“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”
I don’t know why this of all things races through my mind, as Day pounds down the street in front of me, my own footsteps close at his heels. I think my mother said it once. She always loved to read, and not the military and defense volumes issued to us by our superiors, but old books, books ‘full of wonder,’ as she used to say. I remember my brother Metias giggling at the word “bedfellows”, because I guess that’s just what nine-year-old boys do. A breathy laugh bubbles up inside me, but it comes out as a sob instead. Day glances back at me, concern darkening his bright blue eyes. I brush away a tear that starts to roll down my cheek and dodge a vendor’s cart, narrowly missing it as my eyes adjust to dusk falling on Sector 3. This isn’t like me. I cannot lose control. All of them dead. This puts a hitch in my step, and my vision goes bleary with tears. My mother and father taken by the plague, then Metias, taken by the very Republic I admired and served. It doesn’t seem real. Like any minute I might wake up from this horrible nightmare and hear my mother’s sweet singing from the kitchen or my father coming home from his rounds. Instead, I hear Day’s labored breathing right in front of me and I stumble to a stop. He takes my dirty face gently in his hands and wipes the tears from below my eyes with the edge of his sleeve. A month ago, if I had been standing before the infamous rebel Day, it would be with a gun at my belt and cuffs ready in my hand. But this ‘uncontrolled threat,’ as the Republic has labeled him, is only a boy. My loyalties have changed, and I have done the unthinkable: I am helping the very prisoner I helped detain escape. The hint of a smile forms on Day’s lips, as if he can tell what I’m thinking, but suddenly the world explodes into sound and light. A loudspeaker blares a siren, a spotlight engulfs and blinds us both. The whap-whap-whap of chopper blades whips my hair back from my face, and all I can distinguish from the sea of white around me is a dark silhouette walking towards us, the telltale glint of the Republic insignia winking on her shoulder. I raise my gun. My commander. “Cadet,” she says “lower your weapon. You can still be of use to us. Leave this traitor where he belongs, or the consequence will be severe.” My hand remains steadier than I think possible. I think I understood what my mother meant. This is my choice, there will be no going back. I am with Day.