Posted 03 August 2011 - 01:16 PM
The Enforcer Way
I'm going to write it down, so everyone knows. Were you in my place, you would have done the same thing. We all would have. In this day and age, we do what we need to do to survive, and anyone who tries to entertain some sort of holier-than-thou attitude about their ethics and morals when they're starving and cold and scared... well, they are, frankly, full of ****.
I used to be somebody, with a bed I didn't have to share with five other people on rotation and a roof that only leaked when there was a downpour. I had a rank; I was Captain Leon Nasden, Enforcer squad leader and protector of the Spantown citizenry. People used to smile and wave at me when I walked by them. I was respected. Then I made a mistake that cost me everything, and will probably cost me my life too, soon enough.
This is a screwed-up world we live in. You're lucky if you ever get a chance at happiness, and by God if you do you grab it by the horns and hold on, no matter what. My story wasn't much different in that regard, when I met her. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, something pure and lovely in a world covered with crap and detritus. Her name was Araelia, and she came in with a group of refugees from the wastelands, fleeing the depredations of local raider tribes. Even with her dusty clothes and face smeared with road grime, her smile took my breath away.
Days came and went. I filled out the duty rosters as was required, oversaw the arrival of supplies and their distribution to the populace, and even weathered an inspection by Colonel Pryce herself. All the while, Araelia was in the back of my mind, distracting me from my duties. I had to speak with her, at least for a little while, before she was either shipped off to another place or left on her own.
I found her after I had managed to break away from my duties for a moment. She was in the infirmary, helping tend to more of the wounded travelers that had been coming in sporadically for days. Araelia was always very gentle with them, soothing them with both care and that wonderful hummed tune I came to love. We sat for a time, and she told me about her life, her experiences, and her friends. I should have seen then what I discovered later—maybe spared both of us the grief of what was to come—but I was too blinded by her company. I didn't want to see.
My superiors started to question me on my work. There was no arguing that I had begun to slip; reports were late or unfinished, my debriefing of patrols was spotty and incomplete. Duty was failing in the light of Araelia's presence. I considered, probably for the first time, resigning my post. One doesn't just resign from the Enforcers, however. Nothing's ever that easy. You're in for life, so to speak. I tried to strike a balance, but couldn't. Whenever I focused more on my position as Captain, I felt as if I were losing pieces of Araelia, and when I spent time with her, I could feel my accomplishments slipping away.
Then another inspector came, and this one was far less affable than the others had been. Word of the slippage, the inefficiency, had gotten to the brass in Peregrine Company, the intel group. They sent one of theirs along with the usual Sheriffs to make sure that there was no treason or dissent in the settlement, as had happened with others. The Enforcers do not just assume things will get better. They will show up and make them improve. That same tenet which drew me to them, made me so loyal, was coming to unmake me.
Major Craine. That's who they sent. A hawk-nosed son of a *****, mind like a whip and with no tolerance for failure or even the slightest hint of discontent. I was brought in front of him and questioned for hours, the same inquiries repeated again and again to see if my story was inconsistent. If I used even the slightest turn of phrase different than before, the questioning began again, far more intense than before.
And I slipped again.
I mentioned Araelia. Damn fool I was, I brought her into it, when even the men under my command had kept quiet about what they knew. After I was released, I rushed to find her, but Craine's men had gotten to her first. She was backed into the corner of the infirmary, surrounded by armed soldiers, about to be detained. They were digging through the box next to her sleeping bag, tearing apart everything she owned. I remember the look on her face, the sadness I saw as they found a jacket stuffed in the recesses of the crate.
On the left shoulder was a simple sewn-on patch, bearing a great tree on a sienna background: a Vista emblem. Araelia was one of our enemies, or so I had been trained to believe. She was taken away, arrested under suspicion of terrorism and treason, and they immediately detained me a second time.
Our detention facility in Spantown wasn't large. There was little padding between the walls of the cells, and damn them all, I could hear her screaming as they interrogated her. They knew they didn't have to do anything to me, I would have told them anything to get them to stop torturing her, and yet they never asked me once. It was intentional. All they wanted me to do was listen. Goddammit, I'm a grown man, crying as I write this and remember those screams.
What kind of order were we trying to create if innocent people are treated like this? They had nothing, just a jacket and a dirty old patch. They never even asked, not that they would have believed her. Peregrines never just believe what you say, even if you swear it's the truth. I had to stop what they were doing to her. It just wasn't right. It wasn't the Enforcer way.
Eventually the screams stopped. The silence chilled me right to my soul, somehow worse than the cries and whimpers had.
Then the door to my cell opened, and the world turned red.
I was a frontier guardian, I've killed bears with little more than a knife and some grit. A soft-bellied interrogator and a couple of guards with no conscience weren't about to stop me. They died, all of them, quickly and as quietly as I could manage. Hell, if no one had come to investigate Araelia's screams, they certainly weren't going to come save these men.
I took what I could off of their corpses and went to her cell. She was bleeding, barely alive and aware. Her skin was burned by acids and cigarettes all over her chest, stomach, and arms. Her eyes were swollen shut from blows and tears. I took her from the place and managed to sneak us out of Spantown I did what I could to tend to her broken body, and two days later she managed to open one eye enough to look upon me. The blubbering apologies, the tears I shed, were probably incoherent. I swore I'd take her away from there, keep her safe. We would travel north, along the trails. I could hunt enough for the both of us, and there was still enough ammo left in the weapons I took from the interrogators to keep us protected for a while, so long as we avoided any large groups of bandits.
It was a hard journey. We could barely travel ten miles a day, with the terrain and Araelia's wounds healing as slowly as they did. She never smiled again. She couldn't hum that tune, or laugh, or even talk in more than a whisper. They had broken her, taken away everything that she was. Now I was an enemy too. Eventually, they would come to find us. I knew this even as we fled further north, through the Grainway and into Kaibab Forest, then west into the area called the Plateau. The only people out here were people trying to get out, or people who did not want to be found. We fit into the latter.
Araelia was a Vista. I was an Enforcer who killed other Enforcers to save her. There was no life for us, and she couldn't even bring herself to look at me for long. Two weeks after fleeing Spantown, we came to a protected settlement called Linewood. I managed to trade off the last of the ammunition and the guns to a peddler for some cash and a place to stay. That night, I saw a campfire on the horizon to the east. We had been followed, and I knew there would be no mercy for me. I could draw their attention away from her, at least. I had to try. I left the money and a letter with Araelia while she slept. Nothing would ever make up for the hell I brought upon her, but I wouldn't subject her to it any further.
It's been another night alone out here on the Plateau. I've only got a steel pipe to protect myself. My clothes are torn and filthy, so I discarded them and found some trousers in the trash heaps outside of Linewood. I won't last much longer without food, so I will either need to confront them or let myself die and hope they will be satisfied. They may come for me themselves, or hire mercenaries as is the custom in these lawless outskirts of civilization.
If they find this on me, they will likely burn it. So I will put it somewhere out of sight, hoping someone will find it someday and understand. This world is a ****ed up place, and even great beliefs like those of the Enforcers can be ash in your mouth when they're turned against you. It's a dog-eat-dog life out here, and the only say you have in the matter is if you're going to let yourself be a terrier or if you're one of the wolves.
I regret everything except loving you, Araelia. I'm so sorry.
Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons for thou art crunchy and go well with ketchup!
Posted 26 January 2015 - 09:53 PM
Posted 12 July 2015 - 07:02 AM
this is a great start to what I am hoping is a much longer story, I am curious what happens with the enforcer and if he'll be able to return to the woman. If the woman is actually so far away from the vista's or if they like the enforcer's will come after their own for one reason or another. At the time of writing this I've yet to choose a faction.
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