Adam was like any other eighteen-year-old boy and soon found himself standing in the middle of the training bay being subjected to the drill instructor’s ridicule. It wasn’t his fault the quarter didn’t flip on the old mattress, but he accepted his punishment anyway. He didn’t have another choice.
Ever since the revolution began, more and more troops were needed. There were even whispered rumors of lowering the age to thirteen if you were from a poor family. The government paid dearly for your life. That money could help support the family.
After completing fifty push-ups and parading around the bay in his underwear, Adam and the other recruits headed outside for training. The morning was dedicated to basic weapons and enemy language skills. Many of the recruits were already fluent, but the training was the same. Adam excelled and only realized his mistake when he was called into the commander’s office that afternoon.
“Take a seat,” Commander Flint said, pointing toward a chair in the corner of the room.
Adam did as he was told and caught his breath as two governmental agents entered Flint’s office. One look from them and Adam knew he was in danger.
“That is Private Adam Ripple, yes.”
“Come with us,” an agent ordered, flashing his sidearm and a warning glance.
Adam stood. “What is this all about?”
The agents stared at him. The one nearest him replied, “You’re a bit of an anomaly, you know?”
Adam couldn’t help feeling a bit cynical. He knew he wasn’t anything special. He was just a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, sent into the army to get him off the streets and to help fight this war that many now felt was unwinnable.
“Me? Apart from an ability to get myself into trouble, I can’t see what makes me any different from any other shmo around here. I’m pretty ordinary.” Adam laughed nervously.
One of the agents bent down and pushed the dark glasses down his nose, fixing Adam with an icy blue stare. “There’s many a true word spoken in jest, lad. Two things mark you out. Your ability with languages, which is by far the best we’ve seen in some time, and the fact that you could blend in anywhere. You’ve finished at this prestigious military academy.” He paused to glance out of the window at the makeshift camp, to emphasize the sarcasm in his words. “You graduate as of today. Tomorrow you’re going underground.”
The agents grabbed an arm each and practically dragged him out of the commander’s office and into the back of a black van.
Before he knew it he was hooded with a dark opaque fabric. Adam gasped for breath and had to gather his calm or he would suffocate in the hood. They drove for about a half hour and then he was led along by two to what sounded like a helicopter. The ‘copter lifted up and started forward. Just as he was about to relax for a minute, he smelled ether and lost consciousness.
Adam woke up with a splitting headache, lying on a cot in a small, spartan room. It had the feel of a hospital about it, and every so often he thought he could hear a voice over an intercom. The air seemed fresh. Filtered. When the government agent said he was going underground, did he mean it literally? There were no windows and no other sounds except the intermittent intercom echoes.
After what seemed like hours, but he wasn’t sure, the door opened and a woman who looked to be about forty came into his room. Her dark hair was in a granny bun, and she was wearing a white lab coat. She was startlingly ugly, with pasty white skin that looked like it hadn’t seen daylight in a long time. She smiled at Adam and he was surprised again to see that her teeth were pure white and even. Her smile brightened her face and was her best feature.
“Hello, Private Adam Ripple. I’m Dr. Bluebell. You’re probably wondering why you’ve been nabbed from basic training, thrown into a van, drugged, and are now being held against your wishes in a small spartan room. I’m going to be frank with you and tell you that the government needs your help. The fate of the planet is hanging in the balance.”
Adam rubbed his ears, then slapped his face over and over again. He did this in dreams when he wanted to wake up, and it worked every time. When nothing happened, Adam knew this was real.
His eyes met Dr. Bluebell’s, who had been watching him. “OK, Doc, I’m no hero, but I’m no coward either. If Earth needs me…”
Dr. Bluebell flashed that same becoming smile that improved her face and passed Adam a large folder she had been clutching. “Here is your assignment, Private Ripple, please familiarize yourself with it.” With that, Dr. Bluebell spun around and departed the room leaving Adam alone.
As she left the room, Adam opened the folder to see what he hoped would be there, an overseas assignment. He hadn’t traveled the earth much and if it was all going to hell, he wanted to see as much of it as he could. Adam thought he would make a good spy if that’s what it took, after all, he had seen all the James Bond movies, all the others he could find, but kept the fantasies to himself. Basic training was hardly a picnic, but if he could endure that and still be chosen for a special assignment, he was excited.
There were forms to fill out, many contract clauses calling for complete secrecy for any mission he completed. Adam signed quickly, felt no need to view “the fine print.” It was his naïveté and abilities that made him the perfect candidate. After filling out every paper, Adam returned to Dr. Bluebell’s office. “Right, then” as she took the folder, “now it’s time to meet the big guy.” Adam was wondering who the “big guy” was, thinking it was a Major or Colonel, and then laughed to himself as “M” came to mind. A huge door slowly cranked open and there he was…
Staring at an unbelievably handsome, and young man. He felt his jaw dropped to the floor. He felt that something was not right here. It seemed that young man was too perfect. He started to observe him more closely. The “big guy,” as he was referred to, was definitely not a human. His movements were jerky and mechanical. His voice was clipped and sounded a bit like recording.
“Private Adam, I am talking to you.”
Adam focused his attention to what was being said to him.
“This is a very dangerous assignment. Your skill at languages is going to be very useful for us. We will be sending you to the enemy territory as a undercover spy. Your job is to glean as much information as you can about their attack plans. At no time should you try to get in touch with us. We will contact you ourselves.
Adam took all this in with mixed amount of excitement and apprehension.
He was really going to be a spy!
He was told to go to the barracks. On the way back, Adam addressed Dr. Bluebell. “Excuse me ma’am, I couldn’t help notice something different about our commander.” He couldn’t help but say, “Do we know where he’s from?”
“It’s not your place to ask, Private. You will be briefed in due course as to your schedule and where you will be sent. I suggest you get some rest. You’re going to need it.”
Adam was somewhat disappointed but curious to know more details of his mission. He wondered if he would be SWAT trained, or even better, have some fancy gizmos and gadgets like Bond.
The barracks were nothing out of the ordinary, just odd not having any windows and the constant thrum of machinery keeping the air circulated. He settled down on his cot and was soon asleep dreaming of fast cars, explosives, and the occasional dalliance over a drink or two.
“WAKE UP PRIVATE!!” abruptly roused him from his dreams and as he shook his head to clear it, a portfolio was thrown at him hitting him full in the face. “READ THAT AND REPORT TO BLUEBELL’S OFFICE IN TWENTY!”
Adam opened the file and nearly choked when he saw where he was going on assignment.
Adam didn’t understand. There was all that talk about an enemy and about his language skills. Then there was the “Big Guy,” who was either an alien from another planet or a very human-like robot. And what did the secretive and mysterious Dr. Bluebell have to do with his being here and his assignment?
But there it was in black and white on the first page of the report in the folder. His assignment was in Montana. He continued reading the report about an insurgency led by a heavily armed and fast-growing militia just outside of Whitefish, Montana. He was thinking about all of the questions he had for Dr. Bluebell when he would be meeting with her again shortly. So engrossed was Adam in the report he was reading that he almost didn’t notice the two uniformed men who stepped up in front of his cot. “Let’s go, private,” one of them said.
“Where are you taking me?” Adam asked the man who had spoken to him. “I’m supposed to meet with Dr. Bluebell now.”
“Change of plans, private,” the second man said. “Let’s go. Now!”
“NO! I’ve had ENOUGH.” Adam snapped at the two uniformed soldiers.
“I want answers and I want them NOW. You have been giving me the run-arou…
Adam felt something sharp pierce the back of his neck. He felt his world being turned upside down, before hitting the linoleum floor and blacking out.
A large metal fan was spinning directly above Adam’s head as he slowly opened his eyes. He woke up on top of a king-sized bed, soaked in a pool of sweat. His head was still groggy as he pushed himself up on his arms and looked around wherever his new surroundings were. He was now in a dimly-lit hotel room decorated in earth-tones and tree decor. A slim beam of sunlight shot out from behind the mauve curtains. Wherever he was, it was daytime. He staggered off the bed and spotted something laying on the dresser next to an ashtray.
“Thank you for staying at THE MONTANA LODGE. We hope you generously appreciate the services of our staff”.
It was a gratuity envelope. Adam had seen them before, growing up with his Dad. When they were on the run.
“Yeah, here’s my tip..Tell me where the Hell I am”. Adam thought, still trying to clear the fog out of his head. He knew he had to pull himself together, figure this out. A plan, he needed a plan. Before he could even come up with the first part of his escape, someone started knocking on the room’s door from outside.
A slow, steady knock of a hand that sounded big enough to topple the door if he kept ignoring it.
Trying quickly to decide what to do, Adam slowly went to the door. Trying to disguise his voice, as high pitched as he could, he asked “who is it?” A loud laugh came from the other side.
“Surely, you don’t think I’m going to fall for that, now, do you?”
The voice sounded familiar. Adam hesitated then swung open the door. He was right! On the other side stood his father, a man he had not seen in years. What was he doing here, and why was Adam stuck in a hotel room, in Montana?
“Dad? Is that really you?”
“Yes, son, it is. We haven’t much time, so let’s stop the chit chat. I have to get you out of here before they turn you over to….”
With that, a loud noise came from behind his father. An odd looking thing, holding a mallet, stood there, glaring at Adam. All Adam could do was watch his father slowly slump to the ground. A pool of blood gathered beneath him. Adam jumped forward to help his dad, but whatever the thing was, it stopped him.
A cold, icy hand picked up Adam by his neck, reading itself to toss him far across landscape of the lodge. Trying to think clearly, Adam grabbed it by the arm and pulled. The arm came flying off. He was right. A robot. So this was why they sent him here. The Earth was being taken over by mechanical men. This was his mission. His dad had died for his country, and now he felt he was next. He made a break for it, running as hard as he could.
Once he reached the perimeter of the lodge, he couldn’t quite determine the best route to take. The men who brought him here had the obviously had the advantage. He thought that maybe it would just be best to lay low for now. Adam would need a disguise first though.
He spied a house with laundry hanging out to dry to the right of him and moved towards it to pick off a fairly dry dress. The fit was perfect. Dressing as a woman should throw them off his track for a bit. He could see there was a Goodwill store a block down the street and proceeded in that direction to get shoes, makeup, a bra (to stuff), and a wig and a hat to complete his ensemble. He luckily found everything he needed and the transformation was complete.
Adam left the store, cautiously looked left and right for anyone who might be on the lookout for him. As he did, he noticed that he was getting quite a few stares but not the “is this a he or a she?” looks, rather admiring glances. One or two even gave him the up and down, eyes rolling treatment. He actually chuckled to himself and thought – “this is totally going to work!”
He began to walk across the street.
Adam tried to walk as naturally as he could, but those heels were killing him. He should have bought the shoe’s cushion the shop clerk suggested him and making a mental note not to ignore advice anymore kept walking with his back as straight as possible and wiggling his hips as women are supposed to do. Heads were turning at his passage, and he thought he maybe had exaggerated with the filling inside the bra, but it was too late. When he turned the corner of the block, he saw the two mechanical men from the hotel standing, weapons clumsily concealed under their long raincoat, and observing the people in the street. They were still looking for him. Adam’s first instinct was to turn back, but when he was about to, one of the two men looked straight at him. Panic raised I side Adam, but if he had suddenly changed direction, it would have been suspicious. He had to keep walking, pass them and hope his transformation in the curvaceous busty girl he was now worked and tricked them. Drops of sweat started to run down his forehead while he was about to approach the mechanical men. He slightly lowered his gazed and walked in front of them. He passed them, and they had not recognised him, well probably because their looks were all on his boobs, but it worked! Adam had to use all his self-control not to run or turn. He was eventually to relax when he felt a presence behind him…..
“Excuse me, man,” a metallic voice said. “Here’s your book. You dropped it last year.”
“Book? But I’ve never been here before.” Adam shook the book as if he was expecting a hundred green banknotes to fall from the pages.
The mechanical man gave him a fatherly smile. “I love your red heels. Bold move! My name is madA. madA Tzu. And yours?”
Adam looked around and answered, “Mmmm. Not sure anymore. But if you’ve got some weed – we’ll find out.”
They sat on the stone near Mission Church, smoking. Adam opened the book and began to laugh.
“Look, it is absolutely empty,” he said, after a pause.
The man did not move. Adam felt something touching his feet. It was the head of madA Tzu – stiff and cold. Adam pressed the joint into the head, looked up at the sky, sighed and then, almost in despair, glanced down, at the book.
The words appeared from nowhere. Adam knelt down to read:
“The hand of a human –
On the wheel of the Earth.
Shaking from the gravity pull,
Looking for higher purpose,
Travelling between the galaxies,
Deep in thought.
Admiring the layers of stars,
Spilling the dust of hate across the Milky Way…
Breaking lives, freeing poison.
Wishing to dig deeper,
to understand more.
“More” – what?
You are sitting by the grave.
Read damn words on the stone:
“I DID NOTHING BUT GOOD”
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