Chess, the master thief, was on the run again. But, this night, the streets were crowded with the king’s men, as if every guard in the city had been put on duty. Rumors of revolution were in the chilly air, the city gate had been fortified, and every city occupant was under suspicion.
But such political matters did not concern him, Chess thought, as he used the deep shadows to slip quietly past each patrol. Tonight, like every night, he had only one goal: to make his way to, take possession of, and successfully abscond with a treasure that, minutes before, had not belonged to him.
He grinned to himself as he crept just a few feet away from unsuspecting guards, whose loud chatter could effectively drown out any noise he might make. With so many of them around, they really were not expecting any trouble tonight, and least of all someone like him. And he really should get to the count’s vault as soon as possible; he still had a long night of thievery before him and later there would be, as always, the opportunity to present an offering to the indigo priestess. But… he grinned wider… why not give these hapless oafs a little excitement in the meantime?
With a wild cry, he burst from the shadows and began to run. Behind him, there was a moment of unnatural silence, and then shouts and the pounding of heavy boots began.
In a matter of seconds, Chess put the next city block behind him and then ducked around a corner. Pausing for breath, he listened. They were still behind him. Good, he thought. Life had been far too dull lately. The internet was still down, but Chess the thief had no knowledge of, nor any need for such things as maps to assist his escape, anyway. Raising his eyes to the cityscape before him, he could see the best path between the maze of buildings without even trying. He loved this.
And, suddenly, he realized: if he could die while in action -- with the army or whatever -- just die feeling the way he felt now… well, it would be okay. Yeah.
With another cry, he sprang from his hiding place and dashed back across the street, only yards in front of his nearest pursuers. He headed for an alleyway that ended in a chain link fence and, finding footholds wherever he could, clambered up and over the obstacle. His backpack snagged on the fence, but he managed to tug it down and keep moving.
Chess allowed himself a single glance back, but the guards were already unlocking the door in the fence. He picked up speed and rounded another corner, but the frenzied climb over the fence had tired him more than expected. His breathing was much harder now and, as he pushed on, his field of vision began to narrow, tunnel-like. The stomping boots and loud voices were still behind him, the wave of sound getting closer with each labored inhale.
Gasping, Chess turned a blind corner and came face-to-face with what seemed like an entire regiment of the king’s men. Despairing, he stopped and sank to his knees, letting his backpack fall from his shoulders. Just white noise in his head, and fear. What would happen now?
A guard grabbed him roughly, forcing him to his feet even as his struggle to breathe threatened to double him over. His backpack was searched and his I.D. card pulled out.
“Well, you sure gave us some exercise tonight, kid,” another guard growled at him. Chess, panic filling his mind, fixed his gaze on the man who was holding his I.D. card.
“Army, huh?” the man said, raising his eyebrows. “Must be shipping out of here soon.” He inhaled visibly and then smiled. “Been to see your girlfriend one last time, I expect.”
Chess opened his mouth but only a soft croak came out of his throat.
“I can smell her perfume on you,” the guard explained. “Well, I hope she appreciates the admirable thing you’re doing for all of us.”
Chess blinked at him in disbelief, and tried to stand straighter. The guards were all turning to leave, chatting amongst themselves as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
“You get on home now, son. Good luck.” The man picked up Chess's backpack and handed it to him. Automatically, Chess slung it over his shoulder.
Continued next page...
The Athenians were at that time in deep affliction, on account of the tribute which they were forced to pay to Minos, king of Crete. This tribute consisted of seven youths and seven maidens, who were sent every year to be devoured by the Minotaur…
Theseus resolved to deliver his countrymen from this calamity, or to die in the attempt. Accordingly, when the time of sending off the tribute came… he offered himself as one of the victims.
Bulfinch's Mythology: The Age of Fable by Thomas Bulfinch
In order to hold onto things that are desired, people tend to be willing to sacrifice other things that are hardly noticed. Or, to look at it from the opposite direction: would anyone be willing to give up the internet to avoid the potential of being spied upon? And, while we’re at it, eschew all the modern conveniences that burning fossil fuels and using dangerous chemicals provide? Are the various foreign actions of our government preferable to the possibility of constant terrorist-orchestrated attacks? And, if all of these things are indeed necessary, might there be better ways of going about them, which should be explored?
For better or worse, I tend to see merits in all sides of an argument – or at least I can usually see why someone would choose one particular side or another. So if I mention some hot-button issue in a blog or in my story itself, my own opinion rarely falls completely on one side or another. The most that can be said is that I have given the issue some consideration. And I am always interested in the reasoning of others.
One thought that tends to stay in my mind, though: like people of many ages past, we send off a small percentage of our population, in the hopes of maintaining peace and prosperity for the rest.
- Only about one half of one percent of the U.S. population has been on active military duty at any given time during the past decade of sustained warfare.
- The public makes a sharp distinction in its view of military service members and the wars they have been fighting. More than nine-in-ten express pride in the troops…
War and Sacrifice in the Post-9/11 Era, a report by the Pew Research Center, October 5, 2011
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