16 September 2008

Fatal Cure - Chapter 24

I must be backed up from months of self-imposed silence and memory repression. The finer details about my brief stay with HDC are vented like pressure from an overcharged gas cylinder.
HDC stands for Hadley’s Defence Corp, a private concern with a grandiose title. My calculating eyes never saw more than a platoon assemble at any one time while I was with them. They’re well armed though, with a selection of high-powered rifles and shotties. More importantly they display a strong commitment to defend Hadley’s little empire. Their zeal makes them dangerous to those who don't take their faith seriously.
We’re off-loaded after a short ride on the back of the truck at a high-fenced basketball court in the centre of town. An aging gent waits for his ‘soldier kids’ to scream us into a rough rectangle in front of him. The gent is Major Hadley, boss of this show. He inducts us, a singular honour all new ‘recruits’ must suffer through before being processed and billeted.
He is an anachronism in dress uniform, closely cropped white hair and neat white moustache. A pistol hangs loosely in one fist. We listen quietly, awed by his delusional, rambling diatribe. He believes our responsibilities lie in ensuring the survival of humanity, (females), and to bolster his thinning ranks, (males). We should be proud to turn our lives over to his service.
It’s a bad joke with no punch line.
I choke on this ‘saviours of the human race mumbo jumbo’ he attempts to shove down my throat. I softly deliver an alternative speech between Hadley’s measured words, encouraged by a few of the fellow detainees who titter and mutter agreement at my banter. It goes something like this.
“...in the conspicuous absence of any new directives from the DOD, that’s Department of Defence for those of you who don't know...”
(Spelt DED since most of them took the Parasite infected serum),
“...I have suspended my duty to the Army,”
(From when, WWII?)
“...I undertake to maintain law and order,”
(Whose laws? His own?)
“...protect the populous,”
(Tell that to the old bloke one of your kids shot in the back.)
“...and defend viable infrastructure. I authorise the use of essential items to ensure victory over the enemy.”
(Looting at gunpoint.) We can all see the ranks of removalist trucks parked around the place with men unloading ‘essential’ stuff like mini bikes and TVs.
“The greater metropolitan area is under my jurisdiction and answers to me alone.”
(Tin pot dictator owns all he surveys.)
A rumbling of dissent spreads around me.
I’m just about to shout ‘Heil Hitler’ when an angry kid with a crew-cut elbows through the crowd, bearing down on me. He stands on my toes.
“Maybe your smart mouth should take a rest, or the last thing it says will be goodbye...to all your teeth.”
Only here five minutes and already a target. I shut up, mindful of the battered stock on his pump-action shotgun.
We are subdued by what happens next. An example? A warning? A show of power? Three ragged people, two men and a woman are brought out. They have suffered severe beatings and have trouble standing. Like us they are cowed and silent, only our hands aren’t tied and more guns point at them.
Hadley presides over a brief court martial, accusing them of breaking a number of rules. The ceremony ends shockingly when a firing squad opens up without warning. Their bodies are dragged away.
Even before the executions I’d already resented being kidnapped by a bunch of casual killers. Now I’m doubly sure I want out. This ‘saviours of the human race’ garbage goes against my grain too, especially since most of us were getting the shitty end of the stick. Don't even get me started on how disinclined I am to seek out a life form that wants to burrow inside of me. The indestructible youth can have that.
This description fits the kids who step forward when we’re asked to express our enthusiasm for HDC. Incentives such as better rations and owning a gun must appeal to them enough to risk being torn apart by hosts.
Instead of volunteering I hang back, vowing to irritate and leech off this regime like a tick on a dog. Overeating and not making my bed in the morning might not crumble its foundations but I’d make sure they knew their well-oiled machine had rusty patches.
When it comes to my turn to be listed and assigned I feign an injury, and a brain retardation. They relegate me to a support role washing dishes. I belong to the slave class, a status I resent, with job requirements I’ll be sure to do slowly and poorly.

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