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The Death Train ~ Chapter One
The Miss MBondo Reference...
It's been almost two or three years since I actually wrote Drake's Sword, which you will find in my profile. You will also find links to it at the bottom of this hub so you can kind of get an idea of what the heck is going on this first chapter.
Some things have changed. Drake "Caston" is now Drake "Gallagher", because I like the name "Gallagher" better.
Also, the scene that Raymond is remembering is what happens in the opening chapter of Drake's Sword, only from his perspective. I also changed certain details to avoid a "repeated content" warning from Hub. I'm not the first writer of a series to do this and I won't be the last. Go ahead and read Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, the first five Animorphs books by KA Applegate and Night Pleasures in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series and you'll see that the first book of a series is almost never as well thought out as the rest of it.
And finally the teacher in this is named Miss Mbondo. Clever 70's British TV fanatics will get this reference, but since I all ready have an Amazon capsule highlighting it I will go ahead and spoil it for those who don't.
Miss Mbondo, or Liz, is the name of Elizabeth Adare's character in the 70's tv show called, The Tomorrow People.
It began in the year 2235.
Following an uneasy truce in the Earth/Mars conflict, other colonies began demanding their own independence. With attacks on military ships increasing and fearing an all out war, The Unified Earth Government issued a series of mandatory draft laws to increase their army and run herd on the Solar System.
The first draft was based on income, essentially eliminating the problems of homelessness and unemployment and earning the support of upper class citizens. Recruits were sorted into the various branches. Some were offered advanced training while others were basically bullet sponges.
The second draft required the conscription of all second born children between the ages of sixteen and forty. Desperate parents tried to hide their children or change their identities. When the parents were caught the children, along with thousands of others fled the Draft Police and were labeled Dodgers.
Now those who were caught were typically sent to labor camps to work on ships and weapon manufacturing. But some, like Drake Gallagher, who were particularly clever and possessed very keen abilities were offered a second chance and a clean slate if they accepted their “civic” duty.
Drake's real purpose lay in a planet, five thousand light years from Earth. An agricultural colony called Epsilon, which also maintained it's independence in exchange for becoming a sort of interstellar Botany Bay. When the planet's relatively small population became overrun with criminals, psychotics and other undesirables it needed a hero. Drake was that hero.
Upon his arrival a magical sword was bestowed upon him by the spirits of the planet. And in his first week he rescued the daughter of Dr. Noel and defeated one of the most notorious villains City 5 has ever seen.
March 23, 2354/Seed Year
City 5 Public School
“Mr. Carving, could you come to my desk please.”
Raymond looked up from his desk, confused. Miss Mbondo sounded upset, or something very similar. She was almost never upset with him. What had he done wrong? As he got up and walked down the aisle he felt the eyes of his classmates as they whispered amongst themselves, snickering.
“If you all need something to do I'm sure I can find something for you,” Ms. Mbondo said, sternly.
The class went silent as students pretended to read or work on their class assignments. Raymond knew from experience that a few of them were sending messages to friends in other classes via their Mobile G-nets, no doubt reporting the apparent danger to his title of teacher's pet.
Miss Mbondo gestured for Raymond to come around the desk. She was looking at a reader, using a stylus to scroll and make notes. Like much of the other materials in the classroom it was terribly outdated and kept working by skilled technicians and hope.
“Is there something wrong, miss?” He asked, keeping his voice low.
“Would you read what I've marked here, please?” Miss Mbondo held the reader out to him. It was his history report and she highlighted the last three paragraphs.
“Of course not. To yourself.”
He did but he was still confused. He was sure the grammar was right and there was nothing misspelled. This wasn't plagiarized although everyone knew the story of how he and Drake came to Epsilon and how Drake found the sword. Two years had gone by and Drake was virtually a legend throughout City 5. Raymond looked at Miss Mbondo, thinking that perhaps she was being ironic-pretending to be upset when he had written it very well.
Her face was soft and though she wasn't furious her scrutinizing gaze made him guess he was wrong.
“Is there something wrong with it?” He asked.
Miss Mbondo seemed uncertain of whether or not to laugh or shake her head in annoyance. She chose a slight nod over either gesture and took back the reader.
“This was supposed to be a history report,” she explained. “And you had the right idea up until these paragraphs. Or more specifically, until you began glorifying Mr. Gallagher as a mythical hero right out of the comic books you had the right idea.”
Raymond blanched as he heard someone laugh. Miss Mbondo looked right at the boy as he tried to catch himself, too late. Raymond watched in horror as she pushed a few buttons on the computer attached to her desk.”
“Mister Qwan, I've sent you chapters one through six of an American history text book.” She announced. “You will become an expert on them by tomorrow's class.” As an afterthought she looked to the rest of the class, “And if there is any more outbursts you will all be given an extra reading assignment.”
With a last warning glare daring another student to test her Miss Mbondo turned back to Raymond. Her look softened again though Raymond felt anything but comforted by it. Qwan had about as many friends as he did, but this little altercation with Miss Mbondo was sure to gain him some supporters, while insuring that Raymond never had a social life for as long as he went to school.
“I'll rewrite it,” he said quickly.
Miss Mbondo nodded.
“Just keep it to the facts and save the embellishment for Creative Writing.”
Raymond suffered in silence for the rest of class as he tried to rewrite the history of colonization. When he first wrote it he had forgotten that most people thought the story was rubbish.
Two Years Earlier
“As of now, you do not exist!” The sergeant bellowed.
Raymond stomach churned as the gravity and heat of the planet assaulted him all at once. His ears were ringing and he could barely turn his head. But in the corner of his eye he saw the older boy. Tall, with long curly hair and wearing an old dirty red sweater with black pants, the boy glared defiantly at the sergeant. Earlier when the sergeant was yelling at him it had been this boy who stuck up for him.
Or was he sticking up for him? Was he just trying to get the sergeant's goat? Raymond didn't know. All he could do at the moment was grab his stomach and lean forward as everything he had eaten in the last twenty-four hours came up. He dropped to his knees and clutched his stomach as he heaved. The older boy walked away, disgusted probably.
I don't blame you, he thought.
He flashed back to his last moments on Earth. The day was warm, but like most days in England it was very cloudy with a chance of rain. Raymond was in Maths working out algebra problems when he received a notice to go to the headmaster's office.
His father had a rare day off from work and he and his mother had gone out to do some grocery shopping. They had a car crash and were fatally wounded.
As he reeled from the discovery, Raymond tried to remember if he had any living relatives, any at all who could take him in. But there was no one. Mrs. Gunther, the headmaster, called a representative of the Unified Earth Government to see if there was any way they could “help” Raymond.
That “help” was very limited. He was the only child of a relatively well off family and so he didn't qualify to become a ward of the nation until he was old enough to draft. So like any other child who was no longer in the care of their families, Raymond was sent to Epsilon so he could have a “chance” of living a full life without taxing the hardworking people of Europe and the world.
For three days Raymond was handled roughly by the military personnel who booked him and placed him on the transport ship. And for three days it was only him, this boy, and a handful of men and women who were in no mood to play babysitter to a handful of exiles.
The food was awful and space travel was exhausting and mentally draining. Raymond was at once sick, frightened and happy to be on solid ground, away from the sounds of boots against cold metal, the shouting, and the constant feeling of fear and uncertainties.
Now grief finally caught up to him,
Gingerly he raised a sleeve to wipe his nose and tears on his sleeve. Never again would he hear his mother telling him to use a tissue, or chastising him for getting his school uniform dirty. As he looked around at the alien grass and plants he could see images of his father kicking a soccer ball to him on the field outside their house.
No more trips to the news agent for Cadburry Creams, no more movies at the cinema...everything was gone now. All because he was an orphan.
Raymond looked up to see the boy pointing. He followed his gaze to see an old man shaking wildly and raising a knife as he drew near.
Paralyzed with fear, Raymond didn't move as the psycho drew closer. In series of moments too fast for him to remember, the boy suddenly stood between him and the older man holding a sword and swinging. The man's blood spilled and he crumpled to the ground.
Raymond cried out as the boy turned to him.
“Lets get out of here!” He said, holding out his hand.
Raymond was hesitant at first. He looked at the sword that was now covered in blood, terrified that the boy might do the same to him.
“Look, take this,” the boy took the knife out of the man's hand and held it out to Raymond. “If anyone comes for you strike fast and run. But I'm not staying here to get killed so you'd better come with me.”
Raymond took the knife and the boy helped him to his feet.
“My name's Raymond,” His voice was scratchy from the vomit.
* * *
An old fashioned bell system rang in the halls, alerting the end of the school day. Raymond gathered his things and tried to exit hastily before Miss Mbondo stopped him.
“I'd like to see you in my office please.” She said with a tone that invited no discussion.
The interaction didn't go unnoticed and Raymond had no doubt he'd hear about it later on. For this day to end, he mentally pleaded with whatever pantheon of gods looked over the planet as he sat outside Miss Mbondo's office.
One of My Favorite Authors
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