One of the stores I’m working on is The Defenders. It is a story in the Outrunning series that tells the story of how the boys of the Palisades created the laws an rules of their society. More importantly, it is the story of Jon, the man who came up with many of the ideas of how the society should be run. Here is the first chapter to give you a little taste. It is only very lightly edited, so cut me a little slack.
By the way, i know it says that this is an Outrunning short but, it may run longer than I expected.
“Look at these boys Jonas. They don’t have a clue about what they should be doing.” I said.
“I know that Jon, what do you want me to do?” Jonas asked.
“Lead Jonas. Stop worrying about who people will think you are and be who you really are. Some of us trust you. Others will come to trust you. Some of us can help you with that. You’ve started the process by setting up a government of sorts, now is the time to lead.”
“Fine Jon, but you brought up these boys, what can we do for them?”
“We train them, Jonas.”
“We do train them Jon.” he said.
“No, we don’t. We let them go where they want, live where they want. We just had two boys hurt because they went hunting out on their own. They had no idea what they were doing. It’s time we started training these boys on how to live at the Palisades. If we don’t, we will lose more boys.”
“What do you have in mind?” he asked.
I had had an idea about something for a while now. I still wasn’t sure of how it would work, but I thought it would help.
“These boys need someone to, I don’t know the word, defend them. They need an older boy to show them things. I don’t have it fully fleshed out yet, but the idea is there. They need someone to defend them.”
“That is something worthy of talking about. Is there anything else” he asked.
“A lot actually. First, we need to start training these boys how to hunt. Next, we need to train some to go out and get fresh plant edibles. Simian could do that, although I’m not sure if that is a good idea. Last, we need to keep a watch on the Citadel. I’m sorry for saying this Jonas, but I do not trust your father.” I stopped, completely out of breath.
He stood there thinking for a minute. I thought I may have angered him by bringing his father up, but when I looked at him, I could tell that what I said to him had started his mind working. I had been thinking about the other things for a while now, but the idea of someone to defend these boys, that had just come to me.
“You bring up good points Jon.” Jonas said. “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you come over to my house for last meal tomorrow. The three of us can sit and talk these things through before we bring them to the Council.”
The third person he was talking about was Cynthia, his woman. She had come to the Palisades not long after Jonas and the first group of boys had been sent here. The Council, that was fairly new. Jonas has been the leader here since the beginning, but he decided recently that it was too much for one person, so he chose four men to help him govern.
“I’ll do that Jonas. Do you think Cyn would make some of those sweet cakes?” Jonas laughed hard at that.
“I think I can talk her into it Jon.” he said. “ I want you to join the Council Jon. You are too smart to be left out here in the dark.”
“I told you I’d think about it, Jonas. Let me think about these problems we are talking about first and I promise you I will give you an answer.” I said.
“I guess I should welcome these boys Jon. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” He said, walking to the boys who were seated around the well in the center of the square.
I started walking to my house and almost laughed at the thought of it. The place I had lived in the Citadel was a mansion compared to where I now lived. These old wooden buildings our fathers had built weren’t really meant to last. When the old Doc had come up with the idea of sending us away from the Citadel to this place, the men had come back here and made them stronger, but calling these places home was almost too much.
I opened the door and went and sat at my table. There were only three rooms here, this main room and two bed chambers, only one of which had a door. There was no running water, which meant walking to the latrines to do your business. There were no kitchens, only a fire place that kept the place too hot if you kept the fire burning for too long.
This was the world these boys now found themselves in. They were used to bathrooms and kitchens and eating as often as they felt like it. It wasn’t like that here. The shock of coming here was hard on these boys. It had been hard for the first few groups that had come here. We were older though, so it was a little easier for us.
Now they were sending us boys who were only ten years old. I couldn’t understand the sickness that made you want to send your sons away so young. All because of wanting to keep the women to themselves. They could talk about how it was to try to bring the genders to an equal number at the Citadel, but there had to be something seriously wrong with you to do something like this.
The Reaping, that’s what they called it now. They even set up a lean-to between the Citadel and Palisades to bring the boys to. That was so they wouldn’t actually have to see where their boys were going. I was still trying to understand why it was called the Reaping. The only reaping that happened were more boys coming here. They sent some food, but it was never enough.
The boys, they were what was important. The idea I had had while talking to Jonas started to grow. There were only a few boys who came to us a year. If we older boys took them in and helped guide them through the worst of their new life, I think it would be easier for them. We could act as their teachers.
There had to be more to it than that, though. What were we going to teach them other than where to go to take a crap? A knock came to my door and I got up and opened it. Simian was standing there, looking angry like he always did.
“Well met Simian.” I said
“Cut that crap out Jon.” He said. “Can I come in or are you going to make me stand on your porch?”
I moved out of his way and let him pass. He was a funny person. He would do anything for anyone gladly, but he always seemed to be angry.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“This is getting beyond ridiculous Jon. These boys wander around in a daze because no one tells them what they should do.”
“I was just talking to Jonas about that. We are going to discuss it tomorrow at last meal. He invited me to his house. Cynthia is going to make her sweet cakes.”
“Good,” he said, smiling. “ I think I’ll invite myself over. Something has to be done. Jonas asked me to be on his council and the only thing we have decided so far is where the new latrine should be.”
“Don’t you think you should ask before just going over?” I asked, knowing what he would say even as I asked.
“He wants to be leader, he needs to start leading. He can feed me while we tell him what to do.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Simian was the son of the Citadel’s botanist. He was smart, the smartest person here and Jonas had been smart to make him a member of the Council.
“I told Jonas I think we need to start training these boys. I was thinking before you knocked, that maybe we older boys could take them in and be their teachers. I’m just not sure exactly what we would teach them.”
“I like the idea of you men taking the boys in, but they should be trained outside of their home. They need to be taught how to hunt or how to pick the right plants to eat. No one here can do both things.” he said.
“Three things Simian. We need to watch the Citadel. I don’t trust them.”
“I agree. I don’t trust them either, not after what they have done to us. I don’t want to be like them Jon, in any way. I wish there were a way to change how we look. I don’t even want to be the same species as them,”
“There isn’t much we can do about that Simian.” I said.
“I might just have an idea for that, I’ve found some plants that could help with it.”
I looked at him like he was crazy. Did he mean he found a plant that would change how we looked? He was an odd man, but this was a step too far.
“I think you have been eating to many of the plants you found, Simian. How can a plant change our species?”
“Don’t be an idiot Jon, there is no such plant. There are plants that could change the way we look, though. Do you remember the tattoos a few of the men over there have?” I nodded to him. “What if we were to give ourselves tattoos? Put them on our faces, it would change the way we look. No one would mistake us for one of them ever again.”
“You’re serious aren’t you?” I asked.
“I am always serious Jon. I told you, I don’t want to be anything like them. This could be the way we could change ourselves. We are better. We are better than them in every way. We could use the tattoos as a rite of passage. My father told me about some tribes back on earth who used to do it that way. When a boy became a man, they were given the tattoo as a sign that they were now men. We could do something similar.”
I thought over what he said. At first, I thought he was crazy, but the more I thought about it, the more I actually liked the idea. I know there were some who still longed to got back to the Citadel, but we all knew that it was never going to happen. Why not be different from them? Why not show them that held no power over us. It wasn’t a lot, but it was something.
“It’s something we can bring up to Jonas tomorrow. We need people to be in charge Sim. You are one who should take on a role. I know you are on the Council, but you can do more than that. You know plants, or at least have some knowledge of them, which is more than any of us do. You should train boys in finding the right foods to bring back.”
I was waiting for him to insult me again, but it never came. He sat there for a few minutes thinking over what I had said. I knew he wasn’t much for being around other people, but I also knew that he cared about the people of the Palisades, more than anyone here.
“You’re right,” He said. “but I would want the right boys, not just any one of them. It takes a special eye to make out the difference in a plant that can kill you and one that can help keep you alive.”
“I also think someone should train boys how to hunt. I mean real hunting, not just going out and shooting an arrow and hoping to hit something. I just don’t know who that is.” I said.
“Lawrence. He’s Tyrone’s boy. He was out hunting with his father from the time he could walk.”
I knew who he was talking about. He was good. He was one of the few people who went out to hunt that actually was able to keep us fed.
“He is a good choice. One other person, though. Someone to teach a small group of the boys how to spy on the Citadel without being seen. They would have to have good eyes too.”
“The choice for that is obvious Jon.” he said. I looked at him quizzically. “You Jon. You have the best eyes of anyone here. You can see things clearly that are miles away.”
He was right, I did have good eyes. I wasn’t much good at anything else. I had tried hunting, I could see the prey with no problem, but my shots never came close to hitting what I was aiming at. Plants bored me, I barely liked eating them, and the thought of learning about them, well it wasn’t going to happen. I’d have to pick the right boys for it. Boys who could see what others couldn’t. Smart boys who could see anything that changed.
“I guess you’re right Sim. I don’t know if I would be good at teaching them, though.”
“You might be an idiot Jon, but you are a smart idiot. You have had more ideas in one day than the rest of us have had in the years we have been here. Let’s talk all of these things through so that when we go to Jonas tomorrow, we can set a complete plan in front of him. Do you have anything to eat?”
The rest of the night we discussed all the things we had talked about. By the time Simian left, we were ready to present Jonas something solid to put before the Council.