Modsoldiers: The Beginning of a Novel
Modsoldiers: A military science-fiction story chronicling the private war a group of three genetically engineered super-soldiers who have been in hiding for years after a seemingly inexplicable attempt by their own military to kill them and their families. Their flight eventually turns into resistance and an increasingly bloody campaign to destabilize the power of oligarchy ruling most of the known world.This is the first part of the story now available online for free. Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated even/especially if they are negative.
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It rained. The dark heavy clouds lay like a blanket across the sky over Central City. They poured water down onto the city with such volume that it seemed they concealed some ocean in the sky that had suddenly been unleashed. There was no wind, just water and lightning thundering straight down from the clouds and into the city that covered the earth below.
The cobblestone streets of the poor market district were empty and dark as the deluge forced all reasonable and sane individuals indoors. The city’s streetlamps gallantly fought to illuminate the city as they did every night, but, with no help from the moon or the light from normally unshuttered homes, these lamps only served to reveal buildings and the mysterious empty chasms between them.
Since no one would risk the exposed streets of the city no one could notice the figure crouched on the roof of an inn, even when his form was revealed by the flashes of lightning that burst upon the city. The figure was that of a man his entire being focused on something he gazed at through the window of the inn across the street. If that man had been seen as he crouched down against the slant of that inn’s roof, those who saw would have developed a feeling, deep in their gut, that the man on the roof was unimaginably large in some way they would never completely understand.
The man made no attempt to shelter himself and the rain washed over him unchallenged. Sheets of cold water flowed over his body. The filthy, tattered, and over-worn brown overcoat clung to the man’s form; it did little to protect him from the elements but did much to indicate his status as homeless. The river of water rushing down the roof submerged the man’s feet, flowed through the holes in his boots, poured over his blistering feet, and drained out the front of the boots’ split open toes. The boots had deteriorated since that summer two years ago. He had won a fight over a dockworker’s body and been pleased to discover the dockworker had good boots that were his size.
Even if there had been people out and about that night, the man remained so still that his presence would likely have remained just as unnoticed as it was now. The man was rooted in place against the slanted roof like a piece of worked stone. The man crouched there oblivious not only to how cold and wet he was but to the gnawing, hollow screams of his empty stomach. The man’s mind had no room for such trivialities, only room for the girl asleep in the common room across the street. The man stared and his mind pulsed with a single thought—I’ve found her.
The man refused to smile as he looked down upon the sleeping form of this girl. She was deep asleep; her perfect blond hair flowed around her head and, in the soft light from the warm, cozy common room’s single candle, her hair seemed to glow with some inner golden energy. A low half-grunt emerged from the man; it was certainly her, there could be no mistake. After seven years the man had found her, his sister Elizabeth.
Uncertainty and conflict welled up within the man. He was certain that for the time being his pursuers had lost track of him, but he’d been hunted for too long to relax. Avoiding capture with the girl would be more than twice as difficult as hiding by himself; unlike Ian or the boys the girl would be a liability in a pinch. Even more troubling, the man realized that if he made contact with her she would become as he was—hunted. If they were unable to slip away to an anonymous little town somewhere, she would be thrust into the ugly world he had survived in for the last seven years. To force her to live her life as he had, constantly pursued, hungry, cold, violent, and never safe, would be unforgivable. And yet, he had finally found her; he couldn’t just leave her. He closed his eyes, his first movement in hours. It is decided then; I will fulfill my promise and hope she’d decide seven years wasn’t too late.
The man reopened his eyes and suddenly shot to his feet, whirled around, and, in a flurry of flapping trench coat, bolted across the slick wet shingles of the roof so fast he seemed to fly. In less than a second, the man arrived at the edge of the roof farthest from the inn where the girl was staying. A narrow alley separated the inn the man was on from the one next door. Without pausing, the man leapt towards the wall of the next inn. He hit the wall and sprang back towards the first inn where he grabbed onto a brick that stuck out further from the wall than its brethren. Finally the man let go and dropped the rest of the way to the ground.
Using the same displays of incredible acrobatics, in only a few moments the man was on the roof of the inn housing the girl. He looked at one of the common room’s windows, it was latched. The man grinned to himself; it would take more than that to keep him out. In seconds the window opened and, after making sure everyone was asleep, the man crawled through it and onto the bookcase below. As he delicately climbed down it, he glanced at the array of books on the shelves and idly wondered who ever read books in common rooms and lobbies, he missed reading.
The man looked down at the beautiful golden-haired girl. She had grown, but there was no doubt. He had finally made contact with his sister. After a slight nudge her brilliant golden eyes open to the sight of his scarred and filth-streaked face, a finger held up to his lips indicating the need for silence.
“Erick?” she smiles as she whispers his name, but there is no explosion of excitement and sound. She’s a smart girl. She understands.
At the other end of the common room, a little Jovan boy quietly slips out of his bed. He furtively sneaks to the stairs, and, as he pads down each individual step , he slides a black cell phone from someplace inside his blue stripped nightshirt. A cell phone: high technology that none but aristocrats or the military should have access to.
The little Jovan boy had been selected because he was quiet and good at avoiding notice, but he wasn’t good enough. As his black-skinned form slips out of the room, Erick, watching from the corner of his eye, frowns; the boy must work for them. Erick holds his arm out to the girl, “Come.” She takes his hand and pulls out of bed, slips on her shoes, grabs her uniform and jacket, her only possessions. Quickly, cursing every sound they make, the siblings wind their way down out of the inn.
The siblings emerge from the back door of the inn into an alley. Standing just in front of them, already soaked from head to toe, the little black boy looks up from the cell phone; his finger hovers over the send button. Erick looks at the boy, and the boy looks back at him; they have the same hungry scared eyes. Erick sympathizes; the boy was cold and hungry before they offered him a job; he hadn’t had a choice.
Erick opens his mouth, croaks, “Please don’t.” The little boy turns back towards the phone. In that instant Erick moves, he’s fast. Erick doesn’t blame the kid but his sister is here, now he can’t afford to let others endanger him. In one movement, almost too fast to see, Erick palms the Jovan boy’s bald little black head and swings it down into the hard cobblestone road. Erick is too strong; the boy is too small, the bald little black head breaks. The girl screams a little, and looks at her brother. Erick straightens up and looks down at the little boy he just killed. There is blood more than Erick would have thought.
Erick is a little shocked. He is surprised that over all the years this is the first time he has actually taken a life with his own hands. He hadn’t meant to hit it that hard, but the boy was too small. Erick is a little taken aback, but he is pragmatic and moves on; he has to protect his sister. He goes through the boy’s pockets, taking the phone and what money he finds. It’s not much, but to the boy it would have seemed a fortune.
Grabbing his sister’s hand he promises to explain. She nods; she already knew he would. The two run off into the pouring night. The little black boy is propped up next to the back door of the inn. When he is discovered no one will think anything of it; he’s just one of the little people.
At first the two companions run just to get away. Little apparent attention is dedicated to where they are going. They just need to go. For Erick this urgency is practical in nature; he knows it is only a matter of time before the body of the boy is discovered and the men begin hunting them. Elizabeth, on the other hand, hasn’t given the future a thought; her brother had just killed a boy before her eyes. She couldn’t think; her brain was numb. She just had to get away from that scene and what it represented. Her legs carried her as fast as they could, as though physical distance could block out what she had just seen… The last time she had seen her brother, death had also been present. Now that she has reunited with him, it seems she has also reunited with death. God, how that frightened her.
Eventually they cross over the river by one of the city’s many bridges. By now Erick has a destination in mind.
Elizabeth gradually realizes her brother is leading them somewhere. As they turn one last corner, the buildings end, revealing what looks like a giant wooded hill. A little red wall three feet high stretches away to their right and left, fading into the rains of the night. Directly in front of them, the wall is broken by an arch. Even in her present terrified, harried, and horrified state, Elizabeth is awed by this arch; it looked like a single column of marble that had been woven through and around itself like a wet noodle. For marble to be worked into such an intricate flowing shape… it just didn’t seem possible. As they draw closer to the arch, Elizabeth realizes that it is somehow self-illuminated; something luminescent was woven in with the braids of marble column. Unlike the streetlights of the market district, the light from the arch easily overcomes the darkness around it. A brick path engraved with the intricate symbols of a language Elizabeth has never seen before leads into the park. The siblings run through the arch, down the path, and into a park the likes of which Elizabeth would have thought could only exist in the minds of children hearing fairy tails.
The grass is well clipped and the hedges are perfectly trimmed. At first glance the most stunning feature of the park is its trees; apple trees, weeping willows, cherries and others flourish here. Though it is still pouring rain, in the park it feels like a warm sunny day. Erick and Elizabeth take refuge under the branches of a tree. Erick doesn’t know what kind of tree it is but he knows it’s beautiful. The siblings lean against it and catch their breath. The two of them sit there for a long time without speaking, just enjoying that they have finally found one another.
Elizabeth looks at her brother, her eyes deep. “Where have you been?”
Erick looks over at his sister. She had changed considerably since he had last seen her. Gone was the baby fat that had made her seven-year-old face look chubby, her fourteen-year-old figure just beginning to show signs of womanhood. “Do you remember that night?”
Elizabeth looked away from her brother and gazed up into the thick canopy of the beautiful tree; she remembered the events of that night seven years ago. Her mind drew up those memories again and she spoke reminding herself as she informed her brother what she recalled from the most horrible experience of her life so far. She remembered her panic and confusion as she stood in the middle of a hall slowly filling with smoke, her mother’s screams coming from somewhere behind all of that smoke and chaos. She remembered suddenly being whisked up into her brother’s arms, how warm and solid his arms felt as the world whirled by. She remembered when her brother stopped and set her down. They were outside, just down the lane from home. She remembered turning around and seeing their family’s mansion engulfed in flames, the thick black smoke rising into the sky. In her memories the vision of their home consumed by fire, towered over by the jet black smoke was impossibly big. It was all she could see sometimes. The last thing she remembered from that night was her big brother telling her he was going somewhere. He had sworn he would come back. The next thing Elizabeth remembered was sitting at the bottom of a plush staircase in a different mansion, shivering.
Elizabeth finished, she wasn’t crying but her voice quivered. The two sat against the strong trunk of the tree for a few more minutes in silence. Erick pulled his legs cross legged and bent forward, away from the support of the trunk. His eyes were hidden by shadows.
“I set you down in the lane and told you I would come back. I went back to the house to search for Father.” Just as Elizabeth had been troubled by her memory of that night so too was Erick who swallowed once before continuing.
“Just as I ran onto the lawn I saw Father on the front steps. He was struggling against a grey-uniformed man. This one was different from the others, probably their commanding officer. I sprinted to help him but I was only about a third of the way across the lawn when the officer thrust a saber into Father’s chest. As he collapsed, I saw mother’s body in the house behind him. I… I think I screamed. I don’t quite remember. The next thing I do remember was running away from the bodies of several grey men. I don’t remember how they died; I just remember sprinting away from them down the other lane until I couldn’t see them behind me anymore. I turned back and ran towards where I had left you.
“When I arrived there… you were gone. More grey uniformed men spotted me again and I fled. I went to Uncle’s mansion but the grey men were waiting for me there. I snuck around Westinguard for almost a month trying to find you, but still the grey uniformed men hunted me. Finally I was forced to leave the city. I have been homeless since then, living on the streets and getting by as best I could by thieving and working my way through street gangs. I have laid low since then, but I think even now the strangely uniformed men are still after me.”
Erick looked back at his sister, his eyes guilty still for having failed to return for his sister that night.
“Where did you go Elizabeth? I looked in every manor I thought you might have run to, but you were never there.”
Elizabeth was horrified by her brother’s story and took several minutes to regain her composure. “I don’t remember exactly what happened or why I did it, but apparently I ran to the Oshin manor that night.”
Erick's head shot up. “Wait, your fiancé’s house? I thought you hated the idea of your arranged marriage to Philace.”
Elizabeth sighed a little annoyed at having been interrupted, but secretly pleased that something of her older brother still remained. “I did, but the Oshin really are nice people. I guess I felt I could trust them. Mr. Oshin stayed up with me all night trying to comfort me. The next morning when the Counsel of Nobles called for a seating of the entire Oligen Counsel, Mr. Oshin brought me along. That session was the first time every living head of house has attended in at least 200 years. We apparently weren’t the only family to be attacked that night. Fifty-three entire aristocratic houses had been attacked by the grey uniformed soldiers that night. It has become known as the Purge. I myself was called before the Oligen counsel that day. They questioned me for what seemed like hours, and once I had told them all I could they told me an elite military unit’s commander had gone crazy and tried to kill the entire aristocracy.”
Erick nodded, thought creasing his face as his sister paused before continuing her story.
“From then on the aristocracy took a special interest in me. Despite my fervent protests, you were declared legally dead and I became the head of the Knight house. Giving me charity became the fashionable thing to do among the aristocracy, and every few months I would go and live with a different house.
“The feeling among the heads of house was that since I was the last member of the proud Knight house I should be perfect in all ways. I know every member of the Counsel of Nobles and have lived with them. I was taught new skills by the lady of every house I lived in. The Oligen Counsel decided that it would only be right to pass on a percentage of the assets of every family killed to me, the lone survivor. This has made me, technically, the richest person in the country—though I can’t touch a cent of it until I become an adult—and every gentleman thought it his duty to teach me proper investment strategy. The aristocracy of the entire empire had such high expectations for me, and I met them all. I can sew in every way imaginable, I have already graduated from university, and I can recite poetry and play instruments. I became their perfect aristocratic lady.”
Erick was fascinated by his sister’s tale but it left a major question unanswered. “Elizabeth, if you’ve become the super-aristocrat, how come you’re living in a third-rate inn and working a desk job?”
Elizabeth blushed and didn’t respond at first. “The Counsel of Nobles wanted to rearrange my arranged marriage to Philace. Now that I have such a fortune and so much prestige, whatever house I marry into stands to gain much. Most of the heads of houses feel it would be a waste for me to marry into a mediocre family like the Oshin house, so six months ago I ran away in protest. Mr. Oshin knew a man in the military who gave me a job and so here I am.”
“Wouldn’t the counsel just send someone to fetch you?”
“They would have if I told them my real reason for running away, so I gave them a much more romantic excuse. I told them I was going to find my brother who they insist is dead. Since they don’t believe my flight has anything to do with politics they are content to let me carry on as I wish.”
The two slept under the tree in the park that night. Elizabeth was proud of herself for roughing it. Erick couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept somewhere so nice.
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