How did The Leader recruit new members?
He was very good at manipulating people. You know how he told us The Strangers would lure us out with fake smiles and sweet words? In reality, those were the things he did to lure people in. He often held community gatherings, which were parties where he served free food and tried to convince those with no place to go that he had a safe haven for them. A lot of times homeless people would show up because they were hungry. Some of them became new recruits, while others just thanked him for the food and turned down his offers to live in The Compound.
The Leader knocks on the door to Titanium and Camo's room early in the morning. Titanium isn't quite awake yet, so Camo opens the door.
"Good morning children, I have some exciting news for you. It is a beautiful day today and I would like you to accompany me to the beach. I will be hosting a barbecue for the community, and there will be free food for anyone who shows up. You boys don't have to do anything except enjoy the sun, sand, and water."
"Holy crap, for real?"
"Yes, Camo. Also, you both might be particularly pleased to know that I have set aside some shorts for you boys to wear, but only for when we are at the beach, all right? As usual, please refrain from engaging The Strangers."
"Is Zinfandel coming?"
"No, Zinfandel is in Isolation. Get ready and meet me in the front yard, then we will go."
"Yes, Mr. Leader, sir!"
Titanium and Camo respond in unison to The Leader and are ecstatic. This will be their first time on the beach despite living in Silicon Shores their whole life.
"WOW! Can you believe it? We get to go to the beach! WITHOUT Zinfandel!"
"You'll get to play in the water like you wanted."
The Leader takes the boys out to the beach and gives them a bag of marshmallows and some skewers.
"All right, I will be up here for most of the day. There is a fire pit and some lounge chairs down on the sand. You boys can go explore the beach. These are snacks you can cook in the fire pit. If you go in the water, be careful. Sometimes the water can pull you under. I'll bring you some food when I'm done."
Titanium and Camo head off to the beach together, feeling the sand between their toes and the sun on their skin. Camo gets distracted by the fire pit and walks towards it, calling for Titanium to join him. Camo sits down and opens the bag of marshmallows as Titanium finds the lighter hidden in a compartment in the fire pit and lights the fire. Camo hands him a skewer with marshmallows and they start talking.
"Hey, Titanium, do you ever think about intimacy?"
"I guess, sometimes I wonder what it would feel like."
"I want to see some boobs."
"Of course you do, Camo."
"I'm not sure. When I think of boobs, I think of Zinfandel and she's a pain."
"Hey Titanium, you can be funny! I'm so glad she's not here talking to us about rules. Can you imagine what she'd do if she knew we were talking about this?"
All of a sudden, Camo gets a distant look in his eye and stares off into the horizon. Titanium doesn't notice at first and continues talking.
"Well, she'd probably start blabbing on about how we're teenagers and teenagers aren't sup- Camo? Camo! Your marshmallows are on fire!"
"Wha-? Huh? Crap!"
Camo pulls his skewer out of the fire and starts blowing on the fire to extinguish the flames.
"What were you looking at?"
"There's a hot girl over there by the water. She's got a nice ass."
Titanium looks over at the girl, and all of a sudden his marshmallows are on fire as well.
"These marshmallows take like burnt ass."
"We suck at this."
Titanium and Camo laugh at their lack of marshmallow cooking skills. Camo looks over at the girl again while taking a bite of his marshmallow.
"Camo, how do you know she's hot? It's just her backside."
"Yeah, but look at her! She's got to be hot with a body like that! She's got curves... and that ass!"
"Do you want to go down to the water and get a better look?"
"Whoa, Titanium. Where has this version of you been hiding? Of course I do!"
Titanium and Camo go down to the water, agreeing not to engage the strange girl so that The Leader doesn't get upset with them. After a while, The Leader comes down to the beach and gives them some hot dogs.
"Are you boys enjoying yourselves?"
"Yes, Mr. Leader, sir."
Titanium and Camo eat their hot dogs while chatting and watching the sunset. Camo occasionally steals a glance at the brunette girl.
"Wow that sunset is really awesome. Don't you think? Titanium? Titanium! Hello! Dude, what are you looking at?"
"Hey, it's getting dark. I want to go play in the water quick before we go. Come with me."
Titanium follows Camo into the ocean. Camo smiles. He likes the feel of the cool water on his feet and legs. It's relaxing, just as he imagined it would be.
The boys stay in the shallow part of the ocean since neither of them have ever been taught how to swim and Titanium pauses again, looking in the direction of the beach.
"Titanium, you never told me what you were looking at."
"Not what, who."
Titanium looks up again and tries to signal without pointing at the aqua haired boy standing on the sand, since the boy seems to be looking their way.
"You mean that guy standing there?"
Titanium looks shyly at Camo and nods.
"I think he's cute."
"Boys? It's time to go."
The Leader's voice echoes down to the water's edge. He is standing on the shore, beckoning towards Titanium and Camo. As they walk towards the car, they notice a woman walking with them. Titanium and Camo get in the back seat of the car while The Leader opens the passenger side door for the woman and she gets in the car with them. She looks sad and withdrawn, doing nothing but staring out the window for the duration of the car ride.
Why do you think The Leader was being so nice to you?
Occasionally, The Leader would be nice to me to skew my opinion of him. I didn't like him in general because of the many rules he imposed on me. It was a sneaky way to curb dissent. You won't question things if you're happy with what you have.
Mrs. Balestrom gets up and I notice Camo staring at her. He's looking at her with a smile on his face, the same way he did when we first saw her on the beach.