Feb. 14 – Prologue and Chapter One
Feb. 21 – Chapter Two
Feb. 28 – Chapter Three
The gold plated sign hung caddy-wompus. Jake stood at the door, afraid to enter, his palms sweaty with anxiety.
Do I have to go in there?
He already knew the answer. Clutching his fathers’ tags in his right hand, he pushed the side panel. The doors slid effortlessly open revealing a room in shambles.
Jake took a step in and noted the disaster. The room looks like he felt, broken and defeated. The door slid shut behind him with a gentle sigh.
This was the largest single room on The Kodiak. Paul designed it himself. A large picture window across one wall and curved up along the ceiling. The windows were a diamond crystal combination for strength. The diamond dust glinted like stars. An additional exterior and interior force field protected the window from puncture. If a defect or flaw were to occur the sensors would detect it immediately and trigger the Nanos to begin the repair process sending them into a frenzy of activity.
But with all their technology, nothing could pick up the pieces of Jake’s heart that lay shattered on the floor. His father laid dead just a few decks below him. Soon they would take his body and wrap him in the flag of The Protectorate. He would be placed in a tube and launched into space.
Jake was afraid he could not part with the empty shell of his father.
Oh sure, he would not be the first man Jake launched into the vacuum of space. There was Admiral O’Brien. When Jake was 17-years-old the old Admiral collapsed after a lecture. It was said he suffered something called a heart attack. Jake recalled researching heart attacks, the idea that your own body could “attack” you was so frightening he was unable to sleep for a few days. He was such a wreck that Paul called him into the office to explain.
“Heart Attacks were more common in your great-grandfather’s day,” Paul explained. “When The Guardian’s came with their technology and knowledge; they changed the face of humanity. It is because of them that we can sleep at night, knowing that we are being taken care of.”
O’Brien was sent into the sun in a blaze of glory. Jake remembered standing next to his father and watching the tube burst into a brilliant light show as the suns gravitational pull grabbed it and pulled it to the core.
There would be no blaze of glory for old Paul. Jake didn’t know how he felt about that.
He moved through the room, looking at the bits of his father that scattered the floor. Under a chair, Jake saw something glint as he passed. He reached to pick it up; pushing the chair off to the side he revealed a photo frame.
Photos usually came on pads these days. These photo pads called “Phrames” could hold thousands of photos that would scroll by automatically.
Paul was not interested in such technology. He said there was something special about a physical photograph in a glass frame. The small photo was of Jake and his father. It was his graduation from the Academy. Paul is beaming with pride. Jake noted the matching features: the blue eyes of his father, the sharp nose. Jake’s dark hair was that of his mother, the woman he had little memory of. Paul often told him how much he looked like his mother. An image of her had been thrown from the wall and laid in broken glass nearby. Jake studied her, her dark hair and eyes, the olive color of her skin. She looked so regal in the photo. She was pictured holding an infant Jake, no more than a few months old.
Tears stung Jakes eyes.
“Aw, Dad!” he gasped. “I don’t know how to do this without you.”
Jake sat, defeated on the floor. The tears came without control. Hard sobs came from deep within his core and rocked him.
“What was I doing in the cargo bay?” he asked in agony. “Why would I be there in battle? You have to tell me what to do. I don’t know how to lead these people.”
Jake clutched the photograph of his father to his chest and rocked himself back and forth. He let out his broke sob until a feeling of calm slowly returned and he pulled himself to his feet. Standing before a desk at the end of the room, Jake carefully placed the photograph in the center.
“Talk to me, Dad,” Jake whispered to the air.
A memory, faint and almost distant began to rush back. The sound of his father’s voice grew in his ears. He could just barely make out the words.
“What are you trying to tell me?” he whispered. He pulled the chair up in front of the desk and sat, staring at the photo.
“Gentlemen,” it was the voice of Paul Morris echoing in the distance.
Jake recalled standing in the cargo bay; his father’s voice came over the intercom.
Jake was not alone. He was standing with over 100 other young men and women, they were all armed. It appeared they were going to march into battle.
A large holographic image of Paul flickered on over their heads. It was the ships Video Com System.
“Gentlemen and Ladies,” Paul corrected himself. “We are about to embark on a most dangerous mission.”
Standing in the Cargo Bay with his team, Jake felt a sense of pride, seeing his father lead them into battle.
“For your entire lives, you have been taught that The Guardians came here to set us free,” Paul continued. “That The Protectorate was created to keep us safe, and that we, the military force were here to enforce the safety of all Earth’s people.”
The crew of The Kodiak was still, silent, total attention to the Captain.
Paul stirred a great deal of loyalty in his crew. He spent a great deal of time perfecting his men and women, pairing the Senior Staff with the Junior Staff. He and Jake worked together to create a crew that was as diverse as it was strong. Finding the best of the best in every department and pairing them with the worst of the worst, the most experienced and the most inexperienced and forcing them to get the job done.
“We are here to challenge those ideas,” Paul continued. “In drastic times, you’ve gotta do drastic things! We’re about to charge into battle. We will be out numbered, we will fight and some of us will die.”
Paul paused to allow the acknowledgment of that sink in.
An uncomfortable murmur ran through the crowd.
“I feel like a one legged man in an ass kicking contest,” Paul grinned a little to break the tension. “But I can’t think of a better crew of people to die for. This is the real deal, and people will die. I may be one of them.”
Jake felt uneasy with that idea.
“I tell you this not because I want for you to be sad, not because you should be afraid, but because you should know the reality we are all facing here. This ain’t a hamburger stand out here, y’know? This is the real deal and people really die.
“But not all of you will. Some of you, most of you I hope, will live to fight another day. You will see the coming of a real Democracy and you will be the bringer of a new chapter in Earth’s history. You will bring the fall of The Protectorate and with that The Guardians will have no way to enforce their ideals! You will shape the hearts and minds of the entire world.
“In a few moments we will be within sensor range of The District. At that time we will go into Red Alert. Be ready. The District is not expecting us; we have the element of surprise. You have your orders.”
Paul paused. Sincerity filled his blue eyes.
“Men. Women. You have a proud Captain this day. I stand with you and face insurmountable odds and we may fail. But we may succeed! When you stand on the steps of the The District Capital and you can remove your classification we have won. You will be free. I hope to live to stand with you in freedom. Good luck.”
The holographic image hung in the air for a moment. Paul stared intently at his crew, and then the image blinked out.