Delta V (∆V) - BOOK 1 - Rough Draft

Delta V (∆V) - BOOK 1 - Rough Draft

A Story by Canned Turkey
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A crime thriller which focuses on the consequences of people's actions and how violence leads to pain. Book 1 is the starting point that sets Joel on a journey to find meaning in his broken life.

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Delta V (∆V)

Rough Draft

Aiden Rose






















Far away,

I see the trees

The dirt, the world,

The stars;

all fade


Only the poor know wealth,

Only the young know age,

Only the sick know health,

Only the lost know the way


For all those who Know,

Look for Meaning


And all things that Are,

Long not to Be


BOOK 1


BOOK 1 - CHAPTER 1


In the midst of a golden wheat field, a mother sat writing figures in her ledger. She rested against a graying tree while she watched her son above her, standing on the mountain of branches he had proudly overcome.

She was aged with worry, but young behind her maternal eyes. Her simple dress was usual for how little she cared for looks.

“Joel, you must be careful up there! Your father will be very upset with me if I’m the one who’s responsible for you breaking another bone.” She scolded her son.

“But mom, it won’t be you who caused me to fall, if I do, it would be my own fault.” he said.

“It certainly wouldn’t be me who stopped it from ever happening if I say to you nothing, dearest.”

“Well if you put it that way, then I’d be the one who made him cross with you.” He replied.

“That is how it seems to be.” She put lightly. As lightly as she could, in her heart she had meant it; although concerned for her son she was guarding her own precious sanity with having to deal with Elias in anything other than the coming harvest.

She moved her focus from her descending son back to her ledger. There was a definite bottom line, no matter how she tried to stretch and squeeze their many budgets. They needed the wheat collectors to be functioning within the next solar phase. If they failed, the harvest would be cut in half, which wasn’t an option.

She dropped her arms into her lap; her worries only opened with her ledger closing. Letting out the biggest sigh she could muster, she told herself a lie that she had been telling herself since Elias left for his business trip to the north and south stations. We will get the collectors working; we will get the collectors working ahead of schedule with two days left in the sunlight to sort out any lingering issues. We’ve been on this tight of a deadline before and Elias proved himself to me as I did to him.

She felt better, although no soul can truly lie to itself. Her thoughts wandered to how untruthful that half-hearted thought really was.

The parts we need for the collectors are too massive and too expensive to install if we’re going to get it done in less than an entire solar phase; we should have started before Elias left and hired a worker. If we had taken a share out of our lifetime fund we could have hired a worker and rented them a collector for just this season, but that would require an even more insurmountable harvest next season to pay it all off. The last lending will be paid off with this season, if all goes well, and we’ll finally be entirely paid off for the war and able to downsize the farm once and for all, then our family can finally live without all this worry.

“Mother, what are you thinking about?” Joel asked her. Startled but joyful, she left her thoughts with the tree as she stood and moved to stretch out her weary muscles. She had sat and rewrote too many meaningless numbers for her own liking. We should have hired an actual manager long ago; that or a full time worker, she thought. Feeling that held some sort of finality to her business, she tried to brighten the mood.

“I was thinking about how wondrous it would be if you would please stop hanging upside down from that branch. Maybe then we could go inside and have lunch.”

“That was an awful lot of thinking for something you could have told me.” Joel said with an innocent smile, as he moved his arms up to his legs and took a firm hold of the branch, swinging off and landing with a graceful thud near his mother.

Eight years old and doubly playful, Joel was a handful for his overworked mother. But she loved him. He would grow up and take over the farm work someday; when he was old enough.

She hugged him, resting her chin on his youthful head she gazed to the powder blue sky. She could see the distant military ships, hovering in the same specks of the sky that they had been blocking for three solar phases in a row. The war was always on her mind, with each passing year Joel was one year closer to being conscripted. The low harmony of the space-fleet’s tremendous fission engines quietly hummed in her ears.

What a horrid shame it is that the drafting age is younger than the farming age, she thought. But she knew that was intentional. Farmers weren’t high in demand. It was soldiers they needed.

It’s concerning that after so many deployments, it all suddenly stopped. There’s no question if something happened, but if it’s good or bad for us can only be found out soon. The uncertainty of the war always made her anxious. Joel couldn’t hear the ships as well as she could, in his lifetime there had always been at least the carriers at rest behind the clouds. He grew up never knowing the true restful silence of the field that she had enjoyed as a child.

When she was a child, before she and Elias married, before he moved into the farm with her, even before the war.

She took a short breath. That’s enough with worrying over everything, she resolved  as they started the quarter kilometer walk back to the estate. They had walked this path almost every day that season; the old tree was Joel’s favorite place to play and fall from. It was also his mother’s favorite place to try and forget about her business, although it seemed to be glued in her hands no matter where she hid. The beaten gravel of the path was worn with two pairs of footprints, marking a single long streak from the two story estate to the old tree through the strictly untouched field of wheat.

With their home and garage bays visible in the distance, Joel let his mother’s hand free as he started running to his father, who was trying his best to force the domicile to match the natural beauty of the grain as opposed to its current state of contrasting it.

“You’re home early!” Joel cried out in excitement.

“And you’re both late.” Elias replied, straining his aging voice to be heard.

“Mother had a lot of business to think about today, with you being gone.” Joel said as he finally came up to ground near the tall garage bay that his father was painting the top of. The broken grain collectors were hidden away behind the newly painted bay doors.  Ignoring his lack of breath he continued, “She kept saying you’d be mad if I fell off the old tree, but I think she’d be more upset over you falling off that garage, I think you might break more than just a bone from that sort of fall. Why are you painting up there?”

“To celebrate me being home early enough to get it done, this old garage has been needing some touch-up paint and you two seemed peaceful, I’ve just been keeping busy.” He said, putting the last touch of paint on the garage; gaining enough time for Joel’s mother to come close enough to hear the conversation.

He stood and unscrewed the paintbrush from the end of the long pole it was attached to. He bagged the brush to dry out and set the pole against the side of the garage.

Joel’s mother finished her walk to meet the other two. Even from the height of the roof, Elias could see why he still loved her as much as he had when they married. Being forty-eight she was two years older than him, but he felt she looked half as old, even after all the work and stress from the farm.

Elias’ face twisted into a rare smirk, looking off into the distance. “I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to freshen up this dingy garage door since it was looking so weathered.” He said, aiming his words at his wife.

“You’re home a whole day early. Why are you not at the meeting with your brother’s company?”, she asked an obvious as she crossed her arms. “He was the only contractor willing to sell us those parts for the collectors on such short notice, we don’t have a big enough transporter to go to the station and pick it all up ourselves, if you tell me that he-“

“I got the parts sorted out for half the price. I met Oscar early because he was at his office in the north station.” Elias interrupted with his grin still visible through his beard.

“Elias Braam if you’re joking with me at a time like this I will knock your ladder over and we’ll see who’s laughing then!” She yelled up to him.

Joel turned to go inside the secondary garage door to hide from his mother’s frustration.

“Joel, you stay out here a moment!” His father stopped him, “I got the parts for half price because Oscar is liquidating his stock. He’s paying off his war bonds just like we are after this harvest.” Elias said offhandedly as he started his long descent down the ladder.

“How are we going to repair our collectors and transporters if Oscar is selling out? And how in heaven's name are we paying off our bonds? Everyone has to pay for the war and if Oscar thinks he can clean house and just fly away and go off the grid again at a time like this I have a few words for him! Remember what place he put us into four harvests ago? We almost had to give up the farm!” She said as Elias came to the bottom of the ladder. He went up to his wife and son and looked them in the eyes.

“No one has to pay any new bonds; they called for a ceasefire. The war is over.”

“What?” Joel cried in childlike surprise.

“You are certain?” His mother asked Elias with tears waiting behind her eyes, her and her son’s hearts racing in anticipation.

“Yes I’m certain, Oscar told me and I called my old Captain, he said the workers and farmers are being told soon. He must have overheard from someone higher up and gotten excited. I rushed home to be here today.” He said to his wife.

“This must be a miracle!” She replied through tears as the three hugged and laughed together.

“Does this mean we’re safe now, mom?” Joel asked quietly. His mother became stern again, although her smile was heard through her rebuttal.

“We have always been safe dear. The war was never near us.”

“Well then,” his youthful thoughts mustered, “I suppose we should have been celebrating this all a long while ago.”

His mother smiled knowingly at his disarming ignorance, although Elias felt less joyful as he overthought Joel’s statement.

“I supposed we should have been celebrating.” She repeated to Joel to confirm his thought. The three separated their lengthy embrace. “You both know what that means!” She said.

“What does it mean mother?” Joel asked.

“It means we have a lot of catching up to do on all that missed celebrating.” His mother replied. “A whole, whole lot of it.”


BOOK 1 - CHAPTER 2


Joel woke up. His mind was aware of the sunlight before his eyelids were open. The warmth of the magnified light through the glass window was a warm blanket over his face, although the temptation of staying in bed was far lost in his childhood.

Opening his eyes, he looked at his clock. seven AM planet time, as usual. The sun had kept him up most of the night, although he had gotten a few hours of rest, which to him was normal during the first week of the solar phase, when the sun shone without end. The sun would radiate light through his east facing window until the solar noon in a few days’ time.

This day was special. He and his father were going to the south station today to register the grain field to Joel’s name. At twenty he was finally old enough to take full charge of everything but the monetary figures and bookkeeping. He hated business work, but in the last ten years Elias had taken charge of the ledger and gotten proficient with the mental dealings of shipping and buying and selling.

He looked out the window. Through the windows glare and past the distant clouds, he could see the blue grey mother planet Gaea in her celestial resting place, hundreds of thousands of kilometers away. It was always a peculiar thought that the people who live there look up and see his home planet Demeter sitting in the sky in the same way he sees theirs.

Joel lay back down to rest until the morning alarm went off on the ground floor where Elias slept. It was odd to him that as a farmer his father still relied on the alarm instead of his mind’s clock. Although Joel had grown up on the farm while Elias grew up in the north station, which Joel always reasoned was the explanation for the difference in internal timekeeping. Station born people were lost without a clock and an alarm; you can’t teach someone how to tell the time naturally when they live in space.

The alarm sounded and was promptly ended. Although his body was woken by the alarm, Mr. Braam’s punctuality never slept.

“Joel you up?” He groaned towards the stairway from his bedroom.

“Yeah.” Joel replied as he swung his legs off his bed and stretched his tired limbs.

“Long day ahead of us. Better get dressed and come down for breakfast.”

Joel heard the creak of the aged double bed and his father’s gravelly yawn, “We ought to get done dusting the field by midday, I want enough time to get to the south station without being late.” Elias said.

“Yeah.” Joel repeated.

~

Joel sat down onto his stool next to his father at the kitchen counter, dressed in his dusty grey coverall and ready for another day of work. His stool creaked shifted its balance from two legs to three as his weight came onto it. The kitchen was well lit and cozy, as the rest of the house was. The counter was used mainly as a table with three seats to it; as the kitchen was small to accommodate an equally small family. The room was tidy as it ought to be, Elias didn’t stand for any mess and neither did his son.

Joel looked at the kitchen clock, seven fourty AM.

“Darn.” He said to no one.

“Morning Joel.” Elias said as he scooted a plate of butter and jelly toast in front of Joel’s seat.

“I had figured two whole minutes off from the clock. You know it’s always the times that end with zero that get me, I never guess those ones.”

“Yeah.” Elias replied. He took a large bite of his toast and shrugged to suggest Joel do the same.

Swallowing his first and last mouthful of toast as one, Joel made a huge grin and wiped his face from any crumbs.

“One bite is my record but I think if I try hard enough I could beat that.” Joel beamed.

“If you got ready for work faster maybe you wouldn’t have to make your breakfast a joke to catch up the time.” Elias said frankly as he picked up the two empty plates and walked to the dish washer.

“Yeah.” Joel said back. “But toast with jam is already a joke so I don’t feel too bad.”

“Hey!” Elias quickly replied. “You’re being awfully insensitive this morning. It’s jam and butter toast for your birthday. And I make it exactly how your mother used to every year, so don’t go making a fool out of me for keeping a family tradition.”

“Yes sir.” Joel soberly finished the conversation. He knew not to joke with his father about things that involved his mother. Even with how often they teased each other, eleven years of time had done very little to heal the two’s feelings over her passing. Although Joel saw a silver lining in the last decade, that being his father had seemed to grow softer with age.

“Well,” Elias said firmly. “No reasons for delay, we should get out there and dust the crops now. Nice day for it too, no rain and barely any clouds, this is a farmer’s kind of weather.”

“A book-keepers kind of weather for you soon enough.” Joel quipped as he opened the back door from the kitchen to the garage, where the dusting gear was kept. “Watch yourself ace, nothing’s settled yet and it might not be with a testy attitude like that.” Elias joked back as he followed Joel into the garage to start the day’s work.

~

One of the few things Joel never really lost his childhood wonder for was dusting the field. Put simply, it was really only a routine fertilization to keep the grain healthy and keep any harmful bacteria at bay. But the entire process was quite complicated.

A vast hollow mesh that would cover the entire field had to be put up, used to distribute tonnes of fertilizer across the entire farm, and taken down, all in one major effort. The mesh couldn’t be left up for too long as it was expensive, and could break easily in strong winds. It was also massive. two square kilometers of nano-weaved tubing. Fertilizing a field that size was easily automated for bigger, industrial farms; but for a family of two it was an entire day’s undertaking. It took hours of precise flights with a single person transporter, the mesh would be tied behind it as it was flown back and forth across the field to the exact spots where it would drop the part of the mesh it had. The mesh would be dropped and anchored to the ground in eight spots around the edge of the field, with a sturdy pole in the very center to keep it from flattening the wheat to the ground.

~

It was late evening by his guessing, but Joel checked the time on his wristwatch to be certain. Eight PM, an hour or so ahead of schedule. Both men were well versed in the many steps to fertilizing; they already were on the last and most crucial step.

Joel are you all set with that last anchor?” Joel heard his father’s voice through the old two-way transceiver on his shoulder. He tugged at the cord that was in his hands, tightening its marriage knot with the anchor that was in the ground and making sure the incredibly far reaching mesh was securely attached to it. The entire field was sitting five meters under a curtain of hollow tubing.  Once the fertilizer was pumped through it; they would have to take it all down again.

Joel held down the button on his transceiver so Elias could hear him through it.

”Yeah it’s all secure here.”

Alright, I’m going to start the pump, make sure to put your goggles on and stay clear of it all.” Joel’s transceiver buzzed to him. He felt mildly annoyed at his father’s reminder of a fact he well knew, the fertilizer anti-rot mix was heavily toxic, flammable, and eroded most things it set into. There would be a secondary chemical compound flushed through the grain after it was harvested, but that too was harmful in contact with active flesh.

“Got it.” Joel responded as he let go of the button and moved his goggles from his forehead to his eyes. Skipping a few steps backwards with excitement, he waited for the day’s highlight.

A g-class military transporter flew unreasonably low overhead.

Probably just some jerk who bought a decommissioned vehicle to show off. Well he’ll get fined heavy for leaving all the markings on it, so I suppose it’s none of my concern.

Joel never enjoyed transporters. He wasn’t looking forward to trying to sleep on the long transit to the station.

I will never understand why dad loves riding in those things. He thought to himself. Joel preferred the quiet farm to the overbearing hum of space travel. Not to mention how everything shakes and anything you set down won’t stay where you left it. It had been years since Joel had heard the fleet of engines in the sky above him, and even longer since he had ever been on a transport to either station. The single rider transport that was on the farm for travel across the field had a full-body windshield, a seat, controls, and room for some cargo. It was shorter than a full grown person, two meters across, and about three meters in length. Nowhere near the size of the out-of-atmosphere transporters, those were a house tall easily, with rooms and a cockpit separate from them.

Joel’s thoughts wandered.

Once you get to the stations, it isn’t half bad there. But the ride I could do without. Piloting the transporter back and forth across the farm is rocky enough for me, although only having to do it every other solar-phase is little enough to make it worth the sight of dusting the field.

And it was a sight. When the mesh was full of fertilizer, it would sift out into the air; every speck and particle floating downwards slowly and consistently. The sky would fill with yellow, green, and brown dust; raining down onto the field until the indescribable cloud settled and the sky became clear again. Everything within two or three meters of the field would be lightly covered with it, like golden snow had come down for a day.

But it hadn’t snowed yet.

There’s something going on by the garage, visitors I think, we need to put this on hold. Come park the transporter by the garage, I’ll land you somewhere. Double-time.” Joel’s transceiver fuzzed his father’s words. His stomach felt cold and his heart jumped from its peaceful meander to a steady jog. Besides stressful times, his father was nearly always calm and collected; anything that made him speak oddly was cause for Joel to worry.

Who in the world could be so self-important to land on our property while they can clearly see we’re dusting?

“Alright I’ll head over there.” Joel said into the transceiver. Taking off his goggles, Joel turned from the grain to the dirt path that outlined the field.

The transporter was parked a few paces past the path, to stay out of reach from any flammable fertilizer getting near the sparking engine.

Lifting the windshield to get into the transporter, Joel set himself down into it. He let the clear covering fall into place right above him as he reached to the controls and turned the key in the ignition. The engine he sat on whirred and croaked at him in protest. Joel pressed the stall button and tried the key again only to hear a slightly less confident croak from the machine. Pulling the choke lever up he gave the engine more voltage in its power to fuel ratio, and held the ignition for a few moments before it gave into his demands and fired up.

I can’t believe this dingy old pile of bolts. Joel thought, reminding himself of his father and the need to hurry.


BOOK 1 - CHAPTER 3


“Evening sirs.” Elias said too loudly as three people were walking towards him on his front porch after parking their vehicle in his garage; trespassing on his property. Usually he wouldn’t call a woman sir, and more usually he’d already have his rifle pointed at trespassers, but two things stopped him short of that. One, the rifle was with Joel in the back of the transporter; and two, they really were military men.

And a woman. Elias reminded himself.

He had thought the same thing he expected Joel thought, that someone had bought a decommissioned vehicle from the war and had impudently left all the markings on it. But that wasn’t the case. Above three different names there were three new battalion insignias on the left breast pocket of the three new uniforms in front of him. Insignias that he recognized the design of, but they were definitely updated since he last saw them. Before he could read their names the woman had caught his glare with hers and asked him a question she already knew the answer to.

“Am I correct that this is the household of Elias Matsuoka Braam?” The woman said, unnecessarily leaning forward in the impossible chance her sharp voice was somehow not heard. Her face was too calm for Elias’ liking; the three were here against his will and he felt they ought to know that. The woman’s brown hawk eyes and crooked nose reminded him of someone he didn’t like.

“It won’t be by tomorrow when I’ve signed it off to my son.” Elias said, assuming that was vague enough of an answer to say yes while still being unwelcoming. Although the woman decided he should have thought out a less confusing response.

“I am not concerned with your future affairs, if my recollection is correct the deed is in your name.” She was unwavering in her stance on the first of two short steps onto the porch. At ground level she would be shorter than the two men with her, but the half foot of the step was all she needed to look as in charge of the two as she was.

A growing rumble was heard as Joel came up over the horizon on the transporter, flying over the field towards the now full garage.

Elias became more aware of his rising heart rate and moved his attention to finding a way away from the persistent military woman. “That’s my son right there now. Excuse me, I ought to go land him behind the garage so he doesn’t try and park on top of your vehicle, which is in his parking spot.” Elias said with annoyance as he weaved past the three unwelcome visitors. The woman did not respond or move an inch from her spot; she was willing to wait out any attempt of dismissal. As Elias jogged the short distance to the garage, the two men left the woman on the porch where she was and followed Elias.

The younger of the two was braver in speaking first. “Mr. Braam Sir. We hope we aren’t interrupting anything important. We’re here on important business and I assume whatever time of yours we take up can be covered financially before we leave.”

The noise of the approaching transporter overcame the normal silence of the farm. As Elias spun his finger in a circle to hail Joel and pointed behind the garage, the sound lowered, but Elias was still loud as to be heard over the engine.

“I don’t want any of your money, there’s not much to do around here but we have business at the south station tomorrow and we can’t be late for it. I’ll deal with you three but it needs to be short.” He said as the engine’s noise finally died behind the garage.

“It’s about your discharge sir.” The older of the two said in a lower tone than the other. Dirt billowed out around the three from the landed transporter.

“You mean my honorable discharge?” Elias corrected him; if the air was clearer the military man would have seen the anger in Elias’ face. Elias knew everything they would think to say to him, he was going to talk to the woman about it. He despised having to talk about his time in the war and prefered to speak to the person in charge.

“Well it’s to do with the fact you were deemed unfit for duty, but you’re still working this farm.”

“My son works the farm.”

“Not officially.”

“It will be official by the end of tomorrow.” Elias said finally as Joel came around from parking the transporter.

“What’s the deal with this?” Joel said.

“Just some business to sort out with these folks.” Elias told him. Joel noticed how on edge his father was. Elias never talked about the war and it was a surprise to Joel to see it’s shadow on their doorstep. Joel knew there was something wrong but couldn’t tell what it was yet. Looking over the two men, he saw they were in full uniforms, they seemed to be Midshipmen, or of some fairly important standing.

“Since you’re both here maybe we should head inside then.” The older military man said.

“That sounds better than standing around out here.” Elias told them as he walked past them to his house.

~

Inside Joel had moved two chairs from the living room into the kitchen to accommodate himself and his father. As he set one chair down for Elias and settled into his own, he looked up over the kitchen counter to see the names and ranks of the visitors sitting in front of him. Seated on the two steady stools on both sides of their commander was the taller and younger, Midshipman, Anton L. MacNevin; and the older, Steward, Eliot S. Godfrey. On the crooked stool in the middle of the two was Commodore, Rashida A. Harlow.

“MacNevin, Godfrey, does either of you need a drink?” The Commodore asked. The two men looked at each other and MacNevin made a glance at Elias and Joel who seemed uncomfortable in old chairs they rarely sat in.

“No ma’am we’re fine.” Godfrey answered after a short pause.

“Alright then, I suppose we shouldn’t delay any further.” Ms. Harlow said as she reached into her inside pocket and took out a neatly creased document. Unfolding it and setting it out in front of the counter, she rotated it around and moved it across the counter, in view of Elias.

“I already know what that is.” Elias said quickly, looking at the wall on his left. Joel leaned forward to try and see the heading on the document. It read:

~

| 54th Division of His Majesty’s Royal Space Force | Other Than Honorable Discharge, Legal Contingencies/Clauses - Braam, Elias M. (Disorderly Conduct; Substance abuse; [REDACTED])

~

Joel nervously turned to his father but decided it was best to continue staying quiet.

“Then I suppose, if you’re familiar with the contents of this document, you’ve read over your working and duty clause.” The Commodore said. She paused and saw Elias grasp his right hand in his left to control his temper, he understood what she was about to say but she said it anyways. “You filed for a transfer of the deed for this very farm from your own name to your son’s name. That transfer has been denied by the deed office you filed with on the grounds that you should have not been working this farm for the last eleven years. I was notified of the infraction and saw it fit to deal with you myself; as you were a part of the fifty-fourth Royal Division which is currently under my command. Does this all sound correct to you?”

Joel’s heart raced as he realized why the military was concerned with his farm. His father had never told him why he was discharged, but he knew military law as well as Elias’ disagreement with it. Such disagreement was promptly verbalized as his anger grew.

“I was deemed mentally unfit, I ought to be allowed-“

“The clause strictly says that if you are deemed unfit for duty- you are deemed unfit for public manual labor on the same grounds of discharge.” Ms. Harlow interrupted without hesitation. She was decidedly more at ease than the two men with her, who both remained silent. Not one of the three wanted to deliver news in this way, but Rashida was willing to sit it out.

“I know the clause but my state has no burden on my ability to work, only to serve on the front line, which has nothing at all to do with farming. And my son would be the owner of it with no issue if you let us file for it, which would make it not an issue anymore.” Elias was fuming. “I’ve had thrice my share of hardship and pain from you! I’m not going to let you meddle with my own private dealings when it has nothing to do with you!” His temper reached a tipping point as he ran out of breath and his balance fell back into his chair. He put his head in his hands and composed himself. Seeing he had given up his appeal the Commodore patiently responded.

“I moved to dismiss the infraction when I heard of it, on the same grounds you plead. It wasn’t me who ordered the seizure. I’m only here to discuss the terms with you.”

“Seizure?” Joel said as he turned to his father who thought for a moment and answered in defeat.

“I’m not supposed to be working anymore, as a retired citizen they seize any illegal assets instead of arresting me. You were never old enough to own the farm, and with your mother gone there was no one to pass it on to. So I kept it quiet. There’s no market for small farms, I tried to sell it. No one wanted it, all we could do was keep it.” Elias looked up at Ms. Harlow who was patiently waiting for him to finish. “Which is against the terms of my discharge.”

“Even after dismissing it so easily for an entire decade, you seem well aware of the law.” Harlow said.

“But if I own the farm wouldn’t that make the issue go away?” Joel asked Ms. Harlow.

“The government owns this land. Unless you bought it or were in the military, it remains seized property.” Seeing he was lost and upset, she frankly explained the problem to Joel. “When, your mother passed, your father paid off his bonds, and, on paper, retired; as he was legally required to to qualify for a discharge, as opposed to, arrest. The war was only just over and the government was overrun in people paying off their bonds and selling their property and plenty of other dealings related to the war ending. The deed for the farm was under your mother’s name, and whoever moved it to your father’s name when she died must have missed the error between the deed and the contingencies of Elias’ discharge. Or, as it remains unproven, purposefully overlooked it as a personal favor to your father.”

Joel was distraught but understood what she meant. The issue was clear, but would only be worse if it was fought. Forgery of legal documents was far more punishable than working without permission. Seizing the farm was all the Commodore could do to stop Elias from being jailed.

“I have argued in your family’s case to my superiors, we understand how hard this is after all you’ve done in service. This is the only option available that works best for you two. There is housing already prepared in the north station, and transport tickets are in order for your move there.” Harlow said. She knew how hard it all was for the two of them, but she felt it was necessary to remain frank and get her business out of the way.

“I’m not letting you take this from me. It’s all I have.” Elias said into his hands. He hid cold tears behind his aged palms.

“It’s not me who’s taking it Mr. Braam. I’m only here to break the news to you. It’s already set in motion.” She responded. Quiet fell between the five as Godfrey coughed and adjusted his seat. After heavy thought, Joel broke the silence.


BOOK 1 - CHAPTER 4


“What was it you said about me being able to keep the farm if I was in the military?” Joel said.

“No.” Elias said loudly as he sat straight and put his hands in his lap. “You aren’t doing that and that’s final.” Ms. Harlow looked between the two and understood the bond that would be lead to break if Joel joined the military. MacNevin breathed in as preparation to change the subject, but Rashida started over him, feeling it was the lesser of two upsetting conversations to be honest to Joel.

“Since you are of age, it is legally your choice to join the military reserve. As a member of the forces you are allowed to abide on uninhabited government land as a portion of your payment, this land, as it is seized under currently non-criminal charges, would be on the list of available choices. You would be able to take a portion of your two years’ salary in the form of the deed to your farm.”

“He is not joining the reserve!” Elias cried out as he stood, his chair falling behind him to the floor.

“I could join! You know I’m a good shot with your old rifle, I’m strong from working every day, I could do it. Is there any other way to pay for the farm?” Joel dared to ask his father who stared through him. The question was rhetorical and tore at Elias’ heart to hear.

Elias was beginning to feel the familiar quiet drop and emptiness of a panic attack. He fought tears as he tried to make the unthinkable decision between the impossibilities of either losing his son and losing his life’s work.

I can’t lose him to some skirmish they send him to. I can’t lose my only son. The farm is just a bunch of dirt and plants; he can find another job at the station. Groundskeeping or, delivering packages, or something safe. Something that won’t ruin him inside.

He stood as straight as he could and tried his best not to look manic.

I’m not having a breakdown in front of these people. He thought to himself. He breathed. Slowly in and out. He overcame himself.

“We’re taking the housing at the north station.” He told Joel. He felt ashamed to argue and panic in front of his own son, regardless of others being there to see.

“That’s both our choices. Not yours.” Joel responded. His hands were shaking and he felt afraid, not of Elias, and not of the Commodore. He wasn’t sure why he was afraid but he knew he was. “I’m signing into the reserve and that’s my choice to make.” He told his father. The four others knew he meant it, the three heard an uncanny strength to his young voice that felt unanswerable. But Elias saw it in Joel’s eyes, the same shade of green his mother’s were, at the verge of tears but still and resolved. Elias was astounded that his son was so much like he was at that age.

Too much like I was. He thought. He realized he was still standing above the fallen chair. His heart felt strained with grief that overcame his reasoning, his stomach felt cold. All he could think was what he should say to not lose his son.

He couldn’t find the right words.

Or any words.

Godfrey coughed, startling himself and MacNevin, who were in mild fear of Elias.

“Excuse me I need to use the restroom.” Godfrey said quietly as he slid off the stool and went down the hall into the restroom. Rashida looked between Joel and Elias. She gave considerable thought over her words as Elias stood his chair upright and sat down into it.

“I will leave all the necessary documents here, MacNevin will acquire an enlistment form for Joel to be left with your copy of the eviction notice.”
MacNevin felt tense and took the opportunity to leave.

“Right away ma’am.” He said as he went out the door, looking apologetically back to Elias as it swung closed behind him.

The door closed loudly.

Rashida looked at Elias, seeing tears in his eyes she averted her piercing gaze to Joel.

“I am very sorry to the two of you, but this is the only way for you to keep the farm. While two years of enlistment is no longer required, it is a good experience for any young man.” She stood up from her chair. Looking at Elias, she waited for him to focus on her. “I promise you I will do all I can to keep your son safe.”

Elias didn’t reply as he put his head in the comfort of his hands. Rashida was worried that she had crossed a line of authority; she was torn between her duty to the law and her sympathy for the two men.

Regardless of the unfortunate circumstance, she thought; Joel is decided. It’s his right to enlist for a short time. He seems mature, to save his family’s farm, he would probably do far more.

“We will return in a week from tomorrow to pick up Joel.”
The front door let out a soft creak as MacNevin came back inside with an enlistment sheet. He took a few wide steps inside and set it on a nearby table. Rashida continued.

“I hope that is enough time for you to get the farm in order.”

Godfrey entered the room from the hallway.

“Time to leave then?” He asked hesitantly.

“So it is.” Rashida responded looking sideways to him. “Good evening Mr. Braam. I am sorry it came to this,” she looked to Joel, “Joel.” She finished. She turned and led the Godfrey and MacNevin out the door.

The house was silent.

Joel immediately stood and walked to the staircase, up to his room. He stopped at the base of the stairs and looked back over his shoulder, to his father.

“I’m sorry but you heard the Commodore, it’s the only way. The reserve isn’t that bad, I’ll be living in a nice upper part of either station and they’ll only send me on safe missions. The farm is all we have; I can’t just let them take it.”

Elias looked up.

“I don’t care about the farm, it’s you they’re taking. You’ll die one way or another and I’ll have nothing.” He said. Sorrow filled his voice as he continued. “The war is over but there’s still fighting. You have no idea what it’s- what it’s like up there. There’s no safe missions. No air around the ships, no safety, they’ll send you to ‘stabilize’ some scuffle over trade and just like that,” he sniffed and looked up to the ceiling, “my boy will be gone.” He looked into Joel’s eyes for a moment before covering his face once more with his hands. “Please don’t go. We can take the housing; we’ll be alright without the farm. I can’t lose you.”

Joel fought the infinite pit growing inside him. He knew he couldn’t turn from his decision. He remembered something.

“Do you need help wrapping up the fertilizer before bed?”

“The fertilizer-“ Elias was slightly surprised as he looked out the window, they had both forgotten about dusting. He stood as he wiped all the tears from his eyes.

It’s time to press on. I have an entire week to think of something to stop this. He thought. “No son, you helped me with the hard part. I’ll- I’ll wrap that all up. I mean, I’ll finish it up. Then I’ll wrap it back up into the garage. No you already helped enough today, you head to bed and get some rest. I might as well get used to doing it myself anyways.”

“Yeah. Alright then.” Joel said without moving from his spot in the hallway. He looked at Elias who was already headed outside; the real goodbye would have to wait until next week. “Goodnight dad.” He said as he started up the stairs.

“Goodnight Joel.” Elias said as he went out the front door.


BOOK 1 - CHAPTER 5


A week had passed. Joel woke in ambient darkness, it was a day past the solar noon and the sun was not in view through his window. With grey wisps of clouds cut through it, the sky was bright blue, silent and misty rain fell through the morning light. He sat up in bed and checked his clock. Six twenty-five AM, he had given himself an hour to get his things in order before Godfrey and MacNevin came to pick him and his luggage up.

Joel looked around his room.

Two years at least. More if there’s another war. I won’t be back here for a while, when I am it’ll look so different. Not like home anyways.

He stood up and sighed. He felt ready to move onto a new chapter in his life. Looking to his doorway, his two suitcases were filled with essentials. Extra outfits and anything unnecessary would be left at the farm. All his things were packed but Joel felt he needed an hour anyways, if nothing else but to spend one last moment at home. He went to his closet to get dressed for the day’s trip.

~

Joel stood at the stove in the kitchen, chewing aimlessly at his breakfast as he waited for Elias to wake from his rare sleep.

I know he is worried, I think it’s fair to let him sleep in at a time when he gets so little rest. Although he should be up soon, Godfrey and MacNevin will arrive at any moment.

Down the hallway and past the staircase up to his room, Joel heard his father’s door finally opening and promptly slamming.

“I made you breakfast.” Joel hesitantly said to his father who was walking into the kitchen.

“What was that?” Elias said, still waking up.

“I made you breakfast; eggs and bacon.” Joel repeated.

“No thanks, I’m not hungry right now.” He said as he passed Joel and sat on his stool.

“It’ll be our last meal together for a very long while, are you sure-“

“No.” Elias said rudely. “I’m not hungry and I have something to talk to you about.”

Joel was confused; He was used to his father’s stressful episodes but it was rare when he was truly angered. He felt it best to wait out any sort of temper his father had; if Elias’ did panic it was better, in Joel’s view, to let it happen before anyone arrived.

Elias continued. “I’ve decided you aren’t going.”

“I’ve decided I am, I already signed the paper.” Joel replied quietly, nearing the counter where Elias sat on the side opposite of him.

“I can’t let you go.” Elias said.

“Dad. I have to go. It’s the only way we can stay here at the farm. I’ll come back safe.”

Elias looked to his son and gave all of his heart to convince Joel.

“No you won’t. Even if you come back you won’t be safe. You don’t understand, what they do to you when you join. Even the reserve. They condition you. You’re beat and yelled at and thrown around like a sack of wheat until you’re fit to follow any order they give you. They train you like an animal, and if you fight back you’ll be their top priority to put you right back in line, no matter what it takes. The commodore, those men, all of them; the people who fight for our planet are no better to you than the guy with his gun pointed at you. They don’t care about you in the slightest, they only care about winning whatever fight they throw you at, even if that means you don’t come out the other side.”

Elias looked at Joel and his panic began to grow as he remembered.

“I killed more men while I was following orders than the man who gave me my orders was ever willing to. That coward. They’re all cowards and they deserve the hell they put good people like me through!”

“Dad you don’t have to talk about-“ Joel began to interrupt.

“I don’t have to tell you what I did but I didn’t have to do it!” Elias was crazed as his voice grew to a crescendo of self-anger. “I didn’t have to kill anyone but I did! Because they told me to! They trained me like a dog to sit and stay and fetch and play dead and to murder! For what? I did it and I still don’t even know for what!” He stood and turned away as he attempted to stay his anger from his son. “Not for some, freedom, like they would insist on. I willingly ruined countless lives including my own only to have them take all that I have left! What kind of freedom is that?”

“Dad please! There’s nothing we can do! I won’t kill anyone, I swear to you. I’ll come back home, I’ll, I promise, I won’t let them change who I am. I’m your son and I will always be here for you.” Joel became increasingly concerned for his father.

The rising sound of a transporter’s engine was heard in the distance. They both turned to see out the front window, the military transport was promptly arriving on time.

“I won’t let them.” Elias said.

An eerie quiet came between the two as the transporter’s noise stalled and fell silent. The house was uncomfortably hushed besides the rain tapping on the windows. Elias felt his heart plateau with panic as he hurried into his room, throwing open and slamming the door once more.

“Elias!” Joel cried out in attempt to break his dad out of his episode. Joel’s concern grew into anger to match his father’s.

What is he doing?

Elias didn’t reply as Joel’s limbs shook more than he was able to hold them still.

“They’re here outside, where are you going?” He called down the hallway.

There was a hurried knock on the front door. Joel anxiously resigned to answer it and tell them to come back later.

Opening the door two familiar faces stood outside covered in coats protecting the men from the now pouring rain.

“Is it alright if we come in to dry off? It’s freezing out there.” Godfrey said as he and MacNevin let themselves inside. They began to muddy the carpet and Joel instinctively tried to request they take their boots off, but the words hit a lump in his throat as he remembered his father. The front door closed loudly behind the three, shutting out the chatter of the rain and wind.

“You seem quiet, is everything alright?” MacNevin asked Joel as he started taking off his mud-soaked boots regardless of being asked to. Joel didn’t know how to answer, although he felt an odd relief through MacNevin’s manners. Elias’ door creaked from across the house as Godfrey stretched his neck to find an angle of vision down the hallway.

“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!” Elias cried out and strained his booming voice through the kitchen.

Three thunderous explosions were heard. MacNevin was thrown against the wall and Godfrey yeleped in terror and ducked.

Joel’s hearing went cold. He singularly felt a sustained sharp ringing in his head as his heated vision tunneled. Throwing open the front door to escape the house, he felt himself swear loudly.

Hearing a muffled crash behind him, he twisted his ankle and fell entirely over the slick porch and onto the gravel pathway. He landed headfirst and an unfortunately sharp rock met him at the ground. His ear was cut cleanly across the middle and multiple small rocks dug at the skin of his cheek. Blood mixed with rain and dirt as he rubbed the debris off of his eyes to see. He stood in a hurry. Turning in fear, he looked through the doorway and into the house.

Two still bodies were lying inside the doorway; one of them was keeping the door from closing.

Joel felt himself swear again. He was unable to hear it over the ringing. Through the smog of the gunsmoke he saw his father inside standing madly with his loaded rifle still held at the ready.

“What have you done?” Joel screamed in utter disbelief towards the house. Elias dropped his rifle and mouthed something inaudible towards Joel. The ringing in his head tapered enough to hear, but Joel’s heart still fought madly against his trembling ribcage.

Elias fell to his knees and began weeping as Joel ran inside to see if the two men were still alive.

“I didn’t want to do it they were going to kill you they were going to take you and-“ Elias interrupted his rambling with a fit of violent coughs and cries.

As the smoke cleared out the doorway Joel threw his attention to the men and was able to see that Godfrey was still breathing though unconscious.

MacNevin was beyond saving.

Joel stood weakly; taking rushed paces across the room, he picked up his father’s rifle and tossed it out the open door.

He swore once more before finally grasping his sanity.

“What have you done?” He pleaded with Elias again. Elias looked up with a manic empty in his eyes.

“You have to go. You have to get out of here, take the transporter and get out of here! GO! Now!” Elias began repeating orders to leave as Joel’s heart finally broke, understanding the consequences of what had just occurred.

“Get out of here now Joel! They’ll be coming for you! They’ll say you helped me, they’ll think we did it together to save the farm! Go far away and don’t come back!” Elias yelled as he took a hold of his son and thrust him towards the door.

Joel finally felt the hot pain of the cut along his ear as his tears met it along his cheekbone. He left the house. Carefully, he took shaking steps over the porch and picked Elias’ rifle out of the mud. Looking back he saw his father again, weeping over the bodies of the men.

Joel hesitated before running, he knew he was innocent, but there was no other thought in his mind except escaping. He contemplated taking Elias with him.

He’s broken and I can’t save him. There’s no saving him. I have to save myself from this horror.

He thought for a moment to say goodbye somehow, but was unable to do more than breathe faster. Turning away, he fled into the rising wind and rain to find the transporter.


BOOK 1 - CHAPTER 6


Heavy rain pelted down on the windshield which surrounded Joel. Adjusting his seat for flight in the transporter, he put his goggles on. As he fumbled with the controls, his thoughts became increasingly uncertain over the future.

Why has this happened to me? Why did dad snap? He’s had, episodes before but, not like that. I never knew he was so lost inside. So far gone.

I have to start a new life somewhere. I have to run away, I can’t be Joel Braam any longer. I need a new name and somewhere to hide.

The engine finally kicked to life as Joel throttled the machine and lifted off.

Immediately, he removed the cover over the switch for the rotating signal and pressed it in, blocking any nearby ships from seeing him on radar.

He checked his local radar and saw the orbiting south station was in range.

With the fuel I have now, I can go anywhere in the local area or I could go to the south station. Where though? I can’t just find a job all my information will get me arrested, I could find uncle Oscar, but I don’t know where he is! I wish I wish I knew someone other than him and my parents! My lost and dead parents.

Joel yelled in frustration and hit the frame of the small ship around him.

Where will I go? I could still go to the military. They might believe me when I say I had no part in it.

He looked out the transporter back to the distant house, a small beam of light was still emitting from the doorway, outlining an indiscriminate silhouette.

He hasn’t moved them.

Joel began freely crying again as he turned back to the controls.  Through the clouds he saw a ship enter the atmosphere in an instant.

A g-class ship like that has to be military.

It flew past him as he realized it was headed to the farm.

Why are they here already?

A cacophony of shattering plastic and metal erupted around Joel as the military transporter’s rear gun opened fire on his ship. He threw his arms up around his head and thought only of his inability to breath. The wind and rain became a low roar around Joel as he failed to see or hear anything outside the ship but clouds and rain. With weak shaking hands he reached under the control panel and put on his emergency air-mask.

The reinforced  windshield saved me but another direct hit like that and I’m dead. They either think I’m my father or they are arresting me for fleeing the crime scene. I need to get out of their rader i-

He wiped the rain off of his goggles which dug into his cut ear. Another barrage of explosive rounds sliced through the air just to right of Joel’s fragile ship. He pulled up and rolled off to his left into heavy cloud cover.

I need to get out of here if I’m going to live.

He rolled more to the left and pushed the steering down, moving in a downwards spiral towards the ground and out of the clouds. Relying on his radar, he maneuvered his craft to head away from the farm.

Another round of firing came from above and behind him, overhead the thin beam of a glowing volley was visible across Joel’s entire field of vision. He neared the ground but was still in the area of the farm, his ship was faster than theirs but still too slow to escape. Joel screamed in fear but the sound only fell into the wind. He raced over the landscape and his radar showed the military ship was turning towards his direction.

The only way I can get away from them is if they stop firing, if I can get them to stop firing I have a chance-

Joel’s ship bucked underneath him, the damage from the initial barrage was tolling on the weak craft.

At this point they’re waiting for me to crash. They see the smoke from my ship, there’s no use in wasting another round on a dead man.

Every emergency light on the controls in front of him was flashing and screeching in warning. Joel realized he had no way out. His ship began losing air as the engine lost all the life it had left.

I can’t die here. Not now. They have me cornered but I won’t let-

The military ship neared Joel from the rear, their patience in hunting him made him feel fear more than he thought he was able to. He hit the brake as far as it could go and pulled the throttle off of his ship, his less maneuverable pursuer flying into the distance ahead of him. As the military craft began braking to turn, Joel engaged the stall on his engine and pulled up as hard as he could.

He created a large ring of smoke as the transporter circled upwards and backwards, towards the farm. Although he was strapped in, the inertia from his maneuver shifted the weight of his body up to his legs. He fought the urge to pass out. Rolling the ship the right way up, he neared the edge of the grain field.

Letting the brake off and the stall on, his ship lost most forward speed as he braced for impact with the approaching ground.

The transporter connected with the field as Joel was thrown forward into the control panel; taking the main force of the impact with his forearms, bruising but not breaking them. He expected it to have hurt a lot more. He felt glad it hadn’t.

Joel immediately stood and regretted it, he sat back down and emptied his stomach’s contents onto the interior of the broken transporter. He turned behind himself and looked through the rain; the military transporter was a distant speck in the clouds, although they were approaching at a harrowing rate.

He sat backwards in the pilot's seat and reached to open the cargo hold. His fingers slipped around and bumped the latch for what felt like years.

The sound of the approaching military ship became louder than the thunder and rain.

The hold finally popped open as he grabbed all he could; Elias’ rifle, a flare, a small utility knife, and and small bundle of strong rope. Shoving the items into his pockets he took the rifle in his hands and jumped the best he could out of the transporter. His twisted ankle landed first into the mud, sending him reeling forward. He thought it best to stay low and not disturb a path in the grain, so he began crawling in between the stalks towards the path from the old tree to the house.

The military ship came overhead and began to search the crash site. A blinding spotlight lit up the daylight as it landed not on Joel, but the remains of the transporter. Realizing they didn’t know his position, Joel remained still and waited.

This is where I die. If they move the spotlight I’ll be seen.

The transporter became rubble as a deafening yellow beam of explosive rounds drew a sharp line from the hovering military ship to the ground below it. Dust and grain and mud flew everywhere, covering the cratered area in displaced muck. Joel was panicked but felt slightly safe in under a layer of natural camouflage.

If they shot at the downed ship why didn’t they shoot me out of the air? Joel thought as he waited for his heart to calm down.

Do they want me alive? Maybe they thought the crash was bait for them to land and I would take off and get away then. Whatever they’re planning to do it can’t be good.

Joel was covered in a blanket of debris, but heard the military ship move from overhead to the direction of the house. He waited.

His heart continued to race without ceasing.

They know I’m headed for the house. There’s nothing around here that is close enough for me to survive the trip to on foot. I don’t know how I can get out of this but whatever my out is, it’s at the house.

Feeling enough time had passed, he began to dig himself out of the mud and dirt. Crawling out from the muck, he wiped his goggles clean and felt the same sting along his ear and cheek. He felt sore in every inch of his being and terror was replacing any adrenaline left in his mind.

He kept crawling through the field towards the house. He crashed near the edge of the field, almost two kilometers away from the house. Trudging onwards, he thought of an escape route.

If I can get to the garage I can fly the unmanned military ship out of here. There’s no other way.

He was making slow and painful progress through the underbrush of the grain. Joel noticed the rain and wind were ruining the sunlight’s attempt at a clear day as his vision past a few meters was severely limited.

~

After nearly six hours, he neared the edge of the familiar path from the center of the field to the house, but waited in the grain. His arms and legs burned from the effort it took to crawl such a distance. He was situated very near the old tree, but he refused to visit it, standing up would mean being seen.

Joel waited.

It wasn’t out of patience, but hesitation.

Instinctively, he wanted to run, but he felt it was best to try and grasp a plan to escape. He understood that remaining hidden meant staying alive.

He waited for what felt like two hours, trying to see anything happening around the house.

He spotted movement in the distance, between his hiding place and the house. Joel thought of the stories he’d heard of what the military does to fugitives.

if they send a golem to hunt me I’m done for!

A figure in a lengthy military coat was walking quickly down the gravel pathway towards where Joel was, but as the person neared, Joel noticed they were still searching for him.

He held Elias’ rifle closer, readying himself to sit up and fire at a moment’s notice.

No it’s a person, I won’t shoot. They don’t know I won’t and I can threaten to, but I won’t kill them. I won’t let it end in more killing.

The figure neared close enough for Joel to see it was a middle aged man, not by his face, but his grey beard. The man had his rifle at ease but Joel knew the man’s practiced aiming speed would outmatch his nervous draw.

The man continued his search of the pathway.

Joel realized if he stayed where he was the man would see him in the underbrush, although if he moved now he would also be heard.

I’m an idiot. If I had moved earlier the wind would have covered me by the noise and moving the grain around me.

The man stopped walking and stood under the old tree, Joel could see him partially, but the tree was between them.

If he comes around to this side and sees me I’m dead. I can’t aim lying down faster than he can standing.

The man coughed. He lowered his rifle’s stock to the dirt below him and leaned against the tree in an odd way, with his elbow out to support him while still standing straight.

Joel struggled to hide his heavy breathing.

Was he sent down here to stay guard? Why is he leaning like that? He must have been asked to watch this area, if he was searching-

The man coughed again.

Joel fought with his startled instinct to jump and run.

He breathed slowly and with intent, hiding any noise.

The rain had abated almost entirely.

The wind picked up again.

If he was searching for me he’d not be standing still like that. I think, maybe he has a bad back and is using the tree for support. If I wait for him to move, I can hold him up with my rifle and, do, something, to get out of here.

Joel tried to imagine an escape plan that didn’t leave anyone dead, but came up dry. His nervous thoughts were filled with the fear of dying, and how much he ached.

After a tense wait, Joel realized the man wasn’t going to move.

I have to make a move on him before he comes around to search. I have to aim from here and yell to him to freeze. That’s my only chance.

The man huffed and stood straight, with effort.

Oh, well he moved. It is his back is what’s bothering him to lean like that though.

Setting his rifle to rest against the tree, the man slowly walked a pace away from the tree and stood in the pathway.

Joel began slowly raising his weapon to aim at the man, who was reaching into his coat for something. He pulled out a transceiver.

“Echo, Commodore, I’ve been stationed half of an hour as requested, permission to relieve my post? Out.” He said into it.

Joel had used the man’s voice to cover the noise of him aiming his rifle.

If I yell now I could hold him up, but he called his commander on his transceiver, if he doesn’t answer, he could, but, I could still hold him up, and just make him answer that he killed me, no, he doesn’t, have to answer. If they answer it’ll be a yes or a no and he doesn’t have to reply to them.

He doesn’t have to answer them right away and I have to act now.

“Don’t move a muscle or I kill you.” Joel said, only as loud as he needed to be to be heard by the man.

The man quickly stiffened but was forcefully calm in turning. He moved only his head to see Joel’s position.

“Turn off your transceiver.” Joel ordered.

The man complied.

“You killed two good men already. Why do you hesitate now?”

“I didn’t kill those men. My father did.” Joel replied.

“Your father is not here boy.”

“I’m not a liar.”

The man looked intently at him, but Joel’s face was hidden behind dried blood and dirt.

“I already believe you’re not a liar, that’s why I’m not moving a muscle, see? Neither of us want to die today.”

Joel’s legs had long since fallen asleep but he stood up through the pain. Limping into the pathway with his rifle in one hand still pointed at the man’s head, he picked up the unattended rifle and set it behind him, putting both arms back on his weapon.

“You are hurt boy. You wrecked your ship and you have been out here for, nearly a day. I see your limp and that cut on your head, you aren’t a weak man but you are in very little position to threaten me.” The man looked at Joel and tried to gain his trust the best he could. “I believe you didn’t do it. Your father is not here, but Commodore Harlow told us that she didn’t like how easy he was to set off. He seemed off, controlling, you know him not me. When we were called by Godfrey, he said little before dying and someone was audible past his crying out. We thought you and your father would be there waiting for us, but we arrived to two dead bodies and an empty house. That’s all I know.”

Joel thought hard about what to say next. He noticed the wind had stopped.

“When you arrived was there a military transport parked in front of our garage bay?”
The man coughed.

“No there wasn’t any transporter here.”

“Then he took it and escaped.”

“That appears to be so.”

“Then why did you think I did it?” Joel asked.

The man looked ready to laugh but remembered his situation.

“You have the murder weapon pointed at my face what else should I assume?”

Joel realized the man’s point before he was done saying it.

“How many more people are with you.”

“Me, the Commodore, some gunner we picked up, plus whatever backup arrived, I didn’t count them.”

“Where are they stationed?”

The man coughed again, twice. He spoke slightly louder.

“The gunner stayed guard in the ship and the rest are sweeping the house and garage for anyone else.”

Joel was out of questions, but the man filled the pause in conversation for him.

“That headstone by the tree, is that your mother’s?”
Joel hesitated. After a moment, he saw no reason for lying.

“Yes it is my mother’s.”

“My mother is dead too you know. She and I were from Gaea, but before the war, we moved here for the opportunity. Better economy and all that.”

Joel didn’t understand but let the man keep talking.

“We owned a shipping business, her in charge and me flying the cargo. It was a good life. But; we got bombed when the war started. I was out on a job, but she was home, just, filing paperwork. I couldn’t believe it, my own home planet, destroying all I cared for. So I joined the military for Demeter. I flew ships for our glorious planet, ten years. Now I’m in the reserve and I just taxi the commodore around. I never killed another man, I only joined to serve my part to end the madness. If you haven’t, if you don’t have it in you, don’t kill me. I have my wife and a dog in the north station; they’re waiting for me to get back.”

Joel felt weak in his knees.

This man really thinks I’m going to kill him. I know he’s truthful in what he says, I can hear it. I can’t do this to him, but there’s no other way out now. I can only try bargaining with him.

“I’m not going to kill you. I mean it. I can’t do it. I just need to get out of here. I will fire but I won’t kill you.” Joel said.

The man looked at him. He coughed.

“Will you let me move? I am sore in my back, I need to rest against the tree again.”

Joel thought for a moment.

“What if the commodore relieved you of your station, don’t you have to get back to the house?”

“Yes I would have to meet with her and we would discuss a further plan to find you and your father.”

Joel thought as hard as he could, but his mind drew a blank on what to do next. He began to shake as his arms and legs grew more tired.

“You didn’t think this through very much boy. Holding me up like this, what’s your goal?”

“My goal is to get out of here.”
“Well you see, I can’t just let you run off.”

Joel had an idea.

“Turn on your transceiver and say exactly what I tell you to say, I won’t kill you, but I can shoot you somewhere it hurts.”

“Alright. Don’t get testy.”

The man turned his transceiver on.

“Tell her you had to relieve yourself.”

“Echo, Commodore, sorry for the lapse in communication, I had to, relieve myself. Out.”

“Echo, Arthur, I understand it happens. Repeating orders, you are cleared to come back. I doubt either of them are here anyways. I’m guessing, the son fled after he crashed and was picked up by the father in the stolen transport, or the other way around if the dad was in that crop-duster, either way we can discuss it at the house. Out.”

Joel continued ordering Arthur, straining his tired voice.

“Tell her she’s wrong, when you relieved yourself, you saw me running off into the distance into the hills, you shot me from afar and I was dead in one hit.”

“Boy you’re making a mistake.”

“Do it now.”

Arthur coughed.

He spoke again into his transceiver.

“Echo, Commodore, copy that, I’ll be at the house presently. Out.”


BOOK 1 - CHAPTER 7


Joel loaded the action in his rifle as Arthur dropped his transceiver and firmly crushed it under his foot.

“You better think twice before you ask a cornered man to follow directions.” He said far too calmly for Joel’s liking. “I would rather take a good shot to the arm or leg than follow a boy’s orders.”

“You realize I can’t let you go back to the house! You’re my only way out of here and you will do as I say!” Joel demanded furiously.

“Or what?” Arthur said as he moved for the first time, taking a step towards Joel. “I know you won’t kill me, and you know I can’t hurt you with a gun pointed at me. So. We’re at a stalemate.”

Arthur went to where his rifle was left picked it up by the barrel.

“Put that back or I’ll shoot!” Joel yelled.

“You should have already. Don’t get testy, no fingers on the trigger, see?”

Joel was dumbfounded. He was trembling and unable to process what Arthur was trying to accomplish.

What is he thinking? If he points that at me I have to open fire.

Arthur slowly raised his gun up to Joel.

Joel froze.

“If you were smarter, you’d realize that in a stalemate, whoever moves first wins. Now drop your weapon, you’re under arrest for th-“
Joel fired a round into Arthur’s left knee, the crack of the rifle muffled all other noise.

Arthur yelled in pain and cursed Joel as he fell into the gravel, a cloud of gunsmoke surrounded them.

Arthur screamed in agony.

Joel started to panic. “I had to do it you were going to get me killed, you’re crazy if you think I’m not able to fire a weapon at all.”

“Boy you,” Arthur winced in pain, “You, complete, idiot, you, realize you just, alerted, them, that you’re over here? If they didn’t, hear that, shot they’ll come looking for me, I just told, Harlow, I’d be up there, every avenue of your escape, is, cut off-” He cried out but silenced himself. “Plus even if you, didn’t kill those men, you, just fired at a, a military officer. If you weren’t already, a criminal you are now.” He closed his eyes and leaned his head back, fighting off the pain. He lied back onto the ground and tried to no avail to not think of how much his leg hurt.

“I’m sorry I had to stop you.” Joel said as he leaned over Arthur, taking the dropped rifle from the ground he slung it over his shoulder.
“Will you shut up?” Arthur demanded.

Joel realized he was wasting time. The wind was gone and the air around him was too quiet.

He knew the other two were on their way.

Turning back to the field, he began sprinting as fast as his ankle allowed through the wet stalks of grain.

~

Harlow and the gunner had arrived in the middle of the field by the old tree, as Joel watched from a distance through the stalks. He had rested his goggles on his forehead as to get a better view of the situation. The day had gone on for some time, and the weather was clearer than it had been in far too long. If he wasn’t running for his life, Joel would have said it was a nice day outside.

I know one of them has to take Arthur back to the ship to tend to his knee, but which one?

His internal question was answered as he was able to see the Commodore order the gunner to do something, as she lifted Arthur over her shoulder and began to carry him back to the estate.

Joel was unsure if he felt let down by his mistake or that the gunner was staying and not the Commodore.

I can’t take the gunner in a shootout. Although I don’t know Harlow’s ability with a rifle, so I ought to be glad I feel okay with who I’m shooting at.

He realized the decision he had made.

I can’t justify shooting another person. I didn’t mean to have to hurt Arthur, it was all I could do not to get caught. If I had let him take me they might have taken me as the killer and not my father. He made a mistake in thinking I could take that chance.

Although he had felt wrong in taking it, he kept the military rifle over his shoulder. It had better accuracy than his own rifle did, and more shots left in the magazine. Thinking of shots left, he checked both guns during his small down time.

Three rounds left in the seven-clip in his rifle, and a full ten-clip in the military rifle.

That’s enough to take pot shots and just scare them away, I don’t have to hit anyone if they’re all in cover. That is if I don’t get shot right now. Joel thought as his heart rate picked back up to full speed, although he was no longer actively noticing the constant raising and lowering of adrenaline within his veins.

The gunner had his scouting rifle at the ready and was overseeing the east side of the field towards Joel’s left. Joel was still deciding whether or not to take more cover as the marksman turned quickly and faced directly at him. The glare on his goggles was more than visible to the skilled sharpshooter, even from a wide angle.

Joel threw himself to the ground and expected death or a shot grazing past him.

Neither came.

He’s going to close in on me before he wastes a round, for all he knows I don’t know his position yet. If I don’t move now I’m dead for sure.

Joel had made a lot of wrong conclusions up to that point, but he felt a tangible danger then that was driving him to flee which had not been present until then; he had not been directly spotted until then and the feeling to get away overtook his entire focus.

I feel like running and he knows I ought to. If I crawl again and go around the west side of the field I might be able to get out of his range.

Joel began to inch forward along the ground as quickly as his aching muscles allowed him. Tears streamed from the outer corners of his eyes as he strained himself beyond his ability.

He heard rustling in the field in front of him.

He’s right on top of me. I have to take him, I have no chance at range now.

Joel froze.

He held his breath and strained to see through the wheat.

His eyes burned from being so open for so long. Nothing but the brown of the dirt, the yellow of the field, and the blue of the sky was visible to Joel.

He could have camouflage but with all this mud on me so do I. If he’s right on top of me I could try to distract him.

Joel acted slowly and with intention. As he continued to hold his breath, he tilted his head forward and brushed it against the ground in front of him to take his goggles off.

He heard another rustle, closer, but this time to the east and not as well muffled as the last one. He pondered why it sounded differently.

Either he lost sight of me or just regained it, but I have a chance now.

Joel reached in front of him and took his goggles in his hand. Moving his arm flat along the ground, he flung the goggles up and out towards where he heard the wheat rustling.

He was no longer able to hold his breath as he began hyperventilating while he waited for the gunner to react. A moment passed and nothing happened. Two louder rustles sounded from where the gunner was to where the goggles landed.

He might not think it’s me but I have to surprise him and knock him out. Joel thought as he leapt to his feet.

Disregarding the searing pain of his ankle, he rushed as fast as he was able to towards where the gunner was. With his rifle in hand and the other slapping across his back, he traveled more swiftly than he had the entire day. His assumption of running headfirst into the sharpshooter was proven false as he quickly arrived at the clearing around the old tree once more. The gunner was not in sight he moved so the tree was between him and the house in case another long-range gunner was looking his way.

Turning around and dropping down to one knee for the best accuracy possible, he aimed his weapon in at the clearing his mad dash had made and he waited.

A moment passed as Joel’s vision tunneled and his hearing went cold, solely caused by holding his breath once more. Unrelenting, he endured his aching pain, but allowed his spent muscles some energy as he breathed as heavily as he could. Joel was startled with a frigid terror when he realized that his actions were at fault once more.

I shouldn’t have stopped, if he sees me like this he’ll aim at me and I’ll have to-

The gunner appeared in the clearing of wheat Joel had made through the field. Both men understood their respective mistakes, although the hunter had made a far more fatal one. As the marksman began raising his rifle, Joel’s shot drilled through his abdomen, lifting the man’s arms and throwing him flatly onto his back.

Joel rushed forward with his ears ringing again and his weapon still aimed at the man. The gunner was visibly incapable of movement and breathing with immense difficulty.

“I didn’t mean to hit you, I thought, I was aiming, to your left, I must have missed, and…” Rambling to his and the man’s unhearing ears, Joel’s gag reflex began acting up. He had already emptied his stomach once today and nothing came from his wretches.

In one moment, the man both cried out and stopped sharply.

He breathed his last as his weight settled onto the flattened wheat underneath of him. If it was not for the adrenaline in his mind Joel would have mourned him, but given the situation and the necessity of moving on, he slung the scouting rifle over his shoulder alongside the other military weapon, and began the long jog through the field towards the estate.


BOOK 1 - CHAPTER 8


This is the end of the road. Joel had thought to himself. Peering through the ranged scope of his sorrowfully acquired scouting weapon, he was able to discern three military ships parked in front of the garage bay. He had endured the long distance between the middle of the field and its outer edge towards the estate after a silent and painful walk.

The house and garage were fully stationed by military men and women, they had realized Joel was able to defend himself in the field and had resigned to simply wait him out.

Stopping near the edge of the field to assess the situation at the house was the first rest he had gotten since the start of the day, or the day before, he couldn’t tell.

With backup that heavy there’s no way I can get out of this. Each of those ships has at least one person stationed inside, and the rest must be inside the house planning a way to corner me in the field.

Turning his scope to the household, he was able to see two military personnel standing guard at both sides of the door. His breathing was cold and empty, Joel’s entire store of energy had been spent. Feeling far too tired for any more dangerous confrontations, he began to think through the problem at hand.

Three ships, each with at least three people. Probably more towards four or five, given the situation. Five times three, plus the commodore.

Joel laid his rifle on the dirt as he sat back and realized the impossibility of shooting his way out.

Sixteen people give or take. Five outside and eleven inside. Even if I was aiming for them and not taking covering fire, I still wouldn’t have enough ammo given I will miss every other shot from this range. Also they must have at least one golem with them. I have to think a way out. I can’t take the chance of another person dying by my hand.

A well of emotion sprung up from Joel’s aching stomach as he began to feel sick.

A man is dead because of me. I was just trying to get away and I killed him.

I don’t even know who he was.

Wiping tears from his eyes, he felt the clump of scarring tissue ebb with pain. The cut along his ear and cheek was healing, but it would leave an ugly mark.

This cut is less than fair payment for what I’ve done just trying to get out of this but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

I can’t let this all be in vain. I need to think of a way to get out. Taking one of those military ships is only viable if the others don’t chase and shoot me down, and I must take one of them. There’s no other transport away from this wretched farm. I have to somehow distract them long enough to make it to the atmosphere. Then I can use the transports g-drive and jump to Gaea. I can’t go to the stations yet, every ports will be looking for me. When I make the jump to light-speed they’ll lose me on their radars and I’ll finally be free.

Joel thought longer on the issue before he made a decision.

The hard part won’t be getting them out of the ships; the hard part will be flying one of those with no experience. I have to take a pilot with me. I will hold them up and it won’t end how it did with Arthur, I can think of a way to convince them to take me to Gaea and not straight to the nearest Demeter flagship. For that, I have to give them something they want, something I can give them that they don’t already have. Or at least convince them I can.

In an instant Joel felt an overwhelming feeling of relief flow through him.

I can tell them where my father is.

Or at least pretend I know where he is headed. In that case I don’t need a distraction, I can use that contingency to have the other pilots stand down and let me leave.

Momentarily Joel thought of his father. He was unable to discern what emotion inside him directed towards Elias, confusion or anger or any other of the thoughts echoing through his head. Whatever part of his feelings connected to Elias was pushed far down the list of priorities at hand.

I need to get into one of those ships. He thought.

Aiming his scope once again at the garage, he assessed the layout of the parked transports. They were each facing with their rears to the garage bay; the one on the port side of the group was nearly directly against the secondary garage door.

If I can get inside the garage I can easily go through that door and get into the rear of that ship.

The bay door on the garage opened with a motor as it was a very large door to allow the wheat collectors in and out of the building. The secondary door, much to Joel’s luck, was a just a regular door with a keypad lock.

Seven six nine three. Joel reminded himself the passcode as he committed to his plan.

He suddenly became aware of how empty his stomach felt, how cold he was, and above all how much he wanted to stop shaking.

Standing at the edge of the field, Joel wondered if he was too visible. He sat down onto the damp ground to rest and think.

This all has to work. I can’t have done all of this to get away and die here.

Why did dad have to do this? What could have made it worth putting me through all of this.

Joel looked to the sky, the clouds that had been pouring rain on him for hours had been drained and moved on to other fields.

No time like the present. Joel thought to himself as he stood, walking a few meters back into the field and out of sight. Reaching in front of him he felt a grain of wheat from the field between his fingers.

He decided on how he’d escape.

Pulling the flare from his pocket and keeping it near the ground, he took it in both hands and with difficulty, broke it in half and began to empty it’s small supply of gunpowder.

~

Rashida Harlow sat in an upsettingly familiar spot in the Braam’s kitchen.

I never thought I’d have to come back here, what a horror that happened. She thought.

Horror. I’m not usually so poetic but right now I don’t really know what to be. I should have taken the administrative job when Admiral Hale offered it to me.

Looking in front of her she saw her unit’s map of the local area, outlining the farm with notes on how far Joel could have gone. The notes were originally for Elias, having meet him Rashida had been adamant that Joel took the original transporter to escape and was innocent, but since she had to drag Arthur back from the field; there was no arguing that both Braam’s are targets.

I’m done talking over plans of action with everyone else. Everything we’ve tried has failed and all of this will only get worse if we escalate, assuming that the father will return and strike back if his son dies, clearly he has it in him.

She looked over to the entryway of the house holding her head in her hands.

There was a large dark area of the floor beside the door.

“Commodore Harlow.”

Rashida looked up from her work, to her left she saw Commodore William Touzel, head of her go-to backup division. He was tall and thin, but he had an aura of low quiet in his voice that made him seem larger than he was.

He waited for her to speak, but seeing thought in her eyes he repeated himself.

“Commodore Harlow. Do you have an update on our current plan of action? Given the updated situation with, gunner-private Ken not responsive; I feel it’s prudent to send in the golem and move in with force, even if both targets are within the field or the surrounding area, we stand to lose the advantage of tactics the longer we wait and let them figure a way to escape.”

Rashida looked back down to her map and thought for a moment before replying.

“Will, I respect your thoughts here but I have more experience in manhunts, and from Lieutenant Arthur Ross' testimony we can reasonably believe that the father fled the scene and left the son here. Who is in the field with three rifles, waiting to pick off anyone who approaches.” She put plainly. “And the golem is off the table, we don’t have anyone who knows how to steady Arthur's wound and I won’t risk him bleeding out.”

William did not wait to reply.

“Three men down and one wounded is more than enough reason to clear our force from this area and destroy the entire field.”

“Hale wouldn’t authorize that much firepower.”

“I know this is an unusual situation with no protocol, but we have to do something. We can’t let these guys run free. -Or at least the one that’s still here. Hunting down one criminal is easier than two.” William replied.

Silence was prolonged between the two.

I barely have a plan here, I ought to trust Will with his. Rashida thought. I need more ready members like Will in my own division.

She looked at him and made sure of her choice, standing from her stool she was decided.

“Touzel, I apologize for my lapse in initiative. As this is my assignment I will assume command of your support forces, the current and final plan is to move into the field from the north side near the house, your men are to fire at will and we will sweep the entire property. The golem will be sent to the midship with Arthur to fully stabilize him with the available medical equipment there.”

William grinned to himself.

He felt relieved by the fresh reminder of his days in training with Rashida, but the current situation left little room for humor.

“Commodore I respect your decision and your plan will be followed by myself and my division.”

Rashida began to regroup her team as she looked out the open front door and saw a cloud of black smoke coming from the field.

It was growing at an accelerating pace.

“Commodore there is, an issue!” Private Miranda Ward yelled from her post at the door.

“Private I am well aware!” Rashida said back, less loudly than the former but still yelling. “Commodore Touzel please prepare both units for immediate capture of the target. On my orders fire at will. I need to head upstairs and see to Arthur's safety.”

Echo Commodore Harlow.” William called back as he rounded the corner out of the dining room to position himself at the open door post. Both privates stationed outside quickly retreated into the cover of the house. The smoke was quickly overtaking their view of the sky and field.

Will reached to his transceiver and switched to the common channel.

“Echo all fifty-second and fifty-fourth, all units put their airmasks on with smog lights. Pilots are ordered to seal their ships and only open to callsign seventy-eight after twelve; all others make way to the front of the house, from the northwest corner we’ll begin a sweep of the field towards the south, fire at will. I repeat, seventy-eight after twelve and fire at will. Once we are grouped at the south side of the house we move in on my orders only.”

This wild goose chase is turning into a lion hunt. William thought as he attached his full face airmask and turned on the smog lights, small but powerful flashlights around his eyesight light only his field of view; cutting through most of the smoke to allow easy vision, although things in the clear air were now far too bright to see.

Waiting for his  plan to be taken into action, he turned his transceiver to his and Rashida’s administrative channel.

“Echo Harlow, update Lieutenant Ross’ condition?”

“Echo Will, he’s not doing too well but it’s not getting worse, I advise wel-”

“Harlow your plan is confirmed, once we’ve grouped at the front of the house the golem and Arthur will be escorted to ship; 28b.”

All twelve members of the available force had grouped; making their way in and around the front door, they watched the field and stood at the ready for William’s sign.

He raised a fist with his thumb on the side, signaling patience for further instruction.

The smoke had grown to overtake all visible parts of the field and surrounding area, only the house and the bright floodlights of the ships were clear of the thick black cloud.

Rashida called again through the transceiver.

“Echo Touzel awaiting sign, I think we need to adjust plan, the fire is going to draw the target out towards us, Arthur will need extra cover heading out before you sweep. I will escort him. Also you should remember this is barely an under-fire situation so there’s little need to cut me off. ”

Rashida there’s little need to act as my wife now either. William thought.

“Echo Harlow, apologies. You are free to move Lieutenant Ross under our cover.”

“Echo, understood.”


BOOK 1 - CHAPTER 9


Joel coughed.

More accurately, he heaved and groaned through the thick black smog that covered his marred face and coated his fragile lungs.

They put on filtered masks fast enough to avoid inhaling any of the smoke, but their scramble to cover was all I needed. Joel thought. He hiccuped so heavily it burned his oesophagus sorely. Sliding down the wall he leaned against, he laid on the tarp covered mud floor of the hanger. In the darkened and humid garage bay, his only company was tools lining the walls and the blue rusty grain collector parked dead center.

After lighting fire to his field, Joel had made a limping pitiful dash around the backside of the hangar, where he guessed correctly no guards had been posted. There was no backdoor to post a guard at, but from his childhood memories Joel had recalled a small part of the buildings siding where a medium sized person could lift with effort and crouch under and in.

The world was silent and dark around him except for the muffled roar of the growing chemical wildfire and the line of windows at the top of the tall walls letting in small rays of sunlight through the encroaching smoke. He wheezed and thanked his unfathomable luck that he had somehow avoided passing out from the toxic cloud. According to his knowledge anyone who doesn’t pass out from fertilizer smoke is in a position to slowly recover their health. Although he had a greater danger at hand than his breath leaving him.

I can’t afford to rest. Any moment they’ll understand where I ran too and follow my path in.

I’m a cornered animal.

Yet he rested more on thoughts that had waited patiently at the back of his mind for a hopeless moment.

My life has been thrown into the abyss by my father’s rage and there’s no choice I can make to change it.

Tears left his eyes and Joel wondered why it didn’t feel like he was crying, the sensation was only of bleeding from his tired eyes. He had never felt so emptied and alone in his life, and anger beyond all else filled that hole.

I must act. What would mom tell me to do?

As a young boy, Joel understood his father impressed a shortened temper onto him. His mother had seen more in emotions than either of the men did, and taught all she could to Joel to raise him as an honorable person. Joel always thought back to his mother’s gentle wisdom to overcome his anger. He could nearly see a distant moment;

~

Joel stood in a drying puddle as he observed a small bird in it’s nest, seated on a shortened branch of the his mother’s favorite old tree, the nest had been vacated by the hatchings flight aided parents. The rain had spooked them somewhere more secluded, leaving the small animal at the whim of a young boy.

Joel reached out and picked the small creature as he would a ripe apple from a low branch. It flapped and tweeted and protested, but quickly acclimated to the newfound warmth in it’s new fleshy nest. Joel smiled in self satisfied glee.

With no warning a sharp rap cracked at the backside of his skull, the small loud pain was enough to lead him in dropping the hatchling and begin to wail. Again and again and again time and time after the sharp tap returned only during a few seconds. The birds parents had returned and did not hesitate in defending their youth.

Bawling and anxious Joel sprinted away from his assailants and towards his home.

“What has upset you so much my dearest?” His mother asked as he slammed the house door behind him with tears on his eyes, in the metered way that she knew well would calm him almost immediately. He explained to her his mistake and the pain he caused their bird neighbors. Both mother and father sat straight from their leisure and explained to him how important it was to leave animals be.

He was calm but Joel was still confused at why the two eldest birds so quickly attacked him.

His mother thought into how she could best explain such a simple instinct to a young mind. She remembered a nursery rhyme that her closest great aunt had told her as a girl. She stood from the couch her and Elias shared and took the half step to Joel. Leaning on one knee she more closely leveled herself with her son and said,

“Just think Joel, whenever you see an animal and you feel you have the right to control it, remind yourself this. A cornered rat will bite the cat.” She paused and expanded on the meaning she felt closest to. “Any animal in danger will do anything to protect itself, and even more for it’s children.”

Joel realized his mother’s point and hugged her, quietly repeating his fresh and precious knowledge.

“A cornered rat will bite the cat.”

“One in peril will fight like the devil.” Elias interjected, finishing the adage with the second and darker line.

“Eli!” His wife said in moderate reply, using his rare nickname as a way to express an entire conversation of how she appreciated his fatherly silence more often than he gave her. He waved his hand and dismissed her gaze. Joel left the living room up the staircase to his own room in far lighter a mood than he entered the house. Elias turned back to the book Joel’s childhood moment distracted him from. He finished his thought in the quiet between him and his wife.

“I like that part the best; how you told it to me the first time. If the devil exists anyways, I wager he’s most dangerous when he’s afraid.”

~

“If you can stand I would have you do it now.” A harsh male voice called out through the oppressive black haze that overcame Joel’s understanding of the world. He opened his eyes despite the tearing sting in them that insisted he didn’t.

“I ordered you to stand up.” A man stood over Joel in the near darkness of the garage bay. He had a rifle pointed at Joel.

The fire outside had turned from an inferno to a smoulder. It left a waxy scent behind.

Joel slowly obeyed the man’s directions, standing up he left his weapons on the ground where he had fainted and took three pained steps closer to the man, who spoke without hesitation.

“My name is Commodore William Touzel of the fifty-second Royal Division, are you Joel Elias Braam?”

Joel began to shake and held back every muscle in his body that wanted to run.

“I didn’t; I didn’t kill those men, it-”
“Are you Joel Elias Braam?” William repeated with force in his voice.

“Yes.”
“As you are an enemy against the state you are under military trial for the murder of Lieutenant Richard Touzel and other related crimes against His Majesty’s RSF. How do you plead?”

Joel was stricken with grief and failed to hold back familiar tears as he replied.

“I didn’t- kill those men.”

William remained unafflicted by Joel’s pleading. Joel’s vision tunneled and focused on the loaded rifle pointed at him.

“The current trial is not of the murder of Anton MacNevin and Eliot Godfrey. How do you plead in the case of Lieutenant Richard Touzel’s death?” William faltered as he broke formality, his voice became sharp and deeper to match. “He was at the time posted as a gunner in the field property of Elias Braam, your father; if that helps recollect your memory. How do you plead?”

“Your brother?” Joel cut through the air between the men as if it was the last supporting rope to the narrow bridge his life stood on.
William felt a sudden realness to the trigger his left index finger cradled.

Joel closed his eyes and thought back to his dream.

A cornered rat will bite the cat, the one in peril will fight like a devil.

Is it my fate to be a devil?

He opened his eyes and met the gaze of his captor. He saw pain in the man’s eyes, a pain that was like his own; the deep empty feeling of a person near to you being lost.

Joel felt sorry for him.

The standard sized secondary door to the front of the hanger was sharply opened, both men became temporarily blinded by the cutting sunlight that radiated through the dark shroud of dust and smoke surrounding them.

Joel felt his opportunity to pick up a rifle from behind him and hesitated.

“Will why are you not answering your transceiver? How hard can it be to wait out a dead man?” A tall voice came from a short woman standing at the door. She quickly realized what had happened. William motioned to regain control of the situation.

“Commodore Harlow I left my transceiver in the special care of my ship’s cargo hold. As the target is currently of able body and mind I have initiated a military trial. I thought I had ordered you wait with Arthur at the north station for my arrival.”

“I considered your request, you do not order me. I took a transport back from the midship when I heard you ordered both units back to the north station and that you were here with just a pilot. I assumed that you found him alive and had waited for, this.” She replied frankly.

“So I did.”

“Will this is-”
“Against protocol? You know the terms of military trials as well as I do. Richard was my under my command, this is my right as his officer.”
“It’s a mistake. He deserves a fair trial, until he’s been seen in truth we can’t know if he acted out of anything other than self defense.” Rashida said as she finished her slow approach of the two men, standing near and slightly behind William.

“To the abyss with being seen in truth; it’s my right as Richard’s commanding officer to respond however I deem reasonable.” William was nearing yelling but grounded his voice.

“Will look at me.” Rashida ordered with intentional authority.

“You cannot change my-” William said as his eyes turned to his fellow Commodore, his subtle movement and change of focus was enough of a foothold for Rashida as she gripped the barrel of his rifle in one hand and took his collarbone in the other; pinching with the full force of her entire arm on the pressure point within his shoulder. His faltering weapon discharged as all three bystanders heard the familiar anti sound of a black powder explosion and ear ringing silence. In one movement Rashida managed to rip the rifle from Williams startled hands, throwing it away behind her. She then took full control of him; with one hand still around his collarbone, the other straightened by her side  and quickly jabbed from her hip up into his abdomen, knocking the wind out of him and causing him to keel over onto his knees under the force of her grip on his shoulder.

William heaved loudly in an attempt regain his breath.

“Stay where you are!” Rashida yelled at Joel. Quickly she found the wrist binder from her belt and set it against Williams exposed forearm; in an instant the binder wrapped itself around his wrist, sending a specific electrical current that painlessly stopped all movement in his arms.

Difficult as it was, he began to breath again; with thought Rashida spoke to him.

“You are out of line Will; justice, not revenge, is what Richard would have asked for. You know-”

Another explosion of munition sounded, effectively causing each bystander to become deaf to its monstrous echo.

Rashida collapsed to the floor next to her incapacitated husband.

Joel collected his remaining two rifles from the ground, as he ran out the door and past his brother in pain, only one broken thought went through his mind.

Then I am a devil.


To find the true way

When you are lost

Look in

Not out


All doubt

Comes from outside

People tell you sin

Only one voice shows the way


BOOK 2


BOOK 2 - CHAPTER 1


To be continued...

© 2017 Canned Turkey



Author's Note

Canned Turkey
Please be brutal! Constructive criticism is highly appreciated.

My Review

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Featured Review

OMG. This format first of all: IS AMAZING. My self-esteem as a writer has dropped about 10% looking at this beautiful way you put down this writing.

Second: The story and the roll of speech goes smoothly throughout the story.

As for the constructive criticism you asked for: Try using symbolism (or more if you did already.) And make things not so obvious.

Example: I am the Devil.
or
A dark wave of evil washed over me.
And the realization of what I was became
clear...


Posted 2 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Canned Turkey

2 Months Ago

Thank you for your comments!!

I have had a lot of practice in formatting specifically.. read more
Locket Grey

2 Months Ago

Thank you and you are welcome!



Reviews

OMG. This format first of all: IS AMAZING. My self-esteem as a writer has dropped about 10% looking at this beautiful way you put down this writing.

Second: The story and the roll of speech goes smoothly throughout the story.

As for the constructive criticism you asked for: Try using symbolism (or more if you did already.) And make things not so obvious.

Example: I am the Devil.
or
A dark wave of evil washed over me.
And the realization of what I was became
clear...


Posted 2 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Canned Turkey

2 Months Ago

Thank you for your comments!!

I have had a lot of practice in formatting specifically.. read more
Locket Grey

2 Months Ago

Thank you and you are welcome!

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1 Review
Added on August 2, 2017
Last Updated on August 2, 2017
Tags: delta, v, book, 1, rough, draft, science, fiction, crime, thriller, action, sad, fear, upsetting, introspective, poem, poetry, novel

Author

Canned Turkey
Canned Turkey

Ridgefield, WA



About
I am a general artist trying my hand at writing. Please be brutal! I can take criticism :) more..