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01.02.2133 - Shannon Wakes to the Game

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01.02.2133 - Shannon Wakes to the Game

Classmates awoke in every room across the school district as the noise (of what sounded like thunder) became louder and louder outside the dormitories.

Peeking out their windows, the creation of the racket was blocked from the student view by the darkness of the pre-dawn sky, and moreso, by the incredibly bad weather that had swept in during the winter night. But every student, save perhaps the 5-years, knew what commeth.

The battle wagons.

Once each quarter, a couple hundred of students were selected for "the breech", a coordinated wargame to test all "15-years" and above. A wargame that was always unannounced as much as a "breech" in the outer-rim would be.

These battle wagons were here to take them to the fields, and at roll call, the students would learn who had been selected.

At the sight of the torches posted atop the wagons came into view, your heart starts to race with the anxiety of not knowing...not knowing if today would be your last.

Without thinking Wynonna ran to her wardrobe and began to prepare for battle. “Shannon, come on…today we get tested! You do want to prove your worth don’t you?” she asked excitedly.

“My skills are better tested by putting up with this ridiculous nonsense” Shannon quipped as she looked out to the dismal scene.

“Don’t you seek Kaine’s favor?” the puzzled but not surprised roommate asked.

Shannon had to watch what she said carfully. She liked Wynonna but in the years that they had been roommates she hadn’t built a comforting trust such that she could say what she felt and not get reported.

“Kaine has granted me favor by gifting me with my craft.” Shannon replied as she motioned to her art kit. It was a clever enough response to the question so that Wynonna would not pursue the point…or so Shannon thought.

“But all that is are pictures…that can’t defeat the Kar’Thul. Now here, take your sword and shield…if you’re not out there you’ll get in big trouble.” Wynonna retorted handing Shannon the standard trappings.

Shannon begrudgingly took the weapons and began to strap on her armor. It all felt so clumsy to her. She had been trained to fight without tools and even wearing armor felt too constricting. Shannon well knew who the real demons were and also knew that someday she would tear them down eviscerating them for many generations to come.

Wynonna’s comment bothered her more than just a little. It felt as though she said that her art was worthless. In Shannon’s mind art can be far more dangerous than any blade if applied properly. “Well Winnie, that all depends on how one chooses to use their art.” Shannon instructed with a wink.

After the two girls helped each other dress in their proper garb they headed for the door. Shannon looked back to her desk and the fine kit that rest upon it. A thought came to her. How very effective her art could be in making statements about the authority that be. She whispered to herself a recent lesson from her art instructor, Churchill, “Art is a lie that makes us see the truth.”

Wynonna called from down the hallway, “Shannon….hurry up!”

Shannon closed the door and her mind was now focused…but certainly not on the task at hand.

Shannon watched as Winnie disappeared down the hall. Roll call wasn't for at least another hand-and-a-half and students were required to "stand and attend" adjacent to their doors like every morning, this one no exception.

'Must be getting me breakfast in the common room,' she thought to herself. Winnie was so nice to her and others, which for a poet, seemed unusual. Most other poets in the House were so self-absorbed.

Shannon watched as 15 year olds, of which their were an unusual amount on her floor, rushed into the shower room. She was happy she herself had taken one the previous night, but also smirked at the anxious flock. 'What could they be thinking?' she wondered. This certainly wasn't going to be a pleasant field trip.

Soon, two to three hundred of the older students would be herded against their will into cramped heat boxes pulled by teams of underfed, over-worked horses. They would all then be taken on a joint-numbing bumpy ride to the western expanse that would take the better part of the day...perhaps with one pee break if they were lucky.

Then the lackies of the newest brigade, last years freshly brain-washed seniors, would spend hours briefing them on their ridonculous fake mission for the following morning. All the while the kidnapped combatants would be fighting over the biggest bag of meager dry-rations.

After sleeping on some frozen ground in a two-man tent, probably with some drooling sex-starved boy,  she would be made to stand guard while waiting for the idiots of the military to rush the students from opposite some stupid hill.

An entire day of being pummelled with blood powder packs would then presume, followed by another night that would start the entire ridiculous process again.

Fending off some pervert in a cold tent while on a stomach shriveling up around bird feed only to get up the next morning on no rest so she could throw more matin powder at more matin idiots!

Shannon caught herself standing alone in the corridor, shaking with rage. She took a slow breath and told herself to relax.

Her thoughts went back to when she was told of the entire ordeal by a fellow Housemate, Aimily Parks. Aimily had more than a few girls sitting in the Common Room for the story, for it was a day after she had been discharged from the infirmary following the Fall wargame. As a scupltor, she had been none too please at coming back with a broken arm and three broken fingers. She wasn't too vocal about it at the time though.

After all, Aimily had watched Jennifer Connells get crushed to death by a falling siege tower.

Shannon had no desire for any of this. She wanted to march right back into her room and begin sketching. She wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to draw but often times the great works start from instinct.

The rushing about from the other students eager to tromp off to the war games brought another thought to Shannon: How is it that “war” and “games” can be remotely uttered in the same breath? War was not a game. She was not a piece on the board to be toyed with. She was a real person…all of the kids were…all of the soldiers were. How could anyone be so eager to run off to war at the bidding of people that didn’t care a thing about them? If the hypo-crates - as she so lovingly thought of them- were so eager to play the war games they should pony up and be on the front fighting the Kar’Thul themselves! Instead they sit in their lofty towers no doubt placing bets on who will win.

Her father fought hard on the front for many years for the very people that threw him and her mother into prison. In the end, he was seen only as a piece on the board to be sacrificed and her mother, despite her healing gifts, was considered a “witch”. Shannon’s blood began to boil once again. If no one had been in the hallway she would have lashed out at the door across from her.

She had to take her mind from the blind, brainwashed, enthusiasm surrounding her. Breakfast seemed a good idea since she didn’t know when her next hot meal would be. Given the fact that it was the thick of the cold season it seemed to Shannon a sound idea to get something to eat now before the chance at food was gone.

She scratched her blonde head and her face wrinkled with brief indecision and then off she went to the common room to secure a her breakfast before the droves dried off from their showers and arrived to hork all the food.

Breakfast in the Common Room was fantastic that day. Sarah Firsthand, a nice old lady and volunteer at the school, laid out a spread fit for the wealthy and well-to-do. Shannon wasn't sure if she somehow anticipated today would be the day of the Breech, or, if the incredible breakfast was just a coincidence.

Shannon ate her fill, trying to appreciate what could be the last real quantifiable meal she would have in many days. As she did, she listened to the other girls in The Actors House, she realized that they weren't truly as enthusiastic about going to War as she had earlier assumed. In fact, many looked to be in shear stagefright.

She wondered if the The Actors boy domitory was filled with the same sense of foreboding.

As she took the last bite of a grilled blue-berry cake muffin, she spotted Leslie coming into the common room. Leslie met eye contact with her just as the little blonde moppet had gotten into the food line. Leslie gave her the tug on the ear signal in Whisper greeting, and Shannon waited to talk to her.

Leslie looked a little less for wear today, the bruise on her head turning a lighter shade of brown in the past few days. Shannon still hadn't been filled in as to what had happened to her, but she suspected it was far more than the story Leslie had laid out when she had returned to school after the day she had been absent last week.

Leslie with a grilled carrot muffin, a few sausages, and a glass of milk that was bigger than she was, approached her from across the room. She set her milk down on a couch end table beside Shannon to free up a hand. She looked just as nervous as everyone else.

"Are you okay?" she asked Shannon in concern.

Shannon casually looked around to see if anyone was in earshot- a habit she gotten used to. She shook her head and shrugged, “Same old stuff, Leslie. Day in and day out we’re stuck here with little promise of anything substantial to look forward to…and now…” Shannon looked at the masses of young girls coming to claim their delightful breakfast, “…this.”

“After Aimily’s story last night about that girl Jennifer…” Shannon let the words trail away. “I don’t know…maybe I’m just being silly. But in the days we’ve spent ‘meeting’…” Shannon emphasized the obscure reference to the Whisper Gang, “…it seems that little has been done.”

Shannon thought a moment and reflected on herself, “Of course, I haven’t really done much myself. I suppose I should start, eh?” She looked at Leslie (who was munching on a recently stabbed sausage) for some sort of agreement. Shannon didn’t really need it as she already knew the answer. Still, it was one of those little things that let Shannon know she had friends.


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