Nicolas LaFelle kicked a soccer ball as he ran along the splintering asphalt street. He deftly alternated the ball between each leg as he fought to maintain control. Behind him, a group of boys ran, trying to catch him and take possession of the worn ball. Their laughter was infectious as they ran and played, seemingly unaware of the inequalities that existed in their world.
Within seconds, the other boys playfully wrestled the ball from him. Nicolas laughed, taking up the chase until he heard someone call his name. Turning, he saw his friend, Nathan Aarons waving at him from the apartment complex he shared with other Lessers. Nicolas enjoyed Nathan’s easy-going friendship and spent hours playing with him after school. As a Lesser, Nathan went to school alongside Nicolas, but there, the similarities ended. Nathan’s courses were designed to prepare him for service to the Genetics. As a Genetic, Nicolas was being groomed for his allotted role in the New World Order. Still, at 8-years-old the differences and inequalities in their world meant little to them.
“Hey,” Nathan shouted, “You want to go skip stones in the river?” the young boy asked. His smile was infectious as he waited for Nicolas to answer.
“Sure,” Nicolas said.
“Let me go tell Mistress,” Nathan shouted back at him, disappearing from the window as he ran to find the resident’s guardian and caretaker.
Nicolas waited patiently on the porch step. Nathan belonged to the group of Lessers, the name given to the genetically engineered people who were created to serve the Genetics, the highest class in the 23rd century sub-societal classification system. Lessers were generally not permitted to fraternize with Genetics, but rarely was anything said in their small community if the children played together. Still, Nicolas and Nathan were careful to avoid being seen together too often.
Within minutes, Nathan came running out the front entrance, pulling the heavy steel door shut behind him. Both boys gave each other a high five as they headed toward the River Thames.
“Go on, I’ll catch up,” Nicolas told his friend. It wasn’t that Nicolas was embarrassed to be seen with his friend, but rather worried for his friend’s safety. The punishment could be harsh for any citizen caught violating the Order’s rule.
“Ok,” Nathan said. He gave his friend a high-five again and ran on ahead.
Nicolas sat down on the curb, re-tying his shoes to pass the time. He’d wait about fifteen minutes before heading down to the river to join his friend.
Just as he was getting ready to go join his friend, an ear-piercing scream rent the silence. Nicolas jumped to his feet, his heart beating a fast staccato as he tried to locate the direction of the scream. Another scream—this one more intense—tore through the air and Nicolas recognized the source: Nathan.
Nicolas ran in the direction his friend had gone and stopped short when he saw Nathan shackled to a post, his shirt stripped to his waist. One of the Order’s soldiers was holding a cat-o-nine tails that he was using profusely on his young friend.
“No!” Nicolas screamed! He ran toward the crowd, horrified that no one was helping his friend. He grabbed for the soldier’s wrist, trying to stop his ruthless swing of the whip. The soldier glared at him and pushed him roughly away. Nicolas fell to the ground but got up quickly, lunging again for the whip. The soldier held him back with one hand while his other sent the whip flying again. The resounding crack was just moments before his friend’s agonizing scream pierced the air. Nicolas watched, horrified as the blood ran down his friend’s back. His small body sagged under the pain and only the ropes tying him to the post kept him from collapsing.
“He didn’t do anything,” Nicolas yelled.
“You’re wrong, kid,” the soldier said to him, a malicious grin on his clean-shaven and scarred face.
“No!” Nicolas cried again, as the soldier let loose another crack of the whip. Nathan arched his body, but he was too far gone to do more than moan. The spectators, most of them Genetics and the Order’s soldiers, stared blankly at the torment the boy was enduring. A few Lessers cried in outrage and concern, but none were bold enough to intervene. They knew the punishment for any intervention in a soldier’s work: death. As a Lesser, the boy had no advocates; not even the caretaker at his residence would come to his aid.
“You brought this on,” the soldier sneered at Nicolas. “You are the reason this boy will be scarred for life.”
“If he lives,” sniggered another.
Nicolas tried to kick the soldier. The man just swatted at him, like he was batting at the annoying bites of a mosquito. Nicolas started to strike again, but was stopped by a young soldier who pulled him away.
“Ye canna help the laddie now,” the soldier told him, effectively steering him from the crowd. Another crack of the whip and a horrific moan caused Nicolas to turn and stare. The soldier positioned his body so that it was quite impossible for Nicolas to see what was happening to his friend.
“You can,” Nicolas cried out. “You’re one of them. You have to try,” he said, trying to move past the soldier. He balled his hands into fists, his mouth pressed tight as he choked back the anger and rage that filled him.
The young soldier effectively steered Nicolas away from the spectacle and down a seldom-used road. Stooping so that the soldier was eye-level with him, he wiped the tears from Nicolas’ eyes.
“What’s yer name, lad?” the soldier asked.
“Nicolas,” he whispered. He fought the urge to expel the contents of his stomach on the soldier’s neatly polished boots. He had to be brave, especially if he was going to help Nathan.
“I’m Duncan MacKinnon,” the soldier told him.
“I hate you!” Nicolas yelled. “I hate all the Order’s soldiers.” He tried again to pull away, but the soldier held him tight.
“If ye go back tae that mob, ye are goin’ tae get yerself killed,” the soldier told him calmly. “Ye canna help yer friend if yer lying dead in a pine box, now can ye?”
Nicolas sniffed and swiped the back of his hand across his eyes.
“Do ye want to help yer friend?” the soldier asked him.
“Then dry yer tears. I will need ye to be very brave. Can ye do that?”
Nicolas nodded again.
“Good. I’m goin’ tae take ye now to meet some of my friends who are verra angry like ye, but who’ve found a way tae fight back. If yer brave, and ye can keep a secret, ye can likely join us…”
To learn more about Nicolas and his alliance with the rebellion, pick up your full copy of the romantic sci-fi novel, Dark Awakening, available in digital and print formats.
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(C) 2017. Karlene Cameron, all rights reserved.