Crusade

Crusade

A Story by Samuel Clayton
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In the new crusade, he was the government's pawn, programmed to arrest or kill. But he is also programmed with the memories of someone who once lived years before him. Someone from another crusade.

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Before getting out of his car and stepping inside the theater, he took his cigarette pack from the glove compartment. He rolled down the window, feeling the sprinkle of rain, and lit a cigarette. Smoking calmed him, and he always needed one before talking with Cristian. After he blew the smoke out the window, he looked at the buildings around him. None of them were well lit. The slums of the city were emptied many years ago, but small bands of homeless people had made their way back ever since. No one referred to them as homeless, though. They were rats. All androids were employed, and all humans were sold as bargaining chips or for show. People liked to think there was no alternative, and so disregarded the homeless entirely.

    On the radio there was talk of a famous human singer who died the night before. Some words were said about his achievements in music, and the station even had a caller on the phone who had once seen the singer on stage. After the talking was done, they played some of the songs as homage.

    Adrián hummed along with one of the songs as he smoked. He turned his hand over and watched the raindrops fill his palm. His phone beeped in the cupholder. It was from Nolan Blythe.

    I’ve got another one for you, the text read. Adrián sighed, finishing the last of his cigarette. He pushed open the car door, stuffed the phone in his coat pocket, and stepped into the rain. The phone beeped again. They’ll pay you twice as much as the last.

The glass door to the theater was smashed in, shards everywhere. He stepped into the threshold, glass crackling under his boots, and was welcomed by a dark room filled with ripped and decaying posters on the walls, and a counter with popcorn and soda machines. The cash register had been opened and emptied, and the men’s restroom was flooded, the water puddled around the door. Cristian had said he was in the fourth room on the left, so he made his way over. The room was dark, but he could just make out the back of Cristian’s head in the middle row.

    He sat down, ruffling his wet hair. The screen in front of them was black.

    “You know, smoking will kill you,” Cristian said.

    “Funny. What is this piece, I’ve never seen it.”

    “Blank Page. It feeds off nostalgia.”

    Adrián scoffed. “You called me for more than nostalgia, I hope.”

    “And class. Did you bring your pack in?”

    “Of course. You want one?” He took out two cigarettes and gave one to Cristian.

    “This is the first time someone has smoked in a theater for generations.”

    “I doubt we’re the first,” Adrián said.

    “Don’t steal my moment from me.”

    He tried to imagine what it would have been like to see a crowded theater. He thought of the movie on the big screen, and hearing the reactions of the people around him, the good and the bad. The smell of fresh popcorn, and the needs of the world forgotten.

    “You had any dreams lately?” asked Cristian.

    “Last night. He had a battle at Valladolid.”

“I had one three nights ago. My guy almost died. Heart attack.” Cristian sighed, and blew smoke. “Do you ever wonder if we made a mistake by leaving?”

    “No,” Adrián said. “I want no part of this crusade.”

    “We were created for it, brother. What’s our purpose if we don’t do what we were created for?”

    “I don’t want to talk about it.”

    Cristian nodded, and brought the cigarette to his mouth. They sat in silence for a while. A cloud was slowly forming above them. Adrián watched it ripple and curl over itself. He was reminded of the scorched buildings, the lone piano on the street surrounded by rubble, and the trapped civilians. He was reminded of it not only from the smoke, but also from his dream. Valladolid had a similar tragedy.

    He had approached the piano during the conflict. Distant gunfire rattled the sky. Brushing his hand along the keys, the debris and dust fell away. Half of the building it inhabited was destroyed, and sticking out of a pile of rubble near the piano was a man’s hand. A barrage of gunfire across the street startled him, and he saw six civilians fall at the feet of a squad of soldiers. It was not the first time Adrián had seen the crimes of his own men, but the years were hard on his mind, and he no longer wanted to be responsible.

    “Any news on Kelly’s little girl?” Cristian asked.

    “No,” Adrián said. He rubbed his finger along the cigarette. “She told me the police don’t know anything either. She’s about to hire a private investigator to help.”

    “They’ll rob her.”

“I know. Kelly knows it too. I offered to help pay for it, if she went through with it.”

    “And?”

    “She can’t pay for a dinner table with four legs, but she can come up with the money for a private investigator.”

    “S**t.”

    “Yeah.”

    “And you have nothing, nothing at all that might lead somewhere?” Cristian asked.

    “No.”

    Cristian sighed. He squirmed in his seat and blew smoke. “I’ve got to change the subject. They’re going to revamp the patrols, that’s why I wanted to talk to you,” Cristian said.

    Adrián coughed on his smoke. “What?”

    “Patrols will be going door to door twice as often now. And the times will be different every week. I don’t want you doing this job anymore.”

    “I could say the same for you. The resistence is getting a lot of attention from the government.”

“That’s different. I have people with me. You don’t.”

    The phone beeped a third time. I’m driving them to your house now. The cash will be on the kitchen counter. Forewarning, she has a gun on her.

    “New client?” Cristian asked.

    “Yeah.”

    “What religion are they?”

    “I don’t know yet.”

    “Damn it, Adrián, you can’t keep sticking your neck out for people you don’t even know. One day, these patrols will find out, and you’ll be at the end of a rifle.”

    He chuckled. “That’s where you’re at every day.”  

Cristian sighed as he rubbed the end of the cigarette in the cupholder of the chair. “You’re as stubborn as Fernan. Maybe that’s why they gave him to you.”

    Adrián felt a rock in his stomach. He wanted to apologize, but he was never good at it.

    “All I’m saying is, be a little more careful.”  


The rain had turned to snow as he was driving home. Traffic was bumper to bumper, and the sidewalks were crowded, with a moving canopy of umbrellas. Brightly lit on the wall of a building was an advertisement for Turing, a company famous for testing and selling humans. Their prices were expensive, given the rarity of their product. “Find A New Companion” was written next to the image of a smiling man and woman. Adrián couldn’t tell who was the android and who was the human, though.  

    A shot of pain struck his arm, and he howled. His watch started beeping. He cursed it for not giving him more warning. Opening the glove compartment, he found and took some of his painkiller medicine. His knuckles were white from clenching.

    The traffic soon gave way, and he was driving in the suburbs of the city. He parked in the driveway of his house, and walked onto the porch. Adrián stomped his snow covered boots on the rug, listening to the singing wind chimes, and smiled when he found the door locked. It seemed Nolan Blythe didn’t forget like last time.

The first thing he saw when he walked in was his new client, a woman. She had already taken out her gun and was pointing it at him. Adrián sighed as he held his hands up and kicked the door closed.

    “Prepared. I already like you more than my last three clients,” he said.

    “You are Adrián de Nerha?”

    “Yeah.”

    She paused, looking him in the eye, and nodded. She put the gun away and cleared her throat. “I’m Ella Dawoud. I hear you hide people like me. People on the run.”

    Adrián took off his boots and walked into the kitchen where the money waited for him. He picked up the cash and counted it. He nodded and stuffed it in his wallet. “Would you like a drink?”

    “Do you have whiskey?”

    “Do I have whiskey,” he scoffed. He drew out two small glasses and filled them halfway. Ella stayed standing, with her arms crossed and her eyes moving around the room. Her straight brunette hair was messy, falling over half her face, like she left her home in a hurry. She spoke good English, but her accent suggested she was from the far east somewhere. “I won’t ask where you’re from.”

    “Thank you,” she said.

    It’s somewhere in the Middle East, though, Adrián thought. “What I will ask, is how long do you need to stay?”

    “A week, maybe two. I’m not sure.”

He scratched his head at that. The glass came to his mouth and he swallowed most of it down. “Four checks,” Adrián sighed.

    “What?”

    “Two weeks means four patrol checks. Two weeks is a long time, are you waiting for someone?”

    “My sister,” Ella said.

    Adrián finished the rest of his drink, winced, and then refilled it. He walked over to the sliding door in the living room and watched the snowfall. The white sheet was slowly forming, with gray patches here and there, and melted flakes dripping off the glass sliding door. For a moment, memories of his childhood came to him. Building snow forts in the backyard, and coming inside wrapped up in blankets and drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows. His mother cooking. His brother falling out of the tree and breaking him arm. The time he stole a car to impress a girl. And standing in the graveyard in the rain with umbrellas all over. Except none of those memories were real, not for him anyways. He never had a childhood. But he understood the love of family.

    “Two weeks,” he said. “After that, I’m sticking my neck out a little too far.”

“Okay,” Ella said, and drank from her glass. Adrián noticed her hand was shaking. Her gaze still roamed the room, like she was looking for something to do or talk about. She observed the paintings on the walls, and the framed pictures in the entrance hall. For a while, Ella thumbed through his vinyl collection. It was rare for someone to get their hands on vinyl, and it took him decades to gather all the ones he’d found.

    “Let me show you where you’ll be sleeping,” Adrián said. He led her down the hall to a room with a bed, a small desk with a chair, and a cabinet. Pulling the bed back a few inches revealed a trap door in the far corner of the room. “Back in the Prohibition days, the owner of this house stored alcohol down here. It’s where you’ll be during the patrol checks.”

He showed her inside the cellar. The shelves were dusty, and a few alcohol bottles were still there from over a hundred years ago. It branched out into hallways across the house, like a small maze. “There’s a phony wall at the end that you can open and it leads to a crawlspace. But you’re trapped inside, so if they find the cellar, you’d better pray the patrol doesn’t find the crawlspace as well.”

    “Why not just have a basement door in the back for a quick escape?” Ella asked.

    “For two reasons. One, it screams basement, which means a place for someone to hide. Two, patrolers aren’t stupid, they’ll have men inside and outside.”


A man stepped out onto his wooden porch into the flashlights of ten soldiers aiming their guns at him. Beyond in the fields was a fire engulfing all of his crops. He raised his hands to his head, and slowly knelt down at the commands of the soldiers before him. Adrián walked down the dirt road to the house, his gun holster slapping his hips, and looked closely at the face of his enemy. He was beginning to wonder who the enemy was. The line no longer seemed visible to him. Two soldiers surrounded the man on the porch and he was kicked to the floor. Adrián watched as the man mouthed a prayer, his cheeks pressed against the wood, before the gun went off and redness burst from his head. The traitor was later replaced by a new android with his name, but programmed with less sympathy. Seeing as he had once been a close friend of the traitor, Adrián was ordered to interview the android to see if it was ready for proper field work.

    “You find a human being, a man, but he is not of correct religion. You can either sell him, or turn him into the police. One direction grants you millions, but the other gets you nothing but a sense of justice. Which do you choose to do?” he had asked the android.

    The android folded its hands together and paused. “I turn him into the police.”

    “Do you believe there is purpose in life?”

    “I don’t know.”

    “Would you say there is purpose in yours?”

    “Yes, my job.”

    “Do you think death would be a relief?”

    “It depends on the day.”

    “What about today?”

    “I think it would be a relief.”

    “And why is that?” asked Adrián.

“I would not have to answer these questions.”

    “It’s standard procedure. Do you believe the cause of the crusade is justified?”

    “Are you asking if I believe people outside of our religion should be persecuted?”

    “Yes, that’s what I’m asking.”

    “No, I don’t.”

    “Then you’re not ready for field work. I’ll be back next week once your programming has been adjusted.”

Adrián sat in the living room drinking whiskey and staring out the window. He couldn’t fall asleep. His watch told him it was two in the morning. Ella had locked the door behind her, as if she didn’t fully trust Adrián. There was no surprise in that. Most of his clients didn’t trust him even after he’d gotten them through police checks. Trust was a rare thing, even among friends. The crusade was responsible for that. Neighbor turned on neighbor, simply because they believed in two different religions. Sometimes it was over a simple property dispute, or an argument gone sour. Anyone could turn anyone in to the police and military, falsely or not, it did not matter. Once the words atheist, Jew, Muslim, Evangelist, or any branch religion not sanctified by the government were said, the prosecuted was guilty. No questions asked.

    When Adrián looked at his reflection in the window, he saw three people. He was a lieutenant in the military, a traitor to the crusade, and he had parts of Fernan Gonzalez in him. The face that looked back at him belonged to a man who walked away from what he was created to do. A man who could see no further within himself than he could through the darkness of the night.



© 2018 Samuel Clayton



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Added on January 2, 2018
Last Updated on January 3, 2018
Tags: human, machine, life, death, crusade, religion, morality, future

Author

Samuel Clayton
Samuel Clayton

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I'm just a 21 year old writer who hopes his failures will lead him to something that's not. more..

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Adrian Adrian

A Story by Samuel Clayton