Accolade

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Summary

The year is 2249. The Coalition has cut a planet called Galatia off from the rest of the galaxy. As far as the Galatians know, they are the only living creatures in the galaxy. In this story, twenty-eight teens find themselves recruited in something called the Stalwart Program. This government initiative aims to use these kids to conquer the world outside of their walled cities. Why are the cities walled off? Because... There be monsters about.

Genre:
Scifi / Adventure
Author:
Caleb Fast
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
6
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
13+

Chapter 1

Chapter One

Leburt, Galatia

Everyone dreams of leaving the protection of the Dome at least once. They literally dream of leaving the Dome. However, there is an unspoken rule that you are to never, ever, share your dream. Gideon Lennox had dreamt many times of the “other side” as some referred to it. Of course, they never spoke of the dreams, instead, it was just wishful thinking of finally getting out.

Because of this rule Gideon refused to mention the dreams to anyone. The only time Gideon had even heard a whisper of an “other side” dream, was a kid from his old neighborhood, he described a barren landscape where even plants couldn’t grow. He told the neighborhood kids that as he walked in his dream through the desert he found skeletons piled high. Gideon remembered shuddering at the thought of piles of the dead. That the next day, his parents told him the kid was dead.

Every one of Gideon’s dreams of the outside of the Dome were very different from the kid’s. Every night, Gideon dreams of forests teeming with trees which tower overhead as they reach for the sky. He finds himself alone in serene meadows with rolling hills and colorful, delicate wildflowers which sway gently in the warm breeze. Gideon wanders through abandoned cities that have been reclaimed by the wilderness around them as trees and foliage line the roadways and contribute to the city’s skyline. No matter where Gideon finds himself, he feels a calmness, he feels at peace, and he wonders why he would ever want to return to the ordered chaos of the Dome. After those thoughts pass through his head, the dream ends with unnatural shrieks and occasionally a flash of movement as some creature races in front of him. The misshapen creatures were always terrifying enough to wake him up to a cold sweat.

“Mister Lennox,” Gideon hears his professor’s voice, snapping him back to attention.

“Yes, sir?” Gideon asks, looking up.

“I asked you what caused the Inundation?”

Gideon pauses for a moment as he recalls the previous day’s lesson, rehearsing the key points in his head, The Inundation was, in a nutshell, the overrunning of civilization as humanity once knew it. Because of it, millions died, and those who survived could only do so under domes like ours, protected from the dangers of the outside world. We never were taught what these dangers are, maybe radiation from the nuclear bombs that decimated much of the world, no one knows for sure, it seems.

“Gid?” Maveric Marcel, Gideon’s best friend, prods, interruption his thought process.

“Well, back in 2170 animal testing had finally come back to bite mankind in the butt. The animals mutated and spread across the planet in a matter of months. No one could hold them off, those who managed to survive the blight built our domes.”

“Very good,” Professor Grayson applauds Gideon’s textbook answer. Closing his book, Grayson continues addressing the class, “Now, give me an exit note on why you think the “blight,” as mister Lennox calls it, spread so quickly.”

Gideon looks down to his paper, a thousand reasons running through his head, before his brain stops entirely. In front of him is a picture of what he had been seeing in his dreams for years. He had drawn it as his brain wandered in class. Up until that moment, he hadn’t put all of the brief images together to create one beast. Now that he saw it all together everything began to click, This must be one of the mutants that helped destroy everything! Gideon thinks excitedly. Its mangy fur, rat-like face and tail, and ape-ish arms send shivers down my spine. Behind the grotesque creature stand the remains of a large structure, and nearly a hundred years’ worth of plant life.

Gideon shuffles through his backpack, looking for another sheet of paper, since over half of this one was now devoted to a creature that appears to want his soul. Finding no extra paper, Gideon gives up and begins writing around the edges of his picture. Surely Professor Grayson wouldn’t mind, I’ve turned in a million assignments with doodles and drawings decorating every corner. In fact, he has told me on several occasions he likes them, Gideon thinks. As he writes, Gideon makes sure to include how the transport systems across the planet made for easy transmission of the mutated animals planetwide. Satisfied with that summation, he continued on to how birds also helped spread the virus that then led to the mutations of the animals everywhere.

Gideon finishes his short essay as the bell rings, making his way to the door, he hands over my paper. Just five more days until I was done with school and could begin my life, Gideon thinks as he steps out of the classroom into the hallway which is alive with the usual end of the year buzz.

•••••••••••••••

Gideon finds himself sitting in a cold metal chair in a damp room, a bag over his head and handcuffs tight against his wrists. He can feel the moisture in the air, and the heat of his breath quickly dissipate in the cold room. Gideon has been in here for a few hours, after some men told him they were police and wanted to ask him some questions.

They had led Gideon to a large truck, put this smelly old bag over his head, and took him to wherever this place was. Gideon knew he was in a basement, because they led down several flights of stairs—a feat for not being able to see where one is stepping. They led him through several corridors, and finally into this room. What do they want? Gideon thinks, still unable to slow his heart rate after all these hours, Maybe they want information on the disappearance of several of my friends last year, I don’t know much about that though... Suddenly the door to the room squeals open and Gideon listens to the intruder’s heavy footsteps and equally as heavy breathing followed by another set of much quieter set of feet.

“Do you know why you’re here mister Gideon Reagan Lennox?” The man with the heavy breathing inquires in a menacing voice, much like the police in cop shows who finally caught the villain they had been hunting their whole career.

“N-no, sir,” Gideon stammers, nervous.

“Agent Craig, the hood,” The heavy breathing man says. as he spoke, Gideon feels the bag getting pull away and he finally gets to see the whole room. The room is dark, and puddles of what he hopes is water dominate much of the floor space. The only light in the room is a lonely flickering fluorescent tube, its accompanying tube likely went out ages ago. Before Gideon sits a fat man whose face seems to be stuck in a look of contempt with a dash of sadness. Gideon begins turning to the other agent to see who he was when he fat man speaks again, “Don’t look at him, look at me. You’re the one in trouble, not him.”

“I’m in trouble? I’m sorry, what did I do?” Gideon asks, his mind racing for any even minor laws he might have broken.

“Is this yours?” The fat man shows Gideon the paper he had turned into Professor Grayson and sets it on the table between us.

“Yes…” Gideon looks at it, then at the fat man, wondering how a drawing could get him arrested, “How did you get that? And what does that have to do with all this?” Gideon motions to the handcuffs and point with his chin around the room.

“We monitor schools for students who make stuff like this, and everything else that threatens the state.”

“Threatens the state? How does a doodle do that?”

“You and I both know this is more than just a doodle,”

“What are you talking—”

“How do you know what a mutant looks like?”

“I don’t, it’s just a—”

“How do you know?” The fat man’s face grows a deep red, he looks ready to strangle someone, a look Gideon had only seen one other time, a few years back.

Gideon had only been fourteen the first time he got that look. He got it from a girl’s dad after bringing her home hours after curfew. Looking back, Gideon had some sympathy for the dad, but in the moment, he couldn’t understand why he didn’t buy our story. The school dance had finished on time, and everything had gone well. The girl–he distinctly remembers her name being Sarah—and Gideon had gotten some food right after the dance, and then headed right for her house. He had intended to avoid any negative conversations with her dad about anything. As far as Gideon was concerned, if the dad had nothing against him, then that was as close as he’d get to being liked by him. But that goal didn’t pan out.

The two were late because the district she lived in was behind barricades. Soldiers marched every which way, and they heard crashes in the distance. Of course, they were still young, so they hopped over the barricades and investigated. Remaining unseen, they scampered behind all the cover they could find. They could have made it to Sarah’s home, but they were both more interested in checking out what all the commotion was for. The two had watched as soldiers raided the district’s nuthouse, which was butted up against the wall of the Dome.

They had watched as the soldiers marched people out, some in patients’ garb, some in doctors’ uniforms, and then others in tattered rags unfit for a beggar. They were all lined up, and Gideon and Sarah watched as each person was talked to by a woman in black. Each person was handed a piece of paper. As each finished reading the note, their heads had dropped, and their expressions grew dark. Soldiers lined up opposite of them, their guns leaning against their shoulders.

Gideon and Sarah had been so intent on watching what was happening, that they hadn’t noticed a man come up behind them. Sarah screamed when he tapped her shoulder, but he had tried to calm them. He had been wearing one of the orange patient uniforms, he had a veteran insignia on this shoulder, and across his chest, Corridor 13 was printed in black. Gideon remembered how he had quickly told us ‘There’s more out there than what they tell you…’ the patient had started, Gideon remembers the patient had been fairly lucid, but he slipped as he continued, ‘Always more… cities. Kingdoms. Dragons. Beware the king. Watch for his troops. They came in the night… Goodbye Captain Gregory… good night…’ Gideon remembered those words vividly, and they still echoed through his mind most every day.

Of course, all the soldiers had heard Sarah scream, and they came running. He and Sarah were a few steps ahead, and managed to get away, voices calling for them from behind. After that, they returned to the other side of the barricades, and waited until the district was open again. Gideon had looked for Sarah the next day at school, but she wasn’t there. He had visited her house after school but found charred ruins where it once stood.

“You wouldn’t believe me,” Gideon starts, preparing to tell a truth he was sure would get me locked up.

“I’ve heard everything from desperate kids,” The fat man lights a cigarette as he leans back in a folding chair. Surprisingly it held his generous weight, but with every move he made, it squeals in protest. He takes a deep breath through his cigarette and releases the blueish cloud directly into Gideon’s face.

Gideon holds his breath, and feels his eyes water, as he struggles not to cough. He watches as the smoke gathers around the flickering light above him. Gideon takes a cautious breath once the smoke is out of his face, and starts, “That thing there comes from my dreams… I’ve had dreams of them for years now, this is the first time I’ve drawn one though. I—”

“You know what I think?” The fat man interrupts, he continues, clearly not wanting an answer, “I think you’ve been sneaking out of the Dome, seeing things you shouldn’t.”

“What? No, I’ve never—” Gideon starts to protest, he didn’t even know there was a way out of the city. Other than the military-run checkpoints, everything was supposed to be just about impenetrable.

“It’s really too bad too,” The fat man continues, once again raising his voice over Gideon’s, “Your teacher had good things to say about you, and your records show you could have been a shining citizen.”

“But I’ve done nothing wrong,”

“Sure, you have. You’ve seen more than you should have, that’s a crime kid.”

“Dreaming is a crime?”

“Sure, it is. Well, kid, your ‘dreams’ have made me miss my dinner date, and I would like to just get home now. So, just tell me, where have you been sneaking out, and who with?”

“No one! Honestly, they are just dreams.” Gideon whimpers, nearly begging. He bites his tongue as he tries to not ask how an angry fat man could get a date with anyone in the city.

“Kid, I really don’t have time for this,” The fat man mutters as he struggles out of his seat. He pulls out his gun, and spins its chamber threateningly as he continues, “It would be a shame if you didn’t tell us and you happened to not be able to go home today. Not say your goodbyes to your family. A shame, indeed.”

“What are you talking about?” Gideon demands, knowing he is being blackmailed, “I have never gone outside of the dome, much less with anyone else!”

“Enough,” A woman’s voice reverberates from a speaker, Gideon looks to the two-way mirror on his right, assuming the woman is behind it as she continues, “The Governor has requested mister Lennox be enrolled in the Stalwart Program. No further questioning the boy, agent.”

The fat man’s jaw muscles flex, and Gideon can see he is angered by the request. Nonetheless, he stands as silently as his generous figure allows, and wordlessly exits the room. Close behind, the one he called Agent Craig retreats as well. As the two exit, the light in the room is shut off. Gideon finds himself absolutely alone. He tries to stay awake, but after several hours of the darkest darkness he had ever been in, he can’t help but nod off.

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