(From the New Founders’ War, Marleena Patterson’s father tells his story. For those unfamiliar with “A Father’s Choice,” the Change refers to people being allowed to turn into bio-engineered mythical creatures, or other animals, once they reach a certain age and have fulfilled their various commitments to family and society. A Changed dragon in a castle on the Rhine inadvertently started the second American Revolution, called the New Founders’ War. This is part of Col. Patterson’s account of how the war began in North America.)
Col. Andrew T. Patterson – aka Pat the Bunny [Military Memory Project; 50 year security lock. Recorded at Resurexit Base, January 8, 15 After New Founding]
I have nightmares and enemies. I leave it for you to decide which poses a greater threat to my family; I know what my greatest concern is. I also know that Monica is safe on Cygna Colony. I saw her name in the emigration lists a few years ago. Marleena, sweet little Marleena, the joy of my life . . . I left to keep her safe. Patterson is a common enough name, and since I gave up all custody and contact, my enemies should leave her alone. No one bothers the crèches, that’s one agreement all sides upheld. Even if sometimes you do have to kill children.
Patterson, Andrew Tecumseh, Captain of militia, eventually Colonel in the Founders’ Army, Infantry, Special Forces, holder of the Diamond Cross for valour and acts above and beyond the call of duty. I’d add above and beyond the call of sanity, but you don’t put that on commendations, even if they are locked behind the fifty-year security seal. What’s funny is that I never started out to be in the military. I read novels and worked on construction projects. My father, one of the last true historians, said I would have been happy in the North American exploration era, or as a planetary colonist. I missed both chances. My timing always has sucked, what can I say? He’s the one to blame for my middle name. I’m named for the Indian warrior, not the later general. My father read somewhere that the original Tecumseh had odd-colored eyes, and he liked the sound of the name. I hated it, then. Compared to what the troopers started calling me, it’s not that bad.
So, where to begin? As I said, I never had plans to end up in any military. I’m good with my hands and have a knack for reading plans and drawings. It’s easy for me to take a line on paper and see it as a finished shape, and see how to get from a pile of materials to the final building. You’d think, as high a level of tech as we have, that sort of thing would no longer be needed, but it was, and is. Machines and programmed construction robots are great until something goes, bang, rattle rattle rattle, or the designer changes his mind. People used to say that women changed their minds frequently, but the average woman has nothing on architects and people who order custom buildings. And robots are great, but they can’t translate from “that just doesn’t look right. What if we move that over here, and tint it green” into a finished reception area. I can, and I do, and I’m very good at it.
So I learned the basics of construction engineering. You know, why buildings don’t fall down, how to keep a roof attached if it is not a single extrusion welded to the metal frame, how not to electrocute people who insist on having metal wall plates for their electricity output points, that sort of thing. Which incidentally means I know how to bring them back down, and how to screw things up without it being blatantly obvious.
For fun I read novels, old ones that I later learned had been banned. You see, we were at bare subsistence level when I was a kid, and my father had a collection of antique books that I read. Many of them had been banned, but I didn’t know that. He had permission for a few specific titles, because of his teaching work. But three-fourths of the books would have gotten all of us sent to prison, brain-wiped, or forcibly Changed to keep us quiet. Father and mother did not earn much, probably because they insisted on claiming to be married and by teaching my brother and sister and I the old stuff. But we had books, real ink printed on wood pulp books. I recall a lot of history, or heresy as the Statists called it, old things about the first Founding and the first two World Wars. Father taught about Indigenous First Nations at one of the small secondary schools, so we had stuff about them, except some books were so old they called them Indians. He could do that because he could trace descent back to the Comanche on his father’s side.
But my siblings and I couldn’t make any such claims because Father married a woman of pure Afro-American descent. Mother . . . mother was sweet, and quiet, and patient, and ran the household with an iron fist inside a very soft glove that smelled faintly of roses and lavender. I’m joking, a little. Mother was a throwback, both genetically and spiritually. She would have been very happy running a pre-Abolition estate, or as a Victorian belle with a country home full of children and flower gardens and wearing aprons and baking cookies for her grandchildren. Instead she had to put up with the three of us, and my Father, who doted on her. That probably also hurt his income, admitting to loving a women he called his wife. The Statists had gotten very strange by then, trying to arrange people’s choices of life partner as well as everything else. That may have been their next-to-last mistake. The human heart loves where it will, and nothing any government ordains will stop that.
I was the youngest. Jeff Ezekiel looked exactly like Mother, with her dark complexion and round face and build. Alice Martha had Father’s sharper features and reddish tan complexion, but Mother’s build and the curl from Mother’s hair. Father swore I looked like Mother’s father, but with my father’s eye color. Since Father had two green eyes, not a green and a brown, I’m tempted to argue. No, we were not tailored children. Mother and Father had their family the old-fashioned way, trusting to luck and two centuries of genetic testing that we’d come out healthy. Although there were days when Mother wondered if she should have asked for in-utero docility injections. She also threatened to take us back to the farm and shove us under the cabbages where we’d been found.
No, she wasn’t serious, just tired. If you could have bottled our energy, the three of us Patterson kids could have powered Old Omaha’s grid for a week. There were only two years between each of us, so we were at the perfect ages to be absolute trouble. Three creative, bright, energetic kids in a one-hundred-fifty square meter residential assignment . . . it’s a wonder Austonio survived our childhood.
Jeff was the smart one. He went onto medical engineering. Mornin’ (we called her that because of her initials and because she got up before sunrise) you probably know better as Alice O’kolumba, the painter and holo artist who died in Calgary with her husband. That’s when I started having nightmares. But I was the slow, steady one. I was also the one who took things apart, or would have if Father had not started paying every credit he could spare for solid-state appliances and other things. He knew me too well. And he remembered the day he came home to find Mother waiting because I’d tried to take apart the food delivery and heating unit to see how it worked. She started by disavowing ever having contributed any genetic material to my creation. “Do you know what your son did?” were her exact words, and then she went from there.
So I went into construction engineering, moved out of my folks’ place, and did pretty well. And I read novels and history books, mostly what was once called military science fiction and military and western history, back in the days before they were banned as “corrupting trash.” The funny thing is, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but I learned from those books. I learned a lot, mostly basic ideas about how to lead men and how people had screwed up in the past. It was not anything close to being real military training or a serious military tactics and leadership education, but knowing the basics of what not to do, and how other people screwed up, will get you a third of the way to success. Because that’s how I became a militia captain, once the fighting started.
Looking back, I’m sure historians and the like will say “this, then this, and then this led to the start of the war.” But those of us living in it, well, it wasn’t that clear, not for most of us. I came in late. I knew something didn’t quite fit, but when you grow up surrounded and immersed in Statist rules and stories, you don’t think too much about the differences. But my father did. And the books I read did, and they talked about how things had been different, or could be different. For me it was the dragon in Europe, and the cities revolt.
I wasn’t a father yet, heck, I was just settling into my job and hadn’t paid enough back to the State to have more than basic subsistence rights and twice-monthly cohabitation permission (and do not get me started on the stupidity of the government, any government, thinking they can regulate hearts and hormones both!) But when Father told me about the forced Change in Europe, and Changing being used to punish people, by forcing them to kill their own families . . . I saw red. Now, I knew enough to keep quiet, but something must have leaked, because one of the guys at work introduced me to a gal, and she brought me into the Reading Club. Turns out I wasn’t the only one reading banned books and thinking strange thoughts – like how the State had no right to force people to kill their own blood kin, even in Europe. And especially not over here, and you can be damn certain that if the Europeans were doing it, the North American government was too. The Statists always followed Europe’s lead, especially when it involved bad ideas.
The space colonies protested first. The newsfeeds quit covering colonial news, which told the Reading Club I was in a lot more than any smooth-talking newsreader could. Then the coastal cities sent petitions demanding the government swear it had not forcibly Changed anyone. You may not be old enough to remember it, or have read enough, but the coastal cities started out as, well, penal colonies is not the right word, but as a way to ease the troublemakers out of the way before the space colonies opened up. Someone through that plunking a bunch of malcontents onto an artificial island in the Atlantic for the hurricanes to drown would be a great solution. Which shows how little the Statists really understood about people, and about climatology for that matter, but that’s not part of the story, my story.
Anyway, I’d slipped into the Reading Club meeting and found Marie waving a message from a friend of a friend. It had been bounced through Jackson Colony, from one of the Change labs. Marie had friends in interesting places, because of her being a holo-vid producer and singer. “Cliff’s got proof. The North American government has been forcing Changes, turning people into sheep and other herbivores then dumping them into carnivore territories.”
Blackie, God bless him, didn’t want to believe it. “But they said, Secretary Jones-M’shabaaz swore that the government couldn’t do it, because it violated the second revised Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of life-form choice.”
Marie gave him one of those looks, like I gave especially dim troopers later on. “And who enforces the laws on the government?”
“Ah, the National Ombudsman?” Blackie tried, I’ll give him that much.
“Who died under mysterious circumstances three years ago and has never been replaced,” Tom pointed out. He leaned back, eyes closed. I’ll never forget it, forget the moment. “An unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the Founders said. The Statists have taken all three. And they can’t hide it, not any more.”
“We have to take power back,” I heard my mouth saying. “It’s ours.”
Blackie blanched, but the others nodded, even if they gulped. “But how?”
I knew how. In that moment I could see what it would take. I’d read history, unadulterated history, and people in power never ever gave it up of their own free will. Well one group did, the Founders, but even they squabbled over it later.
“First we tell people the truth,” Marie said before I could scare everyone spitless. She waved the print-out. “Firs the truth, then . . .”
The floating cities protested, New Hatteras and Savannah 2. When the Statists tried to stop the protest broadcasts, the military resigned. I think that caught all of us, Statist, Liberty-Lover, Solitaire, by surprise. It shouldn’t have, I know, but like I said, we can look back. At the time all I knew was Father showed up at my door and told me to get ready for trouble and to hide the books. Two of his former students, both in the military, had passed him the word even before General Worthington’s holo-cast. And that’s when we discovered just how deep the rot went, when the so-called Civilian Safety Forces attacked the military and started hunting down readers and free-thinkers and protesters. And the Cities’ War began.
TO BE CONTINUED
(C) Alma T.C. Boykin 2015 All Rights Reserved