Sally looked up as their vehicle approached its destination. She and her brother Jarod worked as recruiters during the more lenient periods, seeing as they had the more personable natures of the Sx3s.
Recruits would typically be guided to one of the forts among the territory while Sx3 members resided in the main Underground Base.
Sally noticed that the layout of the town was high functioning. For a town, it seemed prosperous. Somehow the economy was balanced. Everyone had a good home. The farmland seemed intact. It was well situated for defense, but inviting for trade. They even had generators which transmitted energy across its network. Yes this seemed like one of the better ones.
She and Jenniss had seen quite a few towns and went to many looking for recruits. They were always in need of more as many people didn’t seem to want to join. Free room and board didn’t attract people to a lack of income and rigorous schedule.
This town was located in the plains of what was once called ‘Missouri’. Across the mountain path of the ‘Appalachians’ lied vast fields of greenery where most of the settlers had transitioned after the ‘Age of Darkness’.
But that was a long time ago, and now it had become an ‘Area’. Area 25 of the Vast ‘Territory’ of the American continent.
Sally looked around at the houses. She had grown up in a more urban environment. One of the few cities of the unclaimed, American Territory. The buildings where she grew up were all connected. The basic premise was the same, but the system was more centralized. Basically it had been moved into during the age of darkness and people had grown up using the broken homes from the enlightened period.
The houses here were more self-sufficient. They had been based on a design the structural engineers had used after they had left the cities in search of a more simple and peaceable life. Each house equipped with its own natural energy storage unit alongside of it. Towns recycled pretty much anything they used.
She looked at her brother. Determined eyes stared at the on screen monitor that highlighted the town in their stealth transport ship. He set up the broadcast speaker as they began to drive into the town.
It was an uncommon sight for outsiders to enter into villages except for either passing through or trade with each other, so this broadcast with the recruiters would be news to most of the people. Excitement buzzed through the town as the recruiters approached.
Sally followed Jaydon’s lead as he turned off the power and stepped off the vehicle.
After a few minutes waiting for the crowds to situate, Jaydon gave Sally a nod and smile that spoke “here we go” and then spoke out loud to the small crowd that had circled around them.
“We’re calling recruits and support for the Underground. Help protect our way of life from the Allies…”
The crowd was full of older people, but there were young adults as well. The kids would be in school.
A young man about Sally’s age, walked up from amongst the crowd and stood in the center alongside the recruiters. It was too sudden for Sally or Jaydon to have a chance to prepare themselves for when he spoke,
“If any of you join the underground they won’t be welcome here; this town cannot be affiliated with the underground.”
He then directed his speech to Sally and Jaydon,
“If you would please handle your business quickly and then leave the town.”
He must have been the town chief, Sally thought as she and Jason watched him walk back to the town home. He seemd quite young.
Jaydon then directed his speech towards the people again and tried to still the upset that the chief had arisen.
“We all came from towns just like yours. You know what we fight for. We want to maintain our way of life. If you believe in it and are willing to fight for it, we want you in our force against the Allies.
Jaydon looked at the people for a minute taking in the faces and gathering in the reception, some of the youths seemed interested, so it may not be a lost day.
Jaydon then concluded his speech with the people, “if anyone wishes to join up, meet us outside of the town at fifteen-hundred hours.”
Jaydon entered into the vehicle with Sally following his lead and Jason started it up.
“Well, he was an interesting chief…” Sally said as they were waiting inside of the vehicle.
“Yeah, he really messed things up didn’t he..” a more resentful looking Jaydon spoke.
“He’s just doing his part, it’s probably the way he was raised to take care of the people.”
“I suppose,” Jaydon said recognizing Sally’s more easygoing nature. It upset him but something about his sister’s easiness calmed him down a bit. e started up the vehicle and they headed to the gate at the front entrance of the town.
The hours ticked by, it seemed that noone would be arriving as the scheduled time for departure seemed to come closer.
As Sally and Jattic gave out their shrugs and sighs and started up the vehicle, Jattic saw a few of the youths walking towards them. they greeted them and situated them on board in the back of the vessel.
“alright guys,” he put the vehicle in drive. “here we go.”
Mark Duran was an ambassador and diplomat for negotiating treaties with the towns. He had been in the process of moving towards the center of the territory. Because this area was unsafe, his vessel was manned with soldiers and enhanced with weaponry and arms.
If they could gain access to this area, it would make a good platform for controlling the territory, all under the guise of establishing a trade route across of it. At least that’s what the government told him.
A town came up into view as one of the soldiers looked at the data on the screen.
“The town is declared neutral,” a soldier spoke.
“That’s fine then, we’ll stop here…perhaps we can make friends instead of enemies of the people here… Open up the monitors screens.”
The allied ship’s on screen monitor showed a small town.
“What’s that,” Mark spoke to his lieutenant as he pointed out a small vehicle outside of it, he noticed some people had walking inside- which was what had grabbed his attention initially.
The lieutenant responded, “It doesn’t show up on radar sir…”
Mark took a look on the monitor. A small rebel transport ship. What a coincidence. He needed more details and asked his lieutenant.
“Do you have any details on the layout?” something like this could mean everything in the details of the relations with the territory.
“the vehicle itself: threat level minimal, quick speeds in comparison to this vessel however, they could be recruiters…”
“we’ll take them in… is there anyting around them?”
“it appears not sir, whereever they are from is probably some distance from here.”
How can we take them in?”
“Surprise attack,” Jarin spoke. “We surround them with our speeders and then we’ll aim our disablers at the vehicle. “Then you can ask them to surrender afterwards without much difficulty.”
Mark’s vessel took a good position and let speeders out, maintaining a good distance while slowly closing in.
He then pulled up the mike on the vessel and spoke through the speaker to the small ship:
“Surrender your vessel and get out.”
On screen he saw the vessel quickly move away.
“Surrender your vessel and get out.”
A diplomatic ship!? Jadi was surprised to find a large diplomatic vessel had come all the ways out here.
While not equipped like a regular military vessel, its defensive capabilities could be enough to handle a small battalion and protect the diplomat from surprise attacks. It was armed with strong shields, weapons, and personnel to protect the diplomat during negotiations with different town leaders.
Compared to the transport vessel, the diplomatic vessel was a warship.
As soon as pair heard the alarm they kicked their little transport vessel into high gear. A large advantage to the underground was anonymity. Being captured was not an option this early in the game.
Jaydon thought about their options. They were equipped with a few flash bombs that would detonate and confuse the allied sensors temporarily. The recruits in the back didn’t help though. They wouldn’t be able to outrun them with the added weight.
“Sounds like an idea.”
“Buckle your seatbelts,” Sally told the passengers that were riding a she and Jaydon prepared the maneuver.
Jaydon slowed down enough for the large vessel to get close. As some of the allied soldiers got out with their guns pointed at the vessel they threw on a ‘flashlight’ aka fraglight bomb to disrupt the ship and the soldiers while they quickly drove away.
“We only have a small window, we’ll have to find a place to park,” Jaydon said. Sally pointed out a spot for him to park.
A little alcove presented itself as they were looking around.
“Let’s turn off the power,” Jaydon spoke as he parked it.
He shut down most of the controls except the stealth generator that disguised it.
They waited. Not knowing was the hard part. Silent breaths sounded out from behind them. A sniffle could be heard by one of the recruits.
Jason looked at the scared faces in the viewport. “These guys aren’t ready for this…” he thought.
They heard the hum of the larger ship pass through.
Jason and Sally knew to wait. They’d have to give it a few minutes. Jason looked at Sally as she turned around.
“How are you all?”
The new recruits looked a little queasy from the ride.
“We don’t have long,” Sally said to Jason expectantly.
“Alright guys, I’m sorry but we’re going to drop you back off at the village, we can’t expect to outrun them at this rate. ”
The people in the back nodded in assent, grateful.
They drove the vehicle close by the town. A few soldiers on speeders were stationed along the edge surveying the perimeter.
It seemed they caught on that this was a feasible location to wait.
“How are we going to get in?” Jason asked aloud to whomever.
“There’s a tunnel system underneath the village and we can get back that way,” one of the townspeople said.
He parked the vehicle in some underbrush outside of the village entrance and then the youth guided him through to the entrance.
Halfway into the tunnel they ran into an unexpected figure, the town chief.
“Follow me,” the young man whispered.
He led them into the tunnel and up to inside of the town.
“You all go to your homes, quietly, there are guards watching the perimeters.”
the townspeople walked back to their homes as the recruiters looked at the chief.
“Where did you all park?” he asked them.
“We parked a little outside the town. We won’t be able to use it to get back; It’s much too slow. We’ll have to pick it up later.
“Ok. We’ll figure out a plan. You guys stay down here. They’re expected to have figured out you doubled back.
“You know they’re going to find out about the tunnels when they search the town,” The lead spoke up, “How do we know you won’t give us up?”
“I have a plan. You’re going to have to trust me about it.”
The girl gave a look to the chief. He looked like the sort of person she’d like to know. She looked at the lead, “It’s ok. We can trust him.”
The chief looked at them for a moment before he climbed up the hole leading into the town.
He turned back, “I’m going to throw them off your tracks. When the coast is clear, I’ll give you the word.”
They took a last look at him as he closed the hatch above them.
The giant ship parked in the middle of the town. A lot of soldiers came out with their weapons.
In front of the ship stood a young man. Inside the ship, the captain of the group of soldiers went up to Mark Duran.
“Perimeter secure sir.” He captain said as he saluted the diplomat.
“Ok,” he spoke and got up. This was quite a unique experience for him. He was going to see what life was like in a small town. He would have to work with the town to trap the underground members. He’d read up on the latest files regarding the leader of the town. Supposedly, the chief’s name was John Bossin, a retired commander who moved into the territory before the conflict.
He walked up from out of the vehicle.
“I’m looking for the chief,” he directed his attention toward the youth standing in front.
“I am,” the young man said as he stepped up towards him. He looked about twenty or so.
The man’s guards put their weapons on the young man.
“This isn’t a joke young child. I’m looking for the chief, a John Bossan.”
“I’m not joking,” the youth portrayed a sense of annoyance, “That would be my father. He’s away and gave me the responsibility as chief.”
The guards put their weapons down as Marked motioned his hands to stand down. Custom forced his direction towards the town chief with respect to the point of flattery. He took another close glance at the youth this time.
“Well sir, I’m sorry to hear about him. He had a good record as commander in the Allies,” he paused. “Is there a place we can talk,” maybe he could use this to an advantage, “and with your allowance, prior to negotiations, I wish to address the people.”
“Excuse my frankness. If you wish to address the people about what you’re going to discuss with me; then you will just discuss it with me. They will respect my decision.”
The diplomat was a bit taken aback. He didn’t expect such an outspoken attitude from a younger chief. It was an insult to his own position as diplomat and representative to the Allies, but he would play politics along with the young man.
“Well, then what’s your name, sir; my name is Mark Duran; diplomat of the central territory.
The blue eyed and dark haired youth replied with a quick direct response, “My name is Michael.”
Michael led Mark to the town home as Mark had a chance to see the town that he was a representative to. The equipment was man-made. The town school was an actual building, not just a division of a tower. There was a sense of security; the land was tamed, and so were the animals. The sun and sky shone brightly above.
Mark was unfamiliar with life like this. He could understand the commander’s sentiment even if he didn’t agree with the choice. There was a sense of peace and freeness. He could breathe here. But there was so much for him at the Allies: a big mansion, security. He couldn’t understand how the commander would give all that away and settle down with a country life.
They arrived at the house, Michael directed him inside. A couple soldiers stood at the entrance. Prior to entering the guards proceeding Mark entered the house to check it out. As they came back out they communicated direct to Mark.
“Wait outside,” Mark told them.
Michael led Mark inside as the soldiers waited outside.
Mark got his first look at the house. For one, it was a house. Houses didn’t exist in the Allied communities. Even the Elite mansions were connected to central towers and shaped quite differently than these square structures.
As they got inside, Michael led him to a dining room.
“Can I get you something?”
“Some tea might be nice.”
Michael’s mom walked upstairs: a very pretty older woman that Mark got a glimpse of.
“And who might this be?”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Mark said. Saris nodded.
Mark looked as she continued upstairs and Michael got them teas. A very pretty woman indeed: maybe he could understand why the commander would give up his position a bit more.
As Michael got them teas, he quickly scanned the living room. Books: antiquated to today’s standard. The standard was generally no longer written words, but 3D digital books that came out of a flexible picture screen that could fit in a small pouch. He looked through the titles on the shelves and saw some classics, some educated books, a bible: he’d never seen one of those before. It looked like this chief, or at least his father, was well studied.
Michael came back in and handed him tea.
“Before we talk diplomacy, we need to handle the issue of the recruitment team we saw earlier,” He continued as Michael sat down.
“We know they came to the town recruiting, and we’ll be following up through an investigation to ensure the details you give are correct. Are you aware of their presence?”
“Did any of the town join up with the resistance?”
“I told the town if anyone were to support resistance, they would be banished from the town. The town is not accountable for the actions of any individual that chooses to side with them.”
Well spoken, Mark thought.
“One last one,” he paused to give a direct look at Michael. “Are you aware of any resistance activity right now?”
“Yes. They took my speeder and headed south.”
“They did?” Mark stood up, a little panicked, “How long ago was this?”
“About ten minutes before you arrived.”
“I wish you would have told me sooner… We’ll have to extend our negotiations for later then.”
The diplomat got up and told the soldiers, “Let’s go.”
The diplomat took a last look at Michael, thoughtful, “You know. We could use someone like you in our city. Someone who can command the respect of this town… AND is familiar with Allied laws… and regulations. If you want a position, let me know- you’d go far, i know.”
“Thank you; I know where to find you if I get the desire to do so.”
Mark and the soldiers headed out the door in pursuit of a ghost.
As soon as they left the room in pursuit of the ghosts Michael sent them to follow, he called to his mom upstairs.
“I have to go…” he said.
“I know,” she said as she watched him pack. He filled his bag with an extra set of clothes and took a last sip of tea.
“i deem Taric Malphite the next chief.” he spoke, following the tradition of selecting chiefs. While he had pretended to be in charge of the town until his father came back, to give more credibility to himself, his father would not be coming back… seeing as he had passed away last summer- but for the sake of appearances to the Allies, his name gave them safety of a sorts,” He said wanting to take care of the business, now wasn’t the time to deal with the emotional aspect of the leave.
“Yes Michael, i’ll keep things in order.”
They gave each other a hug before he turned to head out.
His mom got a last look at him- not because she wasn’t sad to see him go. He was a great benefit to the town, but despite his father’s last wishes, she knew that his place wasn’t here, it was out there, in the midde of the action.
Michael opened up the hatch above the two recruiters. As he started to motion for them that he was ready, he spoke, “Follow me.”
“Where are we going?” the lead said a little hesitant.
“I’m your way out. The Allies will be back soon so we need to head now.”
“How are we going to get out?” the girl asked as she looked up at him.
“I have a speeder that I’ve kept for a while. I’ll be taking that to distract the guards still stationed here. When they leave, you two should be able to make it out to your vessel. It’s may be tricky, but it should work.”
They snuck towards a storage shed and he opened it. Inside of it was his speeder. Next to that was a ‘roadster’, a smaller vehicle that travelled on land at higher speeds then the transport vehicle they had.
“What’s the plan?”
“They stationed a couple guards around the perimeter,” Michael said, “I’m going to draw their attention away by going outside of the town from the back. That should give you enough space to leave town from the side. Hopefully I can outmaneuver them long enough to keep them from suspecting your leaving.”
“What about you?”
“I can’t come back here. I’ll probably try and find somewhere to lay low for a while before showing my face in another town as a traveller.”
After the looks he got from Jason and Sally – he responded with, “Dont worry about it right now. I’ll figure something out…”
Jadiva looked at him with a sense of respect rather than distaste now- this chief was careful and responsible, and a bit of courage.
Sally whispered to the lead, “We should take him with us.”
The lead nodded.
Michael nodded at them: he took out a map from his backpack, “Let’s coordinate to meet at this point,” he looked at the time on the ‘multi-band’, “at 14:20 hours.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Michael geared up his speeder as Sally and Jason got on the Lander.
“If I’m not there by 14:25, i’m sure you can find your way back without me.”
Michael geared up his speeder and headed out. He nodded back at the two.
The two watched him ride off out of the back and the guards start to follow him out of the town. They geared up the ‘roadster’ to meet at the rendezvous point.
The two recruiters waited at the spot, when the time was 14:25, the leader started to gear up even though a little lax. The girl told him to wait a little more. At 14:30, they saw Michael on his speeder, badly hurt, but coming none the less.
As he got closer, he fell off the speeder and the speeder fell. They ran up to him; he was unconscious. It seemed a paralyzer had struck him in the side from the burn. it was no joking matter.
They brought him to the roadster and put him in the passenger side.
“You ride this,” he told the girl, “I’ll take the speedster.”
As soon as they geared up they headed towards to headquarters district.
“and that’s what happened..” the head recruiter said.
“How did he get shot?” Jess asked him.
“well… we assume the three speeders that followed him out gave chase… from there i dont know. It’ll probably be in the briefing that he gives to the council when he recooperates.”
Vincent and Jess both looked at them with different forms of interest. Vincent liked the fact that he might have someone to race and Jess respected his quality of character who he was and what he gave up.
Jess knelt down to look at the wound.
“Yeah, well,” said Vincent. He looked at her, he DIDN’T like that she was interested in him.
Michael startled at the presence of a shadowed figure looked up.
He saw Jess, startled, but somehow taken aback, “hey.”
“Hey,” she said softly.
He fell asleep again.
Vincent didn’t like that, not one bit. As they were walking back to the dorms, Jess mentioned the new kid.
“He’s pretty cool huh?”
“Yeah I guess,” Vincent already didn’t like the situation. For Vincent to admit this guy was cool was tough, especially if he were going to be his competition.
“Are you jealous?” Jess looks at him with a teasing voice. When he didn’t respond she just reassured him with a more honest one,
They were standing outside of her door, she gave him a smile as she stood there. Did she want him to kiss her? He went in for a kiss, but changed his mind. Now wasn’t the right time.
He gave her a handshake instead.
Afterward she kind of just stood there with an awkward smile as he let her get in her room.
“Good night,” he said.
“Good night,” she responded.
He walked to his room. She closed the door behind her.
Doc. Pattersa looked down at the boy in front of him. Only a youth, but already so drastically affected by the conflict. he had worked on the burn as well as he could before the interview with Reag- the current leader.
“i want him in the council room at 20:00,” Reag had told him.
That had given Doc enough time to stitch him up but no time for recooperation. It seemed that the youth would have to recooperate after the interview.
He looked down at the youth as he unplugged the sedatives and began to pump him with an Adrena.
‘I’m sorry to have to do this at a time like this…”
Michael woke up hearing the words, some were fainter, like it was a part of the dream but he knew that he would have to go through the interview process from a conversation he’d overheard.
The soreness wasn’t lost to Michael, but he was tough.
Vincent sat in his room. He should have kissed her. Why didn’t he kiss her?
After a while he nodded off in his bed and stayed there half asleep and half thinking of Jess.
About thirty minutes later he heard an announcement on the coms throughout the UG.
“General Soho has been found dead in Allied territory under a false pretense of negotiations.”
When he heard it he shot up, “Jess…”
He rushed out of his room to Jess’s.
There would be a lot of revenge going on later. The underground members and recruits would be angry that their leader was killed, but right now there was only one thing he was concerned for, Jess was going to be hurt… He didn’t know what she needed- but if he could be there… maybe he could do something.
He knocked on the door with a steady hand, but Sally opened up.
“Hey, you heard?” Sally opened the door.
“She was called up to the office prior to the announcement. She hasn’t come back since then.”
Vincent knew exactly where she would have gone from there. There was a spot she went to when she wanted to be alone. He knew because he used to be there too. There was a forgotten storage area tucked away where they used to hide.
“I know where she is,” he told Sally as he left her standing at the door.
As soon as he got to the storage room he saw her.
Her back was turned to the entrance- she was sitting alone with her head between arms and the boxes around her. He went up to her and put his arm across her back. She lifted up her head. He held on to her and brought her against the wall where he held onto her.
You were beautiful sitting in my arms.
How could I tell you what i knew
When this is all over, I’ll find a way.
For now, I’ll do what i can to give what i am to you.
And one day – we’ll leave this place
We’ll have our freedom away from here