The Camping Trip
It was the 14th day of Octen, the first month of 3045. Moxta, Vovner, Tarden, Nebluk, Zatlex, Deyvan and I were going on a camping trip. Presumably the last one we would ever take together, also the first without any parental supervision.
We were all excited, but my Dad was understandably nervous. He did his best to hide it, but I could tell. So, before we left I whispered to him, “No worries, we always hang out in a group.”
We were released out the main hatch, and set free into the wild. We could go anywhere we wanted, as long as we stayed together. Our last week had been spent listening to unwanted advice from older M.I.T.s (Men In Training). Some suggested staying close to the city, an order to maximize camping time and safety. Others suggested going as far as we could on a day’s hike, to maximize privacy.
We had already figured out where we were going, but in the interest of keeping it secret, had to pretend we didn’t know, and therefor got stuck listening to everyone’s advice, and pretending to take it into account.
Walking away from our enclosed city was exciting and exhilarating. The hike itself wasn’t hard, but as we reached the third closest campsite, which is also where we had to turn off the well warn path, to the much narrower, and tougher path to our campsite, Moxta asked, “Would it really be such a terrible idea to stop here for our trip?”
As the others debated quietly, not really giving a response I stated, “Are you kidding me? We went through a lot of trouble to plan this trip, and if we stop here, nothing will be right.”
Everyone, including Moxta agreed. We continued our hike to the place my Dad had taken us on the last camping trip we took. The camping spot took until just before sunset to reach, and involved a steep hike, but it was worth it, because it was located in one of the few surveillance gaps. (Each enclosed city has monitoring abilities outside their facilities, within range of their territory. This spot fits just between all three, and is considered too small and hard to monitor. Very few people know about it, and we planned to use it to our advantage.)
When we arrived we had to set up our tents and prepare the fire. It was after dark before we got to relax and have a bit to eat.
Tarden mentioned, “Has anyone else noticed that ever since we were allowed to camp, we have been brought gradually further away from the city until we ended up here last year?”
Zatlex shrugged his shoulders and stated, “I’m sure that’s due to several factors, the first being our ability to handle the hike, as well as our individual Dad’s desire for a certain spot.”
“Or…” Tarden countered, “Every birth group goes through the same process, ending in a spot you believe to be surveillance free, just to see if you’ll take the effort to hike all the way to that spot when you finally have no parents with.”
I sat up quickly and added, “What if this is really the most monitored spot?”
Moxta replied, “We can worry about such crazy things in the morning, for now I suggest we get some rest.”
As I put out our fire I stared off in the distance, at the soft glow we called home. Deyvan stood quietly next to me for a minute or so before he said, “They’ve probably spotted our fire and know where we’re at, even if they don’t have audio or visual.”
I nodded my head and told him, “First thing tomorrow Moxta needs you to do your thing, experience your name to the fullest.”
Deyvan gave the slightest nod or tilt of his head as we turned around and headed to the tent we were sharing with Vovner. He was already sound asleep as we closed ourselves in. Deyvan laughed and whispered, “Who else can fall asleep that fast?”
I shook my head and laid down on my bedding without any verbal responses. It was about ten minutes before I could hear his soft snore added to the sounds of the night. Another five or so before I was certain the other tent was all asleep as well. I lost track of time before I fell asleep, but it felt like an eternity of loneliness. The last thought I remember, was wondering if this is what the rest of life would feel like; alone even with my closest friends.
The moment the light of dawn filled the tents we were all awake. Deyvan popped up and announced, “I’ll take a sunrise wake up over the shrill sound of an alarm any day.”
I chuckled and sat up as Deyvan exited, and started on his extra job. Vovner threw his arm over his eyes and exclaimed, “since we’re camping I’m going to run on women’s hours today.”
I rolled my eyes, knowing he meant he wanted to sleep for another hour or two, but also knowing that most of the women’s jobs actually started before the men’s. Then I stated, “You can do as you please, but I’ve got better things to do with my time.”
I grabbed my hat and went outside. Moxta was coming out of his tent, Zatlex and Tarden were right behind him. I looked at them and asked, “Where’s Nebluk?”
Tarden replied, “Taking his time getting dressed. He says that there isn’t any rush, so why do so?”
I chuckled as I headed into the woods to gather more wood for our fires.
By the time I was done collecting wood, Deyvan was ready to report to Moxta, Zatlex and Tarden had gathered some nuts to roast, and berries to munch on. Nebluk was fully dressed and waiting with fresh water to make a root tea. Moxta was coming into camp from the other direction, with an armload of various roots. Even Vovner had given up on being lazy, and was joining the rest of us.
I smiled to myself, knowing how well our birth squad worked together, without having to communicate out loud. Then my smile faded as I thought about our group getting split up by the outdated laws and ways of our people.
I snapped out of my thoughts as I heard Deyvan report, “Moxta, sir, the area is clear of any type of devices, we are out of range of all three neighboring cities, and I have set up woodland blinds to make certain they don’t see any future fires.”
Moxta replied, “That’s good to know, but drop the sir crap.”
Zatlex told Moxta, “You’d better get used to it, you’re headed for the black.”
Moxta rolled his eyes as I started the fire. Then he sat down in a huff, so I took the seat next to him. Without saying anything the others completed a small circle. Tarden looked back and forth between Moxta and I before asking, “What’s brewing in your brains?”
Moxta answered, “I don’t want us to get split up.”
Vovner pointed out, “I doubt any birth squad does, but they say it is part of growing up.”
Nebluk asked, “Does it really have to be?”
“That all depends on whether or not Ralue’s plan works.” Deyvan replied.
I debated denying the plan brewing in my head, but they knew me too well for that, so I explained, “It might not work, and if it does we are going to get a lot of flack for it.”
Vovner spoke up, “We’re tough, we can take anything, if it means sticking together.”
I took a deep breath and stated, “Moxta will have to lead the way, and each of us follow in turn.”
“Quit wasting time with the obvious.” Zatlex blurted out.
I rolled my eyes and turned to Moxta. Then I asked, “If you don’t pick a side after we get back, what will happen?”
Moxta answered, “They will give me an assigned pocket, an order to help guide my decision, most likely a black one.”
Everyone nodded their heads. I continued by asking, “What happens if you reach the year point without following their suggestion?”
The guys fell quiet for a moment. Finally Deyvan replied, “I don’t think anyone has actually done it before, let alone an entire birth squad.”
I smiled and stated, “Now, what do you think would happen if when they press us we chose to go against their assigned pocket?”
Moxta answered, “They would resist it, no one goes against their suggestion.”
“How do we keep them from punishing us for operating a conspiracy?” Tarden asked.
Deyvan stated, “Technically we can’t, but if we have a good enough reason for going against their plan for us, we can stand through their punishments, as well as any “unsanctioned behavior” from other men in training.”
“We know from previous groups that wanting to stay together isn’t a good enough reason.” Nebluk pointed out.
I nodded my head and informed them, “What we need is a chosen career field, in the opposite direction of their choice that we want to pursue bad enough to fight for it.”
Moxta thought for a moment before he replied, “I could go for a ground squadron commander. It’s still a place of leadership, but in the camouflage careers.”
“We can pick our fields now, but can’t reveal them until the end of the year.” Tarden stated, “If we announce our choices right away they’ll just pretend that’s the direction they wanted us to go in the first place. Make them show their choice, then go opposite when we run out of time. They won’t like it, and if we are lucky this will all result in us getting to stay together.”
By the end of our camping trip: Moxta, who was certain he’d be getting a black assigned pocket, had chosen the camouflage career of squadron commander. Vovner, who figured he’d be getting assigned a camouflage pocket, decided to be a black uniform placement officer, instead of the camouflage placement officer he had originally been considering. Tarden, who figured he’d get assigned a black pocket decided to go after the high ranking camouflage position of Information officer. I, having no doubt they would be giving me a black pocket, decided to go after the hated camouflage position of field medic. Nebluk thought long and hard before coming to the conclusion that he would most likely be given an assigned black pocket. Then he decided to go after the position of camouflage personnel placer.
Deyvan teased Nebluk and Vovner for basically just trading career paths, until Moxta told him to get over it.
Zatlex and Deyvan both figured they’d be getting a camouflage pocket. Zatlex decided to go after a scout position, which is a lower black uniform career. Deyvan decided a security career would be best for him.
When our trip was over, as we walked back to our city, with our career plans for thwarting those who desired to control us, and a top secret communications plan for passing messages, in case of emergency, under the radar, yet in the open, we hoped all our planning would work. We also tried hard not to think about all the ways it could go wrong.
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