A Short Story from Anamnesis
Here is a short story I wrote a few years back. It has been newly revised and lengthened slightly. This is meant as a little vignette within the larger story and occurs about 11 months after the start of Anamnesis or 12 years after the events of In Memoriam.
Enjoy! (Photo credit to Inspirobot).
The Christmas Revolution
A Very Cyberpunk Xmas
“Christmas is coming in a few days!” Trent said, allowing a glimmer of hope to show in his voice.
“Fuck Christmas,” Sam snapped. He lay on his stomach, tapping away on the screen of his personal computer.
“Geez,” Trent, heart sinking, “What do you have against Christmas?”
Sam gave him a hard look, “Do you want to know where I was last Christmas?” He said irritably, “In New Colorado. With Grant. Huddled over a trash can fire, freezing my balls off in an abandoned ‘scraper. All I wanted was for someone to come by with a haul from a restaurant dumpster and take cigarettes in return for a half-eaten sandwich. And now Grant is…” he trailed off, unable to speak of the tragedy.
“Wow, that’s um…” Trent said, unsure how to sympathize with his friend. “Last Christmas I was…”
“And you wanna know where I was the year before that?” Sam interrupted, “Locked in the shitthole of our apartment while she and my sister went to get pastries at the Christmas market because my mom decided I’d offended her somehow. Mom always liked Charley better. I reminded her too much of my ‘deadbeat father’ who left us too young to fight in a war doomed to fail.”
Trent opened his mouth to speak but Sam cut him off again, rolling into a sitting position, the stump of his right leg crossed under him.
“And then, the Christmas before that: same disgusting house, watching my sister struggle to breathe with a severe case of the new enterovirus,” Sam continued vehemently referring to a respiratory disease that had spread rampant through the slum city in 2265.
He turned away from Trent, running his hand through his blonde hair with a huff.
“All right. Fine. You hate Christmas,” Trent said finally, shying away from his friend’s animosity. “But maybe this year will be different…”
“This year is different for what?” A new voice came following the swish of the bunk’s sliding door. Mara stood there, wet hair dripping from a recent shower. Her light smile faded as she took in the boys’ dark faces.
Trent sighed. “Sam hates Christmas,” he told her, feeling like he was ratting out a friend’s secret.
Mara shrugged, “What’s so great about Christmas? It’s just another day you celebrate not having died. In this world, we should be doing that everyday.”
He rolled his eyes. “You can’t tell me you don’t like Christmas either? What is wrong with you people? My da made sure to celebrate Christmas every year, no matter how shitty the year was.” The memories came back fondly—his memories, not those of his ancestors. Christmas had been the one day a year where their Skills, their jobs, even their quests for a payout were put aside. His father had always demanded it.
“I adore Quentin, but your father is a fool,” she said, sitting next to Trent on the edge of the bed. “He uses his cheer to hide the tragedies of his life.”
“No. My da learned to appreciate the good things. And he loved Christmas,” Trent argued, trying not to admit the truth of Mara’s words.
“He loved getting stupid drunk and playing ridiculous games,” Mara said, lacing up her tall black boots. “I went along with it b/c who doesn’t love getting stupid drunk?”
Trent rolled his eyes again. Well, anyway, he was looking forward to Christmas. He had a lot to be thankful for this year. Yeah, The Company had been short-lived but he’d had his life and his friends…even if they were murdering the mood right now.
“You see, Mara,” Trent continued, “Christmas is not just about drinking The Company’s beer, or being punished by your parents, Sam. It’s a holiday where you are supposed to give thanks and spend time with your friends and family. You know, the people that you care about. There’s a story about the second World War, a long time ago, where the soldiers from both sides put down their weapons and celebrated Christmas together with a meal….”
“And then the next day they went back to killing each other,” Sam snapped, “It’s bullshit. The idea that there is a one day where you’re supposed to be nice to everyone ‘just cuz’ is a crock. There is nothing special about a day.”
“There will be something special this Christmas,” Mara said.
“Yeah!” He said, willfully ignoring her cheerless voice. “This year we are lucky. We are still alive. The Starkill Army is gonna start fighting the CORPs. Maybe they’ll figure out what happened to the missing kids—to Grant.” He stood up excitedly.
Sam harumphed. “That’s what Clark, our glorious captain, had said before the Metro Complex debacle and dissolution of The Company.”
Trent waved a hand, “Clark was misled. It wasn’t his fault.”
Mara smiled at Trent, though the smile held little joy. “I wish I had your youthful optimism, Trent, but I’ve been through too many dismal Christmases, starting with the year Robert and I hunkered down in the stinking cesspool of Lanzhou waiting for the army to give us our orders.”
Sam’s eye went wide, “Wait…you never told me that story about my father.”
“I haven’t told you many stories about your father.”
“What’s Lanzhou?” Sam pressed.
“It was a polluted, industrial city in China where we…uh hid… at the beginning of the Citizen’s Rebellion. It’s now just a pile of rubble. Lightbar CORP’s kinetic rods destroyed it.”
“And…what were you doing there?”
Mara chuckled, “Maybe later. I have watch now. But Trent,” she looked at the other teen with sympathy in her eyes. “Don’t be too disappointed about Christmas this year. It’s not going to be what you expect.”
“What do you mean by that?”
She just shook her head as she said a quick ‘goodnight’ to both boys and rushed out the door.
“What do you think she meant?” Trent asked Sam.
Sam just shrugged. “Who cares?”
“I do!” he snapped. “And the fact that you don’t says something about you!” He whirled, turning away from his friend. Grabbing his jacket, he slammed a hand on the exit panel.
“Wait—Trent…” Sam began, but Trent kept walking.
Too little, too late. He couldn’t turn back now or the other teen would see the tears forming in Trent’s eyes. So instead, he stormed down the bare hallways of the compound, using his anger to push the tears away. The fluorescent lights glared down upon him like judging eyes. They don’t understand. How can they not understand? Christmas wasn’t about making a political statement or promoting your own agenda. It was about peace on earth, good will towards men, and all that crap. The pounding in Trent’s head distracted his thoughts.
He needed time away from the cynicism—time to think. Sam was his friend, but he could be so stubborn sometimes. He thought he’d been through more hardships than Trent could understand. But he refused to acknowledge Trent’s own challenges.
Suffering through two major injuries and losing his own mother during the Citizen’s War—the same war in which Mara and Sam’s father fought—shaped Trent into the young man he was today. Yet, his father had taught him not to hold onto his resentment. Maybe his father could help him sort these questions out. Quentin was always really good at these things.
He entered the compound’s control room. The man sitting at the monitors turned to face him, his mirror-gaze impassive.
“Need something kid?” Tegan asked in his usual soft monotone. The mech’s ocular implants expressed no emotion. Trent couldn’t tell if he was annoyed or just trying to be helpful.
“I need…I mean I’d like…I want…I just need some air. Is my da around?” Trent stammered.
The mech shook his head. “He’s out on patrol.”
Trent huffed and turned away in defeat. Before he’d gone more than two steps, another voice sounded behind him.
“Need to think, Trent?”
Hawk had popped his head from behind a large server bay, “I can show you a place.” His amber eyes reflected the blinking, colored lights, and his white teeth shown in a friendly smile.
Hawk and Tegan may be twins, but the former had gotten all of the personality.
“Uh, okay.” Trent tried to return that smile with little success.
Hawk beckoned to a side door with a mechanical arm. He followed the mech through a series of dark hallways to a set of stairs—concrete, blackened and worn, these steps were unlike the industrial metal of the rest of the compound. As they climbed upward, Trent watched a distinct shift in the air currents spiraling around them. His Skysight picked up the blues and greens of fresh air rather than the pale silver of the HVAC system.
“Bad day?” Hawk asked, unlocking a thick metal door with a manual key and stepping out into the chill desert night. They stood in a building, two or three stories above the earth. The windows had all been blown out long ago, and the exposed metal skeleton grasped rusted fingers through the crumbling drywall. Peeling paint on one wall still glimmered blue in the moonlight and desert dust covered a once-carpeted floor.
Trent walked toward the edge of the room without speaking, staring into the desert night. Stars twinkled in the fuzzy, grey-black sky—real stars—more than he’d ever seen outside of flying in the strato.
“What’s going on?” Hawk tried again.
Trent sighed. “Sam and Mara don’t like Christmas,” he said, realizing he sounded like a silly child.
“Oh, Christmas,” Hawk said evenly, “Do you want to know where I was…?”
“No,” Trent interrupted Hawk rudely.
“Last Christmas?” The man continued, ignoring Trent’s objection, “I was serving for that bastard of a CORP, XCGen. Tegan and I recently discovered a community of savants living in Prosperity Tower. They weren’t paying the proper dues to the cartels.”
“Our…tower…?” Trent began, realization dawning.
Hawk nodded. “That was the day Tegan and I decided not to turn you in. The day we started looking for the resistance.”
Trent blinked in awe.
“The day we realized we deserved something more than to be the CORPs aura-sniffing hounds.” The mech smiled. “It took the ‘magic of the holiday’ to make us admit it, but it changed our lives for the better. We are no longer under the Triumvirate’s boot. It feels great.”
“Wow,” Trent said. “I wish everyone would think that.”
Hawk shrugged, the motion jerky with his one metal shoulder, “People put their own spin on the holidays. Some have become jaded. Others are trying to find reasons to keep going.”
“Mara said I shouldn’t expect too much this Christmas. What did she mean?”
A faraway look blossomed in the man’s eyes. “The officers think it’s a great day to make a political statement.”
“What do you mean by that?” Trent’s heart pounded and his palms began to sweat.
Hawk furrowed his brow, “Mara didn’t tell you, did she?”
Trent shook his head.
“Christmas Day is Operation Ishtar.”
“The day we blow up the Sea Wall along California’s coast?” Trent asked. Heat flushed his face as a sickly feeling gripped his stomach.
“So, we are going to kill thousands, if not millions, of people on Christmas Day? Why?”
“But the tidal wave won’t discriminate between savant, True Human, and mech! All those people have families…kids,” Trent protested. When the rods obliterated Hong Kong Island, he’d only been five and fortunate enough that the shockwave knocked him unconscious, but he’d seen the destruction. When he’d recovered, his father made sure to fly him over the ruined city. Quentin wanted to make sure Trent understoodd—the cost of greed and the cost of war.
Even then, at six years old, Trent felt it unjustified. He still did, now. He missed his mother.
As if to echo his mood, a cold gust of December wind whipped at his hair.
“I don’t like it either, kid,” Hawk said, placing his human hand on Trent’s shoulder—heavy, warm…and trembling, “But it sure is one hell of a way to make people stand up and take notice.”
“But what are they noticing?” The tears that had originally refused to fall, began to trickle down his cheeks.
“That we—savants, mechs, and all the oppressed—are tired of being mistreated. We have to do something about it.”
“Is it worth it?” Trent asked. He wanted to stay angry, but the sad look in Hawk’s eyes deflated him. The man really didn’t like this idea.
“I don’t know, kid,” Hawk continued, “Maybe. Maybe not. It’ll be effective. I’m not sure what they’re expecting to see from the results, though. Many of the officers still don’t trust me—what with the mech arm and all. They just keep telling me this revolution is supposed to be for the good of everyone.”
“I don’t see how that’s possible,” Trent grumbled.
“I don’t see it yet either. Only thing I can hope is that the path of freedom will become clearer on Christmas Day, 2267.”
“Maybe,” Trent sulked. “I still think the price of freedom is too high.”
“Many argue the price is not high enough. Thing is, kid, freedom can’t be bought and sold like a commodity. No one knows when it’ll happen, or if at all. It’s not like we can predict how many tragedies the world should see before equality can be enjoyed by all.”
“So why are we doing it?”
“That’s the big question here, isn’t it?” Hawk asked, “Hope? Infamy? Justice? Vengeance? All I know is that the Starkill Army wants to be remembered like the last stand of Charger some hundred fifty years ago. How can we do that if we don’t burn bright?”
“We make our last moments spectacular,” Trent said out of habit, reciting lines from a popular children’s poem, The Bright Star.
Hawk grunted in agreement, “And for that, we need to start the revolution.”
While Trent began to understand, he still didn’t like it. As he stared out over the grey-black sands, cool wind played across his cheeks. The dancing clouds in the distance reflected the moonlight in a pale rainbow of colors.
“Is this really the path to freedom?” he whispered into the wind.
But the cold desert only stared back. The vast expanse of sand said nothing at all.
© 2020 Lyndsie Clark