CHAPTER ONE- "Meet Jansen"

“Enough!” Jansen’s eyes pierced through the dust cloud and penetrated the armor of the ATLAS Soldiers. 

“Civilian, we advise that you carry on with your business- these women are traitors, and if you meddle here, then you are no better than they”.

Jansen didn’t budge. Soldier threats were so abundant in Langdon that most rebels had grown desensitized to them. Jansen knew what would happen if he were branded as a traitor to ATLAS, but his body was still and his mind numb. He felt a cognitive dissonance to this type of situation. All Jansen cared about was justice; all that surrounded Langdon were corrupt men in shiny suits with guns-big guns.  Ten years ago when ATLAS first pried their way into Langdon, Jansen was only fifteen. His mother and father had been part of the first resistance- because of this, they were branded as traitors. Atlas, and its leader Vincent, don’t particularly sympathize with traitors. In fact, most traitors, like Jansen’s parents, were sent to work camps so that they could be treated as mules just long enough to serve those they have rebelled against; once traitors’ spirits are broken, they are publicly executed. 

“Sir, carry on now”. The Soldier motioned for Jansen to continue his way down the sidewalk- to turn his eyes away from the atrocity of beating innocent women in the street. 

“These traitors, what did they do?” Jansen was buying time.

The two ATLAS Soldiers abruptly turned toward the inquiring voice. One removed his Taser from its holster and walked slowly towards the sidewalk. The Atlas helmet reflected its white glare straight into Jansen’s steady eyes. Jansen was always amazed with how shiny the ATLAS uniforms were, even in their tiny smog ridden town. Property of soldiers was the only thing that always appeared new; anything belonging to the people, with no exception to the people themselves, was left to rot.  

“Sir, put your hands on your head. Now!” 

The ATLAS power trip started early this time thought Jansen. 

“All I did was ask a question, I am curious to why these women are being beaten by soldiers in the middle of the street!?”

There was a flash. A cold, dull pain vibrated up Jansen’s spine. Soon the women crouched in the alley appeared as if they were sideways. They were shaking uncontrollably, tears rushing down their cheeks like an avalanche of fear.  A rush of air burst out of Jansen’s lungs- followed by saliva and a trace of blood. 

“Well, how does it feel to be a hero?” laughed the soldier.

Jansen’s body ached and he clenched his abdomen as he spoke, “You don’t really hold the world in your hands you know. You just think you do”.

A large black rubber sole came crashing down. 

CHAPTER TWO- "The Mark"

The pounding echoed in Jansen’s ears. The pain was so loud that it forced his eyes open. Blurry windows danced on dank walls. Jansen tried to cradle his head; that is when he realized his hands were cuffed together. “Idiots cuffed my hands in the front. Pshh”, Jansen’s voice bounced from wall to wall sending wave after wave of discomfort back inside his head. His eyes surveyed the room. Three chairs, a broken table, two small windows, some leaky pipes, and several flickering fluorescent lights. 

Jansen squeezed his eyes shut and threatened the panicking bulbs, “I will kill you”.

A pungent odor concocted of mold and fecal matter slithered its way into Jansen’s nostrils. Jansen’s eyes widened, his skin paled, and his will withered.  No, not right now, thought Jansen. It was too late. The foul odor, the flickering lights, and they symphony of pain playing inside Jansen’s head were too much for him to handle.  A large and boisterous breakfast expelled itself from Jansen’s lips. Scraps of toast and bits of eggs introduced themselves to the floor. “Figures- the one time I eat a decent meal….”  Jansen’s head hit the floor.

¨        <>   <>   <>    <>   <>   <>   <>   <>   <>   <>   <>   <>   <>   <>  <>  <>  <>  <>  <>

“Hey, wake up!”

The ATLAS Soldier nudged Jansen’s body. "Jansen....come on, wake up!"

Jansen opened his eyes and saw a shiny white ID badge that read Bart Wilson.

"Bart?" Jansen paused to gather his senses. Where am I?" 

" SHHH! Shut up will you? You have to keep it down. We can't let on that we know each other".

"Thanks Mom".

"Seriously, what the hell were you thinking? Harassing officers on duty? Resisting arrest? Have you finally lost your last marble?"

Jansen sat up quickly. "Harassing? You're joking right? Do you know what your boys were doing? Beating women, that's what! All I did was ask a question. Then I woke up here. Lovely place, by the way".

The flickering from above sang a humming tune. The tune was just loud enough to muffle Jansen and Bart's conversation from the soldiers standing outside the door. 

Bart stared intently at his comrade. "Look, I had to pull a lot of strings to convince these guys that you are merely a drunk and an idiot, so that we can let you go with just a mark". 

"You know, that'll be my second mark. One more, and I'm in here for good"

"Then I suggest you keep a low profile, Jansen. It doesn't help to have a leader of the resistance on everybody's radar now does it?"

Jansen stood up slowly. "No, no it doesn't".

"I'm sorry".

"For what?"

Bart reared his right arm back and with one quick swoosh knocked Jansen back onto the floor. Jansen clenched his stomach and let out a cry that sent shock- waves of echo throughout the room. This caught the attention of the two soldiers guarding the entrance. 

"Everything Okay in there , Colonel?"

Bart stood straight like a pole. He had a flare in his eyes. "Just making sure we don't hear from this pathetic mongrel again. Get back to your post".

"Sir!"

Bart extended his hand toward Jansen. "Remember what I said. We can't have any red flags now. Not with so much at stake".

"There is a fire out there. The spark has spread. It is almost time to watch this world burn to ashes. But it is hard to bite my tongue with oppression and abuse used as currency and spreading like a plague." Jansen took a breath. He realized he was getting  worked up. He couldn't afford any mistakes. 

"We have to bare it until we are certain we can remove Vincent from power and eliminate ATLAS".

Jansen gave a nod. "What of the women?"

Jansen watched the flare in Bart's eyes burn out. "They are scheduled to be on tomorrow's air ship. He paused. "They have a one way ticket to Birkview".

"Just get me out of this place", signed Jansen.

"I bought them as much time as I could. They are young and healthy;  they'll do okay at the camp. It will be a while before they are ordered to be exe....." 

Jansen met eyes with Bart. "Right this way".

Bart grabbed Jansen and lead him out of the holding area and  into a main lobby. 

"Time for your mark, hero". It was the soldier from the street- the one who had tased Jansen. 

Bart sat Jansen into a large wooden chair. The street soldier happily lifted Jansen's shirt sleeve above the elbow, exposing the wrist. Jansen closed his eyes and imagined the house he grew up in. He saw his mother's long wavy hair as she danced to summer music. He heard Buster's annoying bark and he longed for it. He could smell dinner roasting in the oven. Birds chirped outside the window...

A hot rod singed through Jansen's skin. The sting was familiar. He had received his first mark when he was eighteen for stealing rations from an ATLAS station. He tried to explain that he had only taken what he needed to survive- that he wasn't trying to sell it for profit- but the soldiers all laughed at his plight and then they marked him. That is when Jansen knew for sure that he was to lead the revolution. 

Chapter 3