I pulled myself out of the stupor my geography teacher had put me in; I should at least pretend to pay attention. Even if I found the subject pointless, I knew enough about where things were in the world, mainly the important ones, like where our boundaries end and theirs start, the best ways to get over these boundaries without being caught. I’ve been taught these things from birth, Cat, Dog, Arrow, Sword. It all adds up. The war I was born to fight in…
Maria pulled the curtains back and peered out the window. She had that feeling again, the feeling that someone was watching her; in any other town she would have passed the feeling off as silly. But lately there have been many mysterious disappearances , all involving people of the “olden days”, the ones who rose from the ashes of the broken world, the ones who had found shelter from the nuclear bombs that destroyed almost every trace of life on earth. ‘Now we are being hunted!’ she thought, ‘after all we have been through, all we have saved. For goodness sakes! Without us there would be no new Earth, just a barren wasteland of a planet’. Out of the window she saw two teenagers; they must have been 17 or 18, clearly lovers. However, the girl, small, but pretty with dark hair, was crying, crying and clutching her abdomen. Something was clearly wrong. Maria frowned and watched closely as the boy, who had tell-tale red, Yennahn hair, tried to comfort the girl, but she just pulled away, pointing behind the boy, grabbing his hand and attempting to drag him in the opposite direction. Maria followed the girls gaze and that’s when she saw him, the older boy standing in the shadows pointing a handgun straight at the first boys back, his eyes flitted upwards to meet hers just as he pulled the trigger. Before Maria could even move the world went black.
1) Advance and Attack. (Etta)
“My name is Ettahna Mavis. I am 14 years old and I have a twin sister called Thayda. My mother’s name is Satine Williams. My father’s name was Oliver Mavis. he was shot dead aged 18. his killer is unknown. General Williams of the 1st Batallion is my uncle.” I recited, as I had been told to do by Uncle Fedd, it was important to let people know the important facts straight off, this was my first training session. It was also the first time I’d ever started anything without my sister, and right then with all the hulky guys from my class in school staring down at me, I really wished she were there to hold my hand. But she’d been scouted into the Camouflage Sector of the army, whereas I was in the Advance and Attack Squad and right then I knew what every other kid in the room was thinking, that I’d got here purely because my uncle was the guy in charge, but that wasn’t even a little bit true, but I guess they were free to judge me. I sat down quickly, and began fiddling with my hair, plaiting it with my fingers as I listened intently to the rest of the class reciting the facts of their lives and families, looking for potential allies and comrades in battle, people I could use to my advantage, as I had also been instructed to do by my uncle. God I really hated being told what to do, but uncle Fedd was in charge and I’d thought it best to do what he said, especially as I didn’t inherit my shooting skills from my mother. After everyone had communicated their vital info and been kitted out in full safety uniform, we were given weapons, chosen specifically for each person, to fit their skills that had got them this far. The wearpons were piled high on the steel table in the centre of the room. There was all sorts of artillery, from Bayonets to bazookas and spears to Bo staffs. I shivered in anticipation, (great, now everyone probably though i was scared), eyes locking on the cross bow that was surely mine. We were supposed to wait in line to be given the weapon chosen for us, well that’s what we were instructed to do, but some of the more upper class henchmen weren’t used to being told what they could and couldn’t have, so when a great, ugly brute of a boy, called Thoremos got his hands on my cross bow, I stepped out of the queue, walked up to him slowly, stopping just infront of him and met his eyes with a deep frown. Thoremos looked me up and down, clearly taking in my below average hight and small stature, laughed and leaned foreward saying “what are you going to do? Bite my kneecaps?” And that’s when I kicked him square in the forehead.
I took great relish in watching him wobble from side to side drunkenly, and then crumple to the floor. As the rest of the class stood and stared at me in amazement, I knew from that moment on, that no one in A&AS would push me ever again. I pulled the cross bow off of Thoremos, slung the quiver of arrows over my back and walked over to the shooting range. I tried to ignore the itching sensation on the back of my neck which told me the whole room was watching me, but I knew my shaking hands would give away my anxiety anyhow. Trying to put the 27 other people in the room to the back of my mind, I started to shoot. I hit the bull’s eye 7 out of 8 times on the stationary section, and then proceeded to ace them all in the moving target range. By then my hands had stopped shaking and adrenaline was pumping through my body as I loaded up my last arrow for the live target. The crossbow was clearly hightech, and much better than the one I had at home, it must have cost more money than my house. I took aim at a rabbit that was about 40 yards away, well we call them rabbits but exposure to radiation from the nuclear war mutated their genes, giving them hollow bones and wings like birds. The new form of rabbit had been mating with normal rabbits for the last 40 years and there are hundreds of them. I judged its movements before it could even make them, and as it took off I heard a gasp from the crowd behind me. They thought I’d missed it. They were mistaken. As the dead rabbit hit the floor with a thunk I lowered my cross bow awkwardly, retrieved the arrows, thanked our teacher for the weapons and the lesson, not that I’d given him the chance to say a word, and left the room. I was heading for the showers when I realised I was being followed.
“Hello Ettahna, my name is Menna. Pleased to meet yo-“
“Why are you following me?” I spat, my face was so close to his, our noses were almost touching. I have the most uncontrollable temper, and it’d only taken a second for me to pin the poor kid against the wall, with my hand on his throat. He was holding a small silver briefcase I’d seen on the table of weapons earlier, what was in that? I thought it had held the lists of which weapon belonged to which student, but clearly I’d been wrong.
“I’m sorry! I thought you knew I was behind you! I only wanted to ask you if you wanted to be my field buddy, they’re teaming up in there now…” he squeaked. I released him and I realised he was tiny, I mean I’m short for people my age and Menna must have been at least a head shorter than me, he was intelligent looking with dark hair and big round glasses, why would he be interested in me as a field buddy? What was he even doing in A&AS? He looked more like a Code breaker type. Now that I looked again, he was older than me, he must have been about 16, what was he doing in a beginner level session?
“What are you doing in A&AS?” I demanded “You’re clearly too old to be beginner and no way do you fight.”
“They wouldn’t waste my intelligence in code breaking, and I got kicked out of engineering because my ideas are too dangerous to be tested in the lab.” He replied, matter-of-factly.
“I still don’t understand why you’re here” I retorted.
“They want me to test my ideas in the field.”
2) My Sunshine(Thayda)
It was brilliant! I couldn’t wait to see Etta’s face when I scared her right out of her skin by jumping out of my hiding place, as I planned to do in exactly 3 minutes. Camouflage class had been awesome, we’d learnt the basics of how to get the light brown dust that covered the earth to stick to our clothes and faces without it being uncomfortable. So being covered in dust, I’d thought I’d use it to my advantage by staying as close as I could to the walls of the combat building that matched the colour of the ground surrounding it, and standing as still as possible in order to spot Etta and jump out at her. Despite my aim to remain unseen, I allowed myself to smile at that thought of her face because Etta hated surprises, ergo my aim in life was to give her as many as possible and with my natural ability to disappear at will, with or without camouflage made this incredibly easy. Etta was late, and as I was just starting to wonder where she was, someone jabbed me hard in the side.
“What the hell was that for?” I rounded on the perpetrator, before stopping suddenly as I realised who it was. “Oh, Uncle Fedd! Sorry about that. You made me jump, I was just-“
“Thayda, you need to work on your stillness. I could see your smile from 10 feet away. Where is Ettahna?” He replied in his stony, cold voice. I didn’t like Uncle Fedd. Whenever he was around it was like my whole body was telling me to get as far away from him as possible, he made my skin crawl. Not to mention the fact that whenever he entered our flat, my mother would run from the room crying and would refuse to leave her bedroom till he had gone, only to tell us to do as he said whenever we questioned her on why she did this.
“I don’t know, I’m waiting for her so we can go home for dinner with mum.” I refused to meet his gaze.
“Why is she late?”
“I don’t know. If I knew why, I wouldn’t be standing here would I?” I liked to make it known that I disapproved of my uncle, I didn’t pretend to like people like my sister did, she actually listened to the advice he gave her and spoke to him like, like he was our father! I never knew my father, but I’m sure he was nothing like Uncle Fedd.
“if you talk to me like that again young lady I shall-“
“Hey Uncle Fedd!” My sister interrupted before Uncle Fedd and I could start World War 4. “Sorry I was late Thay, I was having an interesting conversation with my new field buddy.” She turned and waved to an extremely short boy who must have been at least two years older than us and clearly not A&AS material, but then stereotypically, neither was Etta. So I guessed the match was probably perfect.
“Now, If you don’t mind Uncle. Etta and I must get home.” I turned to look at my sister “we’re late enough as it is already” I said disapprovingly to her. We mumbled our goodbyes, and then walked home as fast as we could; we knew how worried mum got. I’d often wondered if she was different before our dad died, whether she used to smile, or laugh and what music she used to like. I’d never seen a single CD or personal music player in our house, but I once found a book in her room full of song lyrics, and a tape of someone singing, the voice was definately familiar, but I hadn’t been able to place it so I’d shown it to Etta and she’d started crying. That’s when I realised the woman who was singing was my mother and it was the most beautiful singing I’d ever heard. From that day on Etta and I had sung that song to each other to cheer each other up. We’d never mentioned it to our mother in fear of her having one of her breakdowns that can be set off by the smallest things, she would start crying and she just wouldn’t stop, then she’d start yelling incomprehensible things about having to leave or else we’d die. Then suddenly she would put her hands over her ears as if she’d heard a loud noise and start screaming at the top of her lungs like a wounded animal. Throughout the breakdown she’d clutch her stomach like it was causing her pain. When she had these breakdowns we had to take her to the doctors so he could give her a special sedative. Etta hated it, she said one day he’d give mum the drug and she’d never wake up. But he did and she always woke up then went back to being her sad, reclusive self. Tonight was one of mum’s worse nights, she didn’t say a word whilst we ate and as soon as she finished, she nodded at me, completely ignoring Etta, and then left for her bedroom. Etta managed to wash up and feed our cat before she broke down in tears on the sofa. I stopped laying the table for breakfast the next morning and sat down next to her and held her whilst she cried, it was not long before I was crying too and I was stroking her lovely red hair, the only thing that stopped us from being identical, she had, what I assumed to be Dad’s hair and I had Mum’s boring jet black hair. I knew Etta would swap too though, because mum favoured me, because I didn’t have something of his, something that reminded Mum of him. Etta Hated it, she would have sold her soul not to have it. I started to sing to her, and she joined in on the second line, the way she always did
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy, when skies are grey
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
So please don’t take my sunshine away.”
In the weeks that followed I refused to look at my mother, I’d thought I couldn’t hate her before, even though the only thing she’d ever done for me and Thay in life was breast feed us until she could shunt us off onto someone else, but now she refused to acknowledge me as her daughter completely, I had had enough. It wasn’t my fault my father was shot by a Yennite! And it wasn’t my fault I looked like him. Mum had never been there for us. The first thing I can remember of my life is being in a small room with my sister and one of the many women my uncle paid to look after us who called themselves “baby sitters”, though mostly they just drank our alcohol and watched our TV. I also remember the bombings. I must have been about 4 years old, they caused us to move house three times during the year in which they took place. The year we almost lost the war, and the year it was almost exposed to the authorities. The corrupt officers said they couldn’t ignore the merciless killing of innocent people, including those who had no idea that the war was taking place right under their noses. So that’s how we’d fought our way out of the corner, we told Yennah that they could either halt their planes and allow us to rearm, or we would expose them to the press.
My uncle always told me the war was started when my father was shot, that some ‘bastard Yennite’ killed him for no other reason than that he was from Tannar. When I told Thay this (because she refuses to talk to uncle Fedd unless it’s necessary) She said she always thought our father was from Yennah because of his unusually old-fashioned name: Oliver, and his red hair. I have to say I agreed with her, I’d never met anyone from Tannar called Oliver, and there was no trace of the Mavis family, Thay and I had checked several times.
School was getting more boring by the week. Every time I came out of an A&AS session it seemed more pointless. The only lesson’s that were worthwhile were history and Sport; history gave me background and Sport let me practise my shooting in the extracurricular activities we could choose. I loved sport, mainly because of its relevance to my future but it was also the only time I got to hang out with my best friend, Brayor. He was the only person who could surpass me in shooting in Tannar, but that’s not all he was good at. He was also the most intelligent person I’d ever known, until I’d met Menna of course. So, without out a doubt, he’d been scouted into the Elite Sector, and he’d already been training for over a year. I’d begged and begged him to tell me about what training was like, even though I knew he’d been sworn to secrecy anyway. No one knew about what the Elite did, except the Elite themselves, obviously. I’d always wanted to be in the Elite, but I’d never been intelligent enough, I can’t be bothered with school, and I’m pretty sure the scouters knew Brayor did my homework anyway. I guess, if you had not known us, or any of the history of Tannar and Yennah , you would have thought Brayor was my brother. Not because we look alike, because of how he acts around me, even as we walked out to the school shooting range, he stuck up for me like I was his younger sister, as the usual wave of abuse from the older kids hit me.
“YOU DON’T FOOL US YOU GINGER SLAG”
The usual, but once Brayor sent a few arrows whizzing past their heads, they soon gave up, put out their cigarettes and moved on. Yeah, my hair. It’s red and that, in this world means I’m from Yennah because that is the defining feature of the Yennahn’s because during the last years of the first Earth and the first years of New Earth, there was a lot of discrimination and people who looked different moved to different towns. This mainly originated from history repeating itself during World War 3, Korea’s dictator Gon Jong II, had decided to adopt the Nazi’s Final Solution and use on the light haired population. Blonde people had been wiped out entirely and Red heads very close behind. The original town of Yennah had been one of Jong II’s concentration camps, somehow most of its population had survived the nuke war by revolting and hijacking the underground bunkers originally built for their guards.
When we eventually reached the shooting range, we had complete privacy. It’s tucked away in a corner of the school grounds surrounded by some specially grown trees to block sound and wind, and has a special machine that simulates different wind speeds so you can set your training conditions to your preference. Before long we were shooting and talking at the same time, un-amused by the constant bulls-eyes from all the various weapons we used.
“so, what are you doing in A&AS? Anything special?” He smiled cheekily and poked me in the ribs before sending a small knife whizzing towards the target.
“You know I can’t tell you” I laughed as my arrow dug itself into the end of the knife’s handle, “I’ve got me one of these now”. I lifted my wrist to show him the skin coloured band that was now round it, the issue them almost as soon as you join a scout group, completely unnoticeable to someone who doesn’t know what they are. They’re used as a form of security, if they pick up anyone talking about the private affairs of the underground army, that person can become punishable by death. Brayor and I like to joke about it, seeing as no-one’s ever been caught and Brayor pretty much taught me all there is to know about the war, unless that kind of information was allowed to be issued to someone like me.
After another hour of pointless shooting and our regular small talk, the sky was starting to darken and the high pitched ringing noise that signified the end of the day caught us off guard as always. We packed up quickly intent to move on and get home out of the cold. When someone stumbled out of the trees and collapsed into the dirt.