A TENSE COMRADESHIP MEETING.
Jesse didn’t know what to make of his uncle’s attempted mea culpa. The traumatic effects of the substation incident notwithstanding, he felt like he was in a mental purgatory; somewhere between delighted and distressed.
When he entered the living room, Jesse curled up on the left side of the sofa, opposite of Matt, and stared into space. Mary, seated on the carpet wrapped in a blue Everton-logo blanket, noticed this, for Jesse always had a greeting for his relatives, formal or informal.
She and Matt glared at Jesse silently, expecting a response. “Well,” Matt eventually commented, “the elephant in the room has taken a seat!”
“Jess?” Mary pled.
Jesse sighed annoyedly. “Yes, I’m alive,” he nonchalantly drawled. “Keep watching what you’re watching,”
“I can’t help but recognize you came right over and didn’t say hi to mom,” Mary stammered.
“Yup,” Jesse mouthed.
“You still torn up over the loss?” Matt said. “Or is it those reporters parked near the house?”
“I never noticed,” Jesse murmured.
“Well, hopefully dad is up to the challenge of utilizing his police contacts tomorrow,” Mary commented.
“He wants to take on a lot of challenges,” a mumbling Jesse quipped.
“You talking to us, or the wall?” Matt jested.
Jesse frowned. “Would it be rude of me to call an emergency meeting of the Maith Youth Comradeship in my room?” he asked.
Matt and Mary agreed, but not without suspicion. As they followed Jesse upstairs, Matt nudged Mary and began whispering to her.
“He may have snapped,” Matt said.
“I think so, too. Being held at laserpoint will do that to you,” Mary replied.
In his bedroom, Jesse marked the seriousness of his request by turning on all the lights in the room, something he rarely, if ever, does. When he relaxed on his bed, he finally made eye contact with his cousins, who both sat on the floor Indian-style and returned annoyed looks
“Jesse,” Matt pointedly stated, “I would not be fulfilling the honesty provision of the Comradeship if I didn’t ask you an important question.” he sighed, then asked: “is it true Harrison has a prosthetic leg?”
Jesse chuckled, but barely twitched his face.
“In all seriousness,” Matt continued, “I speak for my sister when we say these moody self-pity sessions of yours are getting old. I get you’re still shaken up by what happened Tuesday, but are you prepared for what’s coming in the next few days?”
“You’re right,” Jesse replied, his tone shifting from mopey to earnest. “I’m not. You’re not. None of us are. But we should talk about Harrison.”
“Wait,” Mary replied, “don’t tell me that forcible restraint was worse for you mentally than having military grade weapons pointed at you and Sarah’s heads?”
“Neither,” Jesse replied.
“We’d probably better not mess with Mr. Bristol anymore, Jess.” Matt said. “I mean, hidden cameras and all… wow…”
“Can you imagine what other hidden cameras lay within the Everton walls?” Mary asked. “I mean, think of what they’ve caught!”
“Well, did you know that Harrison was in the Bergen Boys with my dad?” Jesse murmured.
“Who’s the Bergen Boys?” Mary asked.
“My dad’s platoon in the Endgame.”
Matt and Mary’s eyes simultaneously inflated in surprise.
“Wow, that’s insane!” Matt exclaimed.
“It’s not a total surprise,” Mary said, “I mean, Harrison is good friends with dad…”
“Well,” Jesse continued, “did you also know he watched him die?” Mary and Matt’s jaws dropped. “I will ask you both a question, and you have to promise me you won’t deride this as projectdriht.link crap.”
“No promises,” Matt replied.
“Ditto,” Mary said.
Jesse took two deep breaths, then looked his brown-eyed cousins in their eyes. “Do you two believe that you-know-who would be insane enough to create a draft for teenagers like us?”
Matt slapped his hands on his legs. “Yeah, you’re cut off from the interlink, swaggerific!” he scoffed.
“After my Ten on Monday, he said to me, your athletic talents will be used for more than just football in the near-future. Why would he say something like…”
“Wait, something makes sense here!” Matt interrupted. “They plant the camera in Bristol’s room… Bristol baits you into his trap… cuz, you will be vice-minister!”
“No, you drain!” an annoyed Mary interjected, “it means he will be like General Kimball! Or turn into the Hulk if he reads more conspiracies!”
“Eh, I was close!” Matt cried.
“Please stop mocking me!” Jesse pled. “You know what else he said? You-know-who thinks our generation is too complacent; that we lack the internal capacity to respect this country, the Divine Forces, and God and Joshua! He wants full coercion of the citizens of the DRF, completely disregarding his past preaching about humankind being free and independent! He wants a new generation of hardened warriors, all to stroke his ego!”
A gritting Mary stood up and folded her arms. “How do you know Harrison doesn’t read the project like you do?!” she shouted. “What evidence does he possess that no one else does?!”
“He used to work for you-know-who,” Jesse growled, attempting to restrain himself from shouting. “He worked for the office of the Ultimate Minister before he became a principal.”
“That was years ago! How is he in his mind now?!” a now-angry Mary pried.
Jesse gently hovered his hands in front of his chest when he replied: “why else would Harrison reveal this information to me and no one else?! What if a military conflict with New Alaska has been in the works for years, and Harrison knew of it?”
Matt joined Mary in standing up, but he turned towards Mary. “Sis,” he interposed, I think Jesse has a point! Why would DCF agents so demonstratively protect an old substation?”
Mary tilted her eyes downward in skepticism.
“I’ve never read projectdriht.link,” Matt continued, “but someone as smart and intuitive as you would surely realize that all these recent events, especially the Remembrance Day speech, are no coincidence?”
“Mary,” Jesse added, “picture yourself in me and Sarah’s shoes. How would you have felt?”
“Bad, I guess,” Mary murmured. “I also can’t help how weird dad’s been acting lately… he seems more… interested in our activities than ever before!”
“You got that right!” Jesse replied. “He can’t be that afraid of military conflicts. Something doesn’t add up!”
“Jesse,” Mary quivered, “it’s not that I don’t believe you, but when you told me what happened Tuesday, I just… please be careful!” She struggled to hold back tears. “All I ask is please don’t let these theories in your head be your undoing. Do nothing stupid!”
“Mare,” Jesse replied as he placed his hand on top of hers, “as much as I want to see you-know-who lose his post, I don’t want to be the poster child for a revolution. The only thing I will ever ask of you and Matt is to be aware of what’s going on in the world, because Joshua forbid this draft business is true. What if they draft both of you, too? What if we have to go to the front lines?”
“Jess,” Matt growled, “I stood up for you in class the other day. You’re starting to go off on a complete tangent again. You need to let that stuff go, man. Don’t make me regret this!”
Jesse did not respond, and the Maiths sat in awkward silence for the next five minutes.
Finally, they concluded their conversation with a subdued “be free” chant. After Matt and Mary exited Jesse’s room and closed the door behind them, a mentally drained Matt clasped his hands behind his head.
Mary then reached out her right hand and touched Matt’s shoulder. They took one look at each other and fervently shook their heads.