A Line in the Sand

Chapter Four
Liberty or Death


The monitor flashed pictures spontaneously across the screen, reflecting the light upon the darkened face of old John Barrett upon the couch. An article about the efforts to save the dying planet of earth passed, followed by a warning against suspicious characters. Faces of 'confused' and 'emotionally distraught' people flickered up, with a voice saying to watch out and report them if seen. It said that they would receive help once found.

But John Barrett knew better then that.

Those people were probably the few who he'd actually want to meet. The free-thinkers that now lacked terribly in this modern world. Just walking down the street he could tell who was who. It was easy due to the bland stares they had, the plastic smiles, the general emptiness that radiated from their forms. They were like walking dolls, soulless and blank. Real people were just that, they were real. They had personalities, dreams, desires that weren't formed by the world about them. But rather by where their hearts were called.

Snorting in frustration and disgust, the old man snapped off the monitor with the remote, this thick thumb pressing hard onto the off button. Running a hand over his face, he wondered whatever had happened to cause such a drastic change from the childhood and world he once knew. Of course, he knew the answer.

Men are human and easily fall into corruption. Governments are formed by men and end with horribly similar results. Such was what happened to the country and freedom he now only sees in his old memories. He was one of the few who knew the truth, and for that he was dangerous.

He had been a man just out of boyhood when bombings had been spread over the country like melting butter on toast. One, then anther, then another were reported in a series of life-changing horror. The media had gone wild with reports, the televisions posted story after traumatic story of families dying, children losing parents, friends watched each other die. Turmoil racked the country as checkpoints were set up to prevent panic. People from the farms and free-lands were forced into the cities for protection against the terrorists.

Those horrendous terrorists who claimed to be the 'constitutionalists' and the 'freedom-keepers'. It had been those manipulative men and women who had stood by those terrible gun rights with their brave 'free-speech'. Oh they had fooled the world well, and in the end Russia and China had come in to help restore America to what she was now.

It had been then that his only son, Jason, had lost all faith in him and the ideals he had been taught. Such things and reasoning belonged to those people who reaped terror and war, or so the lad had thought.

The second civil war lasted ten years until at last the rebels were defeated by the untied foreigners and the American military. Their leaders were shot, imprisoned and hung as examples to the world. Their deaths were broadcasted over the land to mark the end of the American Republic and the new age of the reformed country that now stood upon it's grave. Soldiers of the rebels who sumbmitted were

He still remembered the day that the news told in excited waves of how the famous broadcasting show for freedom had been ransacked and all those there shot dead. They had been supporters to the terrorist cause, and for that there was no forgiveness. Their leader, one Alex Jones, had died waiting in his studio as the military had kicked down the door. He still remembered the man's last words, filled with deep passion and persistence as he stood with his M1A as he made his last cry to the people he had served for so long.

"America will rise again, we will not lie down and become slaves, we will not stay passive to your injustice! WE ARE THE RESISTANCE! We will resist your tyranny until death! We are the true people of America. Remember that, remember that if you beat us down until we wither, we will return with a vengeance never known to mankind!"

The door had cracked, sprinters beginning to rain as it broke. And the man had narrowed his eyes, tightening his grip on his gun before turning back to the camera for a last view.

"God bless America. God bless the resistance and God bless those who will restore this country to what it once was!"

The door gave way and bullets showered the room. But not before the final words were torn from the man's mouth as he charged his enemies.

"GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!"

His blood had spilled upon the ground in crimson waves before the screen became disoriented and finally went blank. It had been that day when John Barrett had truly wept for the fall of his country.

Then the people had been numbered, rationed and constantly watched. Those who proved to be difficult for the new found government disappeared and were never seen again. John Barrett had kept his words and thoughts silent so that he might be able to raise his own son with real ideals in mind. Sadly, his child was no-longer drawn to the glorious history of the old America's past due to the terrors he had witnessed. He had only shrugged when the news of Alex's death came to his ears.

The rift had grown between father and son. John Barrett began to loosen the bonds he had placed on his lips towards liberty. The state had soon clobbered him, taking him away from his old wooden cabin and placing him in this thrice-cursed 'reeducation home'.

At least he had Travis to come and visit with him. The boy had been a consolation to his weary heart in many, many ways. He was bright, open and innocent, his young mind well-formed and used. If his son would no longer listen to the tales of his forefathers, then his grandchild would and did with a passion.

Which reminded him and he glanced over at the old clock on his living room wall. Travis would be arriving soon, followed by his old friend, Sheath. The latter and himself had lived through the terror and civil wars together. Their strings of friendship were formed of blood and experience and held the strength of pure steel. Though Sheath hadn't been as dedicated towards the rebellion as he had, they still held each other in high regard. Loyalty was their code and was like the life-giving liquid that ran through their veins.

Standing up from the couch, he heard his back pop back into work and he gave a soft groan. He carelessly tossed the remote aside and placed both hands on the small of his arched back, heaving a breath. Unhappy mumbling passed through his lips, greatly displeased about his tiring age.

"Withering away to nothing are we?" A sudden voice spoke, causing the elder Barrett to spin towards the door.

A well built man stood with his arms crossed as he leaned against the threshold. A smirk that crawled up to his analyzing blue eyes shown brightly against his lips. A well-formed jawbone and oval head were cocked to the side in observation as he swept his gaze over his friend.

"Who let you in?" John grumbled, straightening as he turned a glare on the other man.

Sheath rolled his shoulders, looking back down the hall he had come up without interest to the conversation.

"That horrendous woman at the desk who keeps asking if I'm going to kill you anytime soon. Really, John, you should complain about the service you get around here. Ugly and homicidal desk ladies are a thing to be feared."

The older man gave a snort, picking up the remote from where it fell upon the floor.

"You know they'll only give me more 'anti-depressant' pills and a speech about being social." A growl escaped his throat as he looked to his friend. "And I'll be damned before I take such a thing. I don't need to be social, I just need a polishing rag and my old gun back. Now that'll get me social in no time flat."

Sheath chuckled, shutting the door as he entered the room.

"Careful, John." He said turning around. "We can't have the nice cleaning lady in the hall dying of shock at the mere mention of such a tool. Whatever will the neighbors think of you?" He ended in a sassy tone, the grin widening on his mouth. "Consideration never was one of your better virtues."

John shook his head in exasperation. Even in their youth Sheath had been an insufferable idiot with sarcasm coursing like a waterfall. Nothing had changed in their older years, the younger of the pair was still a tad bit immature, regardless of the violence they had both seen. But he knew when to stop and take things seriously, so John had put up with it. Friends had been scarce in the beginning of the war and bonds forged before it were strengthened just like theirs had been. Though distrust haunted the world, they had stuck together through thick and thin, never leaving each others side.

"How's the cabin?" John asked, gesturing for his companion to sit down. "I've had men coming in demanding that I hand over the ownership papers so they can knock it down. Of course, I won't give it to them and they're too lazy to go to the government, so they've left me be."

Plopping himself on the cushioned couch, Sheath's eyes became a little hardened. He absently brushed his hand through his graying locks of brown hair.

"The requirement documents for leaving the city are getting ridiculous to keep track of." He said a frown masking over his face. "They're updated every week and the possibilities for leaving are becoming thinner. It's only a matter of time before they just won't let us leave. We'll be like rats in a cage, waiting to be fed to the snake while we scramble vainly to hide in the corners."

"Who said anything about hiding?" John scowled down at the other man, his eyes determined. "I dare them to feed me to their monster. They won't see me cower like a vermin, you have my word on that."

Sheath raised an eyebrow at the words, his smile instantly returning like the flip of a page.

"I have no doubt." He sighed, leaning back into the cushions comfortably as he looked up at his friend. "Yours is the last property outside of the boarders that they don't own. They're furious for it, you know. Crazy enough to kill."

John pointed a finger at the younger man, shaking his head.

"That is a incredible understatement, Sheath. They live to kill, live to control. I defy them and they're willing to do anything to bring me down. I really don't understand why they just don't take it. Ah well..." He rubbed his forehead in frustration. "Did you bring what I asked for?"

Sheath nodded and began searching his pockets and realized he couldn't fine it. He left John waiting impatience as he tried to recollect which pouch it ended up in. It took about five minutes before he found it in his coat's inner pocket.

"I never truly remember those things are there." He said, handing over the object to a red-faced John, who accepted it wordlessly. "I mean, out of sight out of mind right? And I can't see them so..." His voice trailed off because of the fierce glare he was given by his elder.

It was then that a loud knocking came from the apartment's door. Shoving the object in his pocket, John Barrett walked towards the door. Brushing away his annoyed look that resulted form his friend's antics, he opened it, looking out into the hall. Travis' round head poked in through the crack, a smile bright on his lips. Davy was in his appointed spot, clutched up to the child's chest faithfully. Never were the two seen alone.

"Grandpa!" The boy cried, throwing himself into the man's arms and giving him the strongest hug he could manage.

The brilliant blue eyes wandered through the room and Travis' face illuminated ten times greater when he caught sight of Sheath. Releasing his grandparent, he tackled the unsuspecting man, throwing him back onto the couch with a cry.

"Mr. Sheath! I didn't know you were here!" The excited child rambled, sliding to sit on the side of the furniture piece. "Grandpa didn't tell me!"

"Didn't he?" Sheath chuckled, looking over towards the other man as he sat up. "Well that's your old, grumpy Grandpa for you. Oh, and I see your parents are here too."

Sure enough, Mrs. Barrett stood in the doorway by her father-in-law, watching the scene with a tight-lipped expression. She wore a blue dress with a brown buckle and synthetic leather vest. Her hair was clipped perfectly back and her eyes lined with dark shadow.

"Melissa." John greeted, rolling his eyes away from where Travis and Sheath had soon enveloped themselves in a little rustling match. Davy and his bear seemed to be winning as they pinned the elder man to the floor. Trading one scene for another, he fixed his eyes passed his daughter-in-law, catching his son's stony look."Jason, I didn't expect you to come."

His voice was gruff and his face automatically hardened as his son nodded back in reply.

"Dad, I came to talk." Jason stated bluntly, looking around himself. "But not in the hall."

A grunt came.

"Right. Come in then." John said, opening the door wide as the couple entered.

He shut it with a light slam, turning sharply to face them. His eyes met his son's and he couldn't help but notice the uncertainty there. His face was one of a weary man, contradicting his formal suit and tie. Sleep looked as though it had avoided him at all costs the previous night. Melissa was pale, her hands tight around her purse and eyes firm.

"Well?" John demanded, crossing his arms in dominance. "My ears are open."

Melissa's eyes flickered towards where Sheath and Travis were. The pair appeared to have moved on to a less-energy drawing game of thumb-wars.

"Not here." She whispered in a dry, cracked voice. Whatever resolve she had probably had in coming to this place was now crumbling in her father-in-law's presence. "Not where Travis can hear."

Heaving a sigh, the grandfather waved them off towards his small kitchen. As they started off with abnormal speed, he turned back to Sheath.

"Keep Travis busy while I deal with the natives." He snorted, heading for the kitchen. "Heaven only knows what they want."

He heard the faint 'Yes, sir!' resound from his friend and he shook his head. Sheath may grow, his bones may creak and his hair turn grey, but he would always be a child within. His jolly, positive energy waves constantly battled that of his friend's demanding ones.

Melissa had seated herself upon one of his wooden kitchen chairs by the table. She already had her handy-handkerchief out, so he suspected that she was scoring for tears. His son was standing, his back towards Melissa, his eyes gazing out the window and down upon the streets below. His mind seemed lost and both adults jerked as John clipped his voice through the air.

"Alright, what's this all about? Melissa, I won't stand for whimpering in my home so I suggest you put that thing away. Jason..." He turned his stare on his son, the corner of his eyes catching his daughter-in-law scrambling to put the kerchief away. "Since when have I been so favoring that you wish to be in my very presence again?"

Cool dark eyes met John's.

"This is about Travis." Came his son's answer. "I wouldn't be here otherwise."

"Glad to know." The elder man grunted, crossing his arms once again. "What's wrong with Travis? I don't see anything out of place. Is he sick?"

"Well..." Melissa whispered, her face downcast and shadowed by her long tresses. "In a matter of speaking..." Her voice trailed off.

John lifted an eyebrow at that, he head cocking to the side in dissatisfaction. The woman cowered beneath his icy gaze, shrinking back into her seat and hoping to disappear. The purse's fabrics were now being torn by her nails in her nervousness.

"Explain." Escaped the order, unwavering and fearsome.

This time, Jason stepped up to plate, ignoring the look he received.

"We don't like the affect your having on him." He said, noting the surprised that flickered and was buried in his parent's face. "His grades are low, his monitoring time is behind and his mind isn't as developed as other childrens' are. He plays instead of interacting with other kids his age."

A small grunt of laughter escaped John's mouth without restraint.

"And by 'interacting' you mean sitting together watching the television, right?" He snorted, shaking his head with a grin. "My, what my own grandfather would say to that! Back in the day, 'interacting' meant work, now it means relaxing!"

Jason frowned, his face lined with grimness.

"This isn't a joke, Dad." He informed the chuckling old man who only smiled.

"No, no of course not." John said cheerfully. "I'm glad to see that he actually listens when I speak. This is very wonderful news, indeed. Perhaps the past will linger on in Travis, and our stories never forgotten. For that I am truly pleased."

"Dad!" Jason fumed, his face flushing in anger. "If this continues then Travis' future is gone! How will he prosper then? How will he ever be allowed in college with the stuff you tell him? Have you ever thought about what his record might say?"

The smile drained from Johns face as his son spoke only to be replaced by rapid irritation. The blood pumped to his temple in a light pound as he leaned forward, his voice smooth and calm.

"I don't care if his record is pink with florescent green polka-dots!" He snarled, stepping towards his only offspring in anger "A child's mind should be free, not constructed the way the government sees fit! You chose your own path, let Travis chose his!"

"I'm trying to protect my son!" Jason hissed, ignoring the way Melissa cringed at the volume of his voice. "What you're telling him is going to confuse him, Dad. The stories are just that, stories. I'm trying to build a confident man in Travis and these tales and fantasies aren't helping."

John grunted, looking away from the pair before him with distaste.

"You liked them well enough."

"That is not the point!" The junior Barrett argued, hands clenching. "I was a boy, looking for heroes! It was toy soldiers, the games we played why can't you see that?"

John spun sharply towards his son, his face building up in anger. He pointed furiously at Jason with his eyes narrowing thinly.

"What I see is Travis' life being laid before he even had a say! It is you who cannot seem to spot the dangers of your son's mind being closed! You may wish to have his confused and twisted soul marked upon your soul, but I do not! Not while I can offer him something better! If he refuses just as you did, that is his choice to make and his alone." He snapped his arm back down and turned his head to the side. "As long as I draw breath I'll ensure that he'll keep that choice his own."

Silence followed the last sentence that the grandparent spoke. Both Jason and Melissa shared a secretive glance at it. Their uneasiness is not missed by John's old but trained eyes. He turns to them expectantly, a dark emotion in his eyes.

"What is it?" He demands with firmness, looking between son and daughter-in-law. "If you have something to say, spit it out. I'm getting sick of this conversation as is."

After the silence continues for a few more straining minutes, Jason heaves a sigh.

"Dad..." He started reluctantly and trails off, looking to Melissa for support. When she gives him an encouraging nod he continued. "Dad we've scheduled for your passing. It's to be this Friday at noon."

John Barrett blinked, lifting an eyebrow. Of all the things he expected from his son, that came as a surprise.

"What?" He asked in a low tone, clenching his fists. "Repeat that, I don't think I heard you right."

Jason's face went pale, his throat suddenly too dry to swallow. The glint in his Father's eye is deadly, challenging his son to restate what he just said. For a moment he finds himself inwardly grasping for some sort of support in his well-planned argument. Over and over he had mapped out the conversation he was to have with his parent. It had always ended with the elder Barrett yielding. But now, in front of his father's person, he knew he should have known better.

"I-it's for the best Dad." He stumbled, not liking the glint the elder Barrett's eyes held. "You're always talking about sacrifice and the willingness to die for a greater cause."

"-And this cause would be Travis." Melissa finished for her husband with an earnest expression. "For Travis and mother nature."

John was silent, his face impassive and eyes narrowed. His gaze scrutinized both his son and the woman before him, analyzing their faces. At last he spoke, his voice clear and resolved.

"No."

He kept his eyes fixed on Jason's face and her Melissa give a gasp.

"But it is set! The state has been informed and you surely cannot go against that! You have no choice-"

John swirled to face his daughter-in-law, his face flushed red in anger.

"No choice?" He growled, making Melissa cower in her chair at the thundering sound waves. "No choice but to allow them to slaughter me like some worthless animal? I don't think so. I'll be damned before I let them do such a thing!"

At the sight of his wife shirking in fear, Jason stepped forward with new-found courage. No one could speak to his wife in such a tone!

"We have every right to do this Dad and you will comply!" He hissed, curling his hands into fists. "The government has given us full charge over you. If this is what we choose, you must do it."

John returned his dagger-glare to his son, his voice spitting coal and flame as he spoke.

"No person has the right to condemn another simply for the 'convenience' of it. I am no tree to be cut down, I am a man and I have rights that no law may surpass or change! If you expect me to just lie down and take this, I won't!"

The shout ran through the kitchen with enough force to blow the opposing couple down with fright. Or at least Melissa. But Jason was not a deterred from his father's booming voice as his spouse.

"it is for your own good as well, Dad!" He stated, trying his best to convince. "You're mind is tired and confused with your old age. An honorably earned rest is what you now need."

The grandfather raised an eyebrow.

"Oh really? You truly believe that?"

Hesitantly, Jason nodded, trying to tell himself that he did, but something twitched in his chest and he struggled to push the strange feeling in his stomach away.

"I do." He affirmed, eyes meeting the floor. "You're tired. Your body is weary and your mind is not what it once was. Please, this is for Travis."

"For Travis my granny's drowned dog!" John snorted, eyes darting dangerously. "If you don't mind, I have a grandson to attend. He seems to be the only person who actually understands human value. Go home, and don't bring this nonsense up to me again. If they try to come, you're guaranteed that I'll not go without a fight."

With that, he turned and left the young couple sitting mutely in the kitchen, wondering whatever to do next. One feeling mortified, the other meriserable.