To Take a Stand

 

Melanie Smith

 

 

Arteck cringed under the blow of her captain, as she collapsed under the force of the blow hitting the dirt.

"This is the third time today cadet," the captain barked as he back handed her across the face, "you will learn to march in formation." He hit Arteck with the blunt end of his gun.

Arteck kept her eyes to the ground, she wanted to scream, to fight back but her common sense kept her down. Retaliation would only bring stronger discipline. Decran law was very specific "cadets will obey or die."

"Get up," the captain barked.

Arteck slowly raised herself from the ground, blood dripping from her left eye, wincing with pain.

Facing the rest of the group the captain spoke, "For failing to obey orders and failing to properly maintain formation, under Decran law I punish this infernal." He grabbed her wrist pulling it back until the captain heard the satisfying crack of breaking bone, before tossing her to the ground.

Arteck bit her tongue to prevent herself from screaming.

"Don't do it again" the captain whispered. "Forward march," he yelled at the rest of the class.

As the others marched forward, Arteck struggled to stand then raced to catch up with the other. She tried not to limp under the pain.


* * *
Arteck walked slowly to the infirmary, the other cadets laughed silently and the upper-class men glared disapprovingly. It was considered a weakness to have to see a doctor, but it had been three days since the incident with her captain. Arteck could barely see through one eye and her broken wrist caused terrible pains at night. She moved slowly forward, trying to avoid the cadets' gazes.

The infirmary was on the farthest edge of the academy grounds. The old building was a dark gray and was in the dark shadows surrounded by trees in hopes of hiding it. The strong winds pushed on the building making it tilt and lean.

Arteck's black cape swirled in the wind and she struggled to push open the rusted door. As she entered the infirmary the air was damp and moldy and felt cold on her dark skin. Dr. Phlan stood studding the bookshelves, his white robe had turned almost black due and his long sliver hair falling over his hunched back.

"Doctor," Arteck called out coolly "I need your assistance"

"One moment cadet if you would," the doctor called back softly "I just need to find…."

"NOW!" Arteck yelled. The doctor turned quickly startled

"Very well Cadet, what's wrong?"

Arteck turned showing him her bloodied eye and broken wrist. "You poor thing," he muttered studding her eye and hand. "What was it for" he asked quietly.

"That is none of your…" Arteck tried to respond before Phlan cut in.

"I know none of my business; I'm just a doctor trying to save your lives while everyone else tries to destroy it." He begin running a device across her eye and slowly Arteck's vision came into focus. The Doctor wrapped her wrist whispering quietly to himself, "If only someone would do something, stand against it all, then this never would happen.

Arteck stared at the Dr. Phlan is disbelief, "What! That would go against the code; it would cause chaos and destruction, no one." Composing herself she said, "You should learn to keep such dangerous thoughts to yourself Doctor." The Doctor nodded sadly.

"You'll be a good officer some day cadet, pity really." He finished securing her wrist, "you're done."

Arteck hurried out with the doctor's words still echoing in her mind.

As Arteck went about the rest of the week she couldn't get the doctor's words out of her mind. "He's crazy" she muttered to herself. A government without strict law, discipline and punishment, it would only cause chaos and destruction. She desperately tried to force the old man's words from her, but they haunted her thought plaguing her day and night.

Arteck lay in bed; unable to sleep she walked onto the porch outside her sleeping quarters. The night air blew against her neck, sending chills down her back. The doctor's words still dwelled with her. And his message seemed to cause pain on her unprepared mind. She gazed across the stars and could make out the light of Decran nearest planet Relinaz.

Relinaz was so different. There the military was weak, the government was weak, its people were weak. Relinaz people lived under the ideas the doctor had, a government without oppression. If anything it was living proof that the doctor's ideas were foolish. Students from the Relinaz Academy had come once years ago in hopes of strengthening ties between the two planets.

She reflected on their visit. They looked basically the same, but Relinaz features were softer. They seemed to be deeply troubled and saddened by the things they saw. Arteck had never understood why.

Arteck awoke in her bed to the sound of the morning bell. She rushed to get ready and then hurried out to morning drills. As she raced across the lawn she heard her captain's voice across the grass. "Cadet Metra," he yelled.

Arteck paused as she watched the young girl slip forward. She was young and Arteck could see the fear in her eyes as she stared and the deadly glare of the captain. Metra was young so the punishment would be greater.

"Why can you not march in step?" Metra stuttered to reply, the captain slapped her across the back. "Even in the strongest pack a weak link will destroy the power of the group." The captain grabbed her collar pulling her close to his face, "you will not be this pack's weak link" he said. Tossing her to the ground, he then circled like a lion approaching the prey, "Decran is strong and no one will be allowed to deprive you off its strength." He barked at the watching cadets. Then he dove on her, his fists punching at her small body. Metra had curled defensively but she slowly began to fall.

Arteck stood watching in silence yet slowly something in side her began to grow, all her thought and dream, knowledge, her pain, desire a new life began to grow pushing its way up her body. She began to feel a warm sprit flooding her entire body as the truth pushed onward. The doctor's words echoed in her mind, pushing this new light forward "something must be done."

"STOP" she screamed, the companies eyes turned sharply in her direction beating at her. Arteck stepped forward towards the captain pushing through the line her eyes flaming.

"Get back in line" the captain warned. "No," Arteck refused "I will no longer stand aside and watch this happen." "You dare oppose the code," he said his voice was cooled "You dare refuse me?"

Arteck jumped backwards as the captain rushed at her prepared for the attack. Rolling to the ground she missed his first punch. As she stood up the captain hit her in the side, knocking the wind from her, unable to prepare a defense, Arteck took another hit before dogging out of the way.

She sat up and aimed a fist at his face, but the captain was already blocking and doing counter attacks. He pushed Arteck onto the defense as he threw his fist at her.

Arteck jumped and dodged, trying to stay ahead of him. Struggling to breathe, Arteck aimed a kick at his shins knocking him to the ground. She jumped one the chance flying on his with a series of kicks and punches. Still she was wearing out, her uniform was torn and blood seeped from her wounds. She breathed heavily as she dogged another one of the captain's hits. She aimed at his chest, but the captain dogged grabbing her hand and pulling back.

She screamed as she felt the newly healed bones cracking, blood spilled from her hand and Arteck collapsed. She struggled to stand kicking and the captain with all the rage and passion she had left. Blood ran down her face and her vision was blurring. The captain was also short of breath and limping.

As she flew at him once more she was able to hit his eye. He fell unmoving. Arteck gasped. Then smiling, she turning to Metra who sat stunned on the ground. Arteck tried to speak.

SLAM! Arteck felt a stab of pain arching down her leg, the captain had slowly rising and thrown his knife imbedding it deep in her leg. Arteck felt unable to rise.

Gasping for air the captain crawled over. "There is no room for rebels on Decran."

Suddenly the watching cadets saw him lurch backward, his knife driven into his chest. Pulling the knife from her leg she had slipped it forward pressing it into the captain's chest. Unable to stand she began to crawl forward. If she could reach the Doctor, perhaps he would help her escape. Unable to stand the pain she collapsed and fell into darkness.

The stunned cadets finally took action carrying the injured captain away. The most senior cadet stepped forward "Take her to the brig," he said taking control. Cadets raced to follow his orders grabbing her limp body and caring it away. As she passed he spit on her still form. "Useless rebels," he murmured. He turned and led the stone-faced cadets away.

Arteck awoke to a feeling of numb pain. All she could feel was terrible pain all throughout her body. Her eyes were unable to see and she couldn't move without sending jolts of pain through her body. She was constantly fading in and out of conciousness, able to stay awake for only a few minutes or maybe an hour.

Slowly she began to focus although the pain was immense. She could see the quiet form of Dr. Phlan. She tried to speak but he stopped her.

"Quiet," he commanded, "you must rest." He slowly treated her wounds and the pain subsided slightly. "I can do very little," he said apologetically. "I'm only supposed to have you able to stand." "Tyrants and hypocrites all of them," he said "telling everyone to have courage in all situations…" he stopped and his head fell down small tears running off his face. "You did so much more today then any war hero ever could, you should be given the best care a medal a parade, a feast!" he paused "yet you're treated like a weed in Decran perfect garden." He snarled, "More like a flower amongst too many thorns."

Arteck struggled to speak "what is my fate" she whispered.

The doctor didn't turn towards her "Public execution," he whispered "for crimes against the sacred Decran laws."

Arteck spoke, "I don't know how to thank you."

"They aren't ready, I should never have put those ideas in your head," he said, "not now."

Arteck's voice was soft yet full of power, "I would rather die knowing what I now know then live in ignorance."

The doctor finally turned and gave her a weak smile, "You have the wisdom and courage of those far older."

Days later, Arteck felt herself being pulled roughly from her cell. The guards tightly bond her hand before leading her towards the grass fields. She stumbled only once but quickly regained control, trying to appear strong. The field was lined with cadets and captains from thought the entire area. She kept her eyes forward not glancing at the dark glances of the captains and cadets.

The Admiral stood at the front of the group where it branched into a circle. Next to him sat the captain. Disappointed that he was still alive she was pleased that he was sufficiently injured by the knife that he was sitting. He growled as she stepped forward. The Admiral read the charges: "Cadet Arteck is guilty of insubordination assaulting her commanding officer and within her own consent and good mind disobeyed the Decran codes. Such things are only punishable by death."

The Admiral faced the group "may your death mark a stain in Decran history so that other will not follow." He grabbed her forcefully her lead her forward pushing her to the center front. Her captain smirked as he passed "foolish infernal" he muttered and she sent a dark glare his way. As the Admiral prepared to fire he whispered silently to her, "You have accomplished nothing, and your death marks an end to you chaotic ideas."

"No," she said silently "what you are doing is wrong and soon I won't be the only one who realizes it." The Admiral took little notice, aiming carefully he fired. Arteck fell, all life had left her.

"Cadets march out" the captain yelled across the lines. Slowly the cadets moved out there stone faces unaffected by her death. Yet a few among them flinched slightly as a small thought lingered among them. "Something must be done"

 

 

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"To Take a Stand" Copyright © 2004 Melanie Smith. All rights reserved.
Published by permission of the author.

 

This page last updated 10-26-04.

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