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Rich opened his eyes slowly as the monotonous beeping of the heart monitor softly sounded in his ears. Confusion swept over him and he noticed the monitor beep faster. His heart raced as he tried to figure out where he was and what happened. Out of the corner of his eye, Rich spotted someone get up and sit by his side, taking hold of his hand and gently squeezing it. It was Terrance, with his warm smile and calm composure.
"Hey, kid. You're okay now. You're going to be alright." Terrance rubbed Rich's hand.
"What happened?" Rich's voice wobbled as tears formed in his eyes and he choked back a sob.
"We came to rescue you and the other hostages. When we broke in and had the others safe, we still hadn't found you. Finally, we heard a shout for help from Clare. We rushed to her aid and found you unconscious and bloody in her arms. You were in the torture room all chained up."
Rich shuddered in fear as the memories of the various forms of torture he went through resurfaced. He took heaving breaths to try to calm himself down.
"Terrance, I want my mom." Terrance smiled sadly and brushed Rich’s dark feathery hair off his face.
"I'm sorry, Richie. She's not here. We're miles from home, and we're in hiding."
"I know. But, can I call her?" Terrance shook his head with an expression of true remorse.
"We can't risk a phone call. The signal could get picked up and our safety and location could be jeopardized. I’m sorry, Richie, I really am.” Tears welled up in Rich’s eyes and he had trouble breathing.
“No, no. I need her. I need to hear her voice. Please!” The beeps from the monitor grew faster as Rich got worked up. He started to cry.
“Rich, I’m sorry. You can’t,” Terrance became a little sterner, but tried to stay calm and mollify Rich, who had started to panic thinking of being unable to talk to his mom. He sat up and tried to get out of the hospital bed.
“Please! I just want to hear her voice! Please! She’s the only family I have left, I just want to talk to her!” Rich screamed and fought Terrance who was trying in vain to keep him restrained.
“No! Rich! You can’t- Richard! Listen! You can’t, I’m sorry!” Terrance yelled at Rich as he shook his shoulders. A nurse came in, hearing the screaming and rushed over to Terrance’s aid. She sunk a needle into Rich’s neck and he slowly relaxed and passed out. Terrance laid him on his pillow and wiped the tears off his face. Then he got up and fled the room, feeling his face get hot. He couldn’t stand seeing Richie like that. He couldn’t stand refusing him a phone call to his mom after he was rescued from torture.
“Terrance? How is he? What happened?” Clare stopped Terrance in the hall, concerned.
“It’s not fair. It’s just not fair,” Terrance choked out angrily as hot tears rolled down his cheeks.
“What’s not fair?” Clare reached up and wiped the tears away, only for new ones to replace them.
“You rescue a sixteen-year-old kid from being tortured, then when he wakes up afterward with all the trauma and just wants to hear his mother’s voice, you refuse it and then stick a needle in his neck!”
“I know. I know. But Terrance, it’s either that or we all get killed. And he’ll get better. Just give it time,” Clare said, trying to be reassuring.
“I’m just sick of all this. I’m sick of this rebellion, I’m sick of hiding, I’m sick of the government and, and the fighting, and I’m sick of seeing people get hurt!” Terrance ranted as he clenched his fists in anger. Clare wrapped her arms around him and led him into an empty room. She sat him down in a chair and rubbed his back.
“There’s more than that, isn’t there?” Clare looked at Terrance’s glassy green eyes. “Terrance, you’re going to feel better when you say it.”
“I’m afraid, I’m afraid I’m going to lose Richie. He’s like a little brother to me,” he paused to compose himself. “And, and I’m afraid I’m going to lose you before we can get married.” He hunched over, trying not to cry. A few minutes went by. “Well, are you going to say anything?” Terrance looked at his fiancée.
“No. What should I say? Do you want me to persuade you that your feelings are ridiculous? Because that’s not true. I feel the same way, and I’m sure most of the people here do too. There’s nothing wrong with not liking something, Terrance. It’s the way you deal with it, and your attitude about it that makes it wrong or right,” Clare said. The two sat quietly, thinking.
“I think you should be there when he wakes up.” Clare broke the silence. Terrance nodded his head and took a deep breath. Then he straightened up and made his way back to Rich’s room. He resumed his place by his side and waited for the sedative to wear off and for Rich to wake up. Bored, and needing to be occupied, Terrance took out his key and turned it over in his hand. He felt all the grooves, and rubbed it in between his fingers. He sat in a daze, staring at Rich, and fidgeting with his key. The steady beeping of the heart monitor plunged him deeper into thought, making him less aware of his surroundings. Clare came in at some point and brought him dinner; a scoop of watery mashed potatoes, a skimpy piece of chicken, and some bread. Out of habit, Terrance ate the food, but continued to play with his key.
“Terrance,” Rich croaked softly. Terrance snapped out of his daze and smiled at the kid.
“Hey, Richie. How do you feel?” he said as he pocketed the key. Rich looked at him shamefully.
“I’m sorry I lashed out. I don’t know what happened, I just panicked and -”
“Hey, hey,” Terrance interrupted, “Don’t worry about it, okay? You had every reason to lash out. I would’ve done the same thing. It’s okay. Now, how do you feel?”
“Um, it hurts,” Rich tried to hide his pain with a smile.
“Everything,” he laughed.
“Sorry, kid. You’ve got all the painkillers in you right now. But,” Terrance reached in his back pocket and smiled mischievously, “I smuggled this out of a conference room earlier.” he held out his hand and revealed a small piece of candy. Rich hadn’t tasted candy since before the revolution broke out. “But don’t tell anyone.” Rich grinned, took the piece of candy and popped it in his mouth. The sweet taste of cherry exploded on Rich’s tongue and it reminded him that there was still good in this world.
“Thank you, Terrance. For everything.” Terrance smiled.
“Don’t mention it, kid.” He got up out of his chair. “Just focus on healing up, alright?”
“You’re leaving?” Rich asked disappointedly.
“Yeah, I promised the others I’d visit them too. But I’ll see you tomorrow, Richie.” With a smile, Terrance left the room and went down to the room full of the other soldiers that were rescued from the prison. None of them were in as bad of condition as Rich. It troubled Terrance, because the government wouldn’t torture a single person more than the others if they didn’t have a good reason. What was it about little Richie that they saw fit to nearly kill him and not the others? Terrance pushed the question out of his mind and entered the room.
“Hey everyone, look! It’s Terrance!” someone shouted. The room erupted into applause and cheering. Most of the men were out of their beds and doing well, playing cards and making merry. Others were still in bed recovering, but they were chipper and healing quickly. The applause died down.
“Say, Terrance! How’s good ol’ Rich Westy?” The room’s atmosphere turned serious and concerned and it seemed as though everyone was holding their breath.
“Yeah, is he alright?” another chimed in.
“Richie’s alive, healing, and smiling just as bright as ever,” Terrance beamed. Everyone in the room smiled and laughed a bit, utterly relieved. Terrance chuckled to himself. A bunch of men who volunteered to fight against the government, and they all unanimously agree that Rich Westy is everyone’s little brother. There wasn’t a single person in that base that didn’t like Rich.
“I don’t know what I would’ve done without Richie in that prison,” a young man announced.
“Yeah, me too. Good Richie held us together,” another piped up.
“He always had a smile, even after they tortured him. He would tell jokes and sing to lift our spirits,”
“Or tend to our wounds when we got hurt!” someone interrupted.
“And he gave us hope!” Suddenly, everyone was shouting out the things that Rich Westy had done for them.
The day Rich was recovered enough to walk, he went to visit the men. Terrance escorted him down the hallway and through the door to a room that Terrance had rallied the men in. Cheering and clapping broke out immediately, and everyone swarmed Rich like bees, hugging him, and gently punching his shoulders.
“Ri-chie! Ri-chie! Ri-chie!” a few voices shouted above the rest. A few more joined in, and then the entire room was cheering, “Ri-chie! Ri-chie! Ri-chie!” Terrance laughed and joined in, and when he looked at Rich, he saw tears streaming down his face, and his smile sparkled with joy. They spent their time playing games and singing songs, and no one would’ve known that they were in the middle of a revolution.
Beep! Beep! The intercom’s warning sounded in the room and the men hushed each other to hear the announcement.
“Terrance Bohr, report to conference room A immediately. I repeat, Terrance Bohr to conference room A immediately. Thank you.” Beep! Terrance got up, looking slightly uneasy and confused. He left the men and sped to the conference room where the other leaders of the rebellion sat. Their faces were somber and grim.
“Take a seat, Terrance. Don’t worry, you’re not in any trouble,” said Mark, a soldier of high rank. Terrance obeyed and waited for further instruction or explanation.
“Terrance, Rutherford passed away this morning,” Mark went on. Terrance was in shock. Brian Rutherford was the head commander of the revolution, the one who started it all! Surely, he can’t be dead!
“We’ve been meeting all day, thinking of what to do, and we’ve decided on you.”
“Me, sir? Me what?” Terrance fumbled out.
“Terrance, we want you to lead us,” Vanessa spoke up. “You showed tremendous bravery, skill, strength, intelligence, and kindness on the rescue mission. You’re the only one we all agree has what it takes to lead this revolution. Will you do it?” Terrance didn’t know how to react, and he was frankly terrified. But he slowly stood and straightened up.
“I will,” he said confidently. Everyone in the room stood and saluted him.
“At ease,” General Bohr commanded.
Days went by, and Rich continued to heal. He started rehab and began to train again for battle, as did the other soldiers. Terrance spent most of his time making plans and overseeing the training, so he didn’t get to see Rich as much as he had, and as much as he liked. Rich missed Terrance’s company as well, and found himself more anxious in his absence.
“Clare, when will I get to see Terrance again?” Rich fired his gun at the target, missing the center by an inch. Clare smiled sadly.
“I don’t know. I hardly get to see him either. He’s just so busy now, you know.” Rich sank his head in disappointment. “Why don’t you take a break,” Clare suggested. Rich lowered his gun and relaxed his muscles.
Clare hesitated. “Rich, how did you sleep last night?” She sat him down on a bench. “Any better?”
“No,” Rich sighed, and bit his lip, trying to hold back sudden tears. A lump formed in his throat. “The nightmares,” he took a deep breath, “they just get worse every night. And, I would be comforted by the fact that they’re just dreams, but…”
“But they were real,” Clare finished for him. He nodded his head, and Clare noticed his lips quivering.
“Terrance thinks I shouldn’t fight.” He looked up at Clare for her thoughts.
“He’s right,” she laughed. “You shouldn’t.” Rich smiled for a second, but it faded to seriousness.
“I-I can’t just not fight. After all that they did to me, to everyone else,” he gulped in anticipation for his next words, “to my family. Clare, I have to fight. If I don’t I’ll just feel so, so-”
“Useless?” Clare interrupted. Rich nodded.
“I just want all this to be over. I want- I want to see my mom again. She was the only one that they didn’t kill. I want to run into her arms, and tell her I’m okay, and that I love her. Because I didn’t get that chance when I left, and that haunts me. Maybe even more than my nightmares.” He paused. “Does that sound weird?”
“No, no not at all!” Clare put her arm around him and rubbed his back. “Richie, that’s not weird at all.”
“Thanks, Clare,” Rich whispered as he wiped his eyes and stood up. “I’m going to go get something to eat.” He stumbled out of the training room and walked down the hall, not intending to eat anything. Sirens suddenly started to wail, striking Rich with fear. Those are the air-raid sirens! He thought.
“Everyone get down to the bunker immediately! This is not a drill, I repeat, not a drill!” Terrance shouted as he ran down the hall. “There’s no time to collect possessions, just head down to the bunker, now!” He knocked on every door to make sure there was nobody left behind.
“Terrance!” Rich yelled, running toward him. “Terrance, what can I do?”
Terrance grabbed his shoulders. “Richie, just head to the bunker, alright?”
“But there must be something I can do!”
“No! Just get down there! There’s no time to waste, they’ll be here any minute!” The urgency in Terrance’s voice scared Rich. Chaos raged around them. Terrance looked around, observing that the soldiers weren’t moving and crowding the halls. It was like a traffic jam.
“What are they waiting for?” The two men looked around and listened to the people. Amidst noise and jostling, they heard multiple people shout that the bunker door hadn’t opened.
“The emergency systems are down,” Rich mumbled to himself.
Rich’s mind raced, and he thought of a solution. “The emergency systems are down!” he shouted this time. “I can get to the control center and do it manually!” Before Terrance had time to reply, Rich had taken off down the hallway, maneuvering through the mass of bodies.
“Rich, no! You’ll have to manually close it!” Terrance shouted and ran after him, but he wasn’t as agile and nimble as Rich was, and got blocked by the many soldiers crowding the halls. He watched Rich disappear in the sea of people, and reappear further down, like a loon. When he dove back into the crowd, Terrance didn’t see him reappear. Many long minutes ticked by, and the bunker doors suddenly opened, and the people poured out of the hallways like water out of a broken dam. Terrance held up the rear, waiting right behind the doors when he entered. Gradually, the noise of the people faded away as they descended the seemingly endless flights of stairs. Then the thick concrete doors slowly started to close.
“No,” Terrance whispered, wide-eyed. “No!” He slammed his fists on the doors. A dull boom sounded, and the floor shook. A few seconds later, and another one sounded, followed by another, and another. The government had reached the base and begun bombing them.
“RICHIE!” Terrance screamed. A bomb exploded close by, knocking him to the ground, and he realized he had to get down to the bunker. He was only inside the doors. Reluctantly, Terrance descended the stairs, tears streaked on his face. He dreaded seeing everyone in this state. He just wanted to see…
“Clare,” he muttered. He hadn’t seen her enter the bunker. A new fear gripped him, and he flew down the stairs. “Clare! Clare?” he yelled, searching the crowd frantically.
“Terrance!” Clare screamed, running into his arms. They held each other so tight that they couldn’t breathe. Terrance dug his face into her shoulder. She withdrew and looked concernedly into his eyes.
“What happened? Where’s Ri…” she trailed off as the idea popped in her head. She scanned Terrance for a sign that she was thinking wrongly. “No…” Terrance only nodded his head, as fresh tears rolled down his cheeks.
Many hours went by, and the soldiers settled in to their bunks.
“They need to hear something from you, Terrance,” Clare broke the silence between them. “Look at them! They’re scared, confused, sad. They need a leader,” she looked at her fiancé and combed his hair off his face with her fingers. Terrance stood up slowly, and made his way to the front of the bunker, where everyone had to check in and get living essentials. He found a microphone and turned it on.
“Uh,” he cleared his throat and thought of what to say. “Um, as you probably know, I’m Terrance, your general. I’m sure many of you are scared and confused right now, as am I. We don’t know yet how they found us, but we’re forever indebted to Mark, for picking up their positions, and accurately perceiving them as coming to bomb us.” Terrance paused, thinking up his next words. “However, there is another person whom we are indebted to. I think maybe some of you have heard already, maybe some of you are skeptical. Rich Westy has,” he choked, “has, died.” A collective gasp echoed through the room, and whispering broke out.
“The emergency automatic systems were down, and Rich didn’t hesitate to rush to the control room and open the doors manually. Of course, that meant that he had to manually close them, and, well… I think you can figure out the rest,” he mumbled. “He gave his life for you. He gave his life for you, because he knows you. He knows that you’re smart. He knows that you’re strong. He knows that you’re fun, and kind, and tough. He gave his life because he knows that you have what it takes to win this war. Rich had hope. But men, Rich Westy gave his life because he cares and loves each one of you, and knows that the world is a better place with you in it. Do not let Richie’s death be in vain, men. When we fight, and we will fight, I want you to go out there and fight the way Richie knew you could. Go out there, and do what Richie hoped you would do. Be the men that he saw you as; The men that he saw so important, that he gave his life for. Do it for Rich Westy.”