Trenches

Alright, I’ll admit it. I have no idea what I’m doing here. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I believe in the cause. I made my sign myself after a late night craft store run. The cashier was so funny, asking if we had a project for school.
“No, ma’am, we’re actively participating in our democracy.”
That had been my best friend’s flippant response. I’d seen this kind of thing on TV and I was scared. They kept saying it would be fine though. Somehow, I don’t think they really understood.

Now, I was trying not to cry as I heard shouting and loud bangs that sounded a lot like explosives to my ears. That was when he appeared out of the smoke. A tall man with dark hair cut military short. He was wearing wraparound shades that obscured his eyes, a bandanna over the lower half of his face, and a tight t-shirt with a Spartan logo on it. He grabbed my arm and hauled me up.
“Come on, kid. How’re you doing?”
I tried to speak and started coughing. He cursed in a language I didn’t understand and handed me a bottle and a bandanna.
“Swish and spit. Wet the bandanna and hold it over your mouth. Got me, kid?”
I nodded once, uncertain. We both heard the sound that caught his attention then. It was like a loud pop and then something hissing. I didn’t think, I just moved. Doing as he’d told me, I kept the bandanna over my mouth as I stayed low hoping this stuff worked like smoke. He grabbed my arm and pointed, making signs I’d never seen. I could follow it though. Grab the woman near us and follow him.
He led us up a side street where there were a few people working on a sort of street triage. He nodded to them, clearly knowing each and every one of them. My eyes were burning and tears streamed down my face. The woman we’d helped out was worse off though. Another woman grabbed a bottle of something and was talking quietly to her, saying she was here to help. Not to worry a bit.
When my eyes were clear, I started helping. He coached me, teaching me things I never thought I would learn. I learned more about how medicine really works than I ever had before. And not gentle, kind, sterile medicine. This was rough and we could only do our best. Sometimes, I wondered what he was doing here. He was a soldier. He had to be. But he just laughed and said he fought in these trenches now, in this new kind of war for liberty. If he was a general, I think I would follow him to the ends of the earth.
“Come on, kid. You and me, we’ve got more people to help.”

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Uniform

Pulling on her new uniform for the first time, Charlotte paused to glance in the mirror. She looked so adult, so mature. Now, if only she didn’t feel like a child playing dress-up in her mother’s clothing. With a long suffering sigh, she turned away from the mirror and walked out of her room. She was needed on the command deck. Stepping out into the corridor, the cadet stationed by her door snapped into a salute.

“Admiral.”

Rebel

“I don’t rightly know what you were expecting when you came out here, but this ain’t some kind of rebel base. Just a bunch of kids trying to scrape by.”
The lanky youth that spoke kept his hands in his pockets and his gaze level on the three uniformed men. But his eyes lingered on the patches on their uniforms, studying their unit designations and ranks. Behind him, a younger girl peeked around to look up at their faces. She was dirty and thin, but there was determination in her eyes. One of the men, the commander of their small unit, stepped forward.
“We’re not looking for trouble, just for help.” He hesitated, noting still more sets of eyes watching him from the delipidated barn. The rotten building leaned to one side like an animal waiting to die. “I’ve been lead to understand that your…group…can get behind enemy lines.”
The boy who seemed to be their spokesman nodded.
“If, by that, you mean we know the ways to get around the checkpoints that bunch have set up, then yeah. But how do I know we can trust you? Last I checked, the army’d been pulled to pieces with folks on both sides.”
The man tugged at his collar, revealing his unmarked neck.
“No ink. You know they mark their soldiers.”
The girl spoke up then.
“Not the spies. Not the saboteurs. But he’s alright, Trip. His mind feels free.” Her eyes were unfocused now. “He’s seen the badness and he knows it for what it is. So do his soldiers. We can trust them.”
“You’re sure, Kally?”
The boy looked down at his younger friend and she nodded.
“Very sure. Isn’t that right, Captain Malcolm Foster?”
Captain Foster blinked. Sure, she could have gotten his rank and surname from his uniform. But first name? Then she spoke again and his jaw dropped open in disbelief.
“And don’t worry, Captain. The prisoner you’re looking for is still alive.”