Authors: C. R. Daems
THE BLACK GUARD
C. R. Daems
The Black Guard
Copyright © 2014 by C. R. Daems
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or
by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, taping, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without
permission in writing from C. R. Daems.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and
incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is
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The Least Favorite Child
The Black Guard
First Assignment - Lanzhou
Molova: Prince Badal
Molova: The trip to Hezou
Molova: Hezou. Meeting of the Princes
Molova: Hezou. Revenge
Jax: Family Reunion
New Keif: The Siege at Brasilla
Jax: Sasser Mountain. Dragon Training
Faithful: The Prison at Suryah.
Faithful: The Assault on OCC-7.
Avivo: Family and Buddhism
Halo: The Magistrates of the Halo
Halo: Friends of Captain Gasparo
Jax Contract Committee: Interview
North Song: The Warlord Shin
North Song: The Warlord Daiki
Jax: The Committee
"Father, why me?" I asked.
"It’s beyond my control, Rivka.
The government demands each family with three children must send one to the
military. The child must be between six and ten. Adam is eleven, and Alvah is
only two. You’re the only one between six and ten," he said, and a small smile
touched his lips. Mother sat feeding Alvah, pretending not to hear us.
"You could wait for Alvah to turn
six, like you waited for me—"
The slap spun me around and sent me to
the floor. I lay there dazed with tears stinging my eyes—not from the pain
of the blow but from the coldness in my father’s eyes and my mother’s
"You will show me respect, child. I
shall never understand why the military takes women. Our teachings tell us
their place is in the home as humble helpmates not soldiers, but since they do,
you’ll serve your brothers by relieving them of the duty. Now go to your room!"
He pointed to the door which led into the hallway and the back of the house. My
stomach lurched as I rose to my feet and staggered out of the room. Adam snickered
as the door closed behind me. In the hallway, I leaned back against the wall
waiting for my head to clear.
Beyond the door, my mother said, "She’s
very young, Abram. Maybe we should wait a year or two." Her voice was barely
above a whisper.
"Leave it be, Ednah. The decision
is made. They will be here in five days to pick her up."
I had done my best to please my father
without success. He doted on Alvah, and Adam was his pride and joy. Mother was
too busy caring for the three of them, spending hours every day on her knees in
prayer, and running the household to worry about me. I was little more than an
extra set of hands to help with the work. Besides, she would never speak out
against my father. It wasn’t her place.
While waiting for whoever to collect
me, I found places out-of-sight so I wouldn’t be seen crying. Not that anyone
cared. I was a ghost—unseen, unheard, uncared for. By the fifth day, I couldn’t
cry any more. I felt dead inside. So when the knock came and my father opened
the door, I walked past him, out the door, and stopped next to the man waiting
"Mr. Sapir?" The man asked.
When my father nodded, he continued. "I’ve come to pick up your daughter… Rivka.
I assume this is her," he said with an amused snort.
"Yes, that’s her. Aren’t you going
to say goodbye, Rivka?" He hadn’t talked to me all week, no one had. I
would have liked… something. Some sign they would miss me, if just a little. Anger
surged through me, and I looked back at him. "I hate you," I whispered
and turned to the man who had come for me. He stood a head taller than my
father, muscular, and clean-shaven. His uniform was a dark spinach-green. The
pants were tucked into black-leather boots, and a big gun was strapped to his
right thigh. His shirt was tucked into his pants, and on the sleeve of the
right arm, two finger-width bands of light-green above a light-green dragon. He
looked down at the screen on the device strapped to his arm, then at me, and
"Hello, Rivka. It’s nice to meet
you. You look ready to leave."
"Good." He tapped the device
and a silver disk emerged, which he handed to my father. "Thank you, Mr.
Sapir. This acknowledges your compliance with the Jax Conscript Law."
Without another word he put a hand on my shoulder and walked me to a
khaki-colored ground-vehicle parked in front of our...
. . .
house and opened the
rear door. Inside sat two other children, a boy and a girl about my age.
The boy looked me over and grinned.
"Hi, I’m Shem. She’s Abiy." The boy nodded in the girl’s direction. "Don’t
look so unhappy. It’s a nice place we’re going. Lots of games and fun."
Abiy looked like I felt, with her eyes
puffy and red.
"How do you know?"
"My father told me."
"Has he been there?"
"No, but he’s smart and knows
everything." A grin split his round chubby face. "Besides, we can
leave whenever we want."
I felt dazed, lost. Shem’s father was
smart not to tell him the truth. When I climbed silently in to sit beside Abiy,
he went back to playing some game on his small tablet. No one talked as the
hours passed and the city faded into the distance, and Lake Ohrid grew in size.
The cloudy weather, which matched my mood, made the water look almost black.
Before reaching the lake, the vehicle turned onto a narrow road and headed
towards a group of gray buildings where several black planes sat looking like
beetles. I trembled as we were led towards one and the unknown. I didn’t know
where I was going, or what I’d be forced to do when I got there, or how I would
We entered through the rear, up a ramp.
Inside, another ten children sat strapped to the benches that ran along each
side. A few looked like Shem and the rest like Abiy and me—the ones who
weren’t lied to. After ensuring we were strapped in, the ramp rose sealing the
back, and the shuttle shuddered as it lifted into the air. I sat lost in my
misery, my throat burning from the bile that repeatedly rose into my mouth. My
head pounded like hundreds of people were beating against the inside of my
skull to get out. The nightmare seemed to last an eternity, and I failed to
notice we had landed until the ramp in the rear opened.
We were unbuckled and helped out by two
men in dark-green uniforms who led us across a dry, dusty field bare of grass
or trees to a long, one-story, gray building. Inside, a center aisle separated
two long rows of single beds. A small table sat next to each bed and on each a
pillow and a pile of bedding. We were lined up, measured, given loose-fitting
gray pants and shirts and slipper-like shoes, and assigned a bed. After
dressing in the new clothes, our old clothes were taken, and we were led through
the dry heat to a nearby building. Although the room was huge, most of the
seats were filled with children around my age.
After everyone was seated, a woman in
the same dark-green uniform entered. She was a tall, thin, stern-looking woman,
with a narrow face and short black hair. Her sleeve had the same light-green
dragon, but instead of bands, she had a star above it.
"I am Lieutenant Vogel, the senior
instructor at Camp Lozn."
I gaped at the sight of a woman
commanding all these people—men. In the church my father had taken us to,
the women sat in the back, quiet, with their eyes cast down. I felt confused,
She continued, "This is the first
of several schools you will attend over the years, and you will be here for
four years. There are four Jax military schools: the navy, army, commandos, and
the guard. Those of you over the age of eight will be assigned to the navy
school. Those under eight will be assigned to the army school. Your position in
the Jax military depends upon your performance." She stopped to take a
drink of water before continuing. "We have rules and you must obey them.
Your instructors are not being cruel when they enforce the rules. Our schools
are demanding and will require your best effort. Those who work hard and obey
the rules will be rewarded."
And those that don’t?
I wondered. I noticed she didn’t say
they would be sent home. Not that it mattered. Even if they let me leave, where
would I go? My parents’ house was no longer my home. I no longer had a home.
Lieutenant Vogel spent the next hour
going over the rules and used an aerial picture of the compound to orient us.
There were seven buildings: two long buildings for meals and sleeping, three square
buildings for classes, and two smaller ones which were off limits. Afterward,
she led us back to the sleeping building—barracks. To my embarrassment, boys
and girls shared the same toilets and showers. Two uniformed men watched as we bathed
and dressed for bed in loose, gray shifts. Shem shuffled past me, his cheeks
tear streaked. Perhaps it would have been easier for him if he had known the
truth from the start.
* * *
The days settled into a routine that
made it difficult to determine the day of the week, or the week of the month,
or even the month. Every day was the same: up at dawn, exercise, morning meal,
classes, midday meal, classes, evening meal, study, wash, and to bed. Every
other day we were given two hours freedom out in the dusty grounds. I normally
took a book with me to study while the others formed in groups to talk or play
games. Ironically, I liked having so little free time. There was no time to
sulk about yesterday or wonder about tomorrow—just today, only today.
Lieutenant Vogel had been right. Our
instructors were not cruel. Most were helpful if you had questions, although some
were impatient and snapped if a student didn’t have an answer ready. I tried to
make sure I did.
I took comfort in the school work. It
not only kept me from thinking about the past or worrying about the future, but
I found the classes interesting. In addition to the basic subjects we would
have learned in any city school, we were being taught how to read and write in
the common trade language, Standard, and about the inhabitable planets in our
galaxy—there were over a hundred united under four governments.
Those that work hard and obey the rules
will be rewarded
was burned into my six-year-old brain, and I was determined not to find out
what happened to those who didn’t. The other children soon formed friendships,
and some teased me and called me names because I didn’t join in, preferring to spend
my time bent over my books. "Ugly string bean" was one of their favorites.
It stung, but they couldn’t hurt me the way that I feared our instructors
could. They couldn’t send me away to who knew where. Two children had already
disappeared from our barrack and classes, one of them Abiy. I was afraid to ask
where they had gone. The only other girl who spent as much time bent over her
books was a sturdy, muscular girl named Hada Attali. Like me, her focus on her
studies made her a loner.
She and I had begun working together by
accident. I had a problem I couldn’t seem to master no matter how hard I tried.
She always had the right answer when called on in class, so I was sure she was
the smartest. I blushed and stammered when I asked her for help, but she smiled
and patiently showed me where I was going wrong. She helped me and over the
many months—maybe a year or more as there was no way to tell time—we
found studying together benefited us both.
"Why do you work so hard?" I
asked one day as we labored over a math problem.
"Why do you?"
"My parents didn’t want me, so I
have nowhere to go if the military doesn’t," I said, thinking her reason
more or less the same.
"I’m sorry… That’s why you always
seem so sad."
"Isn’t that why you’re here?"
"My father follows the ancient
Taoist religion and customs. I have two sisters. He picked me because he said I
had the best chance of becoming a Dragon in the Black Guard, and it would be a
life I would love."
"What is the Black Guard? They say
we are going to be in the army or commandos and assigned to a spacecraft. And
go to war…"
And get killed or crippled and kill people…
made me sick.
"We will spend four years here
getting a basic education, learning how to read and write Standard, and
studying about the people on the other inhabitable planets. Then most will be
transferred to the army school to become soldiers. A few who have done well in
their studies will go to the commando school where they will concentrate on
becoming commandos: self-defense, weapons, tactics, and other things," she
said, smiling as she watched me frown. She had just confirmed what I thought.
"And then the good part. They will again split us into two groups. Most
will go to another school where they will finish commando training. A few will
go to the Black Guard School. They are the elite of the Jax military. And
there, the few who have worked very hard will receive training that will bring
you peace and a special place in the Guard."
"How does your father know?"
I asked. It sounded like a wonderful story to tell the least-liked child that
you decided to get rid of without hurting her feelings.
"My father was a senior sergeant
in the Black Guard for thirty years. That’s why he let me come here early, so I
would be put into the army school, and it’s the reason I study so hard. I don’t
want to be a commando." Hada gave me a conspiratorial look with one finger
to her lips. She sounded like she knew what she was talking about. If not, her
father was a great liar. It didn’t matter. This was the nearest thing I had to
a home, so I would do my best to remain. If working hard got me the reward Hada
described, so much the better.
She briefly squeezed my hand. "You’ll
be all right, Rivka. You’ll see."
* * *
The time passed, and I mastered
Standard and the other subjects. The morning exercises were the hardest. We
were learning repetitive moves called dances that were used to learn and
perfect a variety of fighting techniques. Towards the end of what Hada call the
"Basic" school, the classes included actual fighting. Even with the
protective gear we were required to wear, the kicks and punches hurt, and you
could get injured. I hated those classes. Hada’s father had given her some
basic Black Guard training that she taught me in our few free hours, so I did well
as far as our instructor was concerned.