Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | March 1, 2013

Chapter 2, “Warrior’s Psalm”

As promised, here’s more of Warrior’s Psalm.

*********

2

Janiss wakes to the smell of coffee.  When he parts the curtains on his bunk to peek out, Freya is sitting at the table smiling at him.
“Hey sleepy one. It’s dawn. I checked the periscope. We need to get back home to report.”
“True, just a moment.”
Janiss dresses behind his curtain and joins Freya, his empty stomach speeding him along.
“I’ve warmed breakfast for you.  The coffee isn’t bad, even though it’s instant.”
He holds her hand and says grace.
After eating, the two pack away food and water for their trek. Janiss uses the periscope to be certain the area around the door to the Cave is clear. Using the Seeker, he opens the door. Light and mountain-fresh air flood in.
After closing and sealing the Cave door, the two check their compasses and set out for home; their Village, The Acreage.
By unspoken agreement, they communicate only with mental touch.
“How long do you think it’ll take us to get to our assigned Entryway?” Freya
“We’ll probably be there before dark if we only pause briefly for our lunch.”
The pair find their way through the tall forest with a pace that covers ground efficiently, but maintains silent security.
They change the lead every hour. Their training with compasses and maps sharpens with practical use. On this, their first Recon, a final test, they are expected to practice all their training.
“I think we’re getting close to the Entryway,” Freya
Sundown will come within an hour.  She has been leading and stops to check the Seeker.
“We’re very close. When I tell you, come close and stand with me,” Freya.
Janiss doesn’t comment, but closes the space between them to arms-length.
“Now,” Freya.
Janiss takes her hand and waits as she touches the activation button.
No matter how many times they’ve practiced, the sudden drop is a shock.
The forest floor, covered with twigs, grass and dead leaves, splits. Freya and Janiss drop ten feet to a shock-absorbing, deep foam floor. Neither falls, but their hands lock tighter, as they struggle to stay erect.
The entryway door swings closed above them. Only a small dusting of dirt and forest floor debris sifts down on the pair.
For exactly ten seconds, darkness is complete; then an increasing blue glow comes from the walls. They are standing ankle-deep in black plastic foam. The featureless room is about eight feet square.
“They’re checking us,”Janiss.
“I know. I just wish they’d get it over with.”
“What are your names?” a mechanical voice.
“Freya Dimsevics.”
“Janiss Bervins.”
The blank wall extrudes a smooth, flat metal plate wide and deep enough for two hands.
“Freya Dimsevics, place both hands, palm-down on the reader,” the voice says.
Freya complies and within five seconds, she is ordered to step back. Janiss mimics the procedure and is also told to step back. The plate slides back into the wall.
A door opens in the opposite wall.
“Step through the door,” the voice.
Past the door a heavyset, uniformed, armed guard waits. His smile is professional, but welcoming.
“Welcome back.  I hope your first Recon was instructive. Master Andrus has ordered dinner for you.  He will meet you in the Recondo Dining Room.”
He hands each of them a small bag.
“Here are clean clothes and toilet items. The women’s shower room is on the left, the men’s on the right, down that hall. Clean up and go to the dining room,” the guard says.
Freya and Janiss meet in the hallway after their showers. Her hair, no longer in braids, falls in a shimmering, fragrant blond cascade down her back. She takes his hand and kisses him on the cheek, eyes sparkling over a wide smile.
“Congratulations, Recon partner!” she says.
Janiss’ cheeks reddens as he matches her grin. He takes her hand as they start down the hallway.
“I can hardly wait to talk to Master Andrus,” Janiss says.
“Me, too. I want to know what he says about the weird event. I can hardly wait to see the look on his face when we tell him about the Protectors and Deciders,” Freya says.
They’ve passed the Recondo Dining room’s door many times, but have never entered.  The facility is exclusively for men and women who have proven themselves.
In the bag the guard gave them—along with fresh clothes—Freya and Janiss find the precious silver badge of a Recondo, a dagger, pointing upward, surrounded by a wreath of laurel leaves in an oval. The precious symbols rest in a clear plastic box, on velvet. These, they keep in pockets, waiting for the ceremony of Presentation.
When they open the door into the dining room, they are surrounded by men and women welcoming them into the exclusive group with handshakes, backslaps and hugs. The oak-paneled walls resound with congratulations.
The group falls silent when the door opens and Master Andrus enters. He is a broad-shouldered, deep-chested man of medium height with thick, wavy, silver-gray hair and a full beard.  His smile to the group creates a reflection of his warmth. His eyes are bright blue and take in the merriment with approval.
“Ladies and gentlemen, don’t let me spoil your welcome for our two newest members. Freya and Janiss deserve the warmest welcome we can offer,” Andrus says.
He turns full attention to the young couple.
“Come. Present yourselves to your brothers and sisters. Stand at attention in front of me.”
When they comply, one of the Recondos, a woman with gray streaks in her hair, steps beside Andrus.  She holds an ancient paper Bible.
The Master takes the right hands of Freya and Janiss and places them on the Bible, covered by his.
Andrus leads them through the Oath of the Recondos.
“With almighty God to strengthen me, I pledge myself, as a Recondo to be a protector of The Acreage.  I will keep my body strong and my mind clear to accomplish my mission.”
The two young Recondos hand Andrus the badges. He pins them on the left side of their leather vests, above the heart, then embraces them in turn.
After more congratulations from the crowd, Andrus leads Janiss and Freya to his private table in the corner of the room. When they are seated, he takes both Freya’s and Janiss’ hands.
“You two fulfilled my hopes and expectations.  I’m proud of you.  I have ordered a special meal, so let’s give thanks now,” he says.
Andrus lowers his head and prays, thanking the Lord for the safe return of the new Recondos and asking blessings on the food.
As Janiss and Freya begin to attack the venison stew and fresh bread, Andrus asks the question they’ve been longing to have him answer.
“Did you meet with anything unusual on your recon to the Hive? Anything you hadn’t been prepared to see or hear?”
“Can I go first?” Freya says.
Andrus nods permission, smiling at his eager student.
She begins her narrative, telling Andrus how she’d seen the Protector patrol and warned Janiss. Before she can relate the trek   she and Janiss took up to mountain, the Master holds up a hand to stop her.
In her silence, he glances around the room. The rest of the Recondos are busy with the savory food and conversation.
“We should continue this conversation in my private quarters.  Finish your stew.  Excellent, isn’t it?” Andrus says.
“What?” Freya, in silent mental touch with Janiss.
“Can’t imagine. We’re totally secure, here. Trust him until we can talk privately.”
Freya’s reply is only a mental sense that she will, grudgingly, agree.
The three eat their dinner in relative silence, talking about trivia. Their mentor congratulates them again on their accomplishment, then pushes back his chair.
“Now, let’s go down to my quarters and chat,” Andrus says.
They leave the dining hall, stopping to talk briefly with the other Recondos, smiling thanks for congratulations.  In the hallway, Andrus leads them to the nearest elevator.
Down three levels, they are in the spaces where senior officers of The Acreage live.
Inside Andrus’ apartment, Andrus invites the young couple to sit, side-by-side in comfortable overstuffed chairs. After pouring coffee from a vacuum bottle, he sits on the couch facing them across a small table.
Freya’s mouth is in a flat line, her lips compressed. Janiss’ eyes show little of their normal green light.
“I apologize for stopping your story, Freya. The Recondos are our most trusted citizens, but I have to control speculation. I sense there’s more to your story than the four Protectors.  Tell me, now.  Janiss, join in at any time. I need complete, accurate information.”
Freya begins again.  When she reaches the point, in her report, relating to the massed voices, Andrus raises his hand.
“What were the words, as you understood them?” he says.
Janiss has been sitting silently, but answers the question.
“They were yelling ‘Com-post, plant food, com-post!’ over and over until the Decider, the woman, stopped everything.  She did that just by raising a hand,” Janiss says.
“Yes, Master Andrus, what does it mean?” Freya says.
Freya hasn’t used the formal title for her mentor in months.
“Tell me everything you saw when you looked down on the  Hive, then we’ll discuss.
Janiss and Freya take turns telling the story and interrupting each other. After several recitals, the narrative begins to be repetitive.
“Did you get pictures?” Andrus says?
“No, we silently discussed it, but if we stood to capture an image below us, we’d have been silhouetted against the sky.  You taught us to keep security first,” Janiss says.
Andrus nods and pauses before speaking.
“Recondos, what you saw is extremely unusual for one of our teams to witness. The Deciders ordered someone executed. The box you described is a solar oven. They either killed the individual and threw the body into the device to turn it into ashes, or the poor devil was thrown in there alive, to burn,” Andrus says.
Freya and Janiss sit motionless. Shock and disgust compete to describe their visible emotions.
Andrus reads their faces, then continues.
“Those who went into the oven gathered the burnt remains of the victim. This they scatter on the beans they grow on the roof. That’s why they were yelling ‘com-post, plant food!’ those are the chants taught by Deciders.”
“Why didn’t you want the other Recondos to hear the story?” Janiss says.
Andrus looks down into his untouched coffee for several heartbeats. When he looks up, his eyes are calm, his voice is level and firm.
“When you said there was an armed Protector patrol near the Hive, I knew the story had to be kept confidential. Now that you’ve told the story of the Deciders and the execution, I know I was right.”
Freya and Janiss, as if planned, sip from their cups simultaneously, waiting.
“Recondos are brave, aggressive, men and women. They must go into the forest in pairs as our eyes and ears, keeping The Acreage safe,” Andrus says.
He pauses, drinks coffee and a brief, rueful smile brushes his mouth.
“For years, many of them have pushed to be armed with firearms on recons. I’ve opposed them on the idea. You’re all trained extensively to use the weapons, but the sheath knives and the animal repellant spray you carry are enough for your safety—at least at this point.”
Andrus stands, signaling the young pair.  This night’s interview is over. They are immediately on their feet, mimicking  their mentor.
“You need to rest. Go to your parent’s apartments and show them your new badges.  Let them share and take pride in your achievement.
Come to my office tomorrow at 10 a.m. I’ll ask you to give me your story again. Meanwhile, tell no one what you saw and heard. I trust your discretion. You have been my prize students since you were tiny children. My prayers for your safety and a successful mission were answered. Go now.”
He ushers them to the door, a hand on each shoulder. After simple goodnights to their teacher, Janiss and Freya start down the hall to the elevator. When she takes Janiss’ hand, she smiles and traces an “X” across her mouth.  Their minds join, like their hands.
“The Hivers burned someone?” Freya.
“Yeah, wonder what he did?” Janiss.
“Could’ve been a woman, we don’t know,” Freya
“Either way, burning someone alive is awful,” Janiss.                             The elevator takes the pair to the fourth level, where most families live.
As they part, Freya brushes a brief kiss across Janiss’ lips and speaks to him silently.
“Goodnight, my fellow Recondo.  See you in Andrus’ office tomorrow.”
Still holding her hand, Janiss pulls Freya into an embrace, holds her close for two or three seconds, then releases her. Her surprise is covered by a smile.
“Yes, enjoy the night with your folks,” he says.
Freya’s silence is warm and happy.
As they walk in different directions, both resist the temptation to look back.

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Responses

  1. Well done, Thomas. The characters and setting is very intriguing, I’m looking forward to reading more of this!

    • Thanks, Ginny. I hope the characters draw you into their world.

  2. Excellent. You never disappoint!

  3. Thank you, Donna. I’m working on it!

  4. I’m intrigued, yet Sci-Fi usually isn’t appealing. (It is Science Fiction, isn’t it?) Too bad I missed Ch. 1 and look forward to Ch. 3. So, get busy! You hooked me with Ch.2.

    • Working on Ch. 24 now. Chapter 1 is available, here on the blog, check it out.

      Thanks.


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