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Quinn sat up and then took a large deep breath. He was sitting in his cell that had the same nasty pungent smell that had now seeped into his clothes, his hair. He looked across the cell, to the other wall, the one scarred with lines, one for every day he had been in this cell. Food used to come twice a day, but for the past 30 times, it had only come once, usually, a leftover plate of beans, if he was lucky a chicken scrap. He began his morning ritual, five deep breathes, in, hold, think of Ma, out, five deep breathes. He repeated the same process for his little sister, Sadie, for his younger brother Tony, for his ancestors, for everyone that he had worked with in the Federation. After reaffirming his memory of those he had ever known, he focused on his memories of the time that he spent with Tony and Sadie, of the surfing excursion to the California Beaches, of the time he and Papa had played catch in the street. But at the mere recollection of Papa, images started flooding in, they flashed between memories of Papa playing with them, hugging them, then just as quickly as the memories had rolled in, a new set appeared. The day the guards came and barged into the house. Watching them drag Papa out. Seeing them shove him into a black S.U.V. Seeing the S.U.V. drive away. Seeing the SU.V. be blown up 45 meters down the road. Quinn took a deep breath, then tried to clear his head, but the image of the explosion persisted. Trying to clear his head, Quinn stood up, ran to the door of the cell and tried the handle. It didn’t budge, neither did the door. Flipping the switch, nothing happened, as usual. He tried to move the bed, the chains on the wall held it tight. He tried to pick up the huge block of wood sitting in the corner, but that too did not budge. After his elaborate check of the cell, Quinn sat down again, head cleared and then resumed his morning ritual. He replayed the memories of his military life, the day he visited the Army’s Recruiting Services, the day he completed boot camp and became an Army Ranger, the day he was promoted to Sergeant, then the battle that changed his life. He remembered climbing into the jeep, driving towards the Confederations base, the sound of the explosion destroying the bridge his squad had just finished crossing, blocking them in this pit. He remembered the sight of several hundred Confederates appearing over the hill, the sun gleaming off the barrels of their machine guns. He looked his soldiers, then glanced at the several hundred Confederate soldiers leering down at Army Rangers Team Six. Quinn remembered telling his men what an honor it was to have served with them, that he was thankful that he had been able to serve his country. He remembered all of his men passing around fellow regards because they knew that they were outmatched several thousand to twenty-five. He told his men to use the cars as barriers, and not to waste any shots. “We go down with a fight! Make every shot a headshot, every single action as meaningful as the last because it might be your last. Do this for your country, do it for your family, do it for each other.”
The air hung stagnant and wet as Tony climbed the last story of the abandoned highrise. He sat down on the edge of the balcony with his feet over the edge. He took a moment to look over the landscape. In front of him, roughly three miles away, were the once pristine California beaches. He remembered playing on the beaches, with his brother Quinn, and running the beach with his family. But his father had been taken by the government and Quinn had been deemed MIA over in the Confederate states. Tess walked into the room and joined Tony on the balcony. They gazed at the view for a little while longer before returning their view to the house on the corner. Routine plague and treason inspections occurred every week. Two patrols of eight would work their way down each street, meticulously checking every one. Last week the patrols had quarantined an entire section of the slum town. Tony watched the patrol leave the house two doors down. Turning to Tess he asked, “What supplies do we have?”
“Not much” she retorted.
“We got two loaves of bread, one sack of apples and 3,420 notes.”
“Do we have any clothes?” Tony questioned.
“Not a lot just a couple of work shirts and one pair of overalls.”
“ Wrap up one loaf of the bread and three shirts with 500 Notes. We can slip it to them after they pass the inspection.”
“Alright,” responded Tess.
Tony watched as the guards walked up his mother's driveway, then as they turned onto the sidewalk. The guards knocked on the door once before his mother ushered them in. Tony started counting the seconds. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6... by the time he had counted off 10 minutes, nothing had changed. After another 20 minutes had passed, Tony took the binoculars and looked at his former house. He saw the 8 guards get up from the battered kitchen table and make their way to the front of the house. Once the guards had left the house, Tony again looked into the binoculars. He saw his mother unwrap some food and set it down on the same battered table for dinner. Tony smiled at the memory of Quinn and himself fixing the table for a special meal.
“Tess, I’ll meet you at the Old Drive-In Theater. I am going to go drop this stuff off
“Alright, be careful.”
Tony grabbed the sack and dropped it into his backpack then began the descent from the highrise. After 90 seconds, Tony stepped onto the ground and took off at a slow jog. He proceeded to take a right onto the road where he used to play with his brother. After taking left onto his street, he slipped into the backyard of his family’s house. After crawling under the back porch and into one of the bedrooms, he dislodged a board. Tony listened to the conversation in the kitchen. They were talking about the factory conditions. He heard a chair screech back, and a man get up. Quickly, he flipped the bag into the room and started to put the board back. Before he could finish placing the board, a gargantuan walks into the room. Seeing Tony beneath the floor, he reaches down and grabs him and pulls him up.
“Who are you?” the gargantuan demanded.
“Who are you?!” spat Tony.
“Name, now!” demanded the gargantuan.
“Mary, come here.”
“What’s the matter Craig?” responded Tony’s mother.
“There is a kid trying to break into our house!” yelled back Craig, quickly losing his patience.
“I’m not just some kid, Mom. I’m your son,” exclaimed Tony.
“Oh my god! Anthony?! Is that you?!.” shrieked Mary, brimming with excitement.
“Yes it is Mom, it’s really me.”
“Wow, I never thought I would see you again. The government arrested you and -” exclaimed Tony’s Mom, starting to cry.
“It’s ok Mom, it’s not your fault,” said Tony, hugging his mother.
“I always knew that you would come back.” sobbed Mary.
“I always knew that I would come back.” choked Tony, also beginning to cry.
“Mary. who is this” interjected Craig forcefully?
“Craig, this is my second eldest son Anthony. He was taken from me when he was 11” turning to face Tony, “My, you have grown so much over the years.”
“Yea, it has been awhile since I last saw you too, you look a lot better now.”
“Mom, who’s in the house?” asked a young, quiet, feminine voice.
“Oh my god.” exclaimed Tony, “Is that Sadie?!”
“Yes, it is Anthony.”
Sadie yelled, “Mom! I asked you who’s here?.”
Mary led Tony to Sadie’s door, then responded: “It’s nobody, I’ll be right in to say goodnight.”
“Ok?” responded Sadie.
“Anthony, before you get mad, I’m doing this to spare her. She took a lot worse than I did, I can’t hurt her again. I think that it would just resurface the same pain that she has gone through from Papa’s death, your arrest, and then Quinn’s capture. I just cannot do that to her.” whispered Tony’s mother.
Anthony pulled his mom in for a long embrace and whispered, “I understand. Just tell her that you know that I miss her and that I love her. Ok? Can you do that for me?”
“Anything Anthony.”, sobbing, Mary squeezed Anthony, “You should go.”
“I love you, Mom. I’ll stop by and make myself more visible more often.”
“I love you too Anthony.”
And with that, he slipped out into the night.