“Danial,” Meribah spoke to him softly so as not to disturb him, “We’re leaving now. We’ve set the TV back to New Zealand. Thank you very much.”
“You’re quite welcome, my dear. Have a pleasant voyage.” Danial looked up from his writing for the first time and did not return to it for several seconds. “Your quest won’t be much longer.” He returned to his work.
As they left the field, Joel thought he saw a small black and white television with a picture of four young angels and a baby.
“Sergeant?” returned the boy looking over his maps.
“Sir, five angels, one baby and the rest eight years old, have just past the first marker.” The sergeant pulled down on her jacket nervously.
“Harmless enough, unless of course it is a Trojan Horse. Sergeant Chaput?” prompted the general raising his eyebrows.
“Sir?” returned Chaput.
“Is it a trojan horse? Do you think that this is a trap?”
“No sir. Probably just a family moving down from the mountains.”
“Yes, you’re probably right.” The general looked over Chaput’s shoulder. “Nonetheless, if they get to the third marker arrest them.”
“Halt. Hands in the air,” a young female voice shouted. “We have you surrounded. You with the sword, drop it and the spear.”
Joel shrugged his shoulders and did as he was told.
“You are trespassing on the land of The Wounded Soldier. Explain yourself,” the voice came from behind them.
Joel turned his head so that the person could hear him, but not so much as to appear threatening. “Travellers. We are travellers and ask only to be led through your land.”
“Not for me to decide. Everyone place your hands behind your backs.”
“We’ve got them. They claim to be travellers.” Chaput placed the weapons on top of the general’s maps.
“Bring them.” Someone from outside the tent heard the order and pushed the four children through the door.
“Don’t push my mommy,” yelled Petal.
The soldier, hearing the order, prodded Lily with his staff. Petal stood up in her tote so that she could see over her mother’s shoulder. She clapped her hands, and lightning left her fingers and turned the soldier’s staff to ashes.
“Private, report to KP.” The general went to Lily and helped her steady herself. “Sergeant, help me untie our guests. Dreadfully sorry about that situation.”
“No harm.” Lily sat down on one of the cushioned seats.
“Okay, if you would all sit down, we can begin. I have a few questions, before I can let you move on. And I have a lot of reports to fill out, so I hope we can have all this tucked away quickly.” The general donned a pair of eyeglasses and picked up a pad and pen. “First who owns these weapons?” Joel claimed them as his. “Alright first question is why do you carry weapons? And secondly where did you get a steal blade? It is forbidden in heaven.”
“The spear, sir, is used for fishing.” Joel rubbed the back of his neck and yawned. “And the blade belongs to archangel Michael, I sort of have stewardship of it. I can assure you they have never been used against other angels, I don’t ever intend to use them in that way.”
“Your clothes, they are Indian?” asked the general.
“Yes, Ojibwa. As is the spear.”
“Alright. You in the lily dress. You are a Utopian.” Lily nodded to his question. “Okay, you’re clear. As I recall a peaceful socialist city. You’re child, what did she do to my soldier’s staff?”
“I don’t know. She has never done anything like it before. She is still young and rash, and doesn’t know of consequences,” Lily explained.
“And you, I see nothing remarkable about you,” said the general nodding at Marc. “What should I report about you?”
“Just a common man, except the fact that I’m married to this woman.” Marc gave a hopeless smile.
“You, unlike the two males are not an earth-angel, where are you from?” Marc was surprised that he knew that they were not Soron, and looked toward Joel.
Meribah folded her arms in front of her chest, “I’m from Cronat, a fishing village.”
“Okay, after I’ve all your names you can stay in our city overnight.” Marc began to say something. “That was not a request or an invitation, you will stay here while we run a check on you. These are dangerous times.”
The sergeant had introduced herself as Jody and was now escorting her guests to where they would stay. They entered deeper within the trees and suddenly they saw the village. There was no warning that they were approaching one, no smoke, no children playing, no animals. It just was not there one second, and the next it was.
Several soldiers and there companions were gathered in a small park. A boy who wore civilian clothes stood on a bench in front of the crowd.
“Okay, Okay shut up. If you would give me your attention I’ve something to recite,” the boy yelled.
“Get down from there and I’ll teach you to be bold, Luke,” someone from the crowd hollered.
“Oh Jimmy you couldn’t kill a flea. You can hardly do your pushups any more. So please, give but a moment of your precious warrior time,” Luke retorted than began reciting.
Be glad, my friends, that you have a chance
In this place, where so few come round
The dreams not dreamt, as the dreamers had not been born.
The mother who had no child to care for, lost like a wingless bird.
The dog who’d no boy to grow old with, the doll who sat in the window for years.
The painter whose canvas was bare for lack of a model.
All possibilities, who craved a chance.
And we only turn from the dance.
Only a few in the crowd clapped for Luke. The rest turned and went silently away. Even the clappers, said only a few words and left.
Luke, seeing Jody, ran towards the group. “So sister, have you captured more dangerous prisoners?”
“Everyone this is my brother Luke.” Jody smiled thinly. “And if you must know Luke, these people are just staying the night while general Brosseau checks their backgrounds for clearance.”
“Hah! You know that there is no background check, you’re his background check.” Luke returned her smile. “They’ll stay here long enough for you to come to the conclusion that they are okay, then you’ll tell the general that. And only then will they be permitted to leave.”
“Luke doesn’t believe in our lifestyle, and doesn’t like authority.” Jody wrinkled her face in disgust. “He’s a rebel.”
“You’re right, I am a rebel, and I don’t like our society. But sister I’ve given up on my city of birth. For seven hundred years I’ve tried to persuade you to change. No more.” Luke knelt down and smiled at Petal. “And what might your name be, Sweetheart?”
“My name isn’t Sweetheart, it’s Lily Petal.” Petal blushed and turned toward her mother’s chest.”
“Ah, but what is in a name?” Luke grabbed her hand and kissed it. Returning to his feet, he smiled at Lily. “And you must be her mother. Beauty is always passed on.”
“You’re too kind,” Lily answered.
He only smiled at her, and shook his head in response. Looking at Meribah, he said, “And you my dear, are dangerously beautiful. Daring a man to try his luck at your heart.”
“I don’t believe this.” Meribah looked over at Lily. “Okay, Luke, is it? Thank you for the compliment, but in the future save this mush for someone else.”
Jody grinned, pleased with what had just occurred. Luke gave his sister a nasty look then continued, “My heart will join the million others that you have broken before.” Without a further word, he turned to Joel and Marc who had been giggling at Luke’s attentions. “Gentlemen, you appear to be men of the world. That is to say, I know that you are men of the world. If you would let me accompany you, I would trade you information of this regiment for information of heaven.” Luke looked to his sister. “That is of course, if it is permitted by my fascist keepers.”
“This is a free society,” Jody assured him, then to her wards, “Even though my dear brother would have you think that it is not.”
Marc thought about it for a second. “Once we have been brought to our rooms, I hope that both of you could stay and tell us of your people.”
Jody began to lead them once again, “I’d be delighted, in fact I’ve been ordered to look after your every need.”
“I’m sure you have,” said Luke to his sister’s annoyance.
Meribah and Joel, tired and bored with early discussions, went to their bedroom. Marc and Lily sat on a large rug with Luke and Jody. Petal played nearby, but listened carefully to the discussion.
“A soldiers reward: free pass into heaven for dying in the field.” Luke gestured frantically. “My father and everyone who came here, are no more perfect than you or me. It’s not fair, he and we, were cheated of our lives on earth. I’d rather have been born a hundred times, and had the chance to improve on myself, instead of being born in heaven.”
“Be glad, my friend, that you have a chance, in this place where so few come round,” said Marc reciting from memory what Luke had said hours before.
“Besides,” said Jody, “You would not be you, if father hadn’t been here. You would never have been.”
“True enough, but I’m caught here by my love for my family.” Luke swore under his breath. “I need change. I want to demolish the ranks. I want everyone to be equal. I want this to be a city, not a dictatorship.”
“Do you want your people to change, or do you want a change?” Lily asked. “I mean would you be happier somewhere else.”
“No, I need to be with my kin.”
“Then, do your people want to change?” asked Petal.
Luke looked at Petal and paused for a long moment. “I don’t know. There’s a second and third generation that has been brought up in this army life. They don’t know anything else, and I don’t know anything else. Everything looks like it’s okay. Everything seems to be working. Why fix something that’s not broken? Right sister?”
Jody gave a half smile, grabbed Luke’s shoulder. “It may not be broken, but it’s cracked Luke. People have been leaving and going to other cities, or starting a farm or something.”
“On earth, there’s a country called Russia,” Marc said. “It started as Russia, then became the Soviet Union as it grew. Anyway, it was a communist country. Which, to my understanding, is similar to being a soldier. You’re not expected to have an opinion, and you must listen to orders given by your superior. Well there was this leader, Gorbachev, who knew that it was time for change. His country was slowly falling apart, but to save it he had to tear it apart. He had to take out its heart, which was his own government. There was a whole uprising, and a lot of stuff went on. But my point is that it is hard for a president to change a nation, and it is many times harder for regular people to do it.”
“So what are you saying? Become the general?” asked Luke.
“No, I don’t think so. If advancement here is like anything on earth that would take too long.” Marc smiled shyly. “But your sister already has a good start, if you worked together. If you wrote her speeches. If you talked to the civilians, and she talked to the soldiers, change could be made.”
“You think so?” asked Jody, but Marc was already nodding. “We’ll do it, but nothing as drastic as you think. And it won’t be as fast as you want.”
Luke hugged his sister. “It’s a start, soon we’ll be trading with other cities. Soon we’ll be a productive part of heaven.”
“We’re gonna go to bed now.” Lily waved goodnight. “I think you two have a lot to talk about, and a lot to plan.”
Everyone slept well, even though they had hard beds, scratchy blankets, and a bugle to wake them up early.