having second thoughts? Because if you don’t want to do this, you don’t have to. I understand.” Naked boy. Skin. Genitalia. Sex.
The morning sun had lightened the room to where I could see Roxy was still in her bra and panties when she slipped out of bed. She looked every bit as good since the last time I’d seen her in that attire.
“Just relax,” she said.
Girl. Bra. Panties. Nude boy. Easier said than done.
“You don’t have to do or say anything. Just lie there,” she added.
“Start of nerve assist,” she said in a stern voice.
She began by running her fingers down each side of my spine three times—making sure each time to stop well before my naked ass. And then back up three times.
Then she ran her fingers from my sides to my spine three more times. And then reversed the motion.
“Turn over,” she ordered.
“You sure?” I asked. I felt like I was halfway hard. No…I was halfway hard.
I turned over and looked up into Roxy’s eyes. She wasn’t looking at mine.
Similarly to what she’d done on my back, she ran her fingers down each side of my chest three times—careful to stop before things got too hairy. After running her fingers back up three more times, she ran them down each arm and leg three times. By the time she told me to roll over so she could repeat the process, she would have had to have been blind not to have noticed a precipitous rise in anatomy. I was slightly more excited than embarrassed and I had to give her credit; she hadn’t shied away from delivering the assist.
I sat up after the third iteration, took Roxy’s head in my hand and kissed her hard on the lips. She jerked back. But didn’t slap my hands away. Or smack me in the cheek. She didn’t say anything. She was breathing hard. And so was I. So I leaned in and kissed her again. And this time she didn’t pull back. For the next minute or two all the travails of the past twenty-four hours didn’t exist. What she lacked in experience, she made up with in enthusiasm.
Just before her hand slid beyond the top of my thigh, she pushed me back and said, “We can’t do this. No way. This is wrong on so many levels. Oh my god. I’m gonna spend the next five years on the RPF, for sure.”
“For just kissing me?”
“You wouldn’t understand. I’m a Sea Org member.”
“Which means you gotta be married before you can kiss another person. I know.”
“It’s more than that. Oh my god! You’re fuckin naked!”
“You ever seen a naked guy before?”
“That’s not the point.”
“But have you?”
“No!” She jumped up and strode to the window. “Oh my god. I am so screwed. I can’t believe I did this.”
“You can blame it all on me. I forced myself on you.”
“No one would accept that in a million years. We’re responsible for our own condition. Especially SO members.”
“Just so you know, you look really beautiful right now.” In your bra and panties. I could tell her skin hadn’t seen a lot of sun. Which made her blush all the more evident. Though I should have, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Her backside looked every bit as spectacular as her front. I appreciated the cut of her panties.
“So…what now?” I asked.
Without tuning she shook her head.
“If it’s any consolation, your secret’s safe with me.”
She spun around. “But that’s just it! There are no secrets! Not in Scientology. Not if you want to go free.”
“Right. You gotta come clean, like fess up to all your overts and withholds so you can access all those incidents that are really messing you up.”
“But isn’t everything you say in an auditing session confidential?”
“But sec checks don’t happen in session.”
“But they’re done on the meter. Holding the cans, right?”
“Yes they’re done on a meter but not in session. They’re done in Ethics. By an MAA—a Master at Arms. So the rules of confidentiality don’t apply.”
Well that sucked.
“So don’t you see?” she continued. “They’ll know everything we did.”
Considering the trillions of years we were supposed to have lived, touching lips for a couple of minutes didn’t seem all that significant. Much less, a crime. I was pretty sure kissing had been going on for quite some time.
“Just don’t tell em,” I said.
“But I have to!”
“No. You don’t.”
I stood up and joined her at the window. Holding myself back from wrapping my arms around her took a considerable amount of restraint. But at least I wasn’t hard anymore. At least, not much.
“Don’t’ worry. We’ll get through this,” I said.
She shook her head. “How would you know?”
“Because I’ve lived in the outside world where boys and girls kiss each other all time. And where they don’t have to get married first. So I know this isn’t the end of the world.”
“But this isn’t the outside world. This is Int Base. The Sea Org. Things are different here. Haven’t you heard anything I’ve been saying?”
“You can leave anytime you want.”
“Geeze, who said anything about leaving!”
“Just trying to be helpful. I mean, it’s not like you’re trapped here and can’t leave anytime you want. And you don’t have to abide by their rules, anyway. Like the rule about kissing. That’s their rule, not mine. And it doesn’t have to be your rule, either.”
“But it is my rule. When I joined the SO, I agreed to follow their policies. I gave my word. Fuck! I feel like I’m in treason!”
LRH had devised a series of conditions, or states of being, depending on various factors, ranging from Power—the most desirable state—to confusion at the bottom of the scale, where you were royally fucked. Each, of these conditions came with formulas that when applied would supposedly move a person up to the next higher level of existence.
“You’re not in treason!” I said. “You just kissed a boy. That’s all that happened. It’s been happening since the beginning of time. People kiss. And they don’t have to get married first, either. Having to get married before even kissing is fuckin crazy. Just saying.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”
“Sounds like you’re the one who doesn’t understand.”
“Put some clothes on.”
“Because seeing a naked boy is also an overt?”
“Fuck you,” she said, without much energy.
I stepped over to where my clothes were scattered at the foot of my bed and got dressed—despite wanting to slip under the covers and close my eyes and sleep for the next ten hours. I may not have felt energetic, but I didn’t feel tired, either. I wanted to go home.
I sat down and watched Roxy walk over to the closet and get dressed. I didn’t tell her I liked her better in light pink bra and panties, that I wasn’t real into the black and white, Spartan, SO look. She ran her fingers through her hair in lieu of a brush.
She spun around and said, “Come on. Let’s get breakfast.”
“You don’t want to lie down for few? Take a short nap?”
“There’s only a short window of opportunity for meals. So if we don’t hurry, we won’t get another chance at food until lunch. And I feel like I haven’t eaten in days.”
I shrugged. “Lead the way.”
The mess hall—cafeteria—was crazy. Some SO members ate their hard scrambled eggs and oatmeal in a sitting position before jumping up and dashing out. Others didn’t take even that small amount of time but grabbed their food and ran out the door, stuffing forkfuls in their mouths as they went. Nobody could get enough coffee. By the time Roxy and I made it to the stainless steel serving dishes, there was nothing left but dried-out bits pushed up in the corners.
“They gonna bring out more?” I asked.
“No,” she answered. “This is it. Which is why I told you we shouldn’t be late.”
“Like we can’t get some toast or something to go with our two tablespoons of eggs?”
“No! This is it.”
I scraped what was left of the eggs and crusty oatmeal onto my plate. Which wasn’t much.
“Come on,” I said. “I’ll share with you.”
“You don’t have to.”
By the time I sat down at one of dozen white, plastic tables in the center of the room, we were the only diners left. A clock on the wall reminded me I had three minutes to get to my nine A.M. course. Fuck that. I wasn’t leaving until I finished my breakfast. I lingered over my tablespoon of eggs and gruel before pushing the tray across to Roxy. Who kept glancing up at the clock. She was clearly agitated.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m not sure I’m even gonna do this course. Whatever it is.”
“You have to,” Roxy said between bites. All two of them.
“I’ll decide after I see what it is.”
“Whatever it is, it’ll be good.”
“Because it was written by LRH?”
“They’re the only courses we offer. You should know that by now.”
She rose from the table. “Come on. We gotta go.”
I stood up. Reluctantly. And followed her out of the mess hall after bussing our tray, dish, and two forks. If we’d been back on the ship, I would have said the sun was already above the yardarm—despite having no idea what a yardarm was. What the hell; I said it anyway.
“Please don’t mention that,” Roxy responded.
“In case someone is monitoring us via hidden microphones?”
“God, can’t you ever be serious? Does everything have to be a joke with you?”
Twenty-four hours ago, I hadn’t been so jolly. “Not everything,” I said.
Sea Org members in black and white uniforms or blue coveralls scurried around the grounds like ants on hot asphalt. Everyone “on-purpose.” All on some important mission. So as not to bum-out Roxy, I kept my thoughts to myself. And didn’t make fun of them.
A cloudless sky offered no relief from the heat and already the temperature had broken eighty. Sprinklers kept one step ahead of the relentless evaporation.
I stopped under the shade of big, leafy tree and pulled out my cell phone. “Gotta call home,” I said.
“I’m pretty sure there’s no reception out here,” Roxy said.
She was right. No bars.
“Then I need to get to a landline.”
“You need to write a CSW,” she said.
“CSW stands for Completed Staff Work. Basically, it’s a form that everyone has to fill out if they want something. You have to write what the situation is, all the data, and finally, your solution.”
“And I have to submit one of these CSWs to make a phone call?”
“No fuckin way.”
“They’re not hard. I write CSWs all the time. Everybody does. Come on, I’ll help you.”
“I don’t want any help. I just want to call home and let em know where I am. And I’m scheduled for work tomorrow, so if we’re not planning on driving back to Santa Barbara tonight, I should call them, too.”
“Where do you work?”
“They won’t miss you.”
Apparently not showing up for work was okay for the general public.
“If I don’t show up, they will,” I said
Roxy started walking down the path. “Let’s get you going on course and then we can see about these calls.”
I sat down on the bench under the tree and shook my head. “No. We make the calls first.” I was such the rebel.
Roxy stopped and turned. “We’ll see what we can do.”
“I’m telling you; I’m not starting any course without first making those calls.”
“Okay. I got that.”
“And I’m not writing some fuckin CSW, either. I don’t need anyone’s approval to make a fuckin phone call.”
“Okay! I got it!” She shook her head. “Follow me.”
A few minutes later, we entered another big, white stucco building. A sign on the wall behind the front desk read “Technical Division.” The girl manning the desk smiled and pulled out a routing form when Roxy told her who we were. “The D of T is expecting you,” she said.
D of T stood for Director of Training—the person in charge of all courses in Scientology.
I grabbed the routing form and I followed her upstairs, determined not to start any course until a) I saw it was something I wanted to do; b) it was short; for sure I wasn’t routing on to anything that took over a week or two—like most of the courses I’d seen; and c) I wasn’t doing squat until I made my phone calls.
A big course room spanned most of the second floor. Except for two students sitting in the far corner drilling each other, the place was empty.
“Where is everybody?” I asked.
“Probably on some special project,” Roxy answered.
A woman behind a nameplate that read Director of Training sat in a glassed-in room next to the course room. Roxy tapped on the glass and we went inside.
I said, “Hi.”
“Hi,” the woman said. “Have a seat. I’ve been expecting you. My name is Mary Beth Carlson. I’m the Director of Training. You must be Rick Lee.”
I nodded and handed her my routing form.
“Great. Let’s get you started.”
“On what exactly?”
“Oh. Nobody told you?”
“We’re going to finish you up on your Purif and then route you onto the SRD.”
“The Survival Rundown.” I’d heard it mentioned back in Santa Barbara.
“Correct. Roxy here will be your twin on both.”
Roxy showed no surprise, making me wonder if she’d been tipped-off ahead of time.
“I assume you know what happened yesterday?” I said. The day before seemed like a million years ago.
“I’ve been briefed,” Mary Beth said.
“Before I start anything, though, I have to make a few phone calls.”
“Do you have approval?”
“I just need to call my dad and my boss at work. Let everyone know what’s happening.” And call Dev. See how the party was.
“You’ll need to write a CSW.”
“Just so you know, whatever course I do isn’t happening until I make those calls.”
In less than a second, her demeanor changed from cheerful mom to stone cold bitch. Her eyes narrowed to slits and her nostrils flared twice.
“I don’t think you understand how we do things around here,” she said.
I glanced at Roxy. No help there.
“It’s just a few phone calls. Like what’s the big deal?” I asked.
“Unlike in the Wog world, we operate on policy. Ture and tested policy. Policy that actually works,” Mary Best answered.
I didn’t respond. Just sat there, trying to maintain a semblance TRO. As I’d been taught.
“Submit a CSW and I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime, you can get started on the Purif,” she continued.
I shook my head. “I’ll write this CSW, make the calls, and then I’ll start the Purif.”
In a flash, Mary Beth jumped to her feet. “Who the fuck do you think you are mister!” she screamed. “You will do what you are ordered to do! This isn’t a fuckin country club! And you’re not in charge of jack shit! You will begin the Purif! And in your spare time you can write your CSW! And if it is approved, you can make your phone calls! Do I make myself clear?”
I wiped a fleck of spittle off my cheek and nodded. “I hear what you’re saying. But I gotta let people know I’m okay. I can’t just disappear. Like unless you want to make a horrendous situation even worse…? I gotta make those calls.” I shrugged. “Unless you want the cops showing up here looking for me?”
I thought of the police searching for me at home and work. And at Dev’s. I imagined them explaining to my dad how they were investigating the suspicious death of a woman who’d last been seen in my company. At the local Scientology org. Doing something called the Purification Rundown. Shit. I should have told him right from the beginning what I was up to.
Mary Beth stared at me. “Wait right here. Don’t move. Don’t go anywhere,” she said before storming out of the office.
I turned to Roxy. “Damn.”
“Do you always have to be such a jerk,” she said.
I held out my hands. “For wanting to make a couple of phone calls? Seriously; I don’t understand. What’s the big deal? Like isn’t Scientology all about good communication? Like staying in comm with people? That’s what it teaches, right?”
Roxy just shook her head.
“Is there something you’re not telling me?” I asked.
“You have to understand. We’re not in Santa Barbara anymore. We’re at Int Base. Where things are run by the Sea Org and done differently.”
“Feels more like North Korea.”
“If you would just follow the rules, everything will be okay. Like we start the Purif, and tonight when we’re done, you can write the CSW. I’ll help you. Then we’ll turn it in first thing tomorrow. I’m sure it’ll be approved and you can make your calls.”
I gazed at the two guys in the course room. One was flipping the pages of a giant dictionary. No doubt, searching for his misunderstood word. His twin was writing something on a piece of paper.
“Come on, Rick,” Roxy said. “Just go with the flow. Start the Purif with me. It’ll be fun. And then later we’ll write the CSW. I promise.”
Something about the see-saw from him feeling so flat out after everything he’s gone through to trying to get involved with Roxy feels kind of forced. I can get him trying to re-create some semblance of normalcy in the midst of a day of tremendous stress. I just have a harder time with him making that fast of a switch, especially in the middle of multiple crises and a “which end is up” response.
I could see it evolving over time being stuck that close together at INT and having to repeatedly interact.
David Bates says
So far good story but as a Hospice worker and retired army medic a few things. She supposed to die at home in bathtub First question by medic is why bowels not released in tub. Second is there would be bruises no matter how gentle that would not add up. Our poor boy lives behind house of father and brothers . Friend would stop by to talk of party, see car but not our poor guy. Naturally friend going to ask parent. Too suspicious missing but car there. Police would be called. Needs to be addressed.
Terra Cognita says
Good questions. Thanks.
Now I wait for next Sunday …
PS. There’s an old addage that if you introduce a prop, it must be used.
I can’t stop thinking about armed guards …
And if those guns are gonna get pulled. 😯
Terra Cognita says
I hear you Hnnng!
No problem, I’m avoiding the story inconsistencies or specifics of SO behavior as I was never in and its too soon to second guess where you are taking the characters … that comes in the second draft and avoids messing with the intention/flow of the writer (you), I see many story arc related comments posted but it’s too soon for that level of detailed fact checking, Just get the 1st draft finished and then pick apart the details of the story once your thoughts are down on paper. Just my 2 cents.
Terra Cognita says
Hawk: I like your two cents.
In a Forward to the book it could be mentioned that while “Rick” is a newbie in scn, the descriptions of the more advanced parts are included as an aid to understanding the scn procedures. Or not even bother since most never-in readers would probably assume that anyhow.
Also, I watch a science fiction (zombie) tv show where the plot is often inconsistent, like people getting shot up and bloody in one scene and running down the street in the next scene. No big deal – it’s fiction and fantasy so I let it go.
“Since Int Base was located just outside of Hemet, California, in the Mojave Desert,”
How would he know this?
And… the touching and kissing her ear on the fake ship… inappropriate. The grabbing and kissing her after the touch assist… so inappropriate.
Oh well, I don’t think this will be for me.
“How would he know this?”
Well, it’s been on the internet for over 2 decades…
Clayton the Thetan says
GT6 …. Hmmm …life is all about spontaneity and inappropriate situations. Two young kids with hormones “a flowin” … well done. Can’t wait for the rest of the story!
“Inappropriate” it may well be, but “appropriate” does not propagate the species and this sort of thing is quite believable and possible especially in the very young.
If a man would have to be in love with a woman and committed to her for life , and to be assured that she was totally committed to him for life in order to make a pass at her, and then if both of them would have to wait for the appropriate situation to have sex, the human race would have died out eons ago.
Not to get too esoteric on you but love is the blending of 2 souls.
The purpose of sex, though, is simply the production of meat. And of course, its pleasurable. If it weren’t , who’d bother? We’d die out as a species. Same thing with eating. Its survival but if it didn’t feel good we wouldn’t do it.
Ideally, there should be love and sex
But the brutal fact is that babies can be produced without any of the finer feelings present in the man or the woman. Not that this is optimum or what anyone wants.
But many a woman has born a beloved child or two and not loved or even liked the father, and many a father has loved and cherished his children while not being in love or even in like with the mother of those children.
Your reference for this would be Tennessee Williams play, “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Stanley Kowalski and Stelllllahhhh…!!!
I’m half- serious and half jerking your chain a little, gtsix 🙂
Yea… I am kinda old enough to know how a species reproduces. 😉 I think. Maybe.
But ya know, just grabbing someone without their permission… OK, if that’s what people deem to be acceptable, then we differ. And she may be young an inexperienced, he ain’t.
Like I said, I wasn’t impressed with the description of the now deceased woman’s body, and not this sexual impermission. I guess the writing is too male-focused for my taste (not on the male character, but ahhhh, never mind).
But to each their own.
O.T. – Interview of former Sand Castle Security Chief: Data on Cruise & Travolta
Joe Pendleton says
I would yell, Rick, Rick, don’t get in the van!!! But I realize there wouldn’t be a story if he had asserted himself then. I presume he definitely will later on when the heat is turned.
Story still keeping me wanting to know what happens next .
Rick is going right back into the sauna?? I feel a lock or secondary coming on – lol
(Hubbard’s hypothetical reactive mind is composed of locks, secondaries and engrams – technical stuff)
This Roxy character strongly reminds me of “Brittney”, whose photo appears on the emails I get from Flag touting introductory courses.
Good story, well written. I’m enjoying the read. I assume that you want to hear the nits as part of the feedback.
The following: ‘“Unlike in the Wog world, we operate on policy. Ture and tested policy. Policy that actually works,” Mary Best answered.’
True as Ture.
Consider: “Tried and tested” (Proven to be reliable through frequent, widespread, or long-time use.)
Looking forward to your next installment.
Terra Cognita says
Peabody: Thanks for the catches.
Terra Reader says
I’m still hanging on till Sundays week by week to see what happens next.
Here’s my little thoughts and catches:
The first paragraph:
“Shiny blonde hair just touches the top of her ears.” This makes me picture her hair cut half way up her head with darker stubble. I’d rather it touched her shoulders, or was curly or somehow let me picture her pretty. I’d love to see her face. Rick considering her looks could be a first step in his growing attraction of her.
Justice Chief. Maybe he could notice that it was a job description and wonder why the person’s name wasn’t there too. Just a thought. I see how these days people Mike shares funny promo pieces that refer the speaker as their job title instead of their name, which is impersonal and suggests they are expendable.
“His” is missing from the second sentence. In front of short hair. I love the bags under his eyes. The physical description does much to show how this interview will go. I’d love Roxy to get that depth of detail about her as she is a key character. “Justice chief” sentence 3. Elaborate on whether his looking like a High School principle was good or bad. It leaves me hanging.
Paragraph? I like the mention of confidentiality and that Justice Chief flouts it. I like the dialog between the Justice Chief and Rick and the paranoid, we’re under attack stuff. I like knowing how Rick is reacting inside. Makes me like him more.
When the Justince Chief is talking about Rick going away, I’d like him to talk then about phone calls, and his dad and his job. I don’t care if they put him off, but I picture him objecting at first and Doug being already gone being a factor in them manipulating him. I don’t like to see him being a pushover. But I do enjoy seeing them maneuvering him.
I wish there was a shorter way to refer to the dynamics. Maybe a bit of dialogue to break it up? An inner joke? Something.
I do like the greatest good for dynamics thing because it has been used so many times to get their aims forwarded by the koolaid drinkers. I was one so I know this isn’t fiction.
When Roxy says Your chariot awaits my lord. It’s the first time I see some personality and color in her nature. Could you give us a little more of her own personality? I want to see that there is more than just physical attraction. And when she says that it seems a tad flirty and that is good because I need to believe that she’s attracted to him. Because boy do they move fast.
I love the talk about parties, social media and all that she has missed.
The electric motor pulling a gate, I might like that screech of metal on metal as that is louder and a sound I’ve heard a lot at those electric gates. Maybe just me.
In this chapter I’m wondering how he’ll keep his cell phone charged and if he can climb high enough on a hill to get reception and call his friend Dev to rescue him. He’s got no charger, no underwear, this is concerning.
In the paragraph that starts with “Stan held open the door,” in the second sentence stayed is spelled staid and no spell checker will warn you about that.
I’d like to know if they were fed on the way down. With the miserly breakfast they had, if no dinner the night before happened, it’d be an instant huge overwhelming problem.
I have a hard time with Roxy, 18, being in a room with Rick. A really hard time.
I liked how Rick thought it weird that it would get you in trouble to kiss someone. And that he said so.
I couldn’t tell if Rick slept on the boat or just Roxy.
The whole naked and getting and assist was pretty crazy and didn’t seem in keeping with how innocent she was and uptight. A sheet over him? Wearing boxers and with a sheet? Something?
Also her in her bra and panties didn’t seem realistic. Again virginal, innocent and controlled.
Where you say nobody could get enough coffee, did you mean people had multiple cups? Carried out multiple cups? Not sure what to picture there.
I love that Mary Beth is such a mean bad ass. With a sweet name like Mary Beth.
I love how deep in he is and look forward to him keeping his sense of humor and I hope Roxy wakes up.
Terra Cognita says
Terra Reader: Wow. Thanks for all the feedback!
Terra Cognita says
Good story you’ve got going here, Terra! Fingers crossed that Roxy falls in love with him and they blow the Int Base together…looking forward to next week!
Terra, just a thought: its a stretch to believe that Roxy would be sleeping only in her underwear, and walking around the room in front of him in her underwear, even in the dark.
As a Sea Org girl who has never had sex or even kissing, even if she were allowed in a separate bed in the same room with him (another stretch) she would have pajamas and a robe on and she’d get dressed and undressed in wherever the bathroom was and not in front of him.
This would apply to ANY innocent, inexperienced girl of 18.
Also, she as a Sea Org girl would never give a touch assist to a man without first insisting he be dressed, and that he dress and undress in the bathroom and be at all times clothed in front of her, whether in street clothes or pajamas and a robe.
Terra Cognita says
Aqua: I hear you. You’re probably right about the sleeping arrangements. Thanks.
Jere Lull (37 years recovering) says
Good writing, though it sometimes reads a bit like “Lonesome squirrel” in its description of “Roxy”; not that I’m all that distressed to have a young, healthy woman described appealingly. Just wish she’d lose that stick up her butt.
“Just wish she’d lose that stick up her butt.” That’s the whole point of the general conversation here, isn’t it? People locked into a fundamentalist viewpoint and goals in a cult and blindly following it. Blind faith.
The dialog between Rick and Roxy in this episode is worthwhile and important. He is questioning her experience and beliefs. It’s what Lawrence Wright is questioning regarding the prison of belief. There isn’t a quick fix but maybe some increased understanding.
Roxy isn’t some Cosmopolitan-reading teenaged girl sexting and hooking up with guys on Tinder, she’s in the SEA ORG, for crying out loud!
Get the concept of a girl raised from infancy by nuns in a Roman Catholic Convent, put that concept on STEROIDS, and that’s the mindset of the sexual strictness and rigidity of the Sea Org.
A strict Catholic is supposed to confess to a priest any “impure thoughts”.
Put THAT concept on steroids and you have Scientology Sec Checking.
Roxy is actually quite out there and daring for a Sea Org female.
Cat W. says
Thanks, Terra. I’m still engrossed in your story, and I still find it believable enough to get freshly angry at Scientology every time I read more of it.
– Roxy must be very attracted to Rick to respond as she does, right? Because she must have done those TRs that train you not to react to anything someone says a lot of times.
– I was going to ask what “Brazenly 2.0” meant until I read the answer in one of the comments. It definitely needs explanation in the story. I’m a never-in but because I frequent critic sites, I have heard of the tone scale. However, the reference didn’t even occur to me, and even if it had, I still would have had to look up what it meant.
– To those who asked in previous comments if it’s a true-life story, I asked before, and Terra responded that it was not. (But this means it’s a good plot — believable — that this thought keeps coming up to his readers.)
– Another thought I had, based on my own preferences, is that some of the explanations of Scientologese could be done in footnotes. It would make the dialogue less exposition-heavy, which I think bogs it down at times. I know a lot of people don’t like footnotes, but I like them for things like that. For example, it doesn’t seem very believable to me that Rick wouldn’t know what PAC is by this point, but that could be handled with a quick footnote. And if he really is in to the point that he says things like Brazenly 2.0, then that could be explained in a footnote, too.
– As a never-in, I’m not as familiar with all the levels of being a Scientologist as the exes. Is the idea that Rick picked up some of the lingo from his former gf, but never got to the point of believing it hook, line & sinker? Would he consider himself a Scientologist by the time of buying the Purif? Would the CoS consider him one?
Terra Cognita says
Cat W.: New Scientologists pick up the lingo pretty quickly, in part because they’re forced to clear so many words while studying Scientology courses.
“forced” to clear words? I guess that’s one way to look at it. In my pre DM experience as an auditor there was a demand for excellence – no such thing as a passing grade as in college courses. You got it totally right or went to cramming until you got it 100% correct.
Yes Richard. “Forced” as in if you refused you got sent to ethics and if you continued to refuse you get comm Ev’ed and declared a Horrible criminal. PRE DM days when Hubtard ruled.
You have so little experience with the CoS that to comment in this manner is a lie as you have already been exposed as not knowing much about its operations. You didn’t even know what auditors were training on in Grades processing while claiming to have been trained.
In the 1970s Dianetics came before the grades. I was a fully trained and interned dn auditor which also qualified me to do other introductory auditing. As a mission staff auditor I did hundreds of hours of auditing on paying customers as well as co auditing on dn and other processes.
I never got forced to do anything in scn. That’s an insult to my intelligence. If you got forced then you got forced. So much for the anti-scn police.
Richard, it didn’t necessarily have anything to do with intelligence – lots of people in Scientology got sucked into coercive and abusive situations during, before and after your time. At first it was mostly just those closest to Hubbard’s orbit, such as on his fleet of ships, though eventually the Sea Org that he trained up, and his messengers like Miscavige extended that further and further throughout Scientology.
The point I’m making is that, at least in my days in scn, not everyone was trying to hook, con or force everyone else into doing things they didn’t want to do. As an auditor I was dealing with a person’s mind and life experience and I took my job seriously, as did the case supervisors who reviewed my sessions.
That also applied to other people in the organizations where I worked or took services. The registrars were pushy but not rapacious, the course supervisors were strict but not tyrants and the list goes on. Obviously a lot of things changed and there isn’t much interest in how things used to be. It’s easy to see the failings of the subject itself in hindsight.
Richard, I was around probably around the time that you were, so I have an idea of what your’e referring to. I also probably got to see a bit more of the whole scene than you did, because of a program I was in that took me around to various cities, and had me doing training at one of the headquarters in California, where I got to look into and ask some hard questions about some of what were were being told in the field (in the days when asking just drew a harsh rebuff, not instant consignment to “ethics”). Much later, trying to make sense of my experience, I talked to a lot of old timers who had worked everywhere from missions to advanced orgs, and continue to this day to try to get as broad a perspective on things as I can.
As much as the time you were in, the experience you had depended on where you were. Sure, some missions were Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood or whatever. Others were recreations of the new regimen that the Sea Org implemented at St. Hill and other places when Hubbard brought his force back on land, or a soap opera like Peyton Place. Those sorts of variances and the underlying issues that they point to, was much of the reason that Hubbard sent Miscavige and others out to rein the missions in.
Terra could portray anything they wanted as having gone at the missions, or more far-flung orgs, and it would be impossible to say with certainty, that it couldn’t have happened – even if no such things went on where you were (that you knew of).
Hi PeaceMaker – I hit the road and was out of scn in 1982. I figure that much of the scn experience and reflection on it depends of when, for how long, and in what capacity someone participated. You mention “where” which is also a factor along with many other factors, of course.
If Terra had said new Scientologists NEED to clear so many words he wouldn’t have got my goat – haha
Richard, then we didn’t overlap by much.
As I think I’ve said before, that seems to have still been a time when in many cases, people could sort of make of Scientology what they wanted. My perspective these days is that exes may not give themselves enough credit for their role in creating that experience, and still give the power to Hubbard and Scientology.
I realize that what Terra wrote must conflict with your ideals, and what you may have experienced where you were at the time you were there. But unfortunately that sort of thing was going on when you were in, if not where you were at.
I split scn before delving into Elron’s “upper level” mishmash of science fiction, occultism and theosophy and whatever else it is. Even so, when reexamining my scn experience after watching Going Clear I still had to deal with false information and notions I’d carried forward as well as some emotional baggage. I can and do sympathize with people who got ripped up and ripped off by the organization and the subject.
Ammo Alamo says
The story is becoming even more interesting by the chapter. Again I will refrain from spelling or grammer checking – that’s for after it is nearer to completion. I’d be glad to be one of the proofreaders if you need one. I find this burgeoning love interest a fine addition. Now if they turn out like the real-life Headleys (only not so many years stuck in the SO) that would be great.
I hope your protagonist does not have to lose his independent nature. That would be discouraging to me, but in terms of living “under” the SO it might be inevitable.
I wonder if you have decided the nature of the story. Is it to be a revelatory look into Scientology, with all the heartache and defeats that entails? Or will it become a coming-of-age story, with a love interest that might or might not endure? Or even become more of a who-dun-it, one that eventually includes more Scn lying and hiding of evidence, police, maybe a bulldog of a detective, maybe the FBI, maybe the involvement and downfall of Der Furher for interfering with an investigation? That downfall scenario would be a neat come-uppance to the real Scn if the book were published to massive readership. Who knows?
Terra Cognita says
Thanks for the comments, Ammo.
Miss Q says
Anybody care to explain the etymology of “Worthy Oriental Gentleman” to this never-in? My “good dictionary” doesn’t contain the term. 😉
Jere Lull (37 years recovering) says
WOG:”worthy oriental gentleman”, an extremely derogatory British colonialialist term referring to the locals of India or Hong Kong. Tubby applied it to all non-scientologists. Scientologists use the term that way liberally, but usually without the venom Ron meant when he said it. The guy seemed to hate EVERYone who was different than he wanted them to be. Those he hated most were the ones telling the truth about his scam. Couldn’t stand them; had to destroy them utterly and completely. So much for freedom of speech: Only HE had the right. If he wanted your opinion, he’d tell you what it was.
ETA: USUALLY staff didn’t include Ron’s distain, unless used as a put-down:”You’re such a WOG!”
Another story I heard about WOG is that the Europeans on the docks in China were calling the Chinese dock workers “niggers”. Word about that got around which obviously upset the Chinese so the Europeans were instructed to call them wogs, worthy oriental gentlemen.
It was still a slur but the Chinese wouldn’t know that.
John Doe says
Ok so I’m hooked on your story!
One thing: it’s been a while since I’ve been to the Int base but I’m pretty sure they would NEVER room a young girl in the same berthing as an “almost wog newbie” unless the intention was to get the guy romantically involved with her so that he would cooperate. In which case I don’t think they would use an inexperienced 18 year old.
I understand also moving the story along so I could just suspend belief on it.
I’ve seen this type of thing (forbidden love) happen often in the Sea Org, but usually takes several days or weeks and all the romantic activities take place outside berthing areas.
Anyway, just some comments. I like the story so far so just ignore my two cents if revising would make the story more cumbersome.
Terra will need to decide how accurately he wants to describe the many scn procedures and events he portrays in his fictional novel. I think most ex scientologists will grant him poetic license for the sake of making things somewhat understandable to the never-in public. He might even get a nasty letter from the CoS for misrepresenting scientology and value that even more than his “goldenrod” (expulsion from scientology notification) if he ever got one. Like they say, sometimes any publicity is good publicity.
Terra Cognita says
John Doe: Yeah…I thought about the rooming situation, too. Might change it. Might chalk it up to literary licence. Thanks for your input.
Terra, when completed you should pitch it as a made for TV movie to run on the Cult’s TV station…
Old Surfer Dude says
I’ll play the role of Miscavige! Let me practice: Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you! Alright Mr. DeMille…I’m ready for my close up.
You’r a natural OSD! I mean, I’m sorry. 😉
Casting Director to OSD at Miscavige Audition:
“Great seeing ‘ya Dude! Glad you’re still in there pitching! But for Miscavige? Well, those are some terrific “fuck you’s” you got going there. Gotta say, you’ve got that down. But can’t do it Dude. You’ve just way too typecast with that tall tanned So-Cal beachboy thing goin’ for ‘ya, ‘ya know? Can’t do it, bro. Luvya baby! Thank you…NEXT!”
Terra Cognita says
Wynski: Great suggestion. You get first dibs–after Old Surfer Dude playing Miscavige–on whichever character you want to play.
Oh, it would be such fun if we could do our own play. How I would LOVE to be Lou. Cut my hair off and dye it shoe black, or a wig. Create an amazing Adams Apple with makeup somehow. I already have a long neck but not as long as Lou’s… Tall black boots…cold chrome steel glare…OMG it would be so much fun. I love playing evil characters. My second choice would be Jenny Linson. Or wait! …Blinky! She’s evil but funny at the same time. Such a nuanced role 🙂 Decisions, decisions…
Funny you mention her Aqua. I was going to suggest the part to you. 🙂 Start practicing that karate!
TC, is this fictionalized based on facts. Or is that your story? Sure sounds like non-fiction.
Terra Cognita says
BKmole: This is a work of fiction. I’ve never had a twin of mine drop dead, nor have I ever been to Int Base. That said, I was in Scientology for over thirty years, so much of what I write is based on what I observed when I was involved.
TC, thanks. It certainly seems real.
The story still has me hooked. One edit suggestion. Just after bathroom scene you have
“She turned away while I hung my damp shirt over the closet door and climbed under the covers. Of my bed.”
The last three words go with the rest of the sentence.
Terra Cognita says
Cre8ivewmn: Yes, I’ve made a number of grammatical flubs. Thanks for your edits.
TERRA! This story takes me back to the “time, place and form and event” when I was berthed at Big Blue while working at CC. Met a young girl there who was amazingly similar to the Roxy in your tale. One night she and I climbed up onto the roof of the berthing building just like your Rick and Roxy on the “ship” at Int Base. We stargazed and chatted all about life and the universe and had the most enjoyable time either of us long time SO member’s could recall. Great energy was felt by both of us; we “knew” we’d known each other before because the affinity was so awesomely high we couldn’t get off the roof for hours. And just like your Rick and Roxy we too had to hide when someone came up checking for some reason.
Oh, and being involved in the cover up of facts about a death, like your Rick, is another “time, place, form and event” for me. Just not at PAC but at Flag.
Anyway, thanks so much for your writings. I have enjoyed each and every episode you’ve shared and eagerly look forward to every new issue.
Terra Cognita says
Trashton Porter says
“I should be tired. What with all I’ve been through today. But I’m not. I wide, fuckin awake…. ( missing the word am)
Old Surfer Dude says
“I wide,”. I was wide once. But, Jenny Craig gave me back my body.
Terra Cognita says
Old Surfer Dude: If you expect to play Miscavige in the movie, you’d better be in shape.
Komodo Dragon says
And start chain-smoking and drinking copious amounts of VERY expensive Scotch.
As a “Never In” I’m constantly amazed at the sheer….WOWness of this cult. Excellent story so far, I look forward to each new piece. I noticed a few spelling errors, but those can be caught with spellchecker. Holy hell. I’m immensely impressed at the strength you guys had for getting out. Bravo!
Old Surfer Dude says
It’s getting easier & easier to just walk away.
Nice flow to the writing!
“All were dressed like Kirk . . .” Not everyone is familiar with the Star Trek series. “All were dressed like Captain Kirk in the Star Trek shows . . ” is more explanatory.
No toilet paper in the bathroom sounds like a fabrication and criticism of the past and I don’t know if it’s true today or when the story takes place. Personal toiletries would be one’s own and taken to a common shared bathroom like in a college dorm. “They” didn’t provide Rick with toiletries, at least not yet!
“TR2 – Training Routine two” is better clarified by saying “TR2 – Communication Training Routine two” even though that’s not what it’s called.
“Brazenly 2.0.” is sciospeak, Use brazenly angry or give an explanation.
Sandi Greenhill says
Kirk is the guy manning the front gate.
Sandi – oops – I totally misread that on a quick first read this morning. I suppose if I want to offer editing suggestions on something I ought to carefully read it first. My apologies on that one, Terra.
Sandi Greenhill says
No worries. Great story isn’t it? Looking forward to buying the book.
Why do I get the impression that this is a write up of a true event, and that TC is preempting an attack by scientology when they decide to fair game TC. Typical of them, to slant (pervert) the story to favor them every time.
Just a few errors, story getting good. I used to be an editor in my earlier working days so hope you don’t mind me picking on the grammar …
“Wait in hall while I make the arrangements,” Sam said, picking up his phone.
“Wait in the hall while I make the arrangements,” Sam said, picking up his phone.
“Turn you back.”
“Turn your back.”
Ture and tested policy.
True, not sure what you are going for?
Terra Cognita says
Hawk: I appreciate your edits. Keep em coming.
Still a page-turner Terra Cognita. Would Scientology management really be so naïve/sadistic/uncaring as to ‘room’ two young people together like this, or are you stretching things a bit for the sake of the story? Just wondering, as a ‘never in’.
Miss Q says
I had this same question. Terra, is this really something that did/would occur? Why wouldn’t Roxy be housed in another room? Seems like it’s asking for trouble.
Miss Q – Roxy is a trusted soldier expected to do her job which is keep an eye on Rick. Rick is a bit more than a casual visitor to the base at this point. If she was asleep in a different room Rick might go wandering around. Also, she is dedicated to her purpose in scn and any transgressions would get caught by the metered security checks.
Terra Cognita says
I might be stretching things a bit, but…this is a work of fiction.
“with a brass plate on it that read Chief Justice”
That would actually be, “Justice Chief”.
Jere Lull (37 years recovering) says
A brass plate on a door? Don’t remember any of those at any org, not even Flag, back in the day…. 😉
Terra Cognita says
Yes! I knew chief justice didn’t sound right. Thanks for setting me straight.
Carry on man, once is finished we will gladly buy the whole book and read it.
Terra Cognita says
My Inner Space says
This great reading! Looking forward to next week.
Good story you’ve got going here, Terra. Fingers crossed that Roxy falls in love with him and they blow the Int Base together…looking forward to next week – engrossing! You’ve got the story-telling gift!