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Madelyn Saunders

English 7

1 November 2018

Traveling Distance

I’ve been training for the Marines ever since I first knew that there was a war. Even at five, I was bored out of my mind with the idea of being an engineer and having to go to school for thirteen more years. I didn’t have any other family than my dad to hold me back and he was a sergeant for the Marines so I was able to start training underage until I was eight for the official start time.

The point is that all I ever known since I was eight was the Military.

I understand why we do the things we do, why we work to capture or kill, and why we have to be here. We must win this war for the Greater Good, but what is the Greater Good?

My dad, First Class Sergeant Wilson, told me to not question things, to do as I am told, to not be curious, but he has done something to contradict his own words. He only told me to stop reading history once and history is illegal and punishable by death.

I had found the history books in the kitchen cabinet under the sink when I had first moved into the house. Before then, I only saw the books made of metal that you could read with holographic glasses, but these were made of paper, something that was banned a long time ago to conserve trees based off of what one of the books said about global warming. My interests about history grew every book I finished, every time I discovered something new and brilliant, but every time I finished a discovery or confirmed a hypothesis I knew something was wrong with what I was doing especially since no one had ever explained anything to me about history.

That’s when my dad started getting more serious about his job, when something terrible happened to my friend, when training started to get more intense and life started to get harder, that’s when history became my way to escape from the world where no one seemed curious whatsoever. History is like a drug that can’t be stopped because every time you answer a question, another one arises and you are left wanting more.

When many questions are asked and only a few get answered, you start getting desperate and find yourself looking for the same question.

Why has World War Three started?

I know that there is more than the Greater Good, I know that something must had gone wrong, and I know that if America has tried to cover it up then it’s my job to do everything in my power to dust off the books from history and to open the curtains to the truth of why we are here. If I can find out why this war has started, then I can work to win the war with people behind me. History is a gold mine of strategies and resolutions, all I have to do is take my case to the Government and convince them that history should be legal.

All I have to do is prove myself.

You can say it’s for the Greater Good.

 

Chapter 1

‘“All I have to do is prove myself,”’ I mumbled to myself while staring at the book cover featuring a massive forest fire engulfing a forest. Global warming seems to be one of my biggest leads for why the war started so far with the countries that were hit the hardest rebelling against the richer countries and starting all of this, but with history being illegal proving myself to one of three branches would be like throwing myself into a pit of snakes with a baseball bat to protect myself.

With training being harder than ever at the time, I was trying to convince myself that history was worth all the time I was losing and the danger I was putting myself in, but I had to find a lead, I had to prove to myself that all this past stuff I was getting into wasn’t going to turn me into criminal or be my life’s waste of time.

Opening to the first page, I was surprised to see a massive block of text covering the page instead of the normal picture with descriptions. I almost shut the book immediately knowing how Outsiders always read the fantasy stories about princesses and adventures all the time that were useless, but I stopped myself when I realized that it could be a diary from the 2100’s or 2110’s based off of the using of handwriting instead of normal printing font and the date on the front.

With a firsthand account of what happened during global warming, I might have been able to find out so much more than what a history book would have so I slipped off the ribbon holding the diary shut and opened the crisp pages of the diary.

After reading the first few pages that were dated in 2106 I figured out that the girl who wrote the diary was a fourteen year-old named Cameron, that she had recently moved away from the East Coast because of oceans rising, and that she lived with her aunt because of her mother dying when a ocean barrier broke from a tsunami. Cameron had a story and that was nice, but she was talking more about the drama going on at school than what was going on with climate change which was condescending. I was about to take the diary back to the cabinet, but the sound of the front door opening stopped me at my bedroom door. My dad was home so I was obligated to stop and greet him so we could watch the engineering show he likes.

Stuffing the diary in my jacket, I open my door and walk out into the hallway to see him taking off his gear by the door. He looks up as I approach him. “What?” he asked gruffly.

I narrowed my eyes unintentionally. “You usually want me to greet you when you come in and I thought we were going to watch Surveyor,” I said knowing that I should have probably backed out of there the second I knew he was in one of his moods.

“I don’t want to watch anything right now, I had a hard day,” he said walking past me while still wearing his boots as if staying in my presence for a second longer would be worse than tracking mud into the house. Whatever, watching a TV show hosted by an Outsider isn’t worth anyone’s time anyway.

Outsider, Military, and Government, those are the three branches of people in America. Outsiders are the people that everyone starts as, but there are options to become a part of the Government or Military at age eight where you would train until you were eighteen to become a full member of whatever. The system was created for efficiency in the war, but it created conflict based off of how we all treat each other. This is how are stereotypes go: Militaries are stupid and unlikeable, Governments are snooty and disrespective, and Outsiders are nerdy and awkward. It’s hard to not believe in these stereotypes sometimes because some people act just like their stereotypes as if they’re trying to prove everyone else right.

If my dad was in one of his moods, he would not want me to be home at that time and I knew it. “I’m heading over to the beach,” I said down the hall not exactly caring if he heard me or even let me.

He only grumbled in response from his bedroom while turning the TV on. The sound of Surveyor’s intro music came on and I sighed quietly to myself as I shut the door behind me. It’s not like I cared or anything, just the feeling of being shut off from him seemed to linger longer than it used to when the invasion hadn’t happened.

I perked up when the Sun hit my face with a cool faint warmth. At least it was fall and the Sun’s power had faded enough for it to be cool and faint after the pulsing heat of summer. Going to the beach in the summer is like running into the hottest oven in the world and sitting inside for  days on in, but if I could look hard enough, I could find traces of old barriers that held out the ocean that were closer to the ocean than the barriers now.

The beach isn’t much more than a thirty-foot reinforced concrete wall holding back the tides and ships with hundreds of ladders to reach the top, but if you can get to the top of the ladders by getting through security and heading out of the city limits, there’s a massive reward for reaching the top of one of those barriers.

It was harder to breathe without my mask on that was military grade and covered my whole face except for my eyes and it reached around my skull; for training it would also double as a gas mask by covering the rest of my face. Putting it on half distorted my voice into me sounding like a AI so my mask was almost a dead giveaway that I was from the Military. It wasn’t bad, just annoying that every time I have to pass through the city limits Outsiders are always giving me a stink eye.

Things have been tense ever since the Military has demanded better equipment from the Outsiders. Something tells me they think everyone is responsible for the movement by the glares that keep coming my way as I weave through the blocks of stores and companies to reach the Bread and Soup Company that I usually regulate. At least there are nice Outsiders there.

The sound of a little bell rings as I walk into the shop and the sweet scent of fresh bread greets me as I walked in and Milo leaned around the counter as I came in. He was wearing his pleasant smile that complimented his red hair and brown eyes as I walked up. “How are you doing today, Valkyrie? What kind of soup do you want?”

“I’m doing good,” I said. I ripped my mask off when I realized my voice was distorted again making him stifle a laugh. “Training has let up a little bit recently since we’re doing another technology unit, and I think I’ll just have a cup of beef stew and a bread slice.”

“That’s good to hear,” he said while pouring stew into a paper cup. There were less people eating there than usual.

“Where are all the other customers?” I asked while picking up the bread slice and stew.

“Competition today for best armor. Too bad I just run a business and pay taxes.”

I tugged my mask back on and pointed to him with my free hand. “Hey, I’ll bring your bread with me when I go out onto the field at age.”

He smirked and waved me off as I walked out.

After reaching my favorite spot a few miles away from city limits, I started to climb up one of the ladders feelings the chill wind pick up every single step I got up. I reached the top and hauled myself over the edge immediately seeing the deep blue of the ocean and the glitter of the sunlight marooning off the slight ripples. I shut my eyes and inhaled the air that smelled fresher than the usual pollen stuck in everyone’s nose.

When I opened my eyes again, I swung my legs over the wall and mindlessly ate the stew and bread as I grabbed the diary Cameron had wrote sixty years ago thinking to myself how her writing could be the answer to my obsessions - I mean history’s mysteries that are important for the sake of the country.

I read through her next few months of living in the Midwest in a place she called “Illinois” that was filled with farmland that apparently was failing. She talked about the drama at school and how her grandma was drinking about her mom’s death even though she was just an old lady, but there was nothing about a war starting or conflicts with other countries.

Not until three months after she moved to Illinois.

 

On the news today, President Martin spoke live to a Russian leader name Anatoly. The United States talked about the economic crisis that occured when putting up barriers against the ocean and the pollen outbreak that had been going on for decades. Anatoly spoke about how the flooding has destroyed many homes. The meeting was originally designed as a peace treaty, another ally that both the countries could have, but the meeting was cut short when a shooter came into the room and shot Anatoly. He was dead at the scene and the shooter, Mr. Clyde, was taken into custody two hours later. Grandma and I were watching when he came in and saw how Anatoly crumpled to the ground in agony. Another Russian leader claimed that the United States set up Anatoly to die to provoke war. I’m worried for the United State’s safety.

 

But her pages cut off immediately, with whitepages filling the rest of book. I flipped through the empty contents frantically until I reached the other end of the leather pages. Stopping myself from chucking the diary into the ocean, I instead stuffed the diary back into my jacket and slid down the ladder landing easily and immediately walking back to city limits.

Why had Cameron called America the United States? What had changed between now and then that would make America be the United States? What was she talking about when she said Illinois? None of her story makes any sense and why would she cut her story off so soon?

I decided to stop questioning everything as soon as I ran straight into an Outsider girl who was walking with a massive pile of books in her arms. I didn’t fall over, but I rammed into the side of a barber shop that my dad used to regulate and the girl dropped her books all over the sidewalk. She gave me a sour look and scrambled to pick everything up.

“What are you doing here, Army Person?” she spat at me. She was wearing casual clothes and a black sweatshirt with the word “Karma” printed in bold white words which seemed to me like she was trying to make a statement to somebody or just the world.

“‘Karma,’ that’s ironic,” I remarked passing by her dismissively, but I heard her pick up her books and stumble towards me almost immediately as if she wasn’t done with me yet.

“This is Public territory, Army Person! You should get back to the base where you belong!” She was giving me straight eye contact as if she were asking to be punched.

I narrowed my eyes and kept walking with my eyes set forward, but she still kept following me. “Don’t you have anything better to do?” I asked her noticing how I peaked over her height by about five inches.

“I could ask you the same question Army Person.”

“Okay, why do you call me an Army Person instead of a Military, Outsider?”

“Why do you call me an Outsider instead of a Public, Army Person?”

I rounded a corner making her scramble to catch up with me. “Can you stop doing that question thing? It’s annoying, Outsider.” I was heading the opposite direction of the base and continuing to go in a circle around a block and was wondering when she was going to notice.

“Then stop calling me an Outsider!” she screamed at me at a deafening pitch.

“Then stop following me,” I said completing my circle and heading back towards the ocean barrier.

“Your base is that way!” she shouted. I could almost see her pointing southeast towards the main part of the base, but she at least stopped following me as if her border stopped even before the city limits.

“My studies are this way!” I shouted back knowing she would use her stereotype of “Army People” being blunt and stupid and question whether I was lying or not, but I wasn’t about to turn around and double back on myself for efficiency. So what if I wasn’t back before sunset? I was only at the barrier before for thirty minutes tops so judging by the time I usually got back home I would be back in an hour at 1700 after seeing a great sunset at the beach.

 

*  * *

 

“Where have you been?” Dad knew not to tower over me, but he was still doing it meaning he was probably intoxicated. I had to physically restrain myself from slamming him away from me by digging my hands into my pockets before I could speak to him. I kept my head up showing every sign I could that I wasn’t afraid of him.

“I was at the beach, Sergeant Wilson.” If I could get out of there in time then things would be fine.

“You know you’re supposed to be back by sunset so why did you disobey my orders?” The stench from his breath wasn’t blocked from the mask anymore and I fought back my lip curling.

The only lighting near us seemed to only come from the living room TV making his shadow looming over me seem to be bigger, and darker, and more aggressively- “Answer me!” he thundered two inches from my face with bloodshot eyes that somehow seemed to glow red.

Even seven years of men shouting in my face wasn’t enough for me to hold back my fist slamming into his stomach that sent him hurtling back. I stood there for less than a moment before running out of the door. I tore through the lanes of streets before reaching a ladder that took me above the wall that seperated the base from the outside world and streaking up it as fast as possible.

I didn’t hear him following me up the ladder or even down the streets, but when I got to the other side of the wall I still ran until I couldn’t breathe the tainted air anymore. Realizing how stupid what I just did was, I put my mask on and holographic glasses to see my way back to the city. Him being intoxicated meant that he would probably either lay on the floor the rest of the night or report me for assault as soon as he realized that I ran away.

I climbed up a gumball tree and perched at one of the middle branches while contemplating what to do later.

*  * *

I didn’t realize how long I had sat in the tree until the sky turned from black to blue to depressing blue in thirty minutes. I sat there for a few more minutes before deciding that missing a training day meant me not knowing whether or not my dad was okay. I sat staring at the sunrise for a few minutes before climbing down the tree and heading back to the base.

 

Chapter 2

I went straight to the training center while completely avoiding my lane while power walking as fast as possible. I saw a few other trainees from my classes before making it to the building and checking in quickly.

While standing in a row along the wall, I had my eyes set straight and back as vertical as a ruler. Trainee Michaels was standing next to me along with Trainee Clyde; we were early so I had even more time to stress that my dad filed an assault or that I’ll be discharged. I didn’t realize I was leaning until Trainee Michaels shoved me completely over to the other side and almost slamming into Trainee Clyde who then gave me a glare as I positioned myself.

About ten other trainees came in at the same time and lined themselves up beside Michaels. Only five seconds later, Sergeant Wagner stroded in with his full uniform and badge for training; he stood in front of everyone and studied the line before resting his eyes on me making me resist the urge to suck in a breath of air.

“Trainee Wilson, you’re needed by the front officers.”

It was as if all the air was sucked out of the room. “Yes, sir.” I exited the room while immediately thinking of what could have happened to have my dad report assualt and the fact that I ran away from the situation will only make me seem more dangerous. I blocked my thoughts by forcing myself to remember the path to the office again as if I had never been before. The directions to reach the office are simple. Turn right as you leave the assembly room, round the corner left to be greeted by the officers within two hundred feet where you will be escorted in and either given answers or questioned. The whole building looks like an elementary school. If an elementary school had concrete floors, people parading around in Military uniform, and bars on the windows for “Security Purposes.” At least the training areas take up more space than classrooms.

When I rounded the corner, officers were only a few feet away from my face and they immediately looped around me to block the way. I avoided showing my tense shoulders and keep my eyes straight as one of the officers opened the door to the office that was the size of a small bedroom and had a single desk in the middle with a greyish old man sitting there. Two officers came in with me and two stayed outside to guard the entrance, or the exit. Either way is fine with me.

“Sit,” he commanded me. I hate commands, something about them seemed so stupid and irritable. I guess at the time, demands seemed more honorable. They’re not very different, but commands seemed idiotic compared to demands. I sat down anyway with questions coming back to my head.

“Do you know why you’re here?”

Play it dumb, admit, or silent treatment were my options, but there was also sometimes the option of overtaking someone. “No, why am I here?” I asked deciding that taking on a controller who had two times more experience than me along with four other officers who also have two times more experience than seemed as stupid as only saying “sit” when they first see someone.

“Should I state the obvious or should I try to reason with you?”

“I hate wasting time.”

“Good, First Class Sergeant Wilson went missing last night. We searched his house and found illegal items located hidden inside the kitchen and you were missing last night too. We need an explanation from you.”

I blinked as if I was remembering a story. “I don’t remember him having illegal items, I thought he was watching TV last night I went to sleep early. Were there signs of a struggle?”

“You’ll be staying at city hall while we try to locate him,” he said dodging my question. “The officers outside will escort you.”

I stood up and walked out and was escorted to city hall.

*  * *

When I walked into City Hall, the first thing I noticed was that the Military Trainees were on one side and the Outsiders were understandably on the other. Each of the sides were glaring at each other as if another war was about to break out.

I sat down on the corner of the sitting area and looked across seeing the same girl from the library glaring at me. She was wearing a school uniform with her name tag embroidered in. It read: Erin Quire. Her eyes had hatred written all over them. I guess I haven’t given her much to like, but glaring at her as if I’ve destroyed her life isn’t worth it.

I don’t know why I didn’t glare back at her.

I could hear the sound of heels clicking on the tile floor coming into the room. “Erin Quire and Valkyrie Wilson, come into my office to meet your new parent,” she said with syllables that all seemed to have their own personality.

To my surprise, the girl stood up with me. Our heads turned to face each other at the same time. “Come on now, I haven’t all day!” she shouted her clipboard flying up in the air with her hand. I walked briskly towards her and I could tell that Erin hesitated.

Sitting down at her desk, I looked around the room only to be interrupted a second later by the... the receptionist? “You two will be adopted together with a woman named Francis Culpepper,” the receptionist said.

Why are we being adopted together? And why is Erin in here? The questions rang through my head.

“‘Adopted together’?” Erin asked in obvious disbelief. “I won’t be adopted with her.” I was hilarious how everyone was throwing around that word as if it were a grenade about to go off.

the receptionist’s eyes turned into a puff of anger for the girl interrupting her. “Yes, you will be adopted together by the same person. So, she will be coming in today four minutes from now.”

“Was she expecting me to have my dad go missing?” I asked. Erin’s head turned toward me.

“My mom went missing only just today.”

“Would you be willing to explain to us what is going on?” I demanded the receptionist.

She huffed exasperatedly. “I would if you would let me speak,” she paused as if to question us. “Ms. Culpepper is one of the first people we call when children become orphans. This is the first time that she actually accepted, so I hope that you will act politely towards her.”

“Exactly how many times have you called her?” I asked somewhat suspicious.

“Just about you two?”

“No, called to say that you have new children that she could adopt.”

“About five times, why?”

I paused trying to not narrow my eyes. “Just a thought.” The receptionist looked at her watch and then at the door.

“She should be here any second now, she’s always punctual.”

The door opened wide that very second as if on cue. “Right on time!” the receptionist said enthusiastically.

Francis Culpepper seemed to look like one of those circus clowns that would run around a building holding balloons full of bombs and giving them out to kids with her pale face makeup and bright blue eyeshadow. Part of me wanted to shrink away from the sight of her and Erin couldn’t control her surprise.

At least I knew she wasn’t regular Outsider.

 

 

Chapter 3

“It’s very nice of you to take care of both of us,” I say trying to sound sincere knowing that I was failing miserably.

“Taking care of children is the best thing anyone can do for anyone,” she responded in a chirpy, fictitious, paled faced, blue-shadowed, bright pink lipped, idiotic voice.

I noticed that Erin was constantly trailing behind picking something up. I had to trip on a bullet casing to know what it was. “But isn’t it a huge responsibility to take care of two teenagers at the same time?” I asked motioning with my eyes for her to look back at Erin, but she was paying attention to something on her glasses.

“I am the best at multitasking, thank you very much.”

“Then why skip adopting five other kids, just to turn around and adopt two at the same time?”

“I can help more children at once if you stop interrogating me!”

“Interrogation includes a bright light and military force to get answers, and I am a teenager in a jacket asking you why you decided to adopt two girls at the same time instead of getting two other separate kids out of five.”

“That’s an oddly specific question,” she remarked.

“And I’m asking for a specific answer. Who are you? Is that more simple?”

“I’m Francis Culpepper, of course!” she squealed.

“I forgot that you were a celebrity,” I remark loudly.

“And I forgot you were-”

“Can you two just shut up?” Erin who has been invisible for five minutes finally says.

 

We walked down to an apartment that only had two floors above ground. It took me a second to realize that the rest of the stories must be underground. Another receptionist was sitting at a desk inside with a name tag hanging off her glasses. I still wonder today if she ever had problems with people not making eye contact with her, or if she just didn’t read where the tag was supposed to go.

We exchanged nods and she activated the elevator with a button. My senses climaxed as we walked into the elevator. Even Military trained eight-year-olds are told time and time again to not get in a car, plane, or elevator with a complete stranger unless people you trust are with you and the person you’re going with has a badge. All she has is a nametag, and I only have my... pocket knife with me. Was I authorized at that moment?

I watched as the natural light gradually slid out from the elevator and as my hand tucked into my sleeve ever so slightly. The theatre music echoed around me and I was aware of her being aware of me. The tension went on for about twenty seconds there was something about her that was ready to pounce if I attacked.

The door dinged and we both looked at the light unaware that we were glaring at each other. “Ladies first,” she said narrowing her eyes at me.

“I’m not the one in a pink blouse.”

She tensed herself walking forward and keeping her eyes trained on me. “Are you afraid of a teenager in a Marines jacket?” Culpepper walked out of the elevator her hand hovering over her purse.

She gave me a look: I know what you’re doing, she seemed to say.

Do you?I glared back. The moments were suppressed when she went further into the hallway towards the edge. We were scared of what the other person would do despite us just meeting.

Once she was a few paces away from me I started to follow her looking past her every now and then to see the end of the hallway. There was no end. It’s just another thing to scare me I guess.

When we got to the room, still death-glaring at each other, Culpepper opened the door to what looked like a living room, kitchenette, and hallway all in about seventy-five to a hundred square feet. Erin was sitting on the couch reading a book bigger than the I Will statements that you have to sign to join the training.

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