Medal of Defiance: Chapter 8

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I wandered that afternoon. I knew it would get dark soon, but I had no clue where I was in relation to where I had been earlier.

“Hey you!” I heard a voice call out.

I stopped and turned toward the sound. Then, I pointed at myself when I spied an older man a few houses away.

“Yeah you!” he called out again. “You look lost!”

The accent registered with me and I nodded. I felt numb.

“I am,” I tried to shout back in my best interpretation of the local accent. “My house…” I said motioning behind me and swallowing hard.

“You caught in the quake, lad?”

I merely nodded feeling so tired.

“You need a bunk?” the man called out to me still.

“That would be lovely,” I replied walking toward him.

“My wife, Evelyn, will have supper done soon now. Fill your belly and we can make up the couch. The name’s Foster, Foster Pembrooke,” he stated holding his hand out.

I took the offered hand and gave it a firm shake. “I would appreciate that so much,” I breathed. “I am Winthorpe…James.”

“Nice to meet you, lad. Come on in, rest a little.”

It was such a relief to be welcomed by someone. After many hours of walking, he was the one to extend his hospitality. There was a light in his blue eyes that I took an immediate liking to. He was a good man and I would be off the streets for the night.

“So you say there’s a problem with your house?” he asked me as we ventured inside his humble home.

“There is nothing left, I’m afraid,” I replied. “I saw men get buried in the wreckage out there and knew the remnants of my home were not safe. I just started walking…”

“You poor dear!” Evelyn exclaimed bringing a pot of fresh tea into the front room.

I liked their home. It smelled like a home should. Like bread.

“I appreciate your hospitality,” I rambled taking a seat in a rocking chair next to the window.

“You are welcome as long as you need a place to stay, laddie,” Foster said quietly. “You look like you’ve had a rough few days of it.”

I chuckled and rocked the chair methodically. “You could say that.” My head fell back against the wood of the chair and I sighed.

I thought about Jack and his meaningless death and I had to wonder if my decision caused him to be taken so early from this world. Now, I was not a religious man by any definition, but it did make me wonder. Did Jack die so I could succeed? Was there another force that knew he would be mutilated until he “talked”? My friend died a swift and merciful death, if there is such a thing…I took comfort in that.

“We are ready to eat now, Mr. James,” Evelyn said resting her hand on my shoulder and speaking softly as to not startle me.

I sat upright and looked around and smiled. I followed the missus into their meager dining area and took a seat at the empty plate that was set.

Evelyn sat at the table to my right, Foster right in front of me.

“We rarely have company, it is a nice change,” she smiled shyly.

Evelyn reminded me of the perfect wife. She was quiet, demur, and kind. I could imagine them sitting in this very room together with a gaggle of kids, everyone making conversation and laughing together.

I smiled in response to her remark.

“Shall we ask a blessing?” Foster asked without meaning to be answered.

As if it were routine, he reached out and took his wife’s hand and she bowed her head. Her left hand snaked out from her lap to take mine and Foster reached over the table to take my other. I obliged and bowed my head as Evelyn had.

The sound of Foster’s soft spoken voice filled the room and my ears, lifting a sense of hope in my chest. I admired the love he emitted for God and wondered briefly how anyone could possibly love someone they didn’t even know existed for sure. That feeling, that electrical feeling that passed through me at that moment almost made me envy the man.

The food was simple, cold meat sandwiches and roasted potatoes with a glass of frothy milk. It felt like their milk was much thicker than what I was used to. It stuck to my lips and coated my throat. The bread was fluffy and soft, but still warm from coming out of the oven. The sliced meats were salty and full of flavor. The potatoes were swimming in butter with their shining red skins. It was the best meal I’d eaten in a very long time and I went back for more.

“I can show you where you can sleep when you are done there, Winthorpe,” Foster said taking his plate into the kitchen beyond.

I stopped chewing long enough to look up and nod. I did feel better, but I was so tired.

Evelyn was already tucking sheets under the cushions of the weathered old couch in the front room when Foster and I emerged from eating. She fluffed a giant pillow and threw a blanket over the top and I nearly swooned with the pleasure of comfort extended to me by strangers.

“Would you care to wash before you sleep?” Evelyn asked as she worried her hands a bit.

I stared at the bedding like a wolf stares at a sheep and shook my head to the negative. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to just crawl in and rest,” I replied.

She laughed a merry sound. “I don’t blame you. But let me show you where the loo is if you need it in the night.”

Motioning me to follow her, I trudged along just thinking about those crisp sheets and soft pillow. Just down the hall and to my right was the bathroom, or the loo. It was a very tight room, quite small compared to the community shower I was used to at the base. There was literally a toilet, a sink and a tub. I could turn on the water of the sink and wash my hands while sitting on the toilet if I so wanted to, they were that close together. My knees, I imagined, would smack against the side of the tub across from the toilet if I dared sit on the seat. I suppose small was an understatement.

“It’s old…” Evelyn said quietly.

“It’s lovely, Mrs. Pembrooke. Thank you for letting me stay with you,” I smiled. I was pretty sure they were tired of hearing my statements of gratitude, but I didn’t care. That was what I felt at the moment. I was comfortable and safe with friends.

I waited until Foster took his wife in their bedroom before I took out my flat tab and plugged my ear buds into the jack. Quickly I opened up the program that was an all frequency radio and clicked through each station in hopes of hearing any communication about Jack…or myself.

A thick British accent hit my ears and my finger stilled a moment. I listened with intent as words like “monarchy”, “money”, “food”, and “resistance” filled my ears. The voices changed from time to time as different people spoke their mind.

“We must take matters into our own hands, boys! We got families to feed! If the monarchy won’t help us, we had better take it ourselves! I say we plan a time at the change of the guard. Some sort of distraction should lure them all there and we take the gates. Kill anyone who gets in our way, I say! Even if it is the king himself.”

“What if we take the princess with us? Show her a little something about what we are going through?”

“Wouldn’t be a bad idea there, my friend. I’m tired of being hungry and not having but one bottle of water a day. I want a place to sleep where I’m not on the bloody ground! My kids won’t be quiet and my baby is sick now. Perhaps stealing the princess is the thing to do. Maybe it would wake up that king who lies comfortable in his bed tonight.”

“When are we doing this?”

“I think we could manage on Sunday. We should be there by ten in the morning. Then, when the change takes place, we set off some firecrackers down the street. When the guards investigate right at the 11:30 time, we break through the gates. Get all our friends together. All of us are suffering right now and the castle don’t care about us at all. What do you say, boys?”

“Sounds like we have a plan, boss.”

“Naw…I’m no boss. We are a team. A team of citizens under the protection of a crown full of holes and now we are getting rained on.”

There were cries of agreement coming through and I knew this was bad. I had to get to the castle to warn the family of the danger lurking. Surely they weren’t the only ones planning an attack of some kind. Perhaps the king didn’t know just how angry his people were. One thing I knew, they would not take what I had worked so hard to find. Paige.

I abandoned the search of frequencies and tucked my belongings away in the satchel. Then, I allowed myself to drift off into a deep sleep where dreams held color and the sound of rebellion rang in my ears.

My eyes fluttered open early, as I was used to. The house was quiet and it took me a moment to remember where, and who, I was. The weak light was just beginning to filter through the picture window across from me. Although the heavy drapes had been pulled shut the night before, I could see its brilliance finding the crack between the panels and glowing against the darkness of the living room.

I needed to get to London. It was just that simple. I had to warn the royal family of the impending attack on them.

I sat up on the couch and rubbed my eyes with the heels of my hands. Why did I care so much? Why was I willing to risk my very life to just marry this princess, much less show up to defend her family?

There was no way I could answer my own questions.

Slipping my feet into those fancy shoes, I grabbed my satchel. I had no toiletries at all so using the washroom held little interest to me except to use the loo. It felt funny even thinking that word. To me, it was one of those words that made no sense at all and it made me feel like laughing.

So nature’s call won out and I slipped into the tiny washroom and emptied my bladder. When I flushed, an awful noise rang out. It was like it came from under the house and was like a ship being crushed in the mighty weight of ocean waters. Quickly, I washed my hands and took no time to dry them. I had to get on my way, no Evelyn to talk me into staying longer.

Opening the door when I had finished, water still dripping from my hands, I ran into her. Evelyn. Her warm smile that morning made me freeze in my tracks.

“I’m getting breakfast on, Winthorpe. It will be just a few minutes, I swear,” she said kindly.

“What in the world was that noise?” I blurted out.

She laughed. “Sorry ‘bout that. We forgot to warn you that our plumbing screams. Especially in the morning.” Then she motioned me back in the washroom. “Shower, and dress. You will feel a little better.”

Feeling a tad defeated, I complied and retreated back into the cramped room that looked like something out of the classic Alice in Wonderland. I had to ask myself, “When did I eat the cookie?”

But I quickly stripped and started the bath pouring. I could smell toasting bread teasing my senses. My mouth watered.

It was odd, using a small bathtub. I couldn’t remember ever being in a tub in my life. Maybe a spa tub, but not a regular old bathtub. The thought of how many germs were actually invading my body as I sat in that water made my skin crawl. So I quickly soaped my hair and rinsed, using the bar of soap in the corner to wash my body. It came to rest over the tender area of my wrist. My alteration was healing nicely, but was still pretty angry.

My mind wandered to the real Winthorpe and if I had been found out yet. I drew a deep breath and had to believe I covered my tracks the best I could. But I also knew I had to put enough distance between myself and the RA so they couldn’t track me down. But if they did figure out what I did, I would be stuck in this country for the rest of my life, living low and sticking to the shadows.

When I could no longer stand it, I jumped out of the water and quickly dried. I did feel better being clean. I hated to put on the same clothes again, but I did. I had no choice.

I opened the washroom door one more time, looking both ways down the short corridor before I emerged.

“Breakfast is ready!” Evelyn called out.

I made my way back to the table where I had most enjoyed myself the night before. There was toast, a small stack of it, eggs that looked light and fluffy, sausages that were browned just so, and more of that delightfully thick milk.

Foster sat in the same place as before and appeared alert and excited. We prayed over the food once again and I felt that strange tingling sensation one more time.

“Did I wake you this morning?” I asked them, referring to flushing their toilet.

They both laughed. “No, not at all. We had been awake for a while before you woke. We just wanted you to sleep as you could get it. Sounded like you had a rough night.”

“It did?” I asked and dropped my fork a notch, eggs wiggling as my hand shook ever so slightly.

“It was a night of nightmares it sounded like. Crying about dead bodies and falling stones then yelling to Jack that there were guns at the castle,” Foster shook his head as he smiled at me. “Must have been a hell of a night for you!”

I poked my fork inside my mouth. I had said Jack’s name. Out loud.

“I never knew I talked in my sleep,” I grinned in response. “This has been an awful time for me.”

There was no way I was going to talk about Jack and who he was to me.

Evelyn’s hands fluttered to her chest in sympathy. “I can only imagine. I thank the Lord each day that the quake spared us.”

“You are most lucky. It is a war zone down there,” I said trying to be mindful of the information I had found before I went to sleep. My expression sobered and I pointed my fork right at the both of them. “Please listen to me…I know there are many who are devastated. Who knows what these poor victims will do when they have had enough. Please promise me that good people like yourselves will not offer lodging to any more strangers until conditions get better. I don’t want to watch the telly and see that you were hurt in any way. Promise?”

I was rather proud of my very British reference to the television.

But Foster and Evelyn stared at me as though it were my funeral and nodded their agreement.

“Just be careful,” I mumbled and continued to shove food in my mouth.

We ate the rest of the meal silently.

Medal of Defiance- Chapter 7

DO NOT BE ALARMED!

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I redid my chapters to be smaller, so we are on chapter 7 now. Still at the same place in the story though.

Chapter 7

 

Are you kidding me? I screamed at myself. Winthorpe? I could have sworn I saw a man named that one time on a really old movie…How would I ever get used to hearing my name being Winthorpe?

Briefly I scanned my history that I should know…My parents’ names, my siblings, and my date of birth. As soon as I thought I could remember Annie James, Henry James, and Matilda James, I clicked off my flat tab and shoved it in my coat.

This was it. I was on my way down the corridor, everything dear to me was packed in my pockets so that was not saying much about my pathetic life. I was about to embark on a new future. One that I hoped would change the world for the better.

Jack was waiting for me and looked nervous to me. I cursed under my breath at his rigid demeanor. That could alert someone that there was something going on. These people were very good at reading body language. So I quickened my pace to get him out of the courtyard.

I was handed a backpack for the day. I figured I could get away with taking the water and perhaps my rations that were inside.

“You need to relax, man,” I said as I approached Jack.

“I am relaxed! I’m just anxious to see what you got done last night! I just sat there in bed wondering how you would pull this off,” he laughed and clapped me on the shoulder.

“Your lack of sleep has you standing like a robot. Take a deep breath and let’s go.”

We took off for our post, once again heading for Ladymeade Parkway. We were silent until sure we were out of surveillance at the base.

“So, how did you do it?” Jack asked.

I laughed out loud at his eagerness. I stopped walking and he followed suit as I dug in my pockets. Drawing out my new prints, I took one out of the sleeve to show him.

“Here it is…I just have to glue it to my finger. It is clear, it works, and I only have to use it when I know I will need to be scanned,” I said.

“That is amazing, Wes. Truly amazing. I would never have thought to do that. What did you use?”

I gave him the run down of the night in the supplies closet and showed him my altered ID. It was angry and red when I drew up my sleeve but I knew it would heal in time.

We started walking again.

“My name is Winthorpe,” I snorted.

Jack just laughed until he had tears dripping from his eyes.

“Okay, that’s enough I think. Maybe I could just go by Thor for short. He is a legend from another place in the universe who fights to change his world. Do you think he would mind if I shared his name?” I chuckled.

Jack broke out into a new bout of laughter. “I don’t think he would mind at all. But I think Marvel would probably hate you.”

“Most likely,” I replied.

We stopped a spell at the house Jack was working on.

“Been nice working with you, Winthorpe,” Jack said struggling to control his laughter.

“Yeah, take care of that wife and kids back home. I’m glad I met you, Jack.”

Jack just waved to me and started climbing in the rubble. I took a mental picture of him before I turned and headed the distance to the house that would change my existence.

The ground started to rumble under my feet. I felt dizzy, like I couldn’t keep my footing. I could hear matter falling all around me and a scream rent the stillness of the air.

“Jack!” I called out.

Nausea gripped me and when the shaking stopped, I got back to my feet and sprinted to where I had last seen my comrade. I could feel my hands shaking, my breathing was ragged and I thought for sure I would pass out.

I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t hear him. It was like the destruction had just swallowed my friend up. “No, no! Don’t let it take Jack!” I mumbled as I made my way through the large stones and bricks that lie on the ground.

I could hear the dust settling as it fell through the piles of wood and stone, like rain on a metal roof. “Jack!” I yelled out picking up debris and throwing it into the street.

It felt like it took me forever to wade through the aftermath of the small quake. But there, not even too far beneath, was my comrade. My accomplice in this whole charade. He had been crushed, his bones badly broken and his head leaking colors I never knew existed in the human body.

I threw up and the tears came unbidden to my eyes. There was a moment when I didn’t think I could even breathe. This man was a father, a husband, a son…and my friend.

I knew I couldn’t touch him. But I fell to my knees and cried.

When I felt hollow and spent, I replaced the pieces of rock that used to be part of that home…the ones that most likely did Jack in.

Once I gathered myself up a bit and dried my eyes, I realized that my time had come. No one could know about any plan since the only one involved had just died. I scrambled down and ran. I ran fast and hard until I made it to where we had placed the man I would replace in this world.

With every limb of my body shaking, I slipped into what remained of Winthorpe’s home. Frantically I searched for clothes and at long last, I found most of a closet left standing. I stripped my body of my soldier’s clothes and slid my body into the soft fabrics of clothing of quality. If I had been more aware, I would probably have reveled in the feel of them.

There was a bag, a man’s leather satchel that I snagged and tossed all of my paraphernalia in it. Hurrying back to dead Winthorpe’s corpse, I set about the task of dressing him in my filthy uniform. I could smell the rotten smell of decay coming from his bloated figure and I fought back the vomit that threatened to escape me again. I had to exercise control over myself. I didn’t know how much time I really had.

Knowing that the dead man would more than likely fall apart if I dared to drag him, I picked him up and carried him to where I had dug him out.

“I’m sorry about this, chap,” I said with sincerity before dropping him back in the hole and filling it in with the rubble.

It was time to hide. Staying in the house would not be safe, not if another aftershock came through. I could be buried in there. So, I took the satchel and left, not looking back. As I passed around the back of the house, something shone at me in the dusty light. I bent and picked it up.

Carefully I opened up the leather folder that sported a silver insignia. It was Winthorpe’s wallet. I had the man’s wallet. How it ended up back there, I have no idea. But all I could keep thinking was that this was a plan from a higher power. This was my destiny. No matter how humans tried to control the outcome of anything, Fate would always step in and steer people in the right direction…down their path. There was no other explanation.

Medal of Defiance-NaNo 2013-Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

 

I can remember the days that brought me to where I am now. Just a young man in the Corps of Humanity, I was content. It was almost like I was programmed to do the same thing each day and I did it because…well, that’s what we do. We conform.

After I graduated from my studies at the local Chapters of Education, I joined the Corps. I was given a choice to serve my fellow men or work in a career chosen for me in a lottery. In all truth, the monarchy tried to match a person with their talents and genetics in efforts to avoid conflict and suicides from happening. My fear was that I would be chosen to bake bread for the storehouse so I chose the one way I could make a decision for myself. Now, I help others in times of need. I believe a higher power directed me to make that choice for my life would be completely different if I hadn’t.

I remember getting up at 4:00am. My clothes neatly hung in the washroom, freshly pressed. I would step into my steaming shower at 4:35am and step out at 4:50am. I would comb my hair and brush my teeth and roll deodorant in my underarms. At 5:00am I would cook me three eggs, scrambled but cooked soft and add three slices of bacon to my plate. I would sit at my stool at 5:20am and eat my meal of protein, topping it off with a piece of fruit and a cup of hot lemon water. At 5:40am I would shrug into my jacket of navy blue and red patches on the shoulders, the flag of my nation, the American Nation on the right side just beneath the shoulder. I would slide my flat topped hat over my close cropped hair and clip the holster holding my stun laser at my waist. At 5:50am, I walked out my door to catch the tram at 6:00am that would take me to base. After six stops through the city, I would step off the tram at 6:45am for the short walk to Chicago’s military base and check in with a thumb scan at 7:00am. I would eat lunch at 11:00am and scan out at 6:00pm for the tram ride home. I would sit in the terminal until 6:30pm and wait patiently for passengers to disembark and step on until I arrived at my stop at 7:15pm and make the short walk home, unlocking my door at 7:25pm. I would call for the lights and remove my cap and jacket, hanging the holster for the next day. At 7:30pm, I enjoy a meal of hot chicken and mixed green vegetables, a cold glass of water making my glass sweat and my throat cool. At 8:00pm I would step into the shower and be in bed by 8:30pm. That was my day…everyday. There was no deviating from my schedule.

There were two days I didn’t have to report to base and on those days I would work out my body and send electronic mail to my loved ones. My parents were long gone, being lost in the Resistance wars. I was raised by a couple who was barren and could not have a family of their own. Lucy loved me as her own child and Trenton taught me how to be a man and conform to what would keep the masses safe. As a child, one always has thoughts of how to improve the monarchy, but Trent would kindly reel me back to toe the line.

The Resistance days were difficult, akin to what I have read in history books of World War II. So many lives were lost, so many sons and daughters buried, and those who lived through it were careful not to take their new leadership for granted. Trent was one of those who loved his nation and would not stand for rebel influence to change his way of life. I was not allowed to have an opinion, I was to do as I was told…and I did.

I lost Trent and Lucy in a freak storm that manufactured a tornado four years ago, just months after I chose my path once school had ended. He was so proud of me and that I wanted to serve my king and my people. I still write him and Lucy letters every week.

I had a handful of friends that moved to different areas of the city and outlying areas when they chose their careers. I write to them as well to keep up on what they are all doing with their lives. Most have found their matches and have a child that cries day and night, driving them insane. They envy my life, they say when they return my predictable, mundane messages and I envy theirs.

Sometimes I would wonder, “If I were gone, would anyone realize it?” And then just as quickly as I think it, life happens and the thought passes. I slip into my robot mode and allow my work to consume me.

Rarely did I travel, rarely did I meet up with my pals from the base for a seltzer, and never did I waste my funds on things like movies or simulations. The fact was, I felt alone and felt destined to be that way. I had no desire to search for “her”, the one who held the matching medallion to mine, the one who had the same identification number tattooed on her right left wrist: 11593104. No, somewhere in the world would sit a lonely spinster of a woman, bitter about her match never finding her and thus condemning her to a life of utter loneliness. At 23 years old, I didn’t care.

It was a call that came in the year of 2124 that changed my life and direction I had chosen to tread.

That sexy woman’s voice woke me up at 3:27am, “Incoming call from Ruger…Would you like to answer, sir?”

I rolled over and drew my leg back up on the mattress, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. My voice was low and scratchy as I answered with a sigh, “Yes, Rachel.”

The sound of panic in my commander’s voice hit me. He was distraught and commenced telling me of the disaster that had taken place thousands of miles away in the Europe Nation. “It is bad, Cam. So many lives were lost today in that quake. I am assembling a team of my men to head over there and lend the Relief Alliance some help when they deploy. You are one of my best and I am sending you on that plane. Be packed and ready to depart on the train to New York at 2100 hours.”

I sat up in bed trying to digest this order. I was leaving, but not just my home, I was leaving my nation as well. This was what I signed on for, to be of help to others as a humanitarian aid in relief situations. I swallowed hard and answered with a feeble, “Yes sir.”

“Don’t come to base this morning. Get your things packed, only necessities, and check in with me at 1930. You are limited to one pack so make the most of it. Take only what you cannot find over there, soldier,” Ruger replied.

“Wha-Will there be places to buy supplies over there? Where exactly did it hit?” I remember asking in bewilderment.

“Necessities, Cam. Nothing more. The quake obliterated the Southern Europe region. I have no other information to give you before you make it to base later this evening. Don’t tell a soul. Most don’t know about this disaster yet and we don’t need pandemonium on our hands. Other units on the coast are preparing for tsunami activity. It is up to the rest of the units to send help their way. Ruger out.”

I just sat there numb. “Lights on,” I stated and there was light.

A long sigh rushed from my lungs and I debated on rising or going back to sleep. I would be exhausted for the flight if I got out of bed at that time. Granted, it was only a half hour before I would normally wake, but my night was not going to end at 8:30 this time.

I let out a small growl of frustration. A change in routine never went over well with my personality. “Lights off.”

My room became black once again and I flopped back on my pillows. I don’t remember falling asleep, just tossing and turning as thoughts of dying people and piles of rubble ran through my mind. I envisioned myself pulling bodies from the destruction and wrapping wounds on the living. When I could no longer take it, I did get out of bed and summoned the television to spring to life.

The glossy panel on the wall opposite my bed burst into color, searing my eyes. I took a moment to allow them to adjust before looking back. “World News,” I called out and the channel flipped.

There was now coverage of the horrific event in the Europe Nation. So much for keeping it quiet, I thought and stared in horror at the utter desolation of the land and homes and people. There were wounded people crying and running toward the camera holding parts of their body that were oozing blood. There were corpses littering the roadways and strewn over toppled homes and buildings. Medics were on the scene in many footage shots, trying to calm the injured and clear away the dead. A ticker in the corner of my screen said it was estimated at that moment to have 3,000 souls confirmed dead.

I ran a hand through my hair. I did not want to go into that. I think it was a lot of fear bubbling up when I normally felt secure and that bothered me.

The screen switched to show an old clip of the royal family in London standing on the very famous stone balcony. King Alexander stood tall and proud with his family. The camera zoomed in on their faces, one, two, three, and four that were one happy family unit. Lady Caroline with her long, dark hair swept up, the little boy baby, and Princess Paige who had been in the news recently after finishing her schooling and starting her own crisis center for troubled teens. She looked amazingly like her mother. It was strange to see the young woman as a normal person, a casual skirt and blouse draped her body and her hair was curled like I remembered the girls in school. She was very ordinary and yet I had to respect that.

The words on the screen blared out that the royal family was very distressed about the damage done to their nation. The newscaster told their audience that the royal family had not been seen at all since the quake shook their part of the world. I wondered if they were still in the palace or if they had left seeking safety until it was declared a safe area once again. I snorted and thought the very worst of them. I called them cowards.

Feeling resentful of having to give up my life to travel thousands of miles and help people who would not appreciate it nor would I make any difference at all in such a horrific ordeal, I strode into my gaping closet where I grabbed my blue duffle and threw it with all my might at my bed. It slapped sharply against the blanket and flopped rebelliously to the ground.

Once I had packed my bag as tight as it would go, I had my meal of eggs and bacon, wondering when I would be back. I knew the food would go bad before I returned and irritation puckered my expression. All my rations would get thrown away.

As I chewed the salty slices of the pork, I came to the resolution that I would take what I had to a young family in my building. I was sure they could use it. It was better than tossing it into the compactor.

Once I had showered and changed into my blues, I spent the day preparing for my departure by paying my bills that would be due and packing the perishables that I would donate. I was grateful that I didn’t have a family to leave behind for it was hard enough to leave just my home. I couldn’t imagine a small child pulling on my leg, begging me not to leave them.

I then simply sat on the sofa and stared at footage of the disaster even as night fell upon them in the nation of Europe. The ending of the first day of terror was nigh and even as I knew I would step aboard a plane in a matter of hours and possibly close my eyes against life, it was unlikely all those souls in Europe would do the same. They would live the misery reigned down upon them for weeks and soon, yet soon I would join them. It would be my terror as well. My normal life would cease, my mundane job would become one that raced time, and I was just one person; just one in a sea of many. I was no miracle worker. And by the time I was walking out the door for the tram, I was annoyed.

I made it through to my commander’s office to be briefed before making the train to New York.

“Commander Ruger,” I saluted when I entered and stood stiffly at attention.

“At ease, Sergeant,” Ruger replied sounding bored.

I dropped my bag beside a chair and sank my body into it.

There was a moment of silence between us. Finally, Ruger met my eyes and sighed. He was tired and I could sense his stress. “I’m sure you have been watching the news all day, Weston. We tried to keep the media contained but it didn’t happen that way. The cat is out of the bag and we really don’t know what we are sending you men into over there. The atmosphere is panicked, of course. Your responsibility is only to help the RA by recovering bodies, identifying them, and clearing the affected areas. The wounded should be sent to the hospital immediately. There are shuttles in all areas that provide transportation only to medical centers all over Europe Nation. They are apprised of what centers can accommodate those people. It is not up to you to play hero and escort them yourself. Put them on a shuttle and get back to work. Understood?”

“Yes sir,” was my only reply. Then I swallowed hard. This was going to be ugly.

“I don’t care how many tears they cry at you, how scared they are, or if they become your best friend, Weston. I meant it. You are to stick to your order given by me,” Ruger reiterated firmly.

I winced at his scolding for I had never deliberately strayed from his orders as other had in the past. “Yes sir,” was all I could say. My breathing accelerated and my heart began to pound. Perhaps I could just not fathom how bad it would really be.

Satisfied with my response, he gave me a stern nod of his head and handed me the tickets I would need to travel abroad. I stood and saluted him once more, just to be dismissed.

The ride to New York was a comfortable two hours from the base in Chicago. I then boarded the small plane for military personnel at midnight. We were encouraged to sleep and would arrive in London, Europe Nation in roughly seven hours. It was said that when we got to London, our day would begin with dropping our bags and grabbing a shower at our Embassy. Then, we would get to work until we were told to stop for the day. If we didn’t sleep on the flight, we would still work through the day.

I hunkered down with the small pillow and blanket given to me and reclined my seat. My mind was racing and I had never flown before so my nerves were jumpy. I closed my eyes and stared right at the back of my eyelids until I fell into sleep.

London was teeming with people of all walks when we arrived at their noon hour. There was a smell of brine in the air and more humidity than I had expected. However, for May it was a mild temperature, although I had nothing to compare it to for I hadn’t ever been to London in my life. From what I gathered, it was one of the most gloomy areas of the world. But the day I arrived, it was a glistening paradise beneath the rays of the sun, the buildings full of history, the smell of pastries in the air, and the sound of the Big Ben clock chiming out the twelve o’clock hour for the city to take note.

I stayed close to the group of men wearing my same jacket and soon after stepping out onto the sidewalks, a very muscular man with no hair and black visors over his eyes strode up to the group.

“I am Jonah DeVry and I will be taking you to your quarters on behalf of the RA. Once you throw your bags in the room, you will report to the mess club for a bite and then we will throw you to the wolves out here. Understood?” the man said in his loud, military style voice.

We all answered with a stout “yes sir” and he spun on his heel leading the way to a stone building that reeked of days past. We were shown to rooms like closets with one latrine in the corner, three beds per room. There were footlockers at the end of each bunk for our things, something I hadn’t ever even thought about.

It was true. I was spoiled. I lived within my means, yet I hadn’t ever been forced to share housing with anyone. My closet in my apartment was larger than this entire room. I wasn’t used to sharing a latrine with other men nor was I expected to shower under a community sprinkling of water. I had the luxury of a duvet on my bed, not this thin woven fabric.

“Come on! Bags down, let’s go!” Jonah yelled out, clapping his hands impatiently.

The distinct sound of duffles hitting the floors or squeaking mattresses was heard and then the thundering of heavy footsteps as we all filed out into the hallway. We followed DeVry’s dark head of hair through tight corridors with missing tiles on the floor in places. Our guide finally stepped aside and ushered us into a large room, the smell of mystery food wafting on the air.

It was like a true “club” from home, there was music playing louder than we could talk, the tinkling of forks and spoons against glass plates filled more of the void, and buzzing voices and ringing laughter filled the rest. The lighting was dimmed to create a lazy, relaxing sort of experience and there were men puffing on vapor cigarettes.

I could feel a smile dance over my face as I took it all in. We saw empty tables and we sat in them, not being invited by any waitstaff since there was none. When we were all in a seat, DeVry stood at the buffet bar and called out his instructions on respect for others in the room and eating until satisfied but not full. He numbered the tables, each seating six men, and in order, we advanced on the bar of food feeling starved.

There were some foods I expected to see, but some I was afraid to try. Being one who ate a very clean diet due to rations, these foods were enough to make my stomach rebel. I filled my plate with roast beef and no gravy, roasted potatoes and carrots, and three fried eggs, steering clear of breads and pastries. At the end of the line, tall glasses of tap water were waiting.

It made me nervous to drink water that I didn’t know what it contained. I had heard rumors that drinking water in the southern American Nation could make your stomach sick. I took a glass anyway and trusted that the RA would not put my health in any danger by giving me contaminated water.

“It’s clean water, soldier,” DeVry stated dryly as I passed him by.

“Thank you, sir,” I mumbled back, preoccupied with worry. I must have been giving the glass a serious stare down for my commander to notice.

Lunch tasted wonderful to my hungry belly and close to an hour later, we all headed outside in a courtyard for a briefing. We all sat upon stone benches that circled the grassy clearing in the middle of four buildings, much like the one we were bunking in.

As my comrades from all over my nation sat, I studied the grey stone of these buildings with fancy columns and carvings, tall windows framed with shutters of red and a roof of black. I doubted very highly that it was all original from the time it was first built and I tried to envision it back in the day when architecture was an art of true proportions.

“Where are you from?” a young voice asked at my left side.

I whipped my head in his direction and regarded him rather coolly, I think. “Chicago,” I answered him.

“Never been there,” he replied. “I’m from Idaho.”

I chuckled at the kid. “I thought you guys all spoke with a cowboy accent. Where is your base in Idaho?”

The kid joined with me in merriment. “I’m stationed at the Boise base. I suppose some of us have our own sort of accent out there, but these days, most have transplanted from all over the nation. I don’t think I know a single native there. Then again, I don’t get out much.”

“So where did you transplant from if you don’t have an Idaho accent?” I grinned razzing him just a little more.

The kid grew pretty quiet and somber for a moment. “I don’t know,” he answered.

I reeled back as though he punched me in the face. “How can you not know?” I asked callously.

He shifted his gaze to his hands that were folded before him, his elbows resting on his knees. “My file says there was some sort of accident that killed my parents in Vegas. I was sent to a family who adopted me when I was two and I have no idea what my parents even looked like. I can’t recall anything from that long ago.” He gave a weak laugh that signaled vulnerability. “It chases me, those shadowy thoughts. I think that most of the time I invent my own history just so I can stop thinking about it.”

“That’s rough. I’m sure sorry,” I replied feeling foolish.

“No worries. We all have our ghosts, I suppose,” he said looking back at me, the haunted look that had washed over him was gone. “What’s your story?”

I threaded my fingers behind my neck and stretched my back with a sigh. “I don’t really have one. I wake up, go to the base, and go home. My parents are dead, my adopted parents are dead and I have no ties to anyone,” I answered him.

“Ah, so no matches have come up for you then?” he asked giving my medallion a flick of his finger making it sway to and fro on the chain.

I looked away from him. “Nope.”

“Yeah, me either. At least not yet. Kinda thankful that I don’t have those ties, you know? Doing this job would really stink then,” he stated.

“I think the whole idea stinks. But that is just me. I don’t want the ties. I don’t want to pretend to care for an individual I have never met before. Just isn’t natural,” I replied. I felt that I needed to gather my wits again. Talking to others never led to anything good.

“You have a name?” the kid asked me changing the subject.

“Weston. Weston Cam. You?”

“Jack Allen.”

“Nice to meet you, Jack. Anyone ever harass you about having two first names?” I laughed making light of the conversation.

He laughed back. “Yep. All the time. Nice to meet you Weston. Sounds like you will fit in nicely here with the Foxbouroughs and the Ashton Brookehouses of this area.”

“I just need a dinner jacket and a vapor pipe and a glass of wine. Maybe a top hat on my head. They would never know,” I said through my laughter and wiping my eyes.

“If you girls are done over there, I will continue,” Jonas boomed.

I sobered immediately, the attack from my commander feeling slightly personal.

“As I was saying, we will convoy to the station where we will take the train being held specifically for us. Each of you will be given a backpack that will contain clean water and first aid supplies. There will be some MREs in there that are to distribute to victims, men. These are not to be eaten by the likes of you! Is that understood?” DeVry bellowed as he paced back and forth through the circle of grass.

“Yes sir!” we all called out in one unified voice.

“The water is for you to drink, distribute as you see fit and clean wounds for temporary dressings. There isn’t a lot so use it wisely. Each night, when you return to your rooms, a cart will be sent around to collect the packs and ready them for the next day. It is lights out at 2200 and wake up call at 0500. We try to get you back here at dusk, before the sun sets, as a safety precaution. However, we will use every bit of daylight to help these people. Any man found sitting while on shift will be reprimanded severely. You are not here to be pansy boys, you are not here to dilly dally, you are here to make a difference! If you choose to be a nancy boy, you will not be well received here. Wear your uniforms proudly and do your duty to the people in need of your training, your services. For many of you, it is the first time being out in the field. This is not an excuse for failing to do your job! If you question yourself, it isn’t right. If you question yourself again, it’s probably pretty wrong. If you act on something that I would question myself on, you will be severely reprimanded! Do I make myself clear?” DeVry shouted.

Our chanted affirmation led him to nod his head.

“If you find that you need to speak with me about anything you might see, please make an appointment with our liaison, Drake. He will be scheduling my time and I will be limited, but I am here if you need me to lend an ear to your troubles. You will see some horrible stuff out there, men. It is not uncommon to need to unload those thoughts on someone else. Get it out of your head so you can move on and do your job. You are soldiers, not robots. I get this. Do not bottle it up inside. That is an order. Now get up! We have work to do!” Jonas stood up tall and slipped a hat over his head.

A train was being held for our group of supports of the RA and we all scrambled aboard, not unused to the procedure, as a bunch of individuals, not a team of men on a mission of relative compassion. Few of us spoke to each other on the short ride to the south end of Europe Nation. Jack sat beside me again but we stayed silent. It was my thought that everyone on that train was thinking the same things. We were all imagining the worst, many of us wondering what a real dead body looked like, felt like and smelled like.

We all sat together somber and brooding, as if we were all on our way to a funeral.

Medal of Defiance- NaNoWriMo 2013-Prologue

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Okay, I am posting these chapters as I write them. Most likely, I will post about half of what I do get done in case I publish. This story was something my stepson and I worked out. I told him I would write it just for him. Well, being a NaNo project, I have made the time to finish with him in mind. Remember, these are rough drafts. If you have suggestions, comments are always welcome as long as they are constructive. I really do appreciate you reading my work!

 

Prologue

 

“It’s the year 2124 and the world is a much different place than it was for my ancestors. Gone are the days of trust. Gone are the days of compassion. Today is the day of control. Control by those who put themselves in power and who play God to the rest of the world.

Today we see nations run by kings and administrations that control the masses. We are matched at birth and allowed two births per couple. We are branded like the victims of the Holocaust and denied the quest for true love.

There are rules and guidelines to follow, more so than any other time on this planet. Because freedom and Democracy failed the public, our rights have been disbanded and we are left shallow, hollow people.

I suppose to those who lived in the early “2000” years, our world would seem perfect. Yet like our ancestors, we yearn for yesteryear when things were lighthearted, music was racy and wild, people could carry guns to defend themselves, and owning a car or a home was convenient.

In my time, all homes are owned by the monarchies and cars were collected from the people to reduce emissions into our fast depleting Ozone layer. They were all recycled and melted down to use for military weapons support, making our carbon footprint smaller for the life of our world. We now run strictly on electric trams that run through cities and then relying on the popular rickshaw to maneuver the empty streets. If you are smart, you live where you can just walk anywhere you need to go.

Airplanes are used only from continent to continent travel as the high speed trains are nearly as fast to get from one city to another without the costs of fuel that would further damage our world. Vessels out on the water run strictly on solar energy as weather patterns have changed in the last century so that we see the brilliance of the sun more often than not.

Along with that change, our ice caps have melted, the last glacier disappearing in 2115. For a time, many coastlines were under water, but the more years that go by with more sunshine than rain, the oceans seem to be receding. Areas that used to be known as California, Florida, and Louisiana are once again coming into view, the rooftops of homes peeking above the waves more each day.

We are not without moments of misery. By banning GMO foods, we fight the ever changing climate to grow adequate amounts of food that we can buy from storehouses where it is rationed to the people by the monarchies. The weather can change from warm to freezing in moments and a dash for cover is required. These strange weather patterns confuse the atmosphere and create other natural disasters that cannot be determined, they happen so quickly. Humans are tracked by a chip inserted at birth, but also by their fingerprint and DNA. There is no way to deviate from the straight and narrow path set forth by the rulers of the world.

The world. How it has changed. There is no government aside from the World Human Affairs Chamber that works directly below the different monarchies of the continents. There are seven nations that govern the people. Borders were removed, governments were replaced, many world leaders were tried for their heinous crimes against their people. But all were brought to justice and removed. The Chamber was created by those who led the resistance armies and thwarted the evil that is politics. These were very intelligent men and women who saw a better life for us. The Chamber then chose leaders to begin the journey as kings for the nations: Europe, American, African, Arab, Asian, Russian, and Hispanic. This created a sense of contentment, once they realized that one head of state was better than the turmoil of democracy. The children of these leaders and their generation were referred to as the Genesis Generation. They were responsible for evolving into what we are today; a simple people with a rigid structure.

My parents were a part of the Genesis Generation. It was an effort to rebuild life, to structure it for the benefit of humanity. For too long had the people lived unruly and poisoned lives. Now, their fate is decided and they are a healthier people for it. The tales of old passed down from one family member to the next has taught me that it is our responsibility, Generation Renaissance’s responsibility to continue our parents’ hard work to restore order and glory to the planet. We are Gen R and the fate of all humans rests in our hands.”