A Rich Man's Son
Cristello did not leave immediately for Ellsworth. In fact, he was delayed greatly by a lack of proper communication with the other troops. The result was a complete standstill; no one from Leavenworth moved, Wallace had yet to move, the planes that had attacked the Fort were still unidentified, Tristan's forces continued to poke the west side, and the Easy Eight did not fully mobilize. Freddie was being smuggled back into America by Brunhart's agents and William was being fully briefed on the situation in Washington. Everyone seemed to be running in place. Except for Jordan, that is. He had arrived in New York during the middle of the night, long before McGill's squad ever made it to Leavenworth. Immediately, his camera was rolling.
At first, there were a few small, peaceful protests. Then anarchists were out and started causing a ruckus. It seemed as though they planned to burn down the entire city. The police officers and riot squad remained passive in their defense of property. Eventually, they withdrew almost completely. Soldiers were called in and complete chaos resulted. Police officers were unsure who their commanders were, as both members of the police department and Army started to give out orders. The anarchists felt threatened by the arrival of the armed services and entered a fight-or-flight mentality. What had started out as an attempt to rile up other people by destroying property turned into a brawl.
In the middle of all of this was Jordan. He stayed on the streets when the tear gas hit; he was unlucky enough to get caught by a pressure hose; he had been tripped and smacked by protestors and guards alike. He was treated nicely by most and they tended to answer his questions with honesty. A few recognized him and nearly pummeled him. "What right does a rich kid like you have to hanging around here? This is a fight for the poor and middle class, you know!" It frustrated him, yet he said nothing. The soldiers found him a nuisance and constantly used physical force to keep him at bay. The police officers repeatedly said, "Be careful, sir, it's dangerous around here. I don't want you hurt."
Despite all of this, he hung around the streets all day. From before the sun rose until after the sun had set, he filmed the scenes that unfolded before him. Many had been arrested, a handful had been injured, but no one had been killed. When midnight rolled around, he found himself exhausted and lost. He had forgotten why he had come to New York in the first place. The recent death of his father was a distant memory; not because he didn't care, but because he had been swept up in the adrenaline of the day. Filming civil chaos was more mentally and emotionally draining than war, he had discovered. His only intent was to have a few drinks and hopefully find a lady that he could catch for the night.
That changed, however. While inside a bar, he noticed a police officer in his civilian clothes. The man's face had been bruised in the fighting and he constantly rolled his shoulder, as it had been injured as well. Jordan thought about approaching him, but realized the cop was probably as tired as he was. Besides, before he could even set his drink down, someone else approached the off-duty officer. It was a protestor; the young, college-aged kid was also quite beat up. The two former enemies made eye contact. The police officer slowly set his drink down when he recognized the young man.
Jordan assumed the tension from the ongoing protests would erupt in the bar. Instead, the officer said something that wasn't loud enough for Jordan to hear. The youngster responded, "It's alright, you're just doing your job. You've got a family to take care of. It's… whatever, you know? Take it easy out there, alright?"
"Yeah, you too," the cop said. "Don't do anything stupid."
Jordan lost any and all appetite he had for adventure. He set his glass down, tossed a hundred dollar bill on the bar, and stood to leave. Before both feet were fully planted on the ground, he smacked his shoulder against another person. Their drink was knocked out of their hand, splashed against his shirt and crashed on the ground. Instantly he was on the floor trying to clean up the mess. He apologized loudly, "I'm really sorry about that! Let me buy you a new one!"
"You're still clumsy as ever."
Jordan finally looked up at the person he had bumped. It was a woman no older than thirty, her long brown hair draped over one shoulder and her blue eyes glaring at him. He stared wide-eyed at her for a moment, but then quickly turned his attention back to the mess he had made. He felt himself blush and he got very self-conscious. His face still had dried blood on it; his shirt was dirty not just from the drink but the riot, as well; his pants had gotten a rip in them on his left knee... Those blue eyes had been with him for years, and he had long thought he was never going to see them again.
Finally, she pulled him up by his shirt. He complied without fight. Despite being on his feet once more, his knees were slightly bent. He still tried to avoid eye contact. "You don't remember me, do you?" she asked.
"No, I do," he said with the hint of a nervous laugh in his voice. "You attended Cornell. I always copied off of you in Professor Jenkin's class. Miss Jessica Allen, right?"
"I'm actually Mrs. Larsen, now."
"Ah, so you did marry him."
Then the awkward silence hit. They stood in front of each other without words passed for a few long seconds. The noise around the bar made it known no one really paid them any mind, but it was embarrassing for Jordan regardless. She interrupted it all when she said, "What are you doing in a place like this? Your father must have made sure his fortune stayed with Will, since he's a real man."
"My brother may be a 'real man,' but he's still just a man."
"As opposed to what? Do you think you're a god or something?"
"I don't believe in God," he said. "Although when I said this to a friend of mine, he told me to prove there was no god. When I realized I couldn't, I resigned myself to the fact that I know nothing of absolute truth. But if there is a god, I'm certainly not one."
"There you go again, acting like you're a know-it-all with your faux deep thoughts," she criticized. It cut him deep, but he didn't show it. "You're such a weirdo, Jordan. It's no wonder you're all alone in a cheap place like this. I bet you still haven't found a wife."
It hurt him quite a bit that she talked that way. She always had, and he wondered what it was he ever saw in her to begin with. This woman was his first love. It was a long time ago, long before he had ever met Anna or experienced war. He had to tell her, "I'm a different man now."
"Oh? So no more talks of… revolution, or 'justice,' or 'truth,' or whatever other nonsense you always spouted?"
"No," he shook his head. "No more talks. Just actions."
"Oh, so you're one of those wannabe anarchists now. Great."
"Well, what about you?" he asked. For the first time since the conversation started, he truly gave her eye contact. There was an intense aura of irritation being emitted from him. "What's an uptown girl like yourself doing in a downtown pub like this? Life as a rich man's wife must not be cutting it out for you. You always were a slut."
She slapped him hard enough that he recoiled from the hit. With a hand on his cheek, he muttered, "You're welcome."
"What was that?" she angrily demanded.
"You're welcome," he repeated. "You're welcome for all the work I've done since I was that 'weirdo' young man at Cornell. For all the countless hours I put into this revolution, this chance to change the world. When you were off getting drunk with other men, and I stayed in and read all those books, did all that thinking, that work, that writing… You're welcome. One day, you're going to wake up in a truly free world, and you're going to thank me. Your children will thank me."
"You are a psychopath, Jordan," she said to him. "You're just a pathetic man who could never handle reality. Enjoy your fantasy revolution."
Again, she left him alone. He didn't bother to watch her disappear amongst the patrons of the bar. Years of frustration built up and he was reaching his breaking point, and it took all the energy he had left in his body to prevent himself from losing control. How often had he wanted to ask a poor man, "What is expected of you?" Although he was not a believer in class discrimination, Jordan had always believed that the circumstances of birth had meant a heavy burden was placed on his shoulders. The expectations of being an Attaway were much higher than if he had been born a nobody. If he could be reborn, he would humbly ask God to grant him the status of a poor man, because he was convinced that they were born freer than any man with wealth.
He remembered what his dad had once advised him. "You are a servant to the people of the world. You have no choice but to work in their favor; you have no choice but to give them your wealth. This is not a bad thing, Francis. We are all responsible for ensuring the welfare of society." However, as a he grew older and was exposed to more radical thinking, he abandoned such notions as welfare and servitude.
While in college, he wrote a letter to a professor at Harvard that specialized in radical political thought. In his letter, he said, "I believe in equality for all people. I believe that discrimination is inherently evil and is the first corruption an individual can suffer. All are equal, regardless of race, of gender, of sexuality, and of class. If not, and if I should follow the belief that as a wealthy man I have no choice but to be enslaved by the populace, does that mean that I have no rights? If I have no right to liberty and my own justly acquired property, then do I have no right to life? Am I even a human? Have I violated the rights of others, merely because I possess more than them? I cannot accept this hypocrisy that our society has embraced; I cannot accept the belief that I have fewer rights than another. I will not be a slave to society."
This Professor, Casper Anderson, promptly responded to Jordan's letter. The name of "Attaway" did not go unnoticed. Professor Anderson said, "In my quest for absolute truth, I have discovered absolute corruption. Only a revolution could possibly cure mankind from its course. Yet merely shifting the form of government from one to another; or to merely shift those in power from one position to another, does that do us any good? I have to believe it is not possible to save our rights by passing the ruler's scepter. We must acknowledge that we are our own rulers; we must accept that we are no one's master, no one's slave. We have no authority over others; they have no authority over us. You have discovered that you are being enslaved by others, but such is the fault of a corrupt democracy, where the majority may take away the rights of any minority. We are the smallest minority there is. We are the individual - the sovereign individual. If you would like, Mr. Attaway, you may join us on our quest to free the individual from the chains of the envious, greedy, and slothful majority."
Jordan was twenty years old then. A man who was taught to achieve what he was told to achieve was now opened to a world of freedom. He abandoned his quest for a law degree and promptly followed his dreams. While the world swiftly spun and spiraled out of control around him, he stood steadfast in his desire to free himself. Yes, just as he told Jessica, he was a different man now.
Before he could finish his self-loathing, the entire bar was interrupted when a large group barreled through the door. They shouted out someone's name; a single person stood up. The man furthest front of the newcomers said, "We need you outside, now! The soldiers, they just started shooting!"
The chaos that erupted forced Jordan to reenergize himself. He grabbed his stuff and hurried outside with the man they had called. The group sprinted down the destroyed street; the city lights helped led the way. He stayed several feet behind them but managed to hear the man as he asked, "How many have been shot?" The answer was not heard by Jordan. "Are you sure?!" the man yelped. He pulled out his cellphone and said, "Get me as many ambulances as you can down to the 45th – "
The man's voice was halted when a rumble and medium explosion forced everyone to lose their balance. "Jesus fucking Christ! What the fucking hell was that?!" someone shouted.
"If it's those fucking Black Guard cocks, I'll cut their heads off!" another yelled back. They had no hesitation; they stood as soon as they could and continued on their way. Jordan couldn't help but smirk at the bravery of these common men. They knew they were headed to a graveyard – possibly their own – but they trekked forward. These were the heroes of the new age.
They arrived at the location where the shooting had taken place. A makeshift bomb had forced the soldiers to retreat back a block or so. Those that were still standing after both the shooting and the bombing were hastily trying to save those that had been injured. Upon arriving at the scene, it became obvious to the man they had called from the bar that most injuries were not severe. Still, he quickly went to work.
Jordan continued to follow this man. They both ended up knelt next to a hurt woman. She had a bullet wound on her leg and a few bruises from the bomb explosion. Jordan asked the man, "Are you a doctor?"
"Yes," the man nodded. "My name is Jean LaRue. Can you hold this here for me?"
Before Jordan realized it, he was helping Jean with basic first aid on the multiple victims. They passed by three dead; one was a police officer and two were civilians. It was then that Jordan realized the cops had chosen which side they were fighting on. All of the men with badges were helping with the civilian victims. He looked down the street and saw the riled up soldiers listening intently to a shouting commander.
"What a sad situation," Jean sighed. "They take our guns away from us. They say we don't need them if we're going to hunt, we don't need them to shoot clay pigeons. They say we don't need them to commit crimes. But we never had those guns to hunt, to shoot clay pigeons. We had them in preparation for this moment in history. We had them so we could defend ourselves not just against petty crooks, but the corrupted state. Yes, soldiers have always sided with the government, haven't they? Now, all we can do is wait to be slaughtered or hope no innocents are victim to the damage caused by the anarchist bombs."
A sorrow filled voice interrupted them, "Jean." Jordan and the doctor turned to see a small group of citizens had come up to him. They had clearly been out on the streets in protest all day. The man that had said Jean's name held an American flag in his hand. "I think we should put this over the bodies. They died for this."
The flag was presented to Jean. Jordan saw the young protestor's hands shaking, not from the weight of the light flag, but the weight of the burden placed on them. The doctor took the flag, and two other people presented two more flags. Suddenly, Jordan realized the situation that was happening before him. He was now a witness to the end of a free country. The three deaths that were caused by soldiers' guns were the three final nails in the American coffin.
"Attention!" a loud voice cried over a bullhorn. It was the commander of the soldiers. "This is a secure area! Unauthorized personnel should leave immediately! All civilians must leave this area immediately! A curfew is now in effect…!"
"Ah, to hell with those scumbags," a man said. "I can't cower now."
"Yeah, fuck them!"
"You're supposed to protect our freedoms and our lives, you damn fuckers!" a protestor yelled at the soldiers. Someone backed it up by throwing a rock in their direction. The soldiers managed to remain perfectly still.
"Rabid dogs need to be put down!"
"Put your guns down and fight us fairly, you assholes!"
In the midst of this, the three bodies that had been wrapped in flags were raised from the ground. The crowd had decided that they needed to symbolize their anguish, and the dead bodies draped with bloody flags served as their best bet. Jordan was overcome with the sight of the bodies being paraded in the street. He had no choice but to approach the soldiers. With their rifles aimed at his chest, he could have been shot dead in a quick moment, but luck was on his side. He managed to present his press credentials and avoid much confrontation.
"Is it alright if I see that bullhorn?" he asked the commander.
"No," was the immediate response. "Now get the hell out of here before you end up dead. A rich boy doesn't know the first thing about civil strife."
He lost it. All of the rage he had endured over the years reached the surface of his heart. With clenched fists, he declared, "A man who allows his soldiers to shoot innocent civilians is nothing but the embodiment of civil strife!" Before the commander could respond, Jordan rammed him. The two hit the pavement with a harsh impact. He managed to stand before the commander with the bullhorn in his grasps. The soldiers once again trained their weapons on him. "Go ahead and shoot me!" he dared them. His voice was heard by many down the street. He jabbed a thumb against his chest and said, "Shoot me, dammit! Go down in history as the badass bullies who killed a rich man's son! Go ahead and kill an American man! Go ahead and kill a free man! I'd rather be martyred here for this moment than to live forever knelt to your tyranny! You want this bullhorn back? You want my life? Come and take it!"
The soldiers did not move an inch. His attention was turned to the crowd that was still fuming. He brought the bullhorn to his mouth and commanded, "Not a step back!" The frenzied group realized he was talking to them, but they continued to stir. It was perfect for him. It kept him energized. "Do not take a step back from where you are! Forward is all that's left for us! Don't let these tyrants command you! Don't kneel to their oppression! Don't give in to their corruption! Don't let the sacrifice of the dead go unrewarded! You know that the flags draped over those bodies are not just cloth! The flag is a symbol, a testament to the sacrifice of those who have died in the name of liberty! Their blood, shed in the name of the greater good, has flowed from wounds inflicted by those who do not understand the beauty of freedom. Their sacrifice is not in vain; their lives create the stitch that bounds us together!
"They died upholding the Constitution of the United States; which we know, and they knew, is more than just a document! It is a piece of art and the foundation of the greatest nation! It is something to live by, something to fight for! The pens of mediocrity, bureaucracy, and hypocrisy have stained this nation – our nation. And we as Americans will have no more of it! Each generation has been called upon, and each generation has risen to face the challenge. Now it's our turn; our greatest hour has dawned and, my friends, it will be no easy task!
"I know how you feel. You're frustrated, tired of crying, tired of shouting and protesting. Your heart aches every time you see the stars and stripes; you wonder what lies ahead, if your children's future will ever be realized. You have stayed awake at night praying, hoping that the struggle will end. Look beside you! If you ever doubted our strength, now is the time to let those doubts go. We are all suffering, but we will all prevail. Let us rise up together and take with our own hands what is rightfully ours!
"Today, we have braved the elements and the enemy. We have shown the world that we are resilient, that we are forever, that there are causes to die for! Remember this day, Mr. President! Remember this moment, General Ellis! These are the faces of those who swore to reclaim democracy at all costs! Remember the names atop the roll of honor - those who were martyred for not just America but for the sake of the rights that all men have!"
A single bullet silenced him. His body collapsed when the offending object struck his back. He had no choice but to fall down to one knee at the sudden hit. Before he had a chance to realize what had happened, he was surrounded by the protestors. A hand reached down and touched his shoulder; he looked up and saw Jean smiling at him. "Are you alright?" the doctor asked.
"I'll have a bruise tomorrow," he said. "But after seeing enough combat, I've learned to wear a bullet proof vest just about everywhere."
Jean helped Jordan to his feet. In the midst of the almost unbearable noise, a voice broke them of their mindless silence. "To arms, to arms! The avenging sword unsheathed! March on, march on! All hearts resolved for liberty!"
It was a strange mixture between a shouting and singing. Before Jordan could question Jean on the origin, the others joined in. Their voices were off key and hoarse, but it somehow fit the mood. "O liberty, can man resign thee, once having felt thy generous flame? Can dungeons, bolts or bars confine thee, or whips thy noble spirit tame? Our nation, the whole world admires, must regain liberty. And every citizen must forever breathe, under laws of equality! Long live the Republic! To arms, to arms!..."
With the biggest grin he had ever held, Jordan asked Jean, "Don't they realize they're singing another country's national anthem?"
"I doubt it," Jean said. "But does it matter? All men will be free one day, and no longer will nations define us." He broke away and joined the fray, "To arms, to arms!..."
As the people sang their song loudly, the soldiers became aware of what they had done. Then there was Jordan, who stood still and alone amongst a crowd of a hundred. He, however, had no idea just what it was he had done.