Sparrow

Countless people have died by his hands, an assassin once regarded as a hero but now one of the most hated people to face trial for his crimes; Genocide. The man behind the cowl? A royal heir to a large monarchy overseeing the largest empire of the world. A huge undertaking and privilege for Jonathan Sarkoen to have, but it is quickly thrown upon him unexpectedly as his father is assassinated right in front of him and the rest of the family. This huge responsibility is thrown away as John takes it upon himself to seek revenge on those who killed his beloved father... But things don't go to plan as John finds himself in a strange world stuck between his family and the people of his country. This isn't made any easier what with his harsh battle over his insanity and mental state. Is John prepared for what awaits him in the shadows of mystery? Or will it overcome him and his ambitions to find the glory which once shone over his people and its lands?

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2. Chapter 1: More than Fiction

Victory is a paradox; you can’t have it if you’ve lost something but you can never achieve it without sacrifice...

 

-25th of June 2033-

 

Sitting on one of the two chairs in the hotel room; I couldn’t help but feel the weight of death knocking on my door. The room I stayed in was pretty small; there was a small double bed at the end opposite the door, a little fridge by the sink and table with two chairs. The bathroom attached to it was pretty small with a mirror, sink, toilet and shower. It might have been pretty lacking in common luxuries, but I’ve dealt with worse, I came to appreciate the air conditioning and soft bed which was marginally better than prison.

Mitchell walked in with his laptop and the best of all uninvited friends; Government Authority Guy #1 (or GAG as I like to call them). GAG came walking in geared up with a metal flak jacket, 3 tear gas grenades, stun baton (which seemed a little pointless) and a fully automatic assault rifle loaded with 32 live rounds with magazines to spare. Mitchell was wearing reading glasses, a fashionable brown turtleneck and black slacks. He had a humble and innocent smile on his face, but he was hiding his fear. Mitchell looked different since the last time I saw him, but that was a few years ago, he probably just got older. Probably the wrinkling skin but he wasn’t senior yet; more of a matured adult coming onto senior years. He had sharp blue eyes and short hazelnut hair that sat on his head peacefully. It wasn’t until he got closer when I realised that not only was he tall but he was giant; I only reached up to his shoulders he was that tall... But he still seemed afraid;

“It’s ok Mitchell, he’s got a gun.” Smiling through my satirical words I said to Mitch before turning to the GAG and staring him down menacingly whilst he checked his rifle and leant on the wall closest to the door, Mitchell didn’t seem to get the joke though. He sat down and opened his laptop up, “So... uh, John...” he was nervous and afraid.

“Yes that’s me.” I said in my sarcastic and slightly scary way, “It’s ok Mitch... Is it ok if I call you Mitch?”

“Um... yeah that’s ok.” Mitch spoke seeming to start relieving himself of his fear, “So John... you’ve heard of me before?”

“Yes I heard about you in a single page document about you.” Trying to get him in a sociable mood, I thought a joke might make it all go over smoother, “Absolutely riveting read... Although I much prefer the fiction; ‘Killer on Twelfth Boulevard’ any day.”

“Oh, so you’ve read my books?” Mitchell was starting on his pride now; still holding onto fear but like anyone would immediately look for praise and recognition wherever it came. People seemed to do that a lot, people stride upon their own false views they gather from others compliments and respect.

“Yes I have I found them...” I led him on a little, hoping to open him up a little more.

“Moving? Eloquent?” He went on before I cut him off albeit rudely but necessarily;

“I believe we have work to do...” I said, holding my hand up getting us back on track...

“Right... So, John. Where should we start? Or really where does it all start?” Mitch said clasping his hands over his laptop’s in-built keyboard. I sat back in my horribly uncomfortable plastic chair and took a deep breath. “Well, I was born in this city’s state hospital on the 15th of November, 1991. Just three years before my father took position as regent actually.”

“What was the family like back then?” Mitch was typing into his laptop but kept his eyes on me, seemingly eager to hear the story.

“Well I was the first born child, born to a loving mother and father...” Hesitantly I stopped for a moment before finishing with a sudden realisation adding a depressing tone to my voice; “...But they never had time for me, they were always busy with work or something.”

“Was your childhood, lonely?” Mitch was beginning to sound sympathetic.

“No actually, I had a really nice nanny and when my sister was born it was better with some family around.” I leaned in looking at the glass of water I had set for myself before the interview.

“And when was she born?” Mitch asked me as I swirled the water in my glass.

“Heather was born five years after me on the 4th of February 1996.” I started drinking from the glass, now. Mitch hammered away at his laptop, he didn’t seem to be the social type, nor did he seem to be really involved here either.

“So when was Malcolm born?” Mitch adjusted his glasses, pushing them back to the bridge of his nose.

“23rd of December1998.” Mitch nodded now typing on his laptop, ‘About the same time my father appointed Leonardo as his advisor...” Mitch stopped and looked at me noticing the tone in my voice.

“I take it you didn’t like him much?” Mitch seemed nice, at least it seemed that way, but I had to know him better to know for sure... But I knew that would be impossible.

“No...” I paused to ponder it for a second, “And that was before... well you know...” Mitch nodded. I continued...

“When I was eight, around March was when he was appointed advisor to the regent. Leo was an ex-military officer and one of my father’s old high school buddies, I don’t know how my fair hearted father could be such great friends with this arrogant make of a man. It sure did make life a little worse with him coming around acting like he was the shit or acting like he didn’t give one. He insulted my father and mother, despite being ‘friends’ and scared the hell out of not only me and the kids but even had a few episodes with the police. It seemed like he was more of a criminal than a politician, but he gave the family its parents back. It was worse in ways, but a lot better in others, I guess he was a blessing in disguise then...”

 

-March 18th 2000-

 

It was such a weird mark; a nearly perfect scar about the size of my palm on my lower abdomen on the right side just above the hipbone.
“Such a weird birthmark...” Looking into the bathroom mirror and lifting my shirt up to my chest to see it clearly; the faded skin and indent it made on my body...

“John, could you come into the kitchen please?” It was my mother; she always had such a heavenly voice. She stood fairly tall; about 5ft 11in from memory and always seemed to handle her balance better than a gyroscope. Her long blonde hair was kept back behind her shoulders which was a strong contrast to her slightly darker skin that the rest of the family didn’t possess but still white like the rest of us. Not many people had skin darker than mum’s; but I’d heard about some people having a strange genetic condition making them a caramel-brown and even some dark as storm wood. Mum was pretty and fair as a mother could be; but she always seemed to have something to worry about and found it hard to smile, unlike my father who never stopped; but it was nice, infectious really, it even got to mum sometimes.

“Yes mum.” I answered her. Back then I was a pretty naive boy, overly eager too... That’s what you get when you give a child the promise of the throne to an entire country, which I had to learn all about and train for. When I entered the kitchen she was holding little Malcolm in her arms, he was bubbling drool from his mouth like he always did. Malcolm played with the familiar strands of hair that fell from mothers head; stuffing them in his mouth, pulling them every now and again.

“Could you take Malcolm for a moment while I help get dinner ready?” She handed Malcolm to me asking a question not caring for the answer which had to be a yes; like how water had to be made of parts hydrogen and parts oxygen.

“Oh and could you tell your father Leo’s not going to be having dinner with us?” Those words I hated hearing in conjunction; ‘father’ and ‘Leo’ and I heard them a lot. Diligently I sighed as I left the kitchen, as mum was finishing up with the house chefs, which she normally did; mostly out of habit but partly because she couldn’t trust the red-haired girl who seemed unfit to cook for a fast food joint let alone the world’s most influential royal family whom had the greatest prestige and fame than all the others had. That turned out really well; the two of them got along and it was clear after the first week why she was chosen.

 

Dad was currently helping the butlers set the table, usually we set up only four settings but the whole 32 were set up. The massive table lined with gold rimmed plates made of polished marble with silver cutlery, napkins, set pieces and the family goblets. The goblets were one of the traditions all families still held; the family crest engraved into the gold and encrusted with fine markings and jewels. Each one held the phoenix spreading its fiery wings across the side of the goblet. The guests all had a small ruby countered by two small emeralds by its sides engraved on opposing sides of their goblets. This signified their place under their host with their families represented by the emeralds and ours by the ruby. My goblet held a row of white Quartz lining the rim with a small blue sapphire atop each fourth Quart. This signified my claim to the throne; the rim held the Quartz that signified the people awaiting the sapphire (me) which was placed on every fourth to signify the first four families which we’re one of. My sister’s had large curves around the rim like Malcolm’s which both held gold rimmed opals which signified their place in royalty. Mum’s was the most unique; Silver lined with Gold engraved with a Mountain with flowers growing at its base while two pickaxes crossed in front of it all; that was the Wallace family crest. The Wallace family isn’t one of the ‘big four’; it’s one of the families under our influence. Dad’s was probably the coolest; engraved into a fyrestone on four sides of the goblet straight in the centre was the family crest which would glow orange with old magic which almost no one knows even exists. I never understood why they called it old when there was no new magic, magic died out a long time ago and only the Sages know it; they don’t tell anyone about it, they don’t teach it and its all got to do with the surge of wars going on between the Morseli and Thane families. Back in the times of magic, dragons, castles and heroes our family would have stepped in to stop it all, but now it’s all about politics. If we stepped in we’d be practically stepping on Thane’s little toe and possibly hurting our relationships with the Eastern coast or with the Morseli and the lands just east of home. Oddly enough; I didn’t realise that I was standing from one end of the room still staring at the table until one of the butlers accidently bumped into me; who quickly and humbly apologized. After snapping back from that odd trance, I walked over to dad wondering why the whole table had been set;

 

“Dad, why did you set the whole table?” Like the naive child; I asked forgetting what I was supposed to tell him as Malcolm started exclaiming incoherent gibberish to state his loud voice.

“We’re having the board over for dinner.” Dad looked pretty happy, he did enjoy social events and loved interacting with other people. One of the butlers came by and started to comb his dark brown hair back, then straightened his collar for him, “Thank you Timothy.” He had a stout jaw which thankfully none of us kids got from him. He had a rough, yet fair face; it was completely rugged compared to mum’s but to any other man it seemed fairer, more feminine. Except the moustache that furled across his upper lip; that wasn’t feminine at all... maybe that was what set him aside so much.

 

“So you know that Leo is coming over then?” Hearing this made me a little disheartened by it but my feelings got washed away about the same time Malcolm gave me one of his slobbering kisses on the cheek. The little blond boy seemed to have so much saliva it seemed he had a hose in his mouth spewing it out.

“Is your mum worrying about him again?” Dad kneeled down to me; I looked at him with a guilty shy.

“Well I think she’s still upset about him calling her a fat pig.” It was difficult to say but it was harder for dad to continue, but both of us succeeded in doing so anyway...

“John...” Dad sighed, “...Tell mum that he was very sorry about it and it won’t happen again.” I wasn’t going to tell mum that, because that was a lie and mum hates lies; Dad wasn’t a liar... At least I didn’t think he was. Mum and Leo were both jealous and angry towards one another; Leo because mum stole dad from him fifteen years ago when they got married and mum because Leo’s stealing dad back from her now after all that time she’d spent keeping him away. It was strange to think that a man like Leo actually cared about someone other than himself when he’d had a long history of torturing enemy spies and doing lots of dirty mercenary work, of course I had no idea about all this but he was always menacing and scary when sober... Probably why he drank a lot, but that doesn’t really matter anymore.

Half way walking back to mum and she already knew what was going on, sometimes I thought she was psychic and could read minds. She didn’t even need to look at you to tell, she was washing a few dishes facing the wall, but she still knew I was there, and what I was thinking...

“I’m going to have a word with your father...” she stormed off past me towards dad, knowing full her intentions.

“David!” She looked at dad pent up with anger, she wasn’t angry with him entirely but at him for sure, “We are not having Leo over for dinner, for lunch or even for a little chat!”

“Come on Lynda, he’s changed.” Dad said in his defence, which seemed to be a cardboard box at the moment.

“Right, the last time we met he ripped our bedroom curtains off and tried to restrain me to the bed!” It was clear that she hated Leo; clear enough the staff made a hasty retreat out of the room, she stopped dad before he began to continue, “...And that was yesterday.”

“Honey, you know he didn’t mean it,” Dad said as mum lit up with anger, but before she could speak dad continued, “And you still haven’t said sorry to Leo yet.”

“You’re taking his side in this? He deserved that black eye!” Mum was a better liar than dad, but she was still bad nevertheless.

“You broke his arm! That’s a little bit more than a black eye.” Dad seemed to defend Leo quite aggressively. They kept fighting like this until the first few visitors turned up; it wasn’t Leo, he would have been an hour late. Instead it was Martha, the woman who took Leo’s job as the military director. Martha and Lynda acted like absolute schoolgirls around each other, but they were both ex-military spec ops agents who could kill a man with their bare fists in less than three seconds. It was always funny to see them act so childish together knowing that between them they’ve killed over a good hundred armed soldiers, even tortured a few...

Martha started screaming and so did Lynda, they hugged and jumped about like neither of them expected one another, dad just sighed. Malcolm, Heather and I just rolled our eyes smiling from ear to ear.

“Come in, come in dear.” Mum said with her big friendly smile. I liked Martha, she was really nice and usually...

“My goodness, Johnny! You’re growing up so fast!” She bent over rubbing my cheeks affectionately, maybe too affectionately.

“Yes ma’am!” I said raising myself up by my tippy toes.

“Heather! Last time I saw you, you were just starting to walk.” Heather started chuckling with confusion; she hadn’t met Martha before, only when she was a few years younger and unable to remember much, “Guess what I got you two...” there it was, my favourite thing about Martha, she always spoilt us when she met us. Back then I didn’t know why she spoilt us so much, but I never asked... Until my fifteenth birthday I asked her... sort of a party crasher; she had a horrible accident during childbirth and neither the child nor her reproductive organs could be saved. She spent three years in therapy, dealing with the shock and trauma that came with the accident. She’s still married to Finn; but she’ll never have children but she said they’d been thinking about adopting... But nevertheless she’s filling a void she has... Apparently she’d been ‘baby crazy’ since the two got married and now she’s ‘kid crazy’ every child she knows is spoilt and partly raised by her; she was my old nanny... Really cool too; she took me out with Finn in his rally buggy and tore up the forest tracks up north. After we had got onto our tippy toes Finn appeared from behind her as if he was somehow smaller than her, and handed the presents to Martha who passionately kissed him on the cheek as he did so.

 

“Here you are John,” It was a small box wrapped in blue wrapping paper and written on the top in black marker was ‘For Jonathan.’ “And here you are Heather.” We both thanked her, Heather far more emphatically than I did. Although Heather was estranged as to why this woman turned up to her house handing out presents. But she accepted the well wrapped gift with her name on it; she seemed to be far more eager than me shredding the present of its papery skin to reveal the possession inside; a hand crafted wooden horse, and painted white and gold.

“I made that myself,” Martha said with a distinct pride in her voice, “What about you Johnny, why haven’t you opened yours?”

“It’s ok I’ll open mine later.” I said putting on the end table next to me.

“Ok then, that’s fine,” she seemed a little disappointed that I had lost my frantic childish acts of selfishness. When she turned to mum she seemed to forget about it... They talked like schoolgirls as they pranced about the house, dad stayed to greet Finn and the next guest who arrived on cue; Douglas, he was a big burly man, who was deceivingly intelligent, “David, how’s it been?” He said in his deep booming voice that seemed to parallel with his athletic physique. He also had long sandy blonde hair and prescription glasses.

“It’s been great Doug.” They shook hands and patted each other’s backs.

“Where’s my sister? Running off with her BFF?” Doug was of course talking about mum; Doug was the minister of commerce and trade in Platoe and was also mum’s big brother.

Dad led Doug into the dining hall where all the plates and utensils were set up. Eventually one after another, everyone turned up except Leo, which seemed to be a good sign. Dad had invited other a few other families over for a small social gathering; the Morseli family, Breaguard, Ollesian, Lebrenbata and Praia. Thane weren’t going to show up due to the war and all the dangers of showing their faces in places that weren’t military fortifications. We understood like we always did...

 

After everyone had finished their meals and where left talking to one another. I was speaking with Amy Ollesian; she was the daughter to Uspin and Kathia Ollesian, who was the queen regent of Feldspar up north. Amy and I were dating at the time actually; we got together every weekend at one or the other’s house and spent the day with each other. We also spent time during the week and went on trips together; like the year before we had taken a cruise to Goletchi Island, our families were there too but we pretended they weren’t. At the time we were talking about spending the next weekend at her house... “We could go to the carnival in Yalor; they’re going to have...” She was cut off by a loud thud noise upstairs which everyone seemed to notice; the noise of course was Leo, who had climbed into my room and without alerting the security, had trashed my room. Everyone raced up the stairs to see Leo bumbling around with a bottle of liquor in one hand and a lamp in the other...

“What have you done?!” Dad yelled at Leo, his bottle now more obviously empty as it fell onto the floor spilling everywhere.

 

“Hey buddy!” Leo said stumbling over the broken remains of my door and bedroom furniture.

“Don’t you hey buddy me!” Dad yelled at him once again. Eventually after lots of yelling and the guests and the rest of the family waited downstairs; security hauled him out as he screamed nonsensical insults. Leo was taken away by security and sent home a few moments later. Technically mum beat the shit out of him and security carried him to the front gate but no one else really saw that except me and dad...

 

Once everyone had gone home, which they had done not long after due to that disturbance, I finally got around to opening my present; in front of Martha before she left. It was amazing actually; she got me my first mobile phone. For an eight year old boy it was amazing to have, my parents didn’t want me having one but after Martha insisted they let me keep it. Martha wanted me to keep it because she knew Amy had one and had been dying waiting for me to get one myself. I never really understood why mum and dad wanted to keep it from me; I guess my father likes it best when we’re grateful for the things we get. We were, most of the time, or so I like to think. My dad was usually very lenient, but it wasn’t shy to discipline.

 

“And despite that, my father never cut his ties to Leo; he did his job well, when he wasn’t drunk anyways.” I was talking to Mitch who had typed down everything I had just said.

“So Leo remained your father’s friend for twelve more years then?” Mitch looked up from his laptop screen, now his eyes fixed on me.

“Pretty much, he wasn’t a good person, but we had to deal with him.”

 

That year I was in the third grade in primary school and Heather just started in the First Grade. During my time in first grade sometime in the middle of the year I guess would be the significant point where it all started...
 

-20th of October 2002-

 

My mother and I were out in the small town of Thornwood stopping by a small bank branch; mum needed to do something really quickly with the bank but we had to wait in the small queue.

“Mum...” Whining like the little boy I was whilst I held her hand. Jumping on the spot I looked up to her eyes which only set at the teller a few people in front of her, “This is boring, and my legs hurt...” Continuing my fit of whining only broken by her starting to lecture me;

“John...” She kneeled down to my eye line; her beautiful blue eyes staring into mine immediately cut off with the doors slamming open;
“Alright everyone on the ground now!” His voice booming through his balaclava and totting a handgun and following his sudden orders everyone screaming dropped to the floor, including me...

Everyone had their heads down except me; my eyes watched him... But I wasn’t afraid, something inside me was telling me to attack.
“Hey kid!” Aggressively he imposed himself on me with his gun forced against my skull he yelled at me kneeling down to me, “Put your head down!” Mother looked at me and I could see in her eyes; that fear of losing her son, her eyes telling me to just swallow my pride and do it...

 

It tasted bad, like some ugly morning breakfast as I put my head down, the man got away and he ran off without shooting a round. Ever since that day in the bank, I told myself that I’d never swallow my pride like that ever again, I told myself that I should always follow that instinct... And with that I had a goal; an aspiration...

 

Most people have dreams when they grow up; like being a rock star, an actor or something big and famous. But I wasn’t really allowed to go and have a dream... I was going to be a King, so I already had my future planned out for me. I had a dream to be just like my mum had been... A special agent!

 

“What did your teacher say?” Mitch asked, catching me off guard. I paused for a moment to think about the reasoning behind the question...

“Well she said; ‘Why would you want to be a secret agent?” I said it blankly; Mitch knew there was more to it so he pressed onward;

“So... she said nothing else?” He looked at me with a small amount of anxiety in his eyes.

“Well, the kids started teasing me about it.” It wasn’t a big deal now, sort of had that job anyway...

“They didn’t know you would be an assassin though.” Mitch wasn’t typing it, but he was thinking about it.

“I only killed for the greater good.” As if prepared I said those words as Mitch nodded as if he was humouring me; I squinted at him as he typed away.

“You’re still a good man right?” Mitch said looking into his computer screen; I thought about that... For a while actually, then the officer off in the corner coughed over his flak jacket and I seemed to have an answer ready...

“I never stopped being the good guy...” With a cheesy smile I threw the words out at the officer that didn’t seem to reach him. Mitch ignored it as well, my words falling on deaf ears...

“So, what happened after that day, anything special?” Mitch seemed to already know the answer but wanted me to say it anyways;

“Yes actually, that was the day I was being ‘tutored’ by my mother... Which was... interesting...

 

-1st of December 2002-

 

“It’s a family martial art and you’re going to need to learn it, if you want to be a spy...” My mother seemed to take it seriously, even sporting a proper one-piece combat suit covering her from the cleft of her chin all the way down to her ankles, the sleeves even made it down to her wrist. It was a dark navy blue and looked pretty bland, she also insisted that I wore one as well. It surprised me because mum had a lot of hair and it seemed to just disappear in those knots and pins keeping it bunched up elegantly behind her head.

“Mum this is a little awkward...” Confusedly lifting my arms from the strange latex suit I expressed my concerns about something she couldn’t care less about.

“You’re supposed to wear it.” Never quite got it, still don’t honestly but apparently she used to wear something like that when she trained...

“Ok... then...” I was a little nervous as mum was twirling in the air gracefully before following it with a loud thud that carried across the room when she slammed her fist into the concrete. The concrete cracked under the immense strength that her fist delivered with it still in one piece... I leaned back to the wall I was standing at and gulped watching her ready herself with stretches.

“So what are we going to learn today then?” I asked looking at her examine her fist.

“Oh today I need to figure out where you’re at...” Casually speaking before pacing toward me...

“Wait mum, maybe we can start with a few technique lessons or something...” Fearful and frightened I said starting to run from her as she chased me. It wasn’t a sparring match; it felt more like a deadly game of tag. The room was a gym, a big enough one but I didn’t even make it ten metres before she caught me; she had used her foot on the back of my leg to trip me forward. Luckily I fell straight onto the mats that had been placed everywhere; but they still felt like concrete.

“Oww... Mum that hurt...” I moaned checking my noses which seemed to have bent.

“Lesson one...” Mum got down to my level and examined my nose, I let her look at it my hands on the floor keeping my chest up, “...Shit hurts.” She said jerking my nose back into place; the cartridge making a slight snapping noise and sending me back in pain; but I kept my screams quiet and contained. She got up and stood over me, “You’re going to learn how to take a punch, then a kick, a stab, a bullet and even...”

“A bullet!” Yelling in fear and protest.

“Yes, you will learn how to take the pain of many things, including a grenade... and not only survive but get back up and fight again...” Mum said helping me up, following with a knee to the guts, “Lesson two... keep your guard up...” She said leaving me hold my painful guts.

From then onwards she trained me every day, first she taught me how to take the damage... Which... was horrifying, she taught me more about how fucked up you can get... like torture, interrogations and lots of spy stuff you’d need to get used to.

“Your mother tortured you?” Mitch said surprised.

“No, she taught me how to withstand pain... she just told me what to expect.” It didn’t seem to relieve Mitch, probably because he thought I was being sarcastic but my tone was pretty serious.

“So you didn’t learn any book subjects like math, history or...” I cut Mitch off before he kept going.

“My father helped me with that...” I was going to answer but of course Mitch’s curiosity controlled him again...

“And your parents were okay with this?” Mitch seemed confused as if the very question he asked confused him.

“Yes, they had to pull me out eventually...” Mitch was going to ask another question but I gestured for him not to... “So that I could learn the proper etiquettes and responsibilities to ruling as king.” It seemed to be the answer Mitch wanted, but of course the story he’s writing has only just started, barely mind you.

“So your mother taught you how to fight?” Mitch asked it like it wasn’t a question, but I answered it as a question because he was wrong.

“No, she only taught me part of it, Uncle Patrick taught me the family’s deadly martial art too, which is where I learnt not only hand-to-hand combat, not only that but also weaponry combat like knives, swords, handguns, rifles and much more...” I said twirling the glass on its side, “I eventually added things to it and made the whole thing my own martial art... it was pretty much...”

“...Unbeatable?” Mitch finished my sentence for me, I was glad he was starting to get the idea... I nodded and followed on:

 

-3rd of January 2017-

 

I was fifteen at the time and New Year’s was still being cleaned up on the streets; bottles, people and any of the graffiti left behind... Amy wanted to spend the day going down Main Street and going through all the shops that lined the street. Traffic on the main street is always busy; sometimes it’s even a deadlock for hours... But today it was alright; cars, vans, trucks and a couple of buses moved up and down the street in a free flow..The main street of Crestfall is called the ‘Golden Way’ for a reason; it lines up exactly with the sun and at a certain time of day the road lights up just the right way making it look gold if only for a moment. The great road stretches from the very outskirts of town right into the old keep memorial.

“Hey John why not here?” Amy was pacing beside me in a sort of leisurely skip which broke into normal walking.

“I thought we were going to check that place neither us have been?” I said watching the crowds in front of me merge, shift and disperse from one another as each person went to their own respective places.

“I know, but this place has really good cake... and you haven’t been here before.” Amy said tugging me by the arm and holding me back. Sometimes it seems she’s still fighting that same old fight again... A few years ago many princesses from different holds across the continent... well the globe all wanted to marry me; or at least were trying to. A few of them were like Jennie: she was in it for the power my name held. But I like to believe more of them were like Jennie, most of them were really like Amy; they just wanted to marry me for me. It was flattering at first... until it started getting hostile; eventually I had to pick someone before another war started.

 

-19th of May 2021-

 

It was the 88th annual war memorial at Longbridge from memory... My dad was going to give a speech that day with the board of councillors. I was there with Amy; spending time on the bumper cars, Ferris wheel and all the other carnival like attractions that dotted the mausoleum grounds. The mausoleum itself was huge; it was about 400 metres (1,312ft) long and held over 14 million dead soldiers who fought in the greatest war this world has ever seen.

Amy and I slowly walked down all the sideshow attractions talking.

“You know Rebecca got her finger stuck in the cupboard after Nick closed it...”

“On purpose.” I said finishing Amy’s sentence. She laughed at the thought, mostly because it was something he’d do.

“I hope not; that’s why she’s not here bugging us.” Amy said resting her head on my shoulder; it was precious that we got some privacy from both of our families at a time like this. Usually the twins would either want to play with their big sister or their ‘big-brother’ which is what I sort of became. Their family was like an extension of our family... other than the rulership status.

“Aww...” I said looking at a little bunny rabbit that was inside of a large fubois cage; which nowadays are the minimum for animal handling in the country. The cage a fairly large object with grass on the bottom that some believe make it harder to move pets or take them on international flights... “Can you win it for me please?” Amy said begging for it. I thought it was the best I could do seeing how she’s always wanted one and she’s never really owned a pet before...

“Can I? Of course I can...” Cocky as I was it was well grounded; I knew I could win it because it was an air rifle shooting gallery and a gun with no knockback or weight was like pointing out targets... I walked up to the counter where the man sat watching the kids firing at the small targets a few metres away.

“What do I have to hit for the bunny rabbit?” I said putting a silver coin down on the bench.

“The gold target at the back...” he said handing me a rifle with a chain attached to it. The children to the left of me seemed to have finished as their rifles started to click from the lack of pellets.

“Aww, well looks like you didn’t hit anything.” He had a cheery smile on his face as he patronized the children. I knew how many pellets I had; 3 and there were two of them...

“Hey kids, what do you want?” They looked at each other at pointed at two action figures hanging from a rack which meant I had to hit the two little blue targets as well, “Watch this...”

 

I lined the gun’s sight up to my eye; and started picturing the shots in my head... I pulled the trigger aiming at the blue one making a loud ting noise. I pulled the rifle down spun it around my finger pulling the lever out and loading the next pellet into the air chamber. I grabbed it with my hand the gun spun on and caught it through the first rotation and fired it with one hand hitting the other blue target. Then I cranked the lever again and lined the last shot with both hands hitting the gold target about two seconds after I hit the first one. The man’s eyes widened who hadn’t even moved from the boys’ eye line. Now with his mouth ajar he quickly regretted being an ass...

“I’ll take the two action figures and the rabbit thanks...” I said smiling with that patronising asswipe smile he gave the kids. The man sure did seem to take a lot of pleasure out of watching people fail at hitting little targets.

“Well I’ll be damned; you’re a real good shot.” The man said handing the kids their figures and grabbing the rabbit’s cage, “Never seen anyone hit targets like that before.”

“I’ve shot a real lever-action rifle before; I usually hit my targets across a 300 metre field. But there I go bragging about it again.” I said handing the rifle back with that same smile, “Maybe next time don’t be an ass about it?”

“How come you never take me shooting with you?” Amy said heaving the massive cage off of the bench.

“Well...” I started to strain thinking of a good reason other than ‘I didn’t think you wanted to go’ because she’d probably explode.

“Well what?” Amy said now starting to sound angry.

“I...” I looked at her eyes; which squinted at me with a ferocity that seemed to pierce straight through me, “...It never occurred to me that you wanted to go...” She wasn’t any happier with me and for some reasons I thought rearranging the words would make it better.

“Did you ever ask if I wanted to go?” She put the cage down now directing her full attention to lecturing me; which was pretty rare in our relationship.

“Well, it never occurred to me because it’s not really...” I knew the sentence I would continue to say would blow this out of proportion and into something I really didn’t want to deal with right now. When this sort of thing happens it usually ends up with us spending a week or two away from one another and making amends after realising how stupid the argument was.

“...What? Something I’d like to do? Oh, you were probably going to say something like; because it’s not something girls do! Right?” She was starting to make a scene and it was now becoming more and more embarrassing...

“Amy...”I said in a depressed tone, “...Can we just talk this out, like a proper couple.” I stared at her as she slowly changed from anger to disappointment.

“I’m sorry I snapped at you like that...” Amy leaned towards me as I caught her in my arms.

“It’s ok Amy...” I comforted her whilst I stroked her hair, “...It was always a thing me and Patrick did... No one else. If you want to, you can join...”

“No, it’s alright...” She looked up at me a few tears running down her cheeks, “...I never really wanted to; I’ve just been stressed these past few days.”

“What’s been getting you so stressed?” I partially distanced myself from her, but she still held onto me.

“It’s nothing...” She was hiding it from me; but she didn’t want to bother me with it. It was about an hour later I was watching my father make his speech in front of everyone. He was standing on top of a stand made of wood and banners holding the board of councillors, except Leo who was absent. Dad was a real inspiration; a true leader speaking out to one and all of his people...

“Today we mourn the loss of the 14 million soldiers who laid their lives out for our country, we also give our deepest sympathies to the families who still to this day have had loved ones struck from their homes, their lives and their...” He was cut off by a loud volley and gun shots going off nearby. The crowd I was in started to panic and duck hoping not to be shot by whatever fired the rounds... I knew from the sound in was a fully automatic rifle which already fired six rounds. I kneeled down keeping my eyes on the stage where father and the board stood now being stormed by a few masked assailants. I couldn’t see their eyes; they wore full face masks with strange symbols written all across them in dark blue... One of them holding a large machine gun over his shoulder turned his head slowly to face me. The world around us broke out in terror as each second seemed to take longer and longer the more we stared at one another. He wore a large jacket around his ballistic vest. The crowd around me started to run as the men shouted and grabbed board members on the stage. Amy tugged my shirt sleeve but I ignored her and took a few steps closer to the stage while the last few people ran past. Gun shots started to go off as security guards were clear; small semi-automatics bellowing in the mad rush of screaming. The men barely flinched from the gunshots except the one I watched who turned to his side and fired his powerful machine gun; the over-barrel lever slamming back and forth as each round spewed from the guns short muzzle. I turned to face the guard whose chest had been pried in with bullets eviscerating his torso in a great ballet of blood and unidentifiable body parts.

Time seemed to snap back into place; each second now pacing faster than I remembered it did. The guard spewed blood out of his out mouth as he collapsed backward in a pool of his own blood. I quickly moved for the stage and ran underneath the stands looking back to Amy who looked back as she ran away. The men didn’t seem to know I was there; even the recent murderer who must’ve thought I ran off with the crowd. But my father was there and Martha too; I couldn’t let those freaky masked men kill them...

“David Sarkoen... You are charged with corruption in the Monarchy, how do you plead?” He had a strange muffled voice; like it was amplified to deepen his voice beyond recognition. He held a handgun in his right hand and started to wave it about my father’s face as he patiently waited. His men now started to build up a circle around the hostages who were all on their knees.
“What is this nonsense?” My father demanded; which I don’t think he was in the position to do. One of the men smashed the butt of his rifle into my father’s temple.

“How do you plead, David?”The man said as he kneeled down over him.

“Innocent then; I would never harm my own people...” Dad said as he slowly got back up onto his knees. I stopped underneath the men’s feet looking for something I could do. All I could see where how well polished and tied their shoelaces where...

“Onyx Plaza, 13th of October 1993... What would you call that?” The man said watching my father’s every move.

“A tragedy...” Dad sounded strangely out of tone and nervous. The masked man picked dad up and held him to his eye line. They stared at one another; my father trembling and the man more and more ready to pull the trigger. The gun was pressed against father’s stomach... I had to do something but I knew that if I frightened the group they would kill him with a flinch... But
I had a plan and it had to do with the electric wires and devices under the stage...

“If you’re going to play stupid then I’ve got something here that can play stupid...” He clicked the safety off his handgun.

“Aww, fuck... You had your safety off the whole time?” I said standing behind Dad and out of everyone’s sight holding two wires in either hand.

“You better start running kid or...” The same guard killing machine, gun toting masked man politely shouted at me.

“...You better put your guns down...” I cut him off and waited for the right moment...

“...Or better yet...” And then I connected the wires together as fast as they aimed their weapons at me. Loud shuddering electricity crackling noises thundered from under the stage as the wires channelled the electricity from the wires and into the ankles of the assailants who hadn’t even felt the frayed wires tickle their skin. The men twitched violently dropping their weapons and collapsing as the electricity coursed through their bodies. I watched them as they twitched and sprang as a thousand volts of electricity pulsed through their veins, arteries and other fleshy bits. I released the wires after the final victim had collapsed in a frenzied fit to hold onto life...

“I’ve seen shock therapy before but that was brutal...” It was Martha who had got up and started inspecting their bodies, “...Who taught you this trick?” She looked at me as if mum had; but she didn’t.

“I guess I did...” She and everyone else on the board looked at me in shock, “...I saw that their boots were steel capped and realised that wiring the leads under the stage that powered all the sound systems would stop their hearts all at once without risking any lives... Except theirs’.” One of the men laid back on the stage; his head leaning back and facing me straight in the eyes... His mask fell off revealing his pale white face and open eyes. His dead eyes... Staring into mine... And I felt, nothing, nothing at all except the confusion that this dead man hadn’t unsettled me. It was serious but I couldn’t feel it, I only knew it...

 

Eventually I regrouped with everyone else; who had been behind a police barricade in the food court area on the grounds.

“John!” It was Amy who ran faster than the officer could stop her. She hugged me as hard as she could and burying her face in my chest hoping I wouldn’t see her cry.

“It’s ok, I wasn’t hit...” I said already knowing she was worried I’d been shot outright. She let go of me and punched me square in the shoulder, I stood there looking at her attempt to inflict pain onto me... And she knew a bullet wasn’t ‘that bad’ once the initial hit was over.

“Oww...” Amy said bruising her knuckle. I held it and kissed it like a mother would to a child’s sore and rubbed it passionately.

“Jonathan!!!” I knew that tone mum had too well... I saw her in the corner of my eye.

“Mum, hold on a minute...” She started storming toward me with that destructive flame in her eyes that seemed to burn through the souls of even the strongest of the strong. I saw the poor officer who had to deal with mum; who had the most shocked expression on her face.

“Why didn’t you leave it up to the authorities to get your father out you could’ve been shot, how could you have been so reckless?” Mum started bellow so loud it probably stopped the wars on the other side of the planet for a brief moment.

“...I...” I could barely speak with the amount of fear I had of my mother when she got angry; which didn’t happen a lot, but when it did... it was bad. She was just taller than me; but it seemed more than enough to make you feel tiny compared to her.

“Don’t do it again...” She grabbed me in a strange hug where she only held my shoulder’s sort of like trying to shake someone but whisper to them as well, “...Or I’ll be the reason you find an early grave.” I knew my mum didn’t mean anything by it; just that daylight might not be something I’d see soon if I did so.

“I knew you could do it...” It was Malcolm who stood by his bigger sister; Heather, “...nothing stops you.”

“Yep, so long as mum doesn’t catch me...” The three of us passed a few laughs but it didn’t really seem like a good time to laugh. An awkward silence started to fall on us after I realised how serious everyone was about it...

“Come on guys, John’s a hero...” It was dad and he seemed to be a hero saving this awkward moment, “...If he didn’t stop them they might have killed us before the authorities did anything about it.”

“Come on David; the officers here have the best records and handle these situations at least once or twice a year...” She looked over to the officers who were escorting everyone off the premises, “...Some years, it’s more than that...”And she was talking about this one: It was May and this was the third terrorism attack; all of them including this one were linked to a group they referred themselves as the ‘Underground Society’.

 

I looked back at dad who was talking to an officer and getting the briefing of the situation.

“Dad, what was that man going on about?” I asked him like I was an eight year old boy tugging on his father’s shirt tail.

“I haven’t the slightest clue.” He answered it very strangely; like he was trying not to say something wrong. I watched him direct his nervous attention elsewhere quickly; and all I can remember thinking was that he lied to me right then and there...

 

“So, Mitch...” I stretched back into the chair while he snapped from his laptop screen, “...It’s getting late; we should call it a night.” It gestured to the clock on the wall which had ticked over to 8.03pm.

“Oh, right...” Mitch started to pack everything up, “...I guess time flies when you’re not paying attention. He held his hand out to shake; which was so strange... It wasn’t something I forgot about the world but I couldn’t seem to put my hand out to it.

“I understand, you need time to think about it... sorry I wasted your time.” Mitch said as he finished packing his laptop away and left in a rush. Tired and tentative; I sat there and watched him and the officer leave the room to give me the privacy to sleep alone...

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