002: Complicated

(The second installment of a new sci-fi venture I’m writing in bits)  As always, (c) 2011 Lydia DeWolf don’t you even THINK about it… 😉

Sector 1B Roxanne; on board the USSC Alabama; Left Wing Lounge.

 

I cradled a plastic bag of liquid coffee between my hands, staring dazedly at reruns of rugby championships. Foxe, a familiar voiceover artist, narrated the games, drawing parallels between teams of the distant past and teams of the even-more-distant past. Nobody really cared about the old sports now… we just watched them when doped-up on exhaust or on leave. Fast-forwarded, the games became a kind of sitcom, only the players talked with their bodies. The Kiwi All-Blacks scored again. I squirted a marble-sized blob of coffee from the corner of the bag and nudged it toward my mouth.

            Jules’s voice entered the room curses-first as he crawled along the ceiling. “Oh, of course, your role is just as important, they say! Every man does his duty! Every man a hero! Every man equal! But as Orwell said, some are just more equal than others. We’re not equal enough to get the pulls in our quarters, don’t be ridiculous, HQ!”

            “What are you ranting about now?” I asked him, without annoyance.

            “Mindless, history-burners,” he grumbled on. “Probably couldn’t tell you who Orwell was if their lives depended on it. But of course, we can calculate our projective to seven decimal places with our brains, so we must be better than you!” He climbed hand-over-hand down the wall, over-steering himself and colliding with a pole that connected “floor” to hypothetical “ceiling.”

            I squeezed a glob of coffee toward him and he moved to intercept it, only to have the bubble splinter over his nose. “Aw, Chief,” he griped, “you did that on purpose!”

            “Nothing of the kind, monseigneur.” I looked back to the screen and the little men doing their haka just before the start of an accelerated game against the Springboks. Jules clawed into the bolted-down couch and buckled himself in.

            “I tell you what I’m going to do,” he announced. “I’ll get Wardrobe to stitch magnets into my pants. Then I’ll just sit down on a wall and scooch around decks 1 and 2 on my bum.”

            I smiled but didn’t take my eyes from the sports. He fell silent for awhile… then invariably began to hum his little song.

            “What are the words?” I asked, after a long pause.

            He hesitated. “Well, it’s French.”

            “You and your dead languages,” I needled, elbowing him playfully. “So translate, monseigneur!”

            He sighed, and after a few minutes, began to sing softly. “Arise, children of your country… The day of glory has arrived.”

            Little men in black uniforms beat their chests and shouted inaudibly on screen.

            “Against us, tyranny’s bloody banner is hoisted….”

            I saw his story in the words, knew what I was doing to him. He whispered the words faintly, without breath enough.

            A tiny woman, arms full, scurrying from bunker to bunker, feet bare against shoots of grass turned to needles by ice. Everywhere she went, a path of red that turned quickly to black in the cold.

            “Do you hear, in the countryside, the howling of those ferocious soldiers? Into your arms they come, to slit the throats of your sons and friends….”

            Every knock turned away. Inside the bunkers, they turned to each other and shrugged their slender shoulders. “The wind, the wind,” they whispered. “How it roars. How curious.” The tiny woman shrouded her baby tighter against its blight.

            “To arms, citizens, form your ranks! We march, we march! Let impure blood water our fields….”

            And every citizen that sweareth not to the honor of the Coalition, be they shut from the warmth of comradeship. In four days’ time, shalt come upon the land the ice terror. A simple oath ’twill be to enter the bunkers. Swear it, else you shall surely die.

            “Everyone is a soldier to combat you. If they fall, our young heroes, the earth will produce new ones, ready to fight against you….”

            She slid down a few steps to an entrance to a bunker. “Swear it, or you shall surely die,” said the triggered robotic voice. She pushed her son against the portal to warmth, sealed against the chemical blast of ice.

            “Sacred love of the Fatherland–“

            She hissed the oath into the microphone, through cracked and swollen, blackened lips.

            “Lead, support our avenging arms. Liberty, cherished liberty, a lie to your defenders. Forsake! Forsake! Let impure blood water our fields.”

            “That’s not how it goes,” I broke in, turning from the image of the small green field. My eyes were seeing the ice crystals of the story.

            Jules won’t meet my gaze. “You are right. That is not how it goes.”

            “What people would say such things?” I asked. “What people would butcher their citizens with artificial winters and force them to revoke their rights for warmth? What people would succumb to that? They should have stood till they froze. What people would swear it?”

            He fingered the frayed end of his seatbelt and breathed evenly, through his nose, for a moment. “It’s complicated,” he answered at last.

            A series of bolts whistled pneumatically out of slots and a door opened on the rigid blue body of a woman. A uniformed man stooped and picked up the bundle pressed against the threshold. Turning, he closed the door on the cold and descended to the warmth of the bunker. 

 

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