One by one, they stomp through the door, then each one crunches down into a pretzel and starts locking in. The big event is just hours away, and the outfit soon to be known as the Westborough 8 is rehearsing at a friend's pad outside of Boston, in an apartment with wooden floors that tremble when the chains smack down. Ben Trolio, a tall and agile senior at the University of New Hampshire, finishes first, starting a count-off as they click — "ONE," "TWO," "THREE." On those cues, an unchained accomplice circles around to retrieve the keys from their mouths.

After practicing their routine a half-dozen times, the squad sets a new record of just over a minute to fully link together. Once in their business-casual disguises, they hover over blueprints of the Westboro Executive Park; meanwhile, two new collaborators who will handle media calls rehearse talking points in the rear kitchen. With six hours of sleep and a peanut-butter-and-banana breakfast in them, they each have a final drink of water at noon, and split into two platoons. A final game-time decision: they agree the diaper decision should be a personal call. Most opt against it.


They call him Storm Chaser. He's come from Maine, at the request of an SJSF contact from MIT, to bless the entourage with much-needed guidance. Though from New England, this ally just returned from the front lines of the tar-sands battlefields in Texas. In red pants and a woman's hat adorned with knit floral flair, Storm Chaser is a seasoned demonstrator with experience in harsh showdowns. He recently retreated from the Lone Star state in order to avoid landing in long pre-trial detention — which is also why "Storm Chaser" is the only name he's giving out. Some of his friends who caught the wrath of Texas authorities sat behind the wall for nearly a month there, waiting for a court appearance. He doesn't want to share their fate.

As Storm Chaser tells stories of his Texas tribulations, his legionnaires watch attentively with their heads plopped in their hands, sopping up the dirty details of his ride against Big Energy. Down south, he'd wait for daily calls from remote operatives, who would dispatch him to whichever new drilling site they located from clandestine surveillance and anonymous tips. Riester and the others hang on every word.

Though intent on returning to Texas, while he's back home, Storm Chaser hopes to spark friction against TransCanada in New England — and in this posse, he's found willing soldiers. He promises to send over specs of the Westborough offices — plus advice on the best locks available — and wishes everyone good luck. Storm Chaser says that he would love to assist with their upcoming endeavor; but with crucial decisions on Keystone XL development looming — namely, from the president and secretary of state — he'll probably be organizing one of the many other actions planned for January 7.

Politely, a TransCanada employee informs the protesters that the police are on their way.


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Related: W. gets a B, Why so serious?, The Secret Life of Bees, More more >
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