Chess sat in a dimly-lit room, surrounded by a profusion of candles, all burning low. He stared dazedly at the floor around him. Weight pressed on his shoulders and weariness permeated his body.
Without much interest, he noted a vague, sweet scent in the air. And the floor around him appeared to be covered with rippling candle wax, emanating out from the area of his chair like cooling lava around a spent volcano. Dreamily, he wished that he could just melt away, like that wax. He was so tired. If he could just stay here, he thought. If he could just be left alone.
People entered the room. Chess could hear them breathing, but he did not raise his head.
After a few moments, he heard Sariel’s voice, sounding tense. “Talk to him.”
Then he heard Ileana saying. “Chess. We still need you.”
He opened his eyes.
“I’m still here,” he sighed, disappointment in his voice. He could still see the flickering candles, but they were fading. Then, pain washed over him, making him inhale sharply.
In the firelight, he saw dissidents crowded around, staring at him. Excited voices buffeted him, but the words seemed jumbled. After a while, he realized that Ileana and the men were arguing.
“I understand, now, why they want you,” a man’s voice said. “All of you. You are not leaving.”
Chess scrambled to his knees, fumbling for the memory stick in his pocket. “But I got what you wanted,” he mumbled. Noah bent close to him, supporting him as he tried to stand. “We had a deal,” he protested weakly. He turned to the closest dissident and held out the flash drive.
They all stared at him impassively. The leader repeated, “You are not leaving.”
A sudden loud explosion surprised him then. Blinking, Chess watched the man closest to him fall to the ground. Another shot, and the leader fell. And then another man, nearby.
Confused, and still clutching Noah’s shoulder, Chess stared blankly. He focused on his own breathing as the camp became a swirl of dizzying motion. A cacophony of shouting and running feet surrounded him, and the dissidents appeared to scatter. And then Chess felt weightless, and the flames of the fire dimmed in his vision.
“How many of them did you shoot?” Chess asked, hours later. They had decided to stay the night beside the dissidents’ campfire, and Gryff was sitting next to him, glowering at the flames.
“As many as I aimed at,” Gryff answered contemptuously. “Deal-breakers.”
Chess realized there would be no arguing with Gryff on this point. He was too tired for that, anyway. At present, he was lying on the ground, and Sariel was bandaging the wound on his leg. Suspecting that one or more of his ribs might be cracked, she would not allow him to get up.
Right now, he was not feeling much pain, if he did not breathe in too deeply. The problem was, Sariel kept insisting that he do just that. “You must not get pneumonia,” she said, as the firelight flared, making deep shadows of the concerned lines on her face.
“The rest of the dissidents ran,” Ileana put in, with a bemused smile. “They didn’t even try to shoot back. They were so terrified of us.”
Chess managed to inhale deeply enough to satisfy Sariel. “Why?” he asked hoarsely.
“They thought you were dead and that Sariel brought you back to life,” Ileana explained.
“She did.” He did not dare say that he wished she hadn’t.
He watched Sariel shake her head. “Yes,” he insisted weakly. “I know. I was there. There.”
Sariel regarded him coolly. “Only the goddess can do that.”
“Look, I know you have healing powers,” Chess asserted, struggling to raise himself, but she gently pressed him down. “The first day I met you, I saw you save a boy from a poisonous snake bite.”
Sariel made an impatient sound. “Is that what you saw?” She refused to say any more.
“Ah…” he sighed. He was too tired to ponder the question any further just then. He turned back to Gryff.
Continued next page...
“...Generally people like to move on,” Death hinted. “They look forward to an afterlife.
"I will stay here, please."
“Here? There's nothing to do here,” said Death.
“Yes, I know," said the ghost of the golem. "It is perfect. I am free."
- Going Postal: A Novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett
Getting back to my character of Isaac Dale: he is sort of a Jon Stewart-in-exile. Once a popular and trusted part of the mainstream media of civ, he still retains his free-thinking followers, like Chess’s mother. To them, he is the voice of freedom and revolution, something to hold onto.
Although his radio broadcast might sound like any other of today’s talk-radio shows, I drew the idea from several different elements. The first was Vaclav Havel’s idea that people are much more likely to listen to your message if it is entertaining. Indeed significant elements of the Velvet Revolution which “got the message across” included music, plays, writings, and other forms of “underground” art and entertainment.
However, the basic idea of freedom-spouting radio broadcasts -- and people in oppressed areas being hungry for news -- is certainly nothing new. The Voice of America, which began during World War II, broadcast to countries throughout the war zone, bringing news and music and pledging to “tell you the truth.”
The U.S. Armed Forces Radio’s American Forces Network (AFN) also started during WWII, originally broadcasting to the military forces. But it has had worldwide civilian audiences, presumably mostly in countries where uncensored news and access to western culture is not available. AFN is highlighted in the movie Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Radio-Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) , funded by the U.S. Congress, began in the post-WWII communist era, broadcasting information and anti-communist propaganda to the Eastern European countries which had been taken over by the Soviet Union. RFE still broadcasts today in, according to their mission statement:
21 countries... including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia... where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established... We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.
These are all examples of nationally-funded radio broadcasts that bring talk of freedom to oppressed countries. But there are other examples that more closely mirror Isaac Dale’s type of broadcasts, and other rebel leaders on the run who influenced his character.
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