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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/2154455
by Ersa
Rated: 13+ · Novel · Sci-fi · #2154455
The path of two different people cross and a spark happens. (Part 1 of 10)
Ch 1: Commander Mordred
[ENERGY LEVELS: 100%
MEMORY CAPACITY: 100%
CANNON CHARGE: 100%
CERBERAL PROCESSING: 100%
PHYSICAL FUNCTIONS: 100%
RECHARGE COMPLETE]

Once his system check finished running, Mordred opened his eyes and sat up. His HUD told him it was 6:30 AM, the same time he woke up from recharge every day. He swung his legs over the edge of his bed and stood up. With a simple clap of his hands, the lights flickered on.
Despite being the Commander of The Force, second only in power to Lord Auburn himself, Mordred’s room only contained his bed, a desk, and a wooden chair. He didn’t need anything else. A small bathroom stood to the right of the bed. He walked into the bathroom, took off his uniform, and stepped into the shower.
"Run sanitation program,” he ordered.
A stream of water at exactly room temperature and disinfectant hit him. He closed his eyes and let the program cycle through. The whole process only took four minutes.
“Run the drying program.”
The air from the giant dryer that came through the wall whipped through his dark hair, drying it in no time. Mordred stepped out of the shower and put his uniform back on. He checked in the mirror to make sure his hair was all in its proper place. Honestly, Mordred did not care about his hair. He was the Commander of the Force, so his looks did not factor into his job. But Lord Auburn insisted on it not looking like “a rat’s nest”, so he checked it every day for his Master. He would do anything his Master said, even if he did not understand his reasoning.
Thus was the morning routine of Mordred, cyborg commander of The Force, Lord Auburn’s unbeatable army and enforcement squad. It had been his morning routine for seven years. He did the same exact thing every day, at the same exact time. His Master would no doubt be pleased by this consistency.
Mordred stepped out of the bathroom, straightening out his uniform. Leaning next to his bed was pretty much the only thing he owned, his one-of-a-kind light blade. So far, it was the only weapon that used solid light. There were plans for more, but they had a problem with it getting so hot that human skin could not handle it. Morderd’s synthesized skin could though. He picked up the sheath and attached it to his belt and headed out of his quarters. He met Sergeant a little down the hall.
“Commander, sir!” The man saluted him. He had served him ever since he could remember. The Sergeant was older than him by at least a decade, but from what Mordred had observed, the man didn’t seem to mind that.
“Sergeant,” he simply greeted, “What is on the schedule for today?”
“There is a cadet graduation ceremony in the afternoon, but other than that, nothing seems to be going on.” The Sergeant was a reliable and responsible man. Mordred never had to ask him to do things twice and sometimes, he did things before Mordred even ordered them done. He was wholly dedicated to Lord Auburn too.
“Any news on the Rebels?”
“Intelligence has nothing to report on them.” The Sergeant scoffed. “Maybe they’ve finally gotten it through their thick skulls that there’s no way they can win and have given up.”
Mordred did not share the Sergeant’s optimism. True, the Rebels had not attacked for three weeks, but three weeks gave them plenty of time to prepare for another attack.
“We must always be prepared to move out on a moment’s notice all the same.”
“Of course, Commander.”
They walked down the hall in silence for a few minutes. The Sergeant cleared his throat, attracting Mordred’s attention. That was not a habit that the Sergeant had.
“Sergeant, are you falling ill?”
“No, not at all! My throat just got a bit dry, that’s all. Commander, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”
Mordred pulled a page from his Master’s book. “You should know by now, Sergeant, that there are no such things as personal questions, just questions.” That was something Lord Auburn told the press constantly.
“Anyways Commander, some of the men and I were just wandering what you do in your spare time. You know, when we aren’t fighting Rebels or other military duties.”
“Why do you want to know?” Of course Mordred was aware of the soldiers’ curiosity of him. After all, he was the only one that was considered a cyborg in the army and humans were naturally curious creatures, which got them into trouble. At least, that was what Master Auburn said. Mordred was not capable of drawing any conclusions like that.
“We’re just curious, that’s all. You’ve been in Lord Auburn’s employee for seven years, yet none of us really know anything about you.”
Mordred simply kept on walking. It didn’t take the Sergeant long to figure out that this question, like many others often asked to the cyborg, would go unanswered. They stepped into an elevator and began to descend.
“Sergeant.”
“Yes sir?”
“Gather a squad of men. We are going to patrol around the city.”
While Mordred ordered patrols of the city, affectionately known as the Capital among the country’s citizens, he rarely went on these routine missions. He had a sneaking suspicion that the men used it as a time to play around and slack off. He also wanted to go in hopes of finding something that had to do with the Rebels and their current location, since somehow, once again Intelligence seemed to have lost track of them.
“Yes Commander. Are we patrolling any particular area?”
“Yes, the housing district. It has been a while since anybody has patrolled that area.”
“Very good, sir. I’ll gather the men.”
“Meet me in the bay in fifteen minutes. If that is not enough time, for you I can always give you a little more.”
“That’ll be plenty of time, Commander.”
Mordred stepped off the elevator once it reached its destination. The Sergeant stayed on, traveling to the barracks. While he waited for him, he chose a patrol vehicle and checked the supplies. They had ample supplies for a short jaunt through the housing district.
He briefly wondered if he should inform his Master about his plans. Lord Auburn had made it clear several times that he did not care about the little movements of the troops, especially in the Capital, but Mordred usually never went with those troops. After a bit of thinking, he concluded that if his Master truly needed him, he could always reach him through his special com.
The special com was his Master’s idea, a sort of “shortcut” straight to each other as he had explained it. He didn’t use the com often, so Mordred had learned that if it started blinking, that the Master had something of the upmost importance to discuss with him and to meet him in his own personal quarter; a place no one, not even the most elite troops were allowed in, aside from Mordred and a few high ranking officers. Mordred, of course, had a regular com he used for everything else.
The Sergeant came back with a dozen other men, two of which Mordred could tell were fresh from basic training. Even though they wore helmets that completely covered their faces, he could tell they were staring at him. It didn’t bother him, he was used to it. Many of the drill sergeants and other upper military personal liked to tell the cadets stories about him to get a scare out of them. Mordred couldn’t comprehend why they insisted on doing so, but most cadets seemed to recover from their fears once they met him. These would be no different.
“Are we ready to depart, Sergeant?”
“Sir yes sir!”
He looked out over the group.
“Remember, we are simply patrolling the housing district. Do not fire your weapons unless ordered so by myself or the Sergeant. I do not expect anything to happen, but one always has to be prepared.”
“Sir yes sir!”
He nodded at the group’s response and climbed into the vehicle. The Sergeant took the driver’s seat and pulled out of the docking bay. The two cadets in back took to gossiping, mainly about him. Mordred thought about informing them that, due to his cyborganic augmentations, he could hear every word they said. He decided against it, figuring that they would learn that the rumors were untrue and what his augmentations entailed.
When they arrived to the housing district, most people had already left for work. The people that were still there ignored them, used to soldiers patrolling the area. Mordred remembered when people used to be astonished whenever he chose to show up, but they eventually got used to him coming with the patrols once and a while too.
“Sergeant, take the men and go through the Alpha,” he ordered as he climbed out, “I’ll take this sector.”
“Commander, are you sure you want go by yourself?”
“Sergeant, I am capable of patrol myself. If anything comes up, I will call for your assistance.”
The Sergeant simply nodded and drove off. Mordred walked. His HUD beeped and he glanced at the nearest alley way. When he didn’t see anything immediately, he switched to his infrared vision. Somebody was hiding beside the trashcan. He primed his arm cannon and held it out toward the trashcan.
“I have infrared sensors. I can see your body heat.”
A man in a very ragged brown coat and black beanie came out with his hands up.
“Don’t shot!”
A quick scan showed the man unarmed.
“Who are you?”
“I’m just a homeless man looking for a meal. You wouldn’t happen to have any spare change on you to help a poor old beggar like me?”
“I am afraid not.” Mordred put down his canon. “You may go about your business now, sir.”
The man stared at him for several more moments before running off. Mordred watched him disappear into another alley way before going over to the trashcan. On the side were the he had been sitting, there was a chalk drawing of a badger, the symbol of the Rebels. No doubt the man had been tasked by the Rebels to help spread their symbol in order to catch more people’s attention. There was no need to pursue him. The Rebels probably would not give him what they promised him anyways, if they bothered to show up. They tended to be double crossers like that. He rubbed it off, getting chalk on his sleeve. With that job done, he continued on his solo patrol. Three hours of looking for any more signs of Rebels turned out to be futile. He rendezvoused with the Sergeant and the squad.
“Commander, did you find anything?”
“I found a Rebel sign, but I did not find anymore.” He hopped into the vehicle. “Sergeant, take us back to the base.”
As soon as Mordred sat in the vehicle, his HUD flashed the word INCOMING and his alarm rang.
“Everybody out!” he ordered, jumping out and dragging out the person closest to him, one of the cadets.
His audio sensors cut off as the vehicle exploded behind him. Metal went flying, spreading out over a wide area. Once he concluded that the explosion was over, he looked around and his audio sensors came back on. His infrared vision kicked on in order to help him see through the smoke that resulted from the explosion of the vehicle.
A group of six people approached them through the smoke. Most of his men were still down, either stunned or unconscious, so Mordred started shooting. The figures avoided his fire, leaving him to conclude that they also had a device to aid them in seeing through the smoke. After another few shots missed, he whipped out his light blade and charged toward the figure nearest to him.
A cackle of electricity sparked through the air. He barely had time lean back and dodge out of the way as the weapon struck out toward him, aiming for his head. It passed a hair above his face, sparking and crackling. It was an electro-staff, pretty much the only thing that his light blade could not cut through, and the one weapon he had trouble defending against the most. He could dodge lasers all day, but when it came to an electro-staff, he found himself at an extreme disadvantage.
A normal person could get hit by the staff and still be able to fight, all be it not without any pain. Whenever he got hit by the staff, his systems would go completely out and it would take them a few minutes to reboot, leaving him completely vulnerable and unable to move. That was an unacceptable position for him to be in, ever.
Mordred swung his blade up, blocking the next strike from the electro-staff. Now that the smoke had somewhat cleared, he deactivated his infrared. He could clearly see the Rebel in front of him. All the details about the Rebel, from the mask he wore on his lower face, the black, sleeveless shirt he wore, the thick gloves that protected him from the effects of the electro-staff, the black cargo pants with a million pockets, to his black beret with a badger on it, were stored in his memory for further analysis. He was forced to jump back as the Rebel swept his weapon in a wide arch.
“If you weren’t a machine, I’d say you were afraid of this,” the Rebel stated, rotating the weapon in his hands.
It wasn’t unusual for a Rebel to try to bait him with a comment about the lack of his humanity, as if somehow the comment actually insulted him. He knew that he was not human, so why constantly repeat it? It was like calling a dog a dog and expecting the dog to bite for it.
“You have attacked members of the Force openly and in a civilian area. That is not usual Rebel way.”
The man fighting him trembled, not out of fear, but out of the emotion that Mordred recognized as anger. His eyes narrowed at him.
“We’re going to tear you apart and sell you for scrap!”
Mordred held his blade out.
“We?” He didn’t see any of the other Rebels helping him.
Obviously the Rebel had mistaken his question as a gesture to charge at him, staff twirling. He had barely run a couple of steps when he was assaulted by laser fire. He fell onto Mordred, bleeding and gulping his few last breathes.
“I meant that as a valid question. If you had been paying more attention to your troop and less on fighting me, you would have seen that my men had already beat yours.”
“Y-you s-son of a…” The Rebel’s hand went into his pocket before Mordred could stop it, pulling out a thermal grenade. “At least I-I’ll take y-you with me…”
“You idiot!” the Sergeant exclaimed, “If you press that, you’ll take out the buildings too!”
“So be it.”
As soon as his finger jammed down on the button, Mordred slapped it up as hard as he could. The grenade traveled up, exploding a few seconds later. The explosion hit a nearby building’s upper floor, causing debris to fly everywhere. He pushed the Rebel off him, who finally drew his last breath, avoiding metal that flew toward him. Once debris stopped falling, he looked around.
“Report in!”
“I’m okay,” the Sergeant buzzed in on his com, “Simmons and O’Malley are alright too.”
“Is anybody else able to answer?”
His com buzzed in silence for a little bit.
“Can… can anybody hear me? I’m trapped under a bunch of rubble and I can’t move…”
It didn’t take Mordred long to locate the soldier and dig him out.
“Sergeant, call for a med-evac,” he commanded as he pulled the soldier out of the rubble, “We have injuries.”
“Yes sir!”
Mordred pulled the soldier’s helmet off in order to help him breath better.
“Commander… thank you,” the man gasped, “I owe you my life…”
He walked away, going to see if he could find any more of the squad that might be buried under the debris.
By the time the med-evac came, he had unburied all the people he could find. Three of the men that came with him were dead, four were injured and would be unable to serve for a while, and three had minor injuries. The Rebels had fared far worse. Only one had survived, and just barely. There was no telling if they would even live long enough to be questioned.
Mordred supervised the procedure. The Sergeant, who had his helmet off and a bandage wrapped around his head, stood next to him.
“That’s the last time I listen to anything Intelligence says,” he sighed, “Since when do Rebels attack in civilian heavy areas and with something a destructive as a thermal grenade?”
“Those Rebels were also wearing uniforms which I have never seen them do before. I will discuss all of this with Lord Auburn.”
“If you need to do that, then go ahead. We’ll continue the search and see if some civilians happened to get caught in the cross fire.”
“Very good, Sergeant.”
The Sergeant saluted before walking away. Mordred headed to an extra vehicle the med-evac people had brought and stepped. He had one foot in when he heard a noise. He stepped out of the vehicle and looked around. His infrared vision revealed someone in a nearby trashcan.
This time, he forewent the warning and rushed over, popping up the trashcan lid, and reached in, pulling out whoever had taken shelter there.
“By the order of Lord Auburn, I place you under arrest for the crime of rebellion against the government…”
He found himself thrown forward into the wall before he could finish his sentence. He righted himself and looked at his assailant. The first thing he noticed was that she was not dressed like the Rebels who had attacked them. She was, in fact, just in ordinary civilian clothing. She stood with her fists up, trembling slightly.
“Don’t touch me!” she exclaimed, voice trembling for only a second, “I might not look like much, but I can pack a punch.”
Mordred raised his hands, showing her that he was not armed. He had taken his cannon off in order to use both hands to help evac the wounded. Although he had no emotions himself, he could identify them on other people quite well and even logically deduce the reason for their feelings in most cases. This young… girl, woman, she looked like a teenager, was obviously frightened of him since he had handled her in such a way.
“I mean no harm to you,” he stated, “I thought that you might be a Rebel hiding. We were attacked earlier, so I did not want to take a chance.”
She eased her stance a little.
“I didn’t realize you were part of the Force. I don’t normally make it a habit of throwing people into walls…”
“No, the error was mine. Why were you in the trashcan?”
The girl set her jaw and glared at him.
“It’s really none of your business. If you excuse me…”
As she went to pass by him, he grabbed her arm. He suspected it had only been easy because she hadn’t been expecting it.
“I was not finished speaking to you. What were you doing in the trashcan?”
“Fine, if you have to know the reasoning behind every single thing I do, then I’ll tell you if you let go of my arm. You’re crushing it.” He obliged, even though he knew that the way he gripped her arm had been nowhere near the force of crushing the bone underneath. “Thank you. I was taking cover from that attack earlier.”
“You saw the attack?”
“Only the very beginnings of it. It’s not too smart to stand out in the open when things are exploding and lasers are flying everywhere, you know.”
Mordred saw no flaw in that logic. It would have indeed been unwise of her not to take cover. Still, something told him that she wasn’t telling him the whole story. He was very good at telling if people were hiding something and this girl showed all the signs, avoidance of eye contact, constant shuffling, eyes looking for a quick way out.
“I see. If that is all, then you would not mind if I took you to HQ so we can take down your account.”
His HUD showed an increased heart rate from her.
“Can’t we do it here?”
“We do not have the proper recording equipment here. Is there a reason you do not want to go to HQ?”
The girl took off running. He chose not to pursue her. There was no need. She was not a Rebel, and she had been doing nothing illegal. Still, she was up to something. He saved her face in his memory banks just in case as he walked back to the vehicle, climbed in, and departed.
Once back at HQ, his com started blinking. A quick trip in the elevator landed him on his Master’s floor. As he pressed his hand to the bio scanner and another machine did a retinal scan, he thought back to the girl.
He couldn’t figure out why, there was nothing really special about her, except her red hair, but Mordred did not care what color hair she had. He scoured through his memory banks, trying to see if he had seen her before and his mind was just reminding him of her. The search came back negative.
As the door to his Master’s quarters opened, Mordred pushed the girl to the back of his mind. He could always ponder later on why his memory banks felt the need to remind him of her again. He brushed some dirt off his jacket and stepped into the room. Lord Auburn would complain if he stepped into his quarters dirty like that.
Auburn never considered himself an old man, despite his white hair and his age hitting into the upper sixties. After all, what was that saying? Seventies were now the new twenties? Not a wrinkle lay on his face, and he had a clean bill of health from his physician on all accounts. True, he had a cane, but he really didn’t need it to assist him in standing or walking, using it more for aesthetics purposes, and the occasional beating he found himself administrating.
He had been observing the Capital skyline when the door to his quarters hissed open. In the reflection from the glass, he could see Commander Mordred enter.
“Master.”
The cyborg saluted him.
“Commander. I believe you know why I have summoned you here,” he stated, not even bothering to turn around. “I want a report of what exactly happened during that attack.”
And Mordred did so. During the course of the report, Auburn found his way to what could’ve been considered his throne, but was more like a leather office chair. When Mordred finished, he sighed, gripping the silver handle of his cane.
“This is disturbing news indeed, Mordred. It sounds like they were waiting to ambush you.”
“It did seem that way. It is odd that they knew where I would be, seeing as how I had not planned on going on the patrol until this morning and only a select few knew about it.”
“We must face facts. There may be a traitor somewhere within the Force. I want everyone who was either on or knew about that patrol thoroughly investigated.”
“Yes sir.”
“And tell Intelligence to do their job this time or I may have to make some personnel changes.”
Mordred curtly nodded.
“Sir, are you not worried about the actions that the Rebels took during the encounter, like the grenade and the attack in the housing sector? They have never attacked where people may possibly be before and they have certainly never made such a suicidal move like the one with the thermal grenade did.”
Auburn sighed.
“They are showing their true colors, Mordred. It’s as simple as that. They could never gain any public support, so now there are dropping all pretenses of being “freedom fighters” and the “people’s champions”,” he spat out the phrases, “And have finally revealed themselves as the terrorists that they’ve always have been. Increase the number of patrols done a day, strictly enforce curfew, and increase security around the Government buildings.”
“It will be done.”
“One more thing, Commander. I wanted you to attend the graduation ceremony this afternoon. I have a feeling that the Rebels might try something at such a public event.”
“Yes sir.”
Mordred walked out to do his Master’s bidding.










Ch 2: The Red Head
She remembered the day the “case worker” came to their humble abode to deliver the “good news.”
The woman in the business suit smiled. Taylor blinked, perplexed by this strange, non-blinking, teeth-showing, smiling lady who had rung the doorbell.
“Can I help you, ma’am?”
“Aren’t you just the most adorable little thing?” the woman pinched her cheeks. She took a large step back. “And so polite too. Is this the Lockheed residence?”
“Yeah…”
The woman brushed passed her without even being invited in.
“Ma’am, who are you?”
“My name is Judy. I am caseworker all the way from the Capital.”
“A caseworker, all the way out here?” That wasn’t good. Caseworkers rarely were sent out this far from the Capital. According to Auburn, the only people worth special attention were either from the Capital or Rebels. She hoped that they didn’t think her family was the latter.
Judy didn’t seem to hear the question as she observed the living room before sitting down on the couch.
“Well, this place is… quite rustic.”
Sure, the house had been built fifteen years ago, but it was hardly what Taylor would call rustic. All the appliances were up to date and most of the technology was too. She closed the door and sat in another chair.
“If you say so, Ms. Judy. Are you here to talk to my parents? Sorry, but they’re not home right now.”
“Are you Taylor?”
“Yes…”
“Then I have very good news for you.”
Good news, from a caseworker from the Capital? There were just too many things wrong with the sentence to count. None the less, Taylor didn’t run out of there even though she wanted to. It wouldn’t do any good.
“Yes, Ms. Judy?”
“You are aware of the Vocational Program that recently went into effect for this region, correct?”
“Everyone’s heard about it.” And complained about it too. Who wanted to go all the way to the Capital to work?
“Congratulations, Taylor, you are one of the first to be inducted into it. We leave first thing tomorrow morning and you’ll have the start of you career by the end of the week.”
“Wait, what?”
--
She shook her head as she continued to walk down the street, hands in her pockets. That had only been three days ago. Needless to say, her parents weren’t thrilled about it, despite what a great “honor” it was to be accepted into the program (despite the fact that she signed up for no such program). For all intent and purposes, she was being moved from her home to a place where the Government would become her new family so she wouldn’t have a reason to rebel.
“Pah, rebel? The most rebellious thing I ever did was have dessert instead of dinner once when my parents were gone,” she murmured to herself, “What makes me different from all my peers? All the smart ones just purposely bombed their test, which I should’ve done. But, would’ve it made any difference? I don’t know, and I honestly don’t care.”
To say that Taylor Lockheed was out of place in the Capital would be an accurate statement, yet a great understatement at the same time.
Taylor, nineteen years of age, was not from the Capital like most of the residents. In fact, she had never been to the Capital in her life. She was from the very southern tip of the country, far away from Lord Auburn’s watchful gaze, where the citizens often bent the laws. He merely allowed this to happen since he couldn’t afford to put many troops that far away. Plus it seemed like that this give and take was the one thing preventing them from fully rebelling. The last thing he needed to deal with was a rebel group who’s HQ was several hundred miles away. But he reminded them who was the boss once and a while, like the most recent Vocational Program.
As to why this particular Southerner was even the in Capital, well, it was actually Auburn’s doing, or at least a program he had passed. It was intended to bring those of certain IQ and personality type under the watchful eye of the Government so that they wouldn’t be able to gather an army or form some type of movement against Auburn. The program worked, for the most part. Those who were in it were given jobs that would keep them occupied and content so they wouldn’t even want to think about rebellion. And the kicker? Those people knew that the program was designed to accomplish that, yet they didn’t seem to care.
Taylor was determined to stay out of that vicious cycle no matter what.
The first day that she had arrived in the Capital, Ms. Judy showed her to the apartment where she would stay and begin the rest of her life. She wondered if the caseworker knew that it was more like ending her life than beginning it. Once she left, Taylor deposited the com she had received into the trash can and didn’t even bother unpacking. She spent the remainder of the afternoon coming up with a plan.
The second day, she went out as people went to work and school. She had tried to strike a conversation and ask a few questions with the people who lived in the complex with her, but she was ignored. She had heard the words “unlearned” and “non-conforming” whispered whenever she walked away, so she determined that she would need to go elsewhere for information.
No one was out, at all. All day, she searched, but no one turned up. She returned home and ate dinner, before heading straight to bed. It wasn’t like there was anything else to do.
Today, she found herself wandering once again. As before, the streets were completely deserted.
“All right, time to enact my “become a hobo” plan. It’s better than turning into a sheeple, although I will miss the bed, the warm water, plumbing… This is a terrible plan, I can already tell.”
Despite all her walking, she seemed to be stuck in the housing district. The phone Ms. Judy had given her had a map in it, but she didn’t want to risk them tracking her location. Not a piece of technology was on her, only some money in her pocket.
She sighed as she walked down an alley way. The Capital, she had noticed, had very clean streets, despite having so many people live there, no doubt a result from the Vocational Program providing street cleaners.
Also, she had seen no grass or trees, just tall, metallic buildings that stretched forever into the sky. Most large cities which were not the Capital at least had a park and trees scattered about. This place was more barren that even the most western part of the country.
“No wonder the people who live here don’t have souls.”
“I’ll drink to that, Miss.”
A voice startled her out of her rant. Casting a glance to the side, she spotted a man in a raggedy coat and black beanie. He held a piece of chalk in his hand. In his other, he held a bottle of something. Taylor stopped and stood in front of him.
“I was beginning to think everyone was gone.”
“Oh, there are a few people around here that don’t go into work until later and there’s a group of us homeless people that hang out in the sewers in our own little community.” He cracked a small smile. “You’re a Southerner, aren’t you?”
“My accent is a dead give-away, isn’t it?”
“That’s nothing to be ashamed about. This place could use a bit of diversity from the usual drones that dwell in this hellhole.”
For a minute, she questioned her sanity in doing so, but she went and sat down next to the man.
“Perhaps you can answer my questions; no one else seemed to be interested in them.”
He took a drink from his bottle.
“Are you kidding? I love answering questions! That was my job, until seven years ago that is.”
“What did you used to do?”
“I used to be a professor at a local university.”
“What’d you teach?”
“Philosophy.”
She made a face.
“Ugh, no offence, but I’m glad I didn’t take that class.”
“It’s alright. It’s not for everyone.” He held his hand out. “Everyone just calls me Socrates, although I don’t really adhere to his teachings. I think it was one of the only philosophers that people remember.”
“Taylor Lockheed from Kamarra, Gabor.” She took his hand and shook it. “You honestly don’t look like a Greek Philosopher. You don’t have the beard or the bed sheet.”
“No, I don’t.” Socrates glanced at his bottle. “I’d offer you some, but I don’t want to spread germs and I’m pretty sure that you’re underage.”
“So let me guess, when Auburn took over you were cut because your subject was an unnecessary one?”
“No, I and some of the other professors got cut because we didn’t agree with Auburn. As far as I know, the school still has Philosophy; it just doesn’t cover them all.”
She nodded. Even in Kamarra, the education system didn’t seem to be as informative as it had been five years ago, before what was known now as the Southern Sector had been annexed into the country.
“One question, Socrates. Yesterday, I didn’t see anybody after quitting time. Why is that?”
“They all go to the Entertainment Mile to have dinner and fun.” He shook his head and let out a weary sigh. “Bread and circuses at its finest, most effective state. If you don’t mind me asking, what are you doing here, in the Capital?”
“Vocational Program,” she huffed, shifting a little, “I’d rather be a hobo.”
“I see.”
“By the way, what’s with the chalk?”
“Oh this? I’m drawing a badger on trash cans for the Rebels for some cash.”
“I’ve heard of the Rebels. Can’t really say I like them though. They remind me too much of the guerillas that used to be in places in the older days.”
“Not all of them are like that, but they seem to be on the rise. They blame Auburn and the Force for making them result to such tactics, but honestly, they’ve lost sight of their original goal and refuse to admit. I’d just stay away from all of them if I were you. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the good ones from the rotten.”
“Why aren’t you drawing a badger then?”
“I’m waiting for the air to clear. Early, I got caught by a member of the Force.” He sighed. “Luckily for me, it was Commander Mordred.”
She blinked in shock.
“Wait, you mean Commander Mordred as in the cyborg?”
Even as far removed from the Capital as Kamarra had been, everyone had heard of Commander Mordred of the Force. Taylor had never been one to listen to the rumors about him, but she did know that he wasn’t entirely organic. All she knew was that you did not want to mess with him.
“Yep, him.” Socrates took another long drink. “Despite what rumors you might’ve heard about him, he’s more human than most of the ones who serve under him.”
“Is it true that he’s completely emotionless?”
“As far as anyone can tell, yes. But while that lack emotion makes him an effective killing machine if given the order by his “Master”,” he spat the word out as if it burned his tongue to even say that. “That also means he won’t do anything he’s not ordered to, unlike some other members of the Force. Since he had no order to eliminate me and I wasn’t doing anything illegal, he let me go. I shudder to think of what would have happened if it had been someone else.”
“Any advice on how to become a hobo?”
Socrates frowned and gave a short bitter laugh.
“If you were a normal denizen, then I could. But since you’re here with a Vocational Program, they won’t stop until they find you. Although I must admit, you’re the first one I’ve met who’d rather become a hobo than at least give it a shot. If you stay low, maybe they’ll forget about you.”
“I honestly just want to take off for Kamarra, but I have a feeling that would be one of the first places they would check.”
“You’re probably right. I’d offer you a place, but I’m not sure the others would agree. Mostly the Force leaves us alone and doesn’t bother us down there, and the others want to keep it that way. Bringing you might change that.”
Taylor sighed and set her head on her knees.
“I know. I just… This can’t be all I’m good for. If I go along with the program, they’ll probably stick me in some engineering section since I’m good at math. I hate math.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I like… art and drawing, but I want to do things I want to do, not things that the state tells me to do. I’m not a propaganda machine. And I don’t really want to have a job in art. Maybe something like secretary work or something.”
Socrates stood up.
“I wish you the best of luck and look forward to seeing one of your art pieces someday, when things are better. I’m off to draw more badgers.”
“Thanks for answering my questions.”
“Not a problem.” He began walking away. “Oh, and Taylor? If you do get caught, just be yourself. That’s what the state hates the most.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, Socrates. I hope we meet again someday.”
He smiled before slinking off.
Taylor stayed in that spot for several minutes, musing over what she had learned and what she should do. Eventually, she just started walking around again, letting the setting melt away. Normally, she would never allow herself to relax in a strange place, but she figured it was safe enough since barely anybody was around.
What to do, what to do? Trapped in the middle of the Capital with no friends, no future, and the soon to be breathing down her neck Government. This certainly wasn’t what she ever wanted her future to be.
She could remember so clearly five years ago, before then annexation. The possibilities seemed endless. Nothing could stop her. Then the Force rolled in and Auburn came and gave a speech, and then things changed. She was just glad that the change didn’t affect her region as much as it had affected others that had been annexed before them. Things were basically the same, expect for the things that weren’t. Most would admit that it wasn’t the most optimal position to be in, but it was better than it could’ve been.
Suddenly, a noise not too far away caught her attention. Taylor rounded the corner to go check on it until she heard an explosion. Seeking shelter in case debris started flying, she did the first thing that came to mind, diving into a dumpster. Okay, not the most clean or well thought out idea, but people often underestimated the durability of the common dumpster. After all, they were constantly being bashed into by vehicles without taking much damage. It would provide adequate cover. A few minutes later, she heard another explosion and decided to stay in the safety of her dumpster for a bit longer.
Taylor failed to realize that she nodded off until something nabbed her shirt and roughly her yanked out. She quickly reached back, grabbing an arm and shifting her body, so that her mysterious assailant smacked into the wall beside the dumpster. She hadn’t even heard what he was trying to say, being too busy getting whomever it was off.
Her assailant stood back up, not fazed by the contact with the wall. The dark haired man turned around, looking straight at him. Taylor could tell that he was observing her, sizing her up. She raised her fist, letting him know that if he attacked again, that she would be ready for him. Despite the fact that they trembled some, they would still be useful to her.
“Don’t touch me!” she exclaimed, voice trembling for only a second, much to her distaste, “I might not look like much, but I can pack a punch.”
The man raised his hands, as if he were surrendering. She observed him careful and found him unarmed, besides something hanging off his belt. She assumed that it was not a weapon since he didn’t even make a move toward it. Or perhaps he didn’t really want to fight at all. Her heart continued to do a rhumba and her breathing was short and choppy.
“I mean no harm to you,” he stated, “I thought that you might be a Rebel hiding. We were attacked earlier, so I did not want to take a chance.”
She considered his words and then looked at him carefully. He wore a familiar yet unfamiliar piece of clothing, a Force member’s uniform. Since he obviously hadn’t come for a fight and didn’t have any backup around, she relaxed her stance.
“I didn’t realize you were part of the Force. I don’t normally make it a habit of throwing people into walls…”
“No, the error was mine. Why were you in the trashcan?”
She set her jaw and glared at him.
“It’s really none of your business. If you excuse me…”
Taylor began to walk past him. Suddenly, a vice grip seized her arm, stopping her in her tracks. She mentally berated herself for not keeping up her defenses. She expected to be pulled back, but that never happened.
“I was not finished speaking to you. What were you doing in the trashcan?”
This guy was persistent, wasn’t he? She didn’t know why a member of the Force would care so much about why someone was hiding in a trashcan, but for some odd reason, this fellow did.
“Fine, if you have to know the reasoning behind every single thing I do, then I’ll tell you if you let go of my arm. You’re crushing it.”
He obliged.
“Thank you. I was taking cover from that attack earlier.”
“You saw the attack?”
Great, more questions. She just hopped he didn’t ask for her name or what she was doing out instead of being at work, or school in the case that he, like many other people, underestimated her age.
“Only the very beginnings of it. It’s not too smart to stand out in the open when things are exploding, you know.”
He just continued to stare at her, as if his brain took a bit to process the information. She stared at his eyes, noticing that they seemed to be more of a bright neon green instead of a more natural green. Did he have cyber-organic eyes? She had known someone in her home town that was born without an eye and had received an implant that looked exactly like that. This man also seemed to have an incredibly strong grip, despite that fact that he looked no bigger than an average sized man.
It hit her. This was none other than Commander Mordred himself. She hadn’t expected him to look so… human. She started searching for an exit in case she needed to run and began avoiding his gaze. When the staring got to be a bit much, she started shifting her feet in an attempt to keep calm.
“I see.”
Much to her relief, he let go and folded his hands behind his back.
“If that is all, then you would not mind if I took you to HQ so we can take down your account.”
Her heart started to run a marathon.
“Can’t we do it here?”
“We do not have the proper recording equipment here. Is there a reason you do not want to go to HQ?”
She glanced at her exit and took off. Taylor didn’t even stop until she couldn’t run anymore. Since she hadn’t been caught, she figured that Mordred had not followed her.
Now what? Sure, he didn’t know her name, but if he saw her picture, he would more than likely recognize her. It was simple then. All she needed to do was avoid people until the heat was off. A piece of cake. As easy as pie. What was she doing?
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