The bell above the door jingled when Tarren entered the cafe. Tarren’s eyes scanned the room until his gaze rested upon a man sitting at a table in the corner of the cafe, and a smile filled his face. The man had short cut brown hair, and once he pulled his sunglasses off they revealed his tired silver eyes. He stood up and straightened his black suit, the tip of a red handkerchief hanging out of his pocket. Tarren walked over to the man’s table, reached out, and shook his hand in greeting. “Troy! It’s good to see you! Thank you for agreeing to meet with me here.”
Troy laughed. “Oh come on, Tarren. You’re not fooling anyone. You just wanted to meet me here because you knew I’d buy you a cup of coffee.” Troy indicated the steaming cup of coffee on the table across from him.
Tarren smiled and sat down. “You know me well, Troy. I did have something important that I wanted to talk to you about, though.”
Troy’s face turned serious and he sat down as well. “Is it about the orphanage?”
Tarren nodded. “We have more kids than we ever have before, and the government just reduced the amount of aid that they’re giving us. They want us to send the kids to the mines to help cover our expenses.”
Troy sighed. “I’m aware of all this. It doesn’t matter how much I argue with those bureaucrats, nothing I say ever seems to get through to them! I’m doing everything I can for you, Tarren, but it seems like one voice just isn’t enough. The politicians have distanced themselves from people so much that they can’t even sympathize with them anymore. Sometimes I think I would have been better off being like you and staying with the orphanage.”
Tarren frowned. “You know that Eugene wanted better for you. Heck, he wants better for all of his children, but I was just too stubborn to leave. Don’t give up, Troy; I’m sure you are making more of a difference that you know.”
Troy gave Tarren a wry smile. “Why, Tarren, that sounded downright optimistic! Are you feeling okay? Usually all I ever hear from you is how the only solution is the rebellion.”
Tarren quickly looked around the room to see if anyone was listening in on their conversation. “You mind keeping it a little more quiet? You know we don’t like drawing attention to ourselves like that.”
Troy lifted his hands up defensively. “Calm down. I made sure to check the place out before you even got here. We don’t have to worry about anyone hearing us that shouldn’t.”
Tarren laughed. “Wow, you really have become a politician, haven’t you? Always trying to cover your buttass.” Tarren lowered his voice. “But since you brought the rebellion up, I do have a question for you. A member of the rebellion was recently captured on one of our missions. Do you know what’s going to happen to him?”
Troy sighed. “If they can prove his connection to the rebellion, he will most likely be executed, but not before they torture him to try and get as much information out of him as they can. You should leave the rebellion, Tarren. All they are doing is angering the government and they’re the reason things have been getting worse. One day you are going to be caught, and then they will make you wish you hadn’t been born.”
Tarren slammed his fist down on the table. “I already wish I hadn’t been born! Not in this time anyway!” People in the cafe turned and looked at Tarren, and Tarren blushed. He continued on in a quieter tone. “I don’t want to live in a world where the government is so corrupt and distanced from the people, where their edicts and laws make things worse for everyone rather than improving anything. I am a part of the rebellion because they are the only ones trying to make things better for everyone.”
Troy smiled and shook his head at Tarren. “Sometimes I think that you should have been the one to go into politics. Your temperament certainly would have shaken things up by now.”
Tarran chuckled. “Don’t say things like that. If I had gone to join the government I’d be rotting in a jail cell by now and they would have thrown away the key.”
Troy started laughing. “You may have a point.” Troy looked at his watch and frowned. “It’s been great seeing you again, Tarren, but I have to get going. Parliament has a meeting regarding a new mining bill, and someone has to be there to argue for the good of the people.” He laid a stack of money down on the table. “Make sure to get yourself a sandwich or something. I know that you and Eugene skimp on your meals to give more to the kids, but you need your strength too.”
Tarren stood up and gave Troy a hug. “Thanks, Troy. It was great to see you again.”
Tarren pushed the door to the kitchen open and placed the sack of bread on the counter in front of Eugene. Eugene looked up from stack of papers he was working on and gave Tarren a smile. “How did your meeting with Troy go? Is he making any headway with the government?”
Tarren shook his head. “Troy says that the other parliament members mostly ignore him, but he’s not going to give up yet. He still thinks that his way is the best solution to solve this planet’s problems.”
Eugene nodded his head. “I agree with him, but we need to get more members of parliament to sympathize with the people. And it would certainly help things if this rebellion I’ve been hearing about wouldn’t go about upsetting the government.”
Tarren cringed. “Yeah, that’s all that the people in the marketplace were talking about today. Some member of the rebellion got caught and everyone says that he’s going to be killed.”
Eugene nodded his head and pointed to the newspaper sitting on the counter, the Aquore News Bulletin. “It made the front page of the paper. It is believed that he is a member of the rebellion, but they haven’t proven it yet. I feel sorry for his family once they do, though. Kyle was a hard worker and an excellent provider for his family. I feel terrible for Tanya; she never did fully recover after the complications with Sid’s birth. If she has to go to the mines for work, I fear we may end up with two more orphans.”
Tarren frowned. “I hope it won’t come to that, and perhaps they’ll discover that they were mistaken and Kyle won’t be executed.”
Eugene shook his head. “Even if that does happen he was trespassing on government property, and he’ll at least face time in prison.”
“I’ll stop by their place tomorrow when I go to get bread, and see if there is anything I can do to help out.”
Eugene smiled. “Yes, that sounds like an excellent idea.” Eugene’s smile faded. “I think I’ve put this off long enough, but I have to tell you.”
Tarren face lit up with curiosity. “Tell me what, Eugene?”
Eugene frowned. “When I went to get our loan from Frederick, I had to make a deal with him. I had to promise him that you would report to him twice a week, and go out to collect some of his other loans for him.”
Tarren smiled. “That’s what you were so worried about telling me? You found me a job? When do I start?”
“I’m not happy about this, Tarren! I wanted you to find a job, but I don’t want you to get into anymore fights!”
Tarren gave Eugene a confused look. “I don’t understand how the two are connected.”
Eugene sighed. “The people that Frederick will be sending you to collect from are the people who aren’t able to pay him back! He’s going to expect you to rough the people up and take their possessions as collateral.”
Tarren took a deep breath. “I’m going to have to steal from these people?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so. It’s the risk that you take when you enter into a business agreement with Frederick.”
Tarren quivered with rage but spoke softly. “You’ve borrowed money from Frederick numerous times. If you knew that could happen to you, how could you put the children in danger like that?”
Eugene chuckled a soft, sad laugh. “People like Frederick only exist because desperate people do desperate things. Thank God I was able to come up with the money before Frederick had to send his collectors after us so far, and this time there won’t be any danger of that at all. You might even be able to make some money doing it as well.”
Tarren crossed his arms. “I’ll do it for the good of the orphanage, but I’m not going to do it any longer than I have to. How much did you borrow from him?”
“Thirty thousand quillions.”
Tarren’s eyes opened wide. “Thirty thousand quill? Do you have any idea how long it will take me to work off that much money? Why did you take so much?”
Eugen looked down at the counter. “When he offered the deal it seemed like a good idea to get as much as I could. We will be able to keep the orphanage running for years, even if the government completely cuts off our funding!”
Tarren shook his head and walked over to the door that led from the kitchen to the entry hall, and he paused. “You should have tried having a little more of that faith that God will provide for us like you are always telling me I need.” Tarren pushed the door open and walked out.
Eugene watched Tarren go, tears forming in his eyes as he whispered, “I thought this was God providing for us.”
Tyler snuck over to the gate of the palace with his pickaxe gripped tightly in his hands. He peered through the gate and smiled. The guards were patrolling a different part of the grounds at this time, just like they did every time Tyler had come to stake the grounds out. He motioned for the rest of his group, five other men and two women, each armed with a shovel or a pick, to continue with the plan.
Walter stepped out of the bushes where the group had been hiding, and started twirling a grappling hook around and threw it at the top of the wall, and it clinked into place. Tyler looked back and forth to see if any guards were coming to investigate the sound the grappling hook had made, and once several minutes had passed with no guards showing up, he motioned to the bushes once more and the other members broke from cover and started scaling the wall. Tyler was the last one to go, and he pulled himself up the rope quickly. He pulled the rope up and tossed the grappling hook back down to Walter before dropping off of the wall. Tyler gave each member of the group a confident smile. “Excellent work, everyone. Matthew, where do we go from here?”
Matthew pulled out a copy of the blueprints and studied them. “Once we go through the front door we need to go immediately to our right. There should be a stairwell at the end of the hall that we need to go down.” Matthew folded up the blueprints and stuffed them back inside of his bag that hung over his shoulder.
Tyler gave the doors of the Pedestal, the place where the parliament met, an appraising look. “Wait here and I’ll go check to see if the way is clear. Matthew, keep an eye out and make sure that the guards don’t sneak up on us.” Tyler hurried across the lawn and up the stairs to the front door. He eased the door quietly open and smirked to himself. These bureaucrats did us a favor by keeping these door hinges greased. He stuck his head in the door and and looked around the entry hall of the Pedestal.
Tyler said a quick prayer of thanks that the entry hall was not being guarded, at least not at this time, and motioned for the others to follow before he walked inside of the hall. Tyler stared around the room in wonder at all of the murals and statues. Scenes of the founding of the mines, Aquore before the aquatic moon Ludecai had been created, and the first settlers stepping foot on the planet for the first time hung from the walls. The murals were in complete contrast with the statues however. Instead of focusing on the history of the planet, the statues focused only on the government. The hall was filled with statues of the current members of parliament, and were replaced every time someone left or joined them.
Walter stepped into the room next to Tyler and made a disgusted sound. “How can these people see murals like this everyday and forget why it is that they are here. Without us, they wouldn’t have anything to govern, or any money to have their precious statues made. How many quill do you think one of those is worth?”
Matthew came up behind Walter and placed a hand on his shoulder. “That’s not why we’re here, Walter. We need to stay focused on the mission or we’re sure to be caught. I believe that we need to go down this hallway.” Matthew pointed to the right and started to head down the hall.
Tyler stepped up next to Matthew and patted him on the back. “Thank you for keeping us focused on the mission.” A chink and a thud sounded from behind Tyler and Matthew, and they both turned to see Walter smiling proudly in front of the statue of Jackson Lang, a member of parliament that had a well known love of raising taxes. The statue was missing its nose now, however, and it was lying at Walter’s feet.
Tyler’s eyes flashed with anger. “Walter! What have you done?”
Walter smiled back at Tyler. “Don’t you think that old Jackson looks better without that big hooter of his? Maybe this way he’ll be able to keep his nose out of my business!”
Tyler quivered with rage. “You fool! What are we going to do if the guards heard that? You just put us all at risk! Get in front of me, I want to be able to keep my eyes on you for the rest of this mission.” Walter marched his way past Tyler, and gave him a sullen glare. Tyler shoved him and motioned for the rest of the group to pick up the pace.
The group hurried down the hall past vases, paintings, and small statues made from quorite, the rare metal that made drastically changing the face of Aquore worth it. Ashley, a woman running along at the back the group, grabbed a statue made of quorite and stuffed it into the bag slung over her shoulder. She smiled to herself. If I can grab a couple more I can get off of this rock and live happily in the Midas system.
The group made it to the stairwell at the end of the hall and Tyler stopped at the top of the stairs and motioned for everyone to head down the stairs. Once everyone was on the staircase he looked down the hall and smiled. Even with Walters blunder they seemed to have made it in unnoticed. He hurried down the stairs after the rest of the group.
They hurried down five flights of stairs and came into a dank cavern that the blueprints showed had been there before construction on the Pedestal had started. Cages, cells, and torture equipment filled the cavern, though only two cells were occupied at this time. Tyler looked away from the bloodstains on the floor around the torture equipment and hoped that none of it was Kyle’s. The temperature had dropped a considerable amount from what it was kept at on the top floor, and when Tyler gave his next set of orders, a mist formed with each word he spoke. “Walter, keep a look out on this staircase and let us know if you hear anyone coming. Matthew, would you go keep watch on that staircase?” Tyler indicated a staircase at the opposite end of the cavern.
Matthew bowed his head and started to make his way across the cavern and Walter grunted to acknowledge he had heard Tyler’s order. Tyler and the rest of the group made their way to the closest cell, the one that held Kyle. Tyler walked up to the bars of the cell and looked inside. Kyle lay huddled in a ball in the center of his cell covered in nothing but a thin hole-filled blanket and wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. “Kyle, are you alright?”
Kyle jumped in startlement and looked out of his cell, and tears of joy formed in his eyes. He jumped up and limped over to the door of his cell, the welts and bruises that the blanket had hidden before made Tyler cringe. “Tyler? What are you doing here?”
Tyler smiled at Kyle. “The rebellion sent us to get you out of here. How have they been treating you?”
Kyle turned his head and spat. “They suspect that I’m a member of the rebellion, how do you think they’ve been treating me?”
Tyler sighed. “We’re sorry that it took us so long to get here, but we’ll have you out of there and back home to Tanya and the boys in no time!” Tyler raised his pick over his head and swung it down onto the lock on the door. A loud ping sounded out and the door swung outward with a screech.
Kyle stepped out and collapsed into Tyler’s shoulder. The tears that streamed down Kyle’s face soaked into Tyler’s shirt. “Thank God you came for me! I don’t know how much longer I could have kept silent while they beat me.”
Nancy, a short woman with shoulder length brown hair and caramel hued skin stepped forward. “I’m happy to hear that they haven’t broke you yet, Kyle, but that door made a lot of noise when it opened, and we’re not exactly at home. We need to keep moving!”
The man in the cell next to Kyle’s stuck his arm out through the door. “Hey, what about me! You have to let me out too!”
Doug, a tall balding man pointed at the other occupied cell. “What do we do with him? Are we going to leave him for Enforcers to torture?”
Gary nodded his head. “We can’t leave him here, he’s seen all of us!”
Henry, a short young man with his long black hair held in a ponytail hefted his shovel. “We can leave him here, but just not alive. What did he do to be imprisoned in here anyway?”
Tyler cringed and walked over to the front of the cell. “Why are you being imprisoned?”
A voice called out from behind the group. “He was caught stealing in the market place, but allow me to assure you that you all will envy his fate!”
The group turned around and groaned. Standing on the stairs were fifteen members of the Aquore Enforcers. Walter lay unmoving on the floor, blood oozing out of a wound on the back of his head. He was sprawled out next to a smiling member of the Enforcers with two yellow stars on his shoulders. “Surrender now and we’ll make sure to prepare some nice cozy cells for you all, and then we’ll have a little chat about who sent you thieves here. Or we could find a nice wooden box for each of you to sleep in. It’s your choice.” The man held up his fist and each of the guards hefted a crossbow aimed at the group.
Tyler sighed and let his pick drop to the ground. “I surrender.” The rest of the group followed Tyler’s example and dropped their picks and shovels to the ground, and the women and several of the men started sobbing. Matthew turned and quietly hurried up the stairs that he was guarding. He snuck down the hall that led back to the front doors of the palace and snuck out the door and through the front gate. Once he was out, he started to run as fast as his old body would allow him down the path away from the Pedestal.
Tarren stepped out into the path and grabbed Matthew. Matthew looked at Tarren with terror in his eyes, and then collapsed sobbing onto Tarren’s shoulder. Tarren tried to pull Matthew up off of his shoulder, but after the second try gave up. “Matthew, what’s wrong? Where’s the rest of the group you went with?”
Matthew looked up at Tarren, tears streaming down his face. “They were caught! The Enforcers caught the lot of them and I just ran away like the coward that I am!”
Shock filled Tarren’s face. “I”m sure you did all you could for them, Matthew. Let’s get you home and I’ll find a way to get them all out safely.”
“How do you plan to do that?”
Tarren looked toward the Pedestal with determination. “I don’t know yet, but I’m hoping that Scott will have some ideas.”
Tarren stood in front of the tall gate that blocked the path to Scott’s home and took a deep breath. “Once I tell Scott about what’s happened he’ll find a way to help us, I know he will. He’s the one that’s been guiding us since the massacre, he wouldn’t leave any of his followers to die in prison!” Tarren took one last deep breath and pushed the gate open and started his trek to Scott’s house.
Shrubs and trees lined the cobblestone path up to Scott’s home, and the path formed a ring around the fountain in front of his large mansion. The fountain had three iron dolphins, riding an iron wave, with water squirting out of their mouths and Tarren whistled. “With money like this you would think that Scott would have done a little more for the poorer members of the rebellion.” Tarren shook his head and started up the stairs to the large, blue-stained, wooden door.
Tarren pounded his fist on the door and and a hollow thudding echoed around the courtyard. After several moments had passed Tarren knocked on the door once more, and this time the door opened to reveal an older man in a suit. The man gave Tarren an appraising look and shook his head. “I’m sorry, but the master doesn’t give handouts directly. I suggest that you try the local shelter.”
The man stepped back from the door and began to close it, but Tarren reached out and grabbed the door before it closed all the way. The man glared at Tarren, but Tarren cleared his throat. “You must be mistaken, I’m a friend of Scott’s and I had hoped to talk with him about something. Is he home?”
The man sighed and opened the door to allow Tarren inside. “The master is relaxing upstairs, if you will please just wait here, I will go and inform him of your arrival Mr…?”
Tarren smiled. “Tarren. You can let him know that Tarren is here.”
The man nodded his head and started up a staircase. Tarren looked around the room at Scott’s belongings with wonder in his eyes. Scott had paintings covering his walls and statues of men and women made from bronze, marble, and even one made from quorite, all in different positions and poses. Tarren shook his head at the paintings, though. Some of them were scenes of old battles or famous people from Earth’s past, but some were just lines or splotches of color. Tarren couldn’t figure out how those could possibly deserve a spot among the rest of the art, but clearly Scott belonged to a group of people that thought differently than Tarren ever would.
Tarren wandered around the room examining the paintings and ended up next to a table with piles of paper on it, and a steel glove. Tarren looked more closely at the glove and noticed that there were lines of light and wires on the outside of the glove and he picked it up to study it. This looks interesting. I wonder what it does?
Tarren heard someone clear their throat behind him, and he stuffed the glove inside of his jacket pocket as he turned around and saw an scowling Scott standing behind him in a white bathrobe with golden trim on the edges of the collar and edge of the sleeves. He had his arms crossed and his voice was full of anger. “What are you doing here, Tarren?”
Tarren smiled at Scott. “You have a beautiful house, Scott, and some really great art. I don’t understand the one that’s just a red line though. Maybe you should replace it with…”
Scott interrupted Tarren. “I asked you what you are doing here, Tarren, not your opinion on my art collection. Do you know what will happen if anyone from the government finds out that we met like this? Do you know what will happen if anyone connects me to the rebellion?”
“I’m sorry, Scott, but something terrible has happened and I need your advice on what do next.”
Scott sighed. “This couldn’t wait until the next meeting? You had to risk coming here tonight?”
Tarren shook his head. “There’s no way that this could have waited! Tyler and the other members of the team that went to try and free Kyle were captured! I need your help coming up with a plan to help them escape.”
Fear filled Scott’s eyes. “You went through with that fool plan of yours? I told you not to risk it! Do you know the danger that you have put us all in now?”
“We can still get them out of there before they say anything about the rebellion! We just need to come up with a plan and act fast!”
Scott shook his head. “I advised against this rescue attempt of yours from the beginning, but you ignored me. Why should I help you out now?”
Disbelief filled Tarren’s face. “These are good people, people who have fought against the tyranny of the government alongside you! How can you just abandon them to their fate just because they were willing to risk their safety for that of their friend?”
Scott glared at Tarren. “Don’t speak to me as if you moving ahead with your plans affected only you! You put all of our safety at risk with this foolish stunt you pulled, and you put my safety at further risk by coming here! I want you to leave now! And don’t let anyone see you!” Scott turned and headed back toward the staircase.
Tarren chased after Scott and grabbed him by the arm. “Please, Scott! We need your help!”
Scott turned and backhanded Tarren across the face, knocking him to the floor. Tarren raised his hand up to his lip and pulled it back, revealing blood. Tarren looked up at Scott in confusion. Scott’s body quivered and he growled, “Get out of my home, and never return here again! If you don’t leave now, I’m calling the Enforcers to come and take you away, so you can rot in a cell next to your friends from the rebellion!” Scott turned and stalked his way up the stairs. “Timothy! Prepare my things in case I have to leave this planet quickly!”
Tarren glared at Scott’s retreating figure. “You coward! How did you convince us that you cared about the people on this planet?” Scott ignored Tarren and slammed his door shut at the top of the stairs. Tarren got up and wiped the blood off his lip, turned his head and spit a mouthful of blood onto the bronze statue of a man on a horse. He made his way over to the door, and let himself out, slamming the door behind him.
Tarren stood on the stairs and stared up at Scott’s house. “We don’t need you! We’ll save Kyle, Tyler, and the others on our own, somehow! Then we’ll bring this government to its knees and remake it so that it’s for the people! We certainly don’t need you to do that!” Tarren walked down the cobblestone path and kicked a loose rock into Scott’s lawn. He stuck his hands into his pockets and found the glove he had found on Scott’s table.
Tarren examined the glove. “I’m not taking it back now, not after all that. I wonder what this thing is for anyway.” Tarren pulled the glove of his hand and the lights on the glove began glowing brighter.
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. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see my review of what happened in the last chapter of the Super Morpher, as well as a sneak peek at what will happen in the next chapter. Then come back on Monday when I will post part of one the next chapter of The Super Morpher. Also, if you enjoy reading my stories, and you enjoy drawing, I’m looking for pictures of my characters. If you want to send me your fan art, I promise to include it with some of my posts! I look forward to seeing that art!