The More Things Change...
Sam looked good in drag.
I mean, I'm not really into that at all, but still, he really made it work. The problem of course was me. I could never pull that off. Even worse, according to Leah I was now fairly famous, so would be recognized almost immediately. We needed a way to get around that.
Yeah, her name is Leah, the girl who rescued us. After the cops left she....
Wait. I suppose I should put the part about what happened with Sam and me down in the storage room first. After he started rubbing my shoulders. Though I'm not sure quite how I feel about that yet.
So there we were, me and Sam. I was sitting there a blubbering mess, sobbing silently and feeling like I was the world's worst jerk, and Sam, who is two years younger than me, only thirteen, was being all mature and in control and encouraging and soothing.
“It's okay, Jeff. We're out of there now. They can't hurt us anymore,” whispered Sam.
I didn't answer, just leaned into his hug even more.
“You did it, Jeff,” continued Sam after a few seconds. “You got us out of there.”
I stopped sobbing long enough to give him an incredulous look. Though I don't know if he could see it in the almost dark of the storage room. He must have noticed the change.
“You're amazing you know. Incredible,” he said. Then I felt Sam lean his head towards me and softly kiss my cheek.
First, Sam seemed to developing a serious case of totally misplaced hero worship, and second, well, second....
I didn't understand it. My reactions. The human body and mind are weird things. After everything we'd been through the past hour or two, the past few weeks, you'd think that the last thing that would be on my mind would be sex.
Like I said, reactions.
His hands rubbing my shoulders, his soft soothing words, his cute little body pressed up against me, and then the little kiss.
I was reacting. Hard. Pun intended.
So this was a problem. First off, and most importantly, I had a boyfriend. Well, past-tense more than likely, once Dillon found out I was a violent sociopath, not to mention selfish, but while the jury was still out on that, I'd still like to think of him as my boyfriend.
Second, Sam was a couple years younger than me.
Third, I didn't even know if he was gay. He was probably just being nice.
Fourth, after what had happened to both of us in that place, I can't imagine how any thoughts of sex could possibly be healthy or normal right now.
Finally, he was likely just making a point. I doubt what he did was sexual at all.
He giggled, “You have a boner.” Then he reached down and squeezed it.
Okay. Never mind that last point. It was sexual.
I guess never mind the third point either.
I pushed him away, but gently, and still close enough that his hands were on my shoulders and now my hands were on his. “Sam...” I said.
Sam looked puzzled, then smiled a bit sadly, “Oh yeah. Boyfriend. I saw him on the vid during the news. Dillon, you said. He's cute.”
I shook my head, “Sam, how can you even think of that right now? After everything, after what they did to us in there?”
Sam chewed his lip. “That is why,” he said. “This is the first time I've felt normal since they showed up at my door that morning. Nothing those guys did in there was me. It didn't matter. I won't let it matter. I won't. Now we're out. And for the first time in weeks, I'm horny.” He pointed down. I looked. He was.
“Those drugs they gave us in there to get their fucking samples, those don't count. They're nothing,” Sam finished.
Oh yeah. The drugs. When I was busy chastising myself a few minutes ago I had forgotten about them.
I decided to change topics. “Sam, even if I didn't have a boyfriend, we're a couple of years apart and anyway, after what I did you really don't want anything to do with me.”
“What do you mean?” asked Sam. “Oh. The guard? He's probably fine, he'll just have to get his stupid eye re-grown. And he fucking deserved it. They all did. You didn't have a choice anyway.”
Never mind what I said about him being mature. He clearly wasn't thinking at all. “Sam,” I said, “of course I had a choice. We always have choices. And I think I might have killed him.”
Sam was looking at me with what was probably close to the same expression I had been looking at him with, the expression you give a rather thick five year old when you're trying to explain something patently obvious. “Uh, Jeff? No. You didn't have a choice. Not really. Not a meaningful one. The only choice was to do what you did, or to let them get control of the riot, lock us up, put in new security measures, and have their way with us again. That's not a choice. In fact, I don't think it would have been right to do anything else. It would have insulted everyone else's efforts, and it would have insulted us.”
Now that was a strange way of looking at things, I thought. Not only was he justifying it, he seemed to be saying that he thought it was the only ethical thing to do.
He still seemed to think that our escape had something to do with me, too. When it was obvious it was a lot more due to him. And everyone else.
I was going to answer when we had to cut off our whispered conversation. We both heard footsteps on the stairs. That girl, and whoever was with her, were coming downstairs.
I could hear the girl, Leah, I would find out in a few minutes, saying, “I know you guys have a job to do, but my parents aren't home. I'm not allowed to let anyone in. I think I'll get grounded now if they find out you're here.” She sounded kind of whiny. Not at all like the girl I had talked to a few minutes ago.
A man's voice said, “It's okay, young lady. We have the right. Remember, the new security measures provide for us to enter any private property at our discretion. For your safety of course. I'm sure your parents will understand.”
Leah started crying. I'm pretty sure it was acting, considering what I'd seen so far from her. “No. I'm gonna be grounded!” She sniffled. “I'm in so much trouble. My parents said to follow the rules. And listen to them always! To respect my elders.”
The man's voice said, “Now there, young lady. It's good you're trying to follow the rules. But remember, you need to listen to us, too. We're kind of like your parents. We make the rules. For your safety of course. A citizen's job is only to listen and to follow them.”
I heard Leah sniffle again, “Are you sure? I mean, do you think that would be okay? If I listen to you?”
Now, I knew from the short conversation upstairs that Leah was intelligent. This was so obviously over-the-top. This acting the 'stupid little girl listening to her elders' thing.
The funny part of it all was that it worked.
“Yes. It's exactly right. Anyway, young lady, thanks for your time. And your cooperation. You just keep listening to your elders. And especially to those in authority. Remember, report anything different. Or strange. Or odd or suspicious. It's for the safety of the Protectorate.” I heard something being typed into a vid pad. “Give this to your parents. It explains why we were here, and their obligations and responsibilities.”
Then I heard the footsteps retreating.
I pulled Sam into a hug, partly in fear and partly in relief.
He hugged back, and squeezed. “It's really too bad that you have a boyfriend. It would be freak to go out with you, being a hero and famous and because you're so amazing and all that.”
I was trying to figure this kid out. One moment he said things that were fairly mature, almost profound. Then, the next, he sounded like an idiot.
The door opened, and Leah stood there, grinning at us, “They're gone,” she said.
We clambered to our feet. “Thanks, uh...” I said.
“Leah,” she said.
“I'm Jeff, and this is Sam,” I said.
“I already knew who you were,” she said to me. Her gaze shifted over to Sam. “Nice to meet you, Sam.”
“So what now?” I asked.
She smiled slightly and chuckled. “Like I know? I thought you guys would have some kind of escape plan. To get out of the Protectorate.”
“Our escape plan ended at the front gate,” I said.
“Oh.” she said.
“Well,” Sam said, “we'll need to come up with the next phase then. To get across the border.”
Sam was back to being mature and intelligent I noticed.
“Okay, but how?” I asked.
“I think my parents can help,” said Leah.
I looked at her. “I'm not sure if I want anyone to know about us. Maybe it would be better if we just hiked across country, stayed away from the towns.”
Leah seemed to be thinking about something. “I'm not supposed to say this, but under the circumstances I think it's the right decision. My parents are part of the underground. The resistance. It's just getting organized. The resistance doesn't have much direct influence over anything. Yet. But this could be a big deal. A huge deal. A way for them to do something really meaningful. A way to start getting back at that fucker Leon Barclay, and his followers.”
“He's here? That HfH guy?” I asked.
She looked at me like I was an idiot, then her expression changed. “Yeah, I guess you need to get up to date. He flew in from Australia the day after the election. After the coup the Representatives declared themselves as having complete authority in their districts, at least until the 'current emergency' is over, and that they had elected Leon Barclay as party leader. Oh yeah, they passed legislation making the HfH party legal, and that any other parties are still illegal. He's calling himself the 'Sworn Leader of the People's Genetics.'”
“I'll bet Ricky was glad to see him go,” I muttered.
She stared hard at me. Gears seemed to be turning. “That's right. Your brother. He's Rick Chamberlain, isn't he? He's the new underground's main contact outside the Protectorate, and its main source of outside information.”
I blinked. “Uh. Are you sure? I mean, he's a long way away. And he has enough to do already.”
Leah laughed. “You really do have some catching up to do. The first thing he does, each and every day when he talks to our contact, is ask about you. He's pissed that nobody knew where you were. And he's been in North America since the day after the election. He took indefinite leave from his post in Australia. He's leading the NAU's attempts to deal with the Protectorate. It was him that pushed through the embargo so quickly. From what we've been told, half the world out there is trying to get something done about the Protectorate. And they're mostly using you as their rallying cry.”
Oh no. No.
Oh, fuck no.
Anything else. I'm the last person that should be a symbol for anything. Well, except maybe as an example for how to mess things up.
“Anyway,” Leah continued, “I'll see what my parents say. When they get home from work.”
Sam said, “Maybe they can smuggle us across the border? Like one of those old movies from Jeff's time!”
“Those were just movies, Sam. It'd didn't work like that in reality.” I said. “Besides, I'm not going anywhere until we help the rest of the guys in that prison. I can't leave them there. They helped get me out. It wouldn't be right to just leave them.”
I had resolved that in the past few seconds. I didn't know much, but I knew, if I wanted to salvage any self-respect at all, that I needed to do something for them.
Uh-oh. Sam had flipped his maturity switch back to 'off.' He was looking at me with that stupid look again. The one that said, “You're my hero.” This kid was going to drive me crazy.
Leah was chewing her lip again. “I'm not so sure about that. I don't think my parents will agree. And I can't imagine how...”
I interrupted, “I don't care! Nothing happens until I do something to help them. Period.” My arms were crossed tightly and I'm sure my face was stoic.
They both stared at me. Leah looked disapproving, and a bit frustrated. Sam looked, well, I already said how he looked. I tried real hard to ignore him.
He made that impossible though. “How are we going to get them out, Jeff?”
I'd already fucked up his life enough. I sure as hell wasn't going to drag him into this. Not that 'this' was anything at all yet beyond some nebulous and vague goal of getting those guys out of there.
However, before I could tell him that, Leah said, “Yeah, how are we going to do this?”
Goddammit! Why was everyone else trying to mess up their lives trying to help me? Were they all idiots?
Anyway, yeah, Sam in drag. Believe it or not, that was the first phase of our stupid plan.
Well, that wasn't really part of the plan itself, that was just so Sam didn't have to be completely cooped up in Leah's house until we could get things moving.
After my pronouncement about needing to help everyone else before we could get out of the Protectorate, Leah phoned her parents. Ben and Ellen Landis. She didn't say anything over the phone, except that, “We need to talk about the basement flooding again. It's kind of an emergency.” Which I found out later was family code for, “Discussion about something about the underground.” So they knew something happened, and that it was important.
Then Leah took us upstairs to get changed.
“Mom and Dad will be home as soon as they can. Then we'll see what they say. Jeff, there's not much we can do about you as far as I can figure. You're just too easily recognized. I think you might have to stay here until we figure out what's next. I'll see what Mom and Dad say. But as for you Sam, maybe we can figure out a way to make you kind of disguised. In the meantime, you should both probably get those coveralls off. I'll burn them or something.”
She was going through a bunch of old clothes from a closet in the hallway.
“This stuff is supposed to go to charity. A lot of it is my old stuff, but it doesn't fit me anymore. It's girl clothes so just ignore all that. I think some of it is my dad's though. It's going to be too big, but maybe there's some t-shirts and old shorts or something you can wear.”
Sam was looking through the closet and picking up some of Leah's old things. “Uh, Leah? I have an idea...”
He'd done this before. The drag thing. That much was obvious. When and where I didn't ask. But he acted the part just a bit too well for it to be his first time.
Leah found me an old shirt and shorts. After Sam picked out some things for himself, Leah directed us into her bedroom to change, closing the door behind her.
We both stripped off our coveralls.
Now here's the thing.
We'd seen each other naked all the time in the past few weeks. It wasn't anything. In the enclave, being naked was just part of the humiliation, the feeling of being treated as sub-human, as property. The last thing it ever was, ever could be, was sexual.
Except now we weren't in the enclave. We were in a bedroom. Sure it was a bit messy, but it was normal. A teenager's bedroom.
And then there was the little thing that happened earlier.
So there was some tension. Sexual tension. Despite everything.
So there we were, naked, going through the clothes that Leah gave us. Neither of us in any particular hurry to pull them on, and sneaking looks at each other and pretending not to.
I had seen Sam a hundred times. But I had never really looked at him. If that makes sense.
I looked now.
And he looked fine.
And it had the effect I should have expected it to have. I became erect.
So did he.
Which made us sneak even more looks. And then we weren't sneaking. We were just looking.
Okay, that should have been it. It really should have been. But, well, no excuses. It should have been. Damn it.
Sam did a bit more than looking though. He reached out a hand. And he wrapped it around my erect penis.
I shuddered a bit from the sensation. Then I realized my own hand was reaching out. A second later, it too was wrapped around a penis. Sam's.
Now he shuddered. I moved my hand a bit, stroking. Trying to see if he'd repeat the shudder.
Something clicked in my brain then. Finally. Much too late, as usual. I drew my hand back quickly, and moved out of reach of his.
“Sam....” I said.
Now I'd done it.
If Dillon didn't already hate me, now he had even more reason to. I'd just managed, in two seconds, to go almost as far with Sam as Dillon and I had ever got. Almost. Aside from orgasms.
Well, fuck. I just kept doing it over and over. Proving to myself that I really was a pathetic mess.
Sam looked at me. He said, “I know. Sorry. I couldn't help it. It's my fault.”
I thought he was going to start crying again.
“No. It's not your fault. It's mine. I'm older. I should know better.” I said.
He gave me that look again. The thick-five-year-old look. “Don't be stupid. You being a tiny bit older doesn't have anything to do with it. I started it. I know you have a boyfriend. It's my fault. I'll make sure Dillon knows that. If I ever get a chance.” He began getting dressed. He pulled on a pair of Leah's old panties.
No. He definitely wasn't going to pass for a girl. Not like that.
I think he figured out what I was thinking. He laughed, “No, it's okay. Once it goes down it won't show as much. And I know what to do. I'll just have to ask Leah for a bit more supplies.”
I tried to put my cheating temporarily out of my mind. I guess I'd deal with that when, or if, I ever saw Dillon. I'd tell him and then wait to see what happened. What else could I do? I began to get dressed myself.
Leah's parents were amazing.
Almost as amazing as Mom and Dad M.
They explained a lot about what had been happening. It turned that it wasn't that much of a stretch to think about the coincidence of them being involved in the underground when we drop on their doorstep.
A lot of people were involved.
Maybe close to half the population. At least around here. Of course, there were a lot of HfH supporters too; after all, the HfH guy got elected. But most people seemed to think there must have been some funny business there too. There weren't that many HfH supporters, at least that was what Mr. Landis said.
Most people involved in the new 'underground' were involved only to the point of being uncooperative with the authorities, trying to dissuade or distract or mislead. It sounded like the Landises were quite a bit more involved than that though. So maybe that was the most lucky part of us being there.
They didn't tell us how much more involved. There seemed to be a huge number of rules about who was allowed to know what. Most people only knew one other person directly higher than them in their “cell.” And one other contact either of equal “rank” or below. It was all very clandestine and complicated. I remember movies from my time with plots like that. About rebel cells and plans and strict communication structures.
I guess some of them watched the same movies. Or, more likely, had done a good bit of research.
Mr. and Mrs. Landis were ecstatic that we were there. That confused me at first. I would have thought the last thing they needed were a couple of troublesome teenagers to be dropped in their lap.
But no. They didn't see it that way at all.
As far as they were concerned, after they saw me, they seemed to think that maybe the key to the revolution had been found.
I had a very, very different point of view on that.
“You need to understand, Jeff,” Mr. Landis was saying. “I know you don't see it this way. But, historically, these kinds of things need symbols. People need someone they can look at, think about, empathize with, or rally around. I'm sure you don't see yourself this way at all, but, after your speech before the coup, and then your sudden disappearance, you have become that symbol. Both here, in the underground, and for the world outside of it.”
I was beyond frustrated.
That just didn't make any sense.
“But, that's stupid!” I said. “I'm just a dumb teenager who doesn't even know what's going on hardly. It's totally random what happened to me. Everything from when I was put into suspended animation until now, with the prison and the escape and everything. I'm just along for the ride! Except for the parts where I've made things worse.”
Mr Landis was nodding along with me, though his expression didn't exactly indicate agreement. “I know, Jeffrey. I doubt anybody in your position has ever thought it made any sense. You're no different. Besides, despite what you think, you have a bit more to do with it that you realize. I know that for a fact. I saw your speech. I heard what Sam said about your escape, though you tried to downplay it. I know what happened before. Now, we're going to do what we can to help you. First priority, we need to find a way to get Sam and you out of the Protectorate.”
There it was again! Dammit, what was wrong with everyone? They were going to get themselves hurt and thrown in jail, just so they could “help” me. I mean, helping Sam I could understand. He was only thirteen, and was basically innocent in all this. But why me?
I didn't get it. Though everyone seemed more than willing to try and explain it to me.
“No.” I said.
Mrs. Landis stopped talking on her tight-beam secure phone, just like the one I had seen Dad M use back in the hotel. Mr. Landis' eyebrows shot up.
“No?” he said.
“No.” I repeated. “I'm not going anywhere until we help out those people. At the prison. I told Leah that already. And Sam. I need to help them. I need to.” My voice rose at the end.
Mrs. Landis was staring at me, then said into the phone, “I'll call back. Change in plan.” She hung up.
Mr. Landis just continued staring at me, his expression unreadable. Leah and Sam were staring at me too. I pointedly ignored Sam's stupid hero worship expression. The mature switch was back to off.
I crossed my arms and just stared back. I don't care what they thought. I'd fucked up, and those people paid the price. I was going to help them. I just was. Nothing mattered more.
Eventually, Mr. Landis nodded slowly. A very tiny smile appeared on his lips. “Yes, I guess that makes sense.” He turned to his wife. “See? And he thinks everyone is nuts. That he's the last person who should be a symbol.”
Mrs. Landis smiled back at her husband. “Well, he is fifteen. I guess understanding might have to wait.” She turned to me before I could protest the comment about my age. “Okay then, Jeffrey. Let's talk about this. Exactly how do you propose we're going to help those men?”
Well damn. There it was again. Every time I thought I had something figured out it was thrown in my face that I really didn't have a clue. I just looked back stupidly. “Uh...I don't know?” I said. Or kind of asked.
They laughed, dammit. All of them. Now I was embarrassed. I tried not to let it show.
“Okay, then,” said Mrs. Landis, walking over to me and opening a vid screen, “First things first. Let's get all the details we can on the Enclave. Sam, you come here too. We need schedules, guards, physical layout, procedures, you name it. Everything.”
So, we got to work. And the plan came together.