Day 8, early evening
It was odd being picked by Andy to be the leader of the young guns, even if that was (at least for now) an informal title. Ryu certainly seemed more than capable of filling the role, and lord knows John could do it if he didn’t have his hands so full with designing and working on the emerging town center. I don’t know what exactly he has in mind for us, but I’d be willing to place money on Col. Stuart being able to form a fighting force more than capable of taking the goonies on, on our turf or theirs.
After getting back and talking with Andy at Hanna’s I joined the rest of the gang outside. So far the troop consisted of myself, Em, Liza, Summer, May, Ryu, Mike and Kaye. John was sort of borderline – if the pace of construction ever slackened I’d guess he’d join up too, so to speak. There were a couple other teens around as well, but so far they seemed to be keeping to themselves.
They were all backslapping and joking, even if most of them hadn’t ever had muscles this sore. Ryu and Summer seemed to be fine, and Kaye was all right, but the rest were definitely worse for the wear. No one seemed to mind though. This group seemed to be taking the move to Alchibah better that most of the colonists, but even so this was something else. They were doing better than just getting by out there, and actually having fun now that they were back. Yup, this crew was going to turn out just fine, and be friends besides.
“So he picked you to lead, Jai.” Emily said, joining me a bit apart from the group. “There’s more to you than meets the eye, and a lot more to your background than I’ve heard.” I started to reply but she motioned me quiet. “I don’t need to know now, or ever, but if you want someone to talk to I owe you a secret or two. I just wanted to let you know that.” She turned to move back to the group.
I touched her shoulder. “I’m ready. Or maybe not. It’s time, either way. Come on.” I started towards my tent.
Ten minutes later
I had taken off my gun and my boots, but I was if anything less comfortable. I think I was right about it being time for me to tell someone, but I certainly wasn’t sure if I was ready. But then, I might never be. So I started.
“Alright, so I’ve never told anyone all of this. No one. Not even Sin knows the whole story.”
I met her eyes. All she said was, “I know. I won’t,” and I knew she would never tell anyone. I started.
“My grandparents were killed in the ‘Boston Riots,’ along with both of my aunts. Dad and Gabe were there too, but they both made it. Gabe got hit full on by one of the new zap guns they were testing, but he’s just so goddamn big it just didn’t matter that much. Dad got half a blast on his side big enough to leave a basketball sized scar, but it wasn’t fatal.” I paused. “My mom wasn’t so lucky.” Emily gently put a hand on my arm. I almost flinched. I rushed on.
“They closed the border to Vermont after that, but Uncle Gabe managed to get Dad back to a hospital near home. He took care of us for the next couple weeks while Dad was recovering. Not that he wasn’t in bad shape too, but Gabe’s been shot more times than most target dummies, so he managed. Dad was…different, after that. He loved mom more than I can imagine. Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde – like that. He’s never stopped wearing the ring, and he’s never stopped carrying a picture of her.” She took my hand in both of hers. I closed my eyes. “He would have destroyed himself if it wasn’t for us. I-I don’t understand what they had, I just can’t wrap my head around it, but people who find that kind of love shouldn’t be forced to live without it.” A tear rolled down my cheek, and then another. Damnit, I wasn’t supposed to cry. Not now, not ever. Not even in front of Emily.
But maybe it was time. Maybe it was all right, after all this time.
“If you don’t want to go on you don’t have to,” Emily said quietly. “It’s alright. I…” I waved her quiet.
“No, I need to do this. I need to finish it.” I said, wiping my eyes. “So…A couple weeks after Dad was back on his feet Gabe disappeared. I mean literally vanished. Didn’t take so much as his truck, and all he left was a one sentence note – ‘I love you all. -Gabe’ Four months later the first of our extended family died – a ‘car accident.’ The next ‘committed suicide’ and the next got a bad case of ‘food poisoning.’ The last one, my cousin, who had already gone underground, was an out and out assassination.” My voice had taken a steely note to it. “We didn’t find out about that one until later.”
“Jesus,” she breathed.
“Yeah. And he was in Vermont – all the others had been in WG territory. That’s the reason we hadn’t left yet. We weren’t sure if there was something going on or if our family was just having a really bad run of luck, but either way we never thought they’d enter a sovereign nation. Missed that call. A day after (although we didn’t know it at the time) my cousin was killed we got a call from Gabe. I don’t know exactly what he said to my dad, but he was only on the phone for about ten seconds when there was a bang on the other end and the line went dead. We grabbed a few things and threw them into the car…but we weren’t fast enough,” I finished, quietly. She reached out and silently wiped away the one tear that had escaped.
“I- I don’t know what would have happened if we had made it out in time. I don’t think they would have…that they would have burned…Oh god,” I sobbed. I could still hear the horses’ frantic whinnies coming from the barn and the dogs last shrill yelps as they were gunned down trying to protect us. I buried myself in Emily’s shoulder, sobbing.
“It’s alright. It’s going to be alright.” She just held me. It felt so good to finally be able to let it out. I told her the rest of my story; how we went into hiding, how when Dad realized I wanted to fight the WG so badly I was going to kill or be killed no matter what he did he took me to join Gabe in order to save my life, all the rest.
When I was done I just stayed there, letting her comfort me. It was good not to have to be strong, even just for a few hours.