Tarren walked over the blue stone through the marketplace. A man with dirt on his face and drab brown clothes started walking alongside Tarren. “Excuse me, but do you know the time?”
Tarren looked down at the watch on his right wrist and put his hand up to the watch with his pointer finger on the right side of the watch and his middle finger on the left side. “Yes I do. It’s a quarter past four.”
The other man looked back and forth and dropped his voice down to a whisper. “We’re meeting tonight at nine at the baker’s house.” With that the man turned and walked back into the crowd.
Tarren nodded to himself and then muttered, “Well, that gives me some time at least to find an excuse that Eugene will believe.” He continued walking past the colorful awnings and marketers crying out their goods. he was offered watches, blankets, a dented and beat up pot that the merchant claimed was the finest that Tarren would find. He ignored them all because he was here for a specific reason. That and his pockets were empty.
Tarren made his way to a building made from stone, one of the few permanent structures in the market place. Smoke rose up from the chimney, and the door creaked when Tarren pushed it open. A thin man with an apron tied over his white shirt and brown pants was pulling bread out of a large brick oven with a large wooden paddle. The gray-haired man stood up and turned around when he heard the door creak open. A large smile crossed his kindly face when he saw Tarren, and he slid the bread off the paddle and onto the counter before leaning the paddle against the wall next to the oven. He wiped his hands off on his apron and walked over to Tarren. “Tarren, it is good to see you again, my friend. How are you today?”
Tarren smiled right back. “I’m doing well, Obadiah. You know, they do have machines that could make the bread for you, there is no reason for you to work so hard, or pay for the wood that you need to run that thing.”
Obadiah shook his head. “How many times do I have to tell you, Tarren. Those machines make bread, I make art. Those machines with all of their coils and gears can’t make anything as delicious as I can with my own two hands. That’s why my bakery is the most popular one in all of the Coricopon system. Enough of that, though. How are things going for Eugene at the orphanage?”
Tarren frowned. “Things are tough. Conditions are bad in the mines, so we get new orphans almost weekly, and the government is cutting back on how much assistance we get. Money is tight, so I’m looking for a job to help out a bit. I don’t suppose you know anyone who is looking for some help running their shop?”
Obadiah shook his head. “Sorry, Tarren; shop jobs are a highly envied position. They get filled almost as soon as they open up. I’ll keep my ears open for you though.” Obadiah pulled a sack from behind the counter and handed it to Tarren.
Tarren opened the sack and looked inside. “There must be some mistake; there’s only two loaves of bread in here.”
Obediah frowned. “I’m sorry, Tarren, but business was good yesterday, and that’s all I have left from my day-olds. I wish I could do more, but times are tough for everyone.”
Tarren nodded. “Thank you, once again, for your kindness, Obadiah. How much wood do you need split today?”
“Six of the big blocks should be more than enough for today, Tarren.”
Tarren walked out of the bakery and walked over to Obadiah’s wood pile behind the bakery. He set the burlap sack onto the the ground next to the building. He took his shirt off, revealing a thin body. His skin was stretched tight over well defined muscles, and he had a scar that ran down his bruised right arm, which was slightly smaller than his left. He had bruises on his ribs too, which were visible on his chest. He threw his shirt on top of the sack and picked up a medium-sized block of wood, and set it on top of a large uprooted stump with cuts crisscrossing its surface.
Tarren picked up the axe leaning against the bakery, raised it over his head and swung it down into the block of wood. The axe embedded itself into the block and Tarren yanked it out. He continued like that for a while, losing himself in the rhythm of swinging the axe and working it free again. Before too long he had a nice pile of wood blocks sitting next to the stump. Tarren leaned the axe up against the building and picked up his shirt and reached for the sack of bread, but stopped when he heard someone shouting from further on in the market.
He walked back to the street in front of the bakery, and saw who was shouting. Herman Jenster, another baker who had a stand set up in the market place, was surrounded by four Aquore Enforcers, the government security force on Aquore. The one in the group who was in charge, marked by the yellow star on the shoulder of his white uniform, pushed Herman. “You owe more taxes, old man. We were kind enough to allow you to set up a stand in this market place, it’s only fair that you reward us for this kindness.”
Herman pleaded, “Please, I already paid my taxes for this month! If I give you anymore I won’t be able to afford to buy ingredients to make more bread! Then the government will lose the income they make from my business!”
The Enforcer grabbed a loaf of bread from Herman’s stand. Herman reached for the loaf of bread but another of the Enforcers grabbed him and held him back. “The taxes are going up for everyone. It wouldn’t be fair for you to not have to pay and everyone else to. Besides, if you can’t afford to stay open it will just make room for a different business to take your place.” The Enforcer took a bite from the loaf of bread. His face twisted up in disgust and he spit the piece he had in his mouth onto Herman’s table and threw the rest of the loaf onto the ground. “If you are selling garbage like this maybe it would be better for you to go out of business!” The Enforcer stomped his foot down onto the loaf of bread. The other enforcers laughed.
Tarren threw his shirt onto the ground and ran at the enforcers. Tarren growled and tackled the Enforcer that had stomped the bread into the ground. The enforcer grunted when Tarren landed on top of him. “That was perfectly good bread! You bunch of dalks! There are kids that go to bed hungry every night and you just waste food like that!” Tarren punched the enforcer in the face with his left arm.
The Enforcer struggled to bring his arms up to fight back, but Tarren’s legs pinned the Enforcers arms to his side. The Enforcer glared up at Tarren, blood flowing from his nose. “Get this shantz off of me!” Tarren pulled his right arm back to give the Enforcer another punch, but one of the other Enforcers slammed the butt of his spear into the side of Tarren’s head. Tarren fell off of the Enforcers, leader and pulled his hands up to this head. The three standing Enforcers surrounded Tarren and started kicking him and beating him with their staffs. Tarren grunted with each blow, covered his head with his hands and curled up in a ball.
The Enforcer that Tarren had tackled finally got back up to his feet. “Hold!” The other Enforcers stopped beating on Tarren, and their leader walked up to Tarren. “Let this be a lesson to you for the next time you think about attacking an Enforcer.” He gave Tarren another kick to the ribs. The Enforcer walked up to Herman’s stand once more. “We’ll be back later, and you better have what you owe or that,” he pointed at Tarren, “will be you!” The Enforcer turned and Stomped off into the marketplace. “Make way for the Aquore Enforcers!” The other enforcers followed after him.
Herman walked over and knelt down by Tarren’s side. “Thank you for coming to my defense. Are you badly injured?”
Tarren looked at Herman and attempted a smile, but it turned into more of a grimace with his lip split, blood running from his nose and one of his eyes beginning to swell up. “Please, they’re done worse to me before. Big cowards, I could have taken them if they had come at me one at a time. Wasn’t very fair of them to all come at me at once like that.”
Herman shook his head. “You are either very brave, or very foolish. I am thinking foolish since this was all over a loaf of bread.”
Tarren started to push himself up to his feet. “The Enforcers and I have more of a history than that. Besides, I know a lot of kids that would have loved to have had that loaf of bread.” Tarren held his hand to his head and looked at the dirt covered loaf of bread and snorted. “They still would fight each other for it.”
Herman walked back over to his stand and grabbed two loaves of bread and handed them to Tarren. “Here, I know it isn’t much but maybe they would enjoy this?”
Tarren bowed his head to Herman as he accepted the loaves from him. “Thank you, I know they will appreciate this very much.” Tarren walked back to Obadiah’s bakery to gather his belongings.
Obadiah stood in front of his shop shaking his head at Tarren. “That was a very foolish thing to do, Tarren! You are lucky to still be alive!”
Tarren set the loaves on the ground and pulled his shirt back over his head. “Please, Obadiah, I’m certain I’ll get enough of a lecture from Eugene when I get back to the orphanage. Besides, it got me a little more food for the kids.”
Obadiah frowned. “You accepted those two loaves from Herman? I feel sorry for the poor children who have to eat that. I may be able to spare a fresh loaf for you.” Obadiah patted Tarren on the shoulder. “That was a very brave thing you did, but you need to stop taking so many risks. Earth is certain to send an inspector out here someday, and then things will get straightened out here. We just need to survive until then.”
Tarren shook his head. “Sorry, Obadiah, I’m not about to sit around hope that our problems will get fixed, I plan on doing something about them.”
Tarren walked up to the two story building that Eugene had set up as the orphanage for all of Aquore. Children lived there from different colonies all over the planet, and Eugene did the best for them that he could with the modest income the government gave him to use for caring for the children. Tarren was sure that if there wasn’t a law enforced by the high council on Earth, the Aquore government would have just written the orphans off or put them to work in the mines.
A child ran up to Tarren excitedly. “How much did you bring back today, Tarren? Was Obadiah being stingy again?” The child took a look at Tarren’s face. “Did you get into another fight with the Enforcers?”
Tarren reached out and rubbed the child’s head, and winced a little from his beating when he did. “Never you mind if I got into a fight or not, Chance. I managed to get five loaves today, but you better watch what you say about Mr. Obadiah. He’s giving us this food for free, and without it you wouldn’t have much to eat. Do you know where Eugene is?”
“Yeah, Eugene is going over the budget in the kitchen. I think he’s waiting for you.”
Great, I get to give him an explanation sooner than I wanted too. Oh well, time for a lecture. Tarren started walking toward the kitchen, but turned and looked at Chance. “Shouldn’t you be studying, Chance?”
Chance stuck out his tongue. “I hate studying. I’d rather go out and play, or go find some work. I’m old enough that I could be helping out a little bit around here.”
Tarren smiled at Chance. “You’re only ten years old, Chance. No one would hire a ten year old. And if they did, you can bet that you wouldn’t get paid enough to really make a difference. Eugene wants you to study so that you can get a job somewhere other than the mines when you grow up. If you study hard enough you might even be able to get off of this rock.”
Chance shook his head. “Nope, I don’t need to study. I’m going to stay at the orphanage and help you and Eugene.”
Tarren shook his head. “If that’s what you really want to do, then study hard and go make a difference. Become someone who can change the way things are and make it better for everyone.” Tarren turned and continued on into the kitchen.
Eugene sat with his back to Tarren at the counter on a stool. Rarely used pots and pans hung from hooks mounted to the ceiling. A low hum from the mostly empty refrigerator filled the room. The only other furnishing in the kitchen was the stove. Eugene was bent over sheets of paper, his pen scratching out figures as he muttered to himself. Tarren closed the door behind him and without looking up said, “You’re late, Tarren. Get into another fight?”
Tarren cringed and placed the sack of bread on the counter. “I may have gotten into a little bit of a fight, but it wasn’t serious.”
Eugene finally looked up from his papers, pushed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose and looked at Tarren’s black eye and swollen face. “Looks like it was pretty serious to me. Tarren. I know that you have no love for the government, but if you keep fighting like this, one of these times you aren’t going to get away with just a few bruises. You can’t keep attacking the Aquore Enforcers every time you see one of them. I raised you to use that brain of yours better than that.”
Tarren looked away. “I wasn’t fighting for me this time. They were harassing Herman Jenster. I couldn’t just walk away from that fight Eugene.”
Eugene shook his head. “Yes, yes you could have. You weren’t fighting for Herman, you were fighting your personal fight and just used Herman as an excuse.”
“You don’t understand, Eugene; the Enforcers took my parents away! How can I just pretend like that never happened? I’d dishonor their memory if I stopped fighting.”
Eugene sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Tarren, you have been in my care for over twelve years now, and I think of you as my son. So I believe that I can say with certainty that your parent’s wouldn’t want you risking your life like this, especially since the only thing you could accomplish is getting yourself killed.”
Tarren pointed his finger at Eugene. “You’re wrong, Eugene. My parents were part of the rebellion, and they would want me to fight for the people of this planet, to fight against the government and their Enforcers.”
“Enough of this, Tarren. I’m hoping you have some good news for me. Did you have any luck with finding a job? Another kid got dropped off while you were gone, and I just finished going over the numbers, and if we don’t get some more money soon we might have to close the orphanage down.”
Tarren looked away from Eugene. “I keep asking around the market, but no one is hiring. If we have a new kid, that means that the government should be giving us more funding, right?”
Eugene shook his head. “Your friends, the Enforcers stopped by while you were out, and the government is reducing the amount of funds they are giving us per child. They say we’re wasting time by giving them an education, that since we have so many potential mine workers living here that a portion of our income should come from their labor.”
Tarren frowned. He’d been telling Eugene for the last couple of months that he had been looking for a job, but he had spent most of his time with the rebellion. “Maybe I could try working the mines. We might be able to buy something to eat with the extra income I’d be bringing in.”
“No, Tarren. Money isn’t so tight that I’d ask you to throw your life away.”
“I could go and see if Daley Devices is hiring. They treat their miners better than the government does, and the wages aren’t that much lower.”
Eugene shook his head. “You know as well as I do that they only hire people that can operate their mining robots, and you can’t.” Eugene looked at his watch. “It’s time for supper. I’ll go and meet with Frederick after that. Maybe he’ll give us another loan, something to hold us over just long enough till you can find a job.”
“I can talk to Troy. He might be able to use his influence to get us some more funding from the government.”
Eugene smiled. “Ah, Troy. I haven’t seen him in almost a year. If anyone could help us in this situation, it’s him. I’m sure his time working in the government won’t have made him forget about where he came from. Make sure to tell him I say hello. Now go and tell the boys that it’s time for dinner.”
Tarren put the last half of a loaf of bread into the bread box on the counter. Eugene looked up from wiping down the table and laughed. “When’s the last time you remember having leftovers? Maybe it’s a good thing you got into that fight today.”
Tarren smiled at Eugene. “I just can’t believe that Obadiah was right about his handmade bread being so much better than the machine-made stuff. There really isn’t any comparison. Why would anyone ever make bread any other way?”
Eugene sighed. “Because the benefit of progress is that it makes everything easier and cheaper. The downside is that it often loses much of the quality of the handmade product.” Eugene looked at his watch. “Look at the time! If I wanted to meet with Frederick tonight I should get going. Can you finish cleaning up?”
Tarren looked down at his watch. He didn’t have much time to spare if he wanted to to make it to the meeting in time, but if he hurried, he could finish the chores. “Yeah, I can take care of it for you, Eugene.”
“Great. I’m going to go look in on the kids before I head out.” Eugene placed his washcloth down on the table and walked out of the kitchen.
Tarren picked it up and started scrubbing the table quickly. He wiped down the twenty-foot long table in two minutes. He frowned at the table and shook his head. “It’s not the best cleaning job ever, but it’ll do for tonight. I’ll just get up early tomorrow and wipe it down again before breakfast. Tarren folded up the washcloth and placed it on the counter, and picked up the bucket full of water, and walked out the back door. He dumped the water out, hung the bucket on the hand water pump, and started to run around to the front of the building.
Tarren started running down the driveway and winced when he heard the door close behind him. “Tarren, where are you going? I thought you were going to clean the kitchen?”
Taren turned around and smiled at Eugene. “I already cleaned the kitchen, and I am, um I am, I’m going out to look for a job. I’m so concerned about our finances that I’m going to go look for jobs for a few hours tonight.”
Eugene smiled at Tarren. “Well, that’s quite responsible of you, Tarren. With an attitude like that I’m sure that you’ll be able to find a job in no time. Just don’t stay out too late, we have church tomorrow.”
“I’ll only be out for a couple of hours, you just don’t stay out too late with Frederick!” Tarren turned and continued running down the driveway. He hated lying to Eugene like that, but he just wouldn’t understand Tarren going to meet with the rebellion. Maybe he’d to and check a few businesses for jobs after the meeting. Tarren sighed. It was going to be a later night that he was hoping for, but at least he would have a clearer conscious.
Tarren knocked on the door of Obadiah’s house. The door opened almost immediately to reveal Obadiah’s smiling face. “Ah, Tarren. The weather is fine this evening, is it not?”
Taren smiled back at Obadiah. “Yes, the glow of Ludecai is beautiful.”
Obediah opened the door completely. “Please, come in brother.” And, in a quieter tone, added, “The meeting is starting soon.”
Tarren walked inside, turned, and walked down the stairs. He walked into a basement filled with people. Tarren smiled and greeted those around him. “Hey, Phil! Steve, it’s good to see you again. Are you ready to strike another blow for justice, Earl?”
A large black man walked up behind Tarren and rested a hand on his shoulder. “I see you got into another fight, Tarren. I thought we agreed that we were going to stop our solo fights against the Enforcers, that we could do more good acting together.”
Tarren forced a smile onto his face. “Hi, John. How are things going in the mines?”
John frowned at Tarren. “I’m serious, Tarren. I want you to stop this fighting of yours. The only thing that ever comes of it is you getting hurt, and you are putting all of us at risk.”
Tarren sighed. “I can’t stop fighting, John. I see the Enforcers abusing people every day, and I can’t just watch. I have to do something, and I thought that the rebellion would be doing something to help the people on this planet, not just annoying the government.”
“The last time the rebellion openly fought against the government, we lost a lot of people, your parents among those that we lost. We do what Harold Daley tells us to, and eventually we will bring the government down.”
A man stood up on a table on the other end of the room, and a hush fell over the room. The man smiled out at the crowd. “I want to thank you all for coming, for being willing to make a difference. For being the ones unwilling to put up with the conditions that the government has decided to impose on you. You’re friends may tell you that the rebellion isn’t making a difference, that at most we’re a minor annoyance, but they are wrong! Already the government is making creating new policies to try and quell our rebellion. John, tell us what changes are happening in the mines.”
John crossed his large, muscled arms and nodded his head to the man on the table. He started talking in his deep baritone voice. “They are forcing us to work more hours, for less pay. I have to go to a twelve hour shift after this meeting, and I’m not going to make what I made three years ago working six! They’re afraid of us brothers and sisters! That’s what pushes them to oppose us! The think that working us harder, and giving us less to live on will make us back down! I say no! All they are doing is making me want to fight harder, to take back what they have taken from us, and give it back to our children! They’re the ones that they are really stealing from!”
The room erupted into cheers and chants of “For the children!” and “Down with the government!” filled Obadiah’s basement. John held up his hands for silence, and gestured to Obadiah. “Things aren’t just getting worse in the mines. Obadiah, why don’t you tell everyone what you witnessed in the marketplace today.”
“The Aquore Enforcers were up to no good once again today. They went from stall to stall and booth to booth, announcing that the taxes have gone up again! At this rate I’ll have to sell a single loaf of bread for what I used to be able to sell a wedding cake for! Your children will go hungry because the government is paying you less and forcing me to sell my goods for more! This cannot be allowed to continue!”
The crowd broke out into their chants once more, and Tarren’s eyes lit with a vehement fire, and he shouted out. “That’s not all!” The crowd turned and looked at Tarren, and John fixed him with a sullen glare. Tarren continued on, more hesitantly than before, “They’re decreasing the amount of money that they’re giving to orphanage to take care of the children. They want us to send them into the same mines that claimed their parents lives.”
The crowd took up their chants once more with a new vigor. They were so loud that Tarren was certain that someone passing by outside would be sure to hear them. John, Obadiah, and the man on the table worked to calm the crowd. Once they were calmed, the man on the table began to speak. “I’m glad that you are all so moved by the horrendous acts that our government is performing, but your feelings do us no good unless you do something about it.”
Someone in the crowd called out, “Then tell us what to do Scott!” and someone else called out, “Yeah, what is our next move Scott?”
Scott, the man on the table, smiled at the crowd. “I’m glad that you asked. If you want to hurt the government, you have to go after the thing they care about the most… money. And how do they get their money?”
A man called out, “By me working my arse off!” The crowd erupted into laughter and the men closest to him patted him on the back. Another man shouted out in agreement. “Aye, with their snalkin taxes!”
Scott shook his head at the man. “No friend, the money they take from you is nothing to them. It’s merely a way for them to control you. No, the real way the make their money, and the reason they are here is for the precious stone we work so hard to pull out of this planet. It’s the reason that they worked so hard to pull all the water off of this planet, and used it to create our moon, Ludecai. You want to hurt their money, then slowing down their work in the mines is the best way to do it.”
A man in the crowd scoffed. “So what do you want us to do? Work slower? They’ll kick us out of the mines and replace us.”
Scott looked at the man and continued. “I would never ask you risk your family’s livelihood sir, I’m not with the government.” The crowd became a mix of laughs and cheers. Scott motioned them into silence. “What I want you to do, is go and loosen some bolts on the mining machinery. I loose bolt here, a missing washer there, and that will bring their progress to a standstill. Do this for long enough, and they’ll really start hurting for money.”
Tarren frowned and shouted out, “Doesn’t that mean that the people who operate those machines might get hurt if they break down while they are using them?”
The crowd stared at Scott, waiting for a response. Scott shrugged his shoulders and sighed. “Only just a man and already he thinks he understands the complexities of subterfuge.” The crowd laughed a little and turned to look at Tarren. Tarren blushed, but stared defiantly at the men looking at him. “Of course there is a chance that some might be injured, but no greater than the chance of someone getting injured from working in the mines. No, this is a sound plan young man. Now I want you to go out in the dark of night, and loosen as many nuts and bolts as you can, but don’t forget to set lookouts. The last thing we’d want is for the Enforcers to find any of us. Does anyone have any questions? No? I want to thank Obadiah for allowing us to meet in his basement once more, and I want ask John to organize you into groups to hit all of the mines in the area. Enjoy the rest of your evening everyone, and don’t forget, eventually we will take out the government and make things better for everyone here on Aquore.” Scott stepped off of the table and men and women instantly swarmed around him, asking him questions and talking to him about the mines.
John turned and gave Tarren an encouraging look. “I’m glad that you used that brain of yours to think for once, Tarren. I too have my concerns about Scott’s plan.”
Tarren looked questioningly at John. “Then why didn’t you speak out against it too? The people look up to you and respect you John.”
John shook his head. “I can’t go against Daley Devices, Tarren. They do so much to support us and help us. Besides, he was right. You are just as likely to get hurt in the mines already. We can talk more about this later, but right now I have to give everyone their assignments.” John turned and walked off into the crowd.
Thank you for checking out my story, if you liked this and want to see more stories like it, check out the other stories I’m working on writing, here: Tales of the Imagination, check out my facebook page for updates on the stories here: Facebook, and follow me on Twitter here: @EJBorchardt. Please like, comment, and tell your friends if you like what you’ve read.