I looked down at the piss coming out of my dick. Pink, maybe even a little red. My step dad took it too far with his last drunken beating. Hitting me all over with a leather belt. Who hits a kid in the kidneys?
I knew enough to know I had to get away. I’d be dead before I reached eighteen. It started real slow like, a smack here and a smack there, but a twenty-minute beating as hard as he could over a B in school?
Somebody banged on the bathroom door. “Are you about finished in there? Are you in there wanking?”
My older step brother, obviously. I zipped up and opened the door. The step brother was allowed to hit me, too.
I ducked under his swing. He was slow and clumsy, and at this time, seemed more interested in using the bathroom for the night than giving chase. I crawled into bed, but I refused to let myself fall asleep. Nobody came to tuck me in or say goodnight.
I had good ears, and in that house, having good ears was a penalty. The last grunts and moans from down the hall quieted, and I knew the house would be asleep soon.
I waited for snoring, and it soon followed. My feet reached out to the floor. No way was I turning a light on. Dumped my backpack out on the bed. I had a stolen box of granola bars, and those plus two pair of underwear, socks, and a pair of pants, plus an extra shirt all went in the bag. I had twenty dollars too, a present from my real dad. Not that he gave a rat’s ass about me either, but at least I had the twenty.
The window in my room opened easily enough, and I pushed the bag through first. There I was, on the roof, a good eight or nine feet off the ground. I strapped the bag on, and climbed down to my stomach. My whole plan was to hang from my fingers and just drop a few feet down, but I scraped my belly on the shingles and slipped.
I landed on my side, but compared to some things I’d been through, not that bad. I really didn’t mind the pain, but pissing blood? The principle of the matter, who wants to live in terror their whole lives? The whole concept that it started real slow, and just kept getting worse and worse. I had enough.
I ran through our little town. A national park bordered the other side, and on the other side of that, another town, another county. If I could make it through the park, avoid bears, I’d be golden.
I crossed a dirt road and ran through the woods. The moon set, and I curled up on the ground to sleep. Best sleep I ever had in my life, and the sun woke me up. My stomach growled, but I needed to save my resources. Six twin-packs of granola bars, and it’s at least a five-day journey through that park.
I took a leak and realized I forgot toilet paper. Screw it, I needed to poop, and I did.
I got my bearings and ran. Almost stepped on a damn rattler too, but the thing paid me no mind. I didn’t stop running. Free at last. I had no plan, but I knew there had to be something better out there somewhere.
When the sun set, I ripped open a pack of the granola bars. I drank from a stream. My backpack made a fine pillow, and damn if I did not dream of conquest and fury.
Somebody said, “Wake up, kid.”
Dear god, all a dream?
I opened my eyes. The moist forest floor tickled my back. Two park rangers stood there. I was lightning, grabbing my pack and taking off in a run.
These were grown men though. One shouted, “Don’t run or we’ll taze you!”
They’re not going to taser a kid, and I was distancing them.
I felt a prick on my back, and bam, lightning raged in my body, and I fell.
They zip tied my hands behind my back, and one of them threw me over his shoulder. The other one picked up my bag and looked through it.
I cried. They put me in the back of their patrol car.
The driver hit a red button on his radio and started the car.
“You can’t make me go back,” I said.
The officer on the passenger side said, “A runaway.”
“If somebody beat you like they beat me, you’d run away, too.”
The driver turned down the road, but not in the direction of my little town, in the direction of the town on the other side of the national park.
“How often did they hit you?” The driver asked. “What did you do?”
I didn’t want to talk to these men.
“You have to talk to us,” the passenger said. “We can file charges.”
Charges won’t do me any good. “Last time I was pissing blood, over a B in school.”
“They hit you on the kidneys?”
“They hit me all over. All over.”
The radio spoke for the first time. “We’ll take him.”
The driver reached down and pushed the same red button on the radio.
“What’s your name?” The passenger said.
“Happy Birthday! It’s a good thing you’re 14 now.”
“I’m 13. My birthday was last month.”
The driver pulled into a diner. “You look like you could use a meal, and since it’s your birthday, they’re having a special on pancakes.”
The passenger turned to smile at me. “You need to trust us that you’re 14. If you’re 14, you have choices in life. If you’re 13, you’re heading off to a foster home.”
Choices? What choices? But both of these officers stared at me with huge grins.
I said the words real slow like. “I’m 14. Today is my birthday.”
“Now you’re talking, kid,” the driver said. “Let’s get some pancakes.”
One of them let me out of the car, and undid the tie on my wrists. “Don’t run. We’re not going to make you go home.”
I nodded. We went into the restaurant, and I ordered a plate of silver dollar pancakes.
The officer sitting to my left said, “Double that order, and throw in two sides of bacon.”
I looked up at the waitress. “If it’s going to be two plates of meat, make it one bacon, and one sausage links.”
Both of the men with me laughed.
I ate all that food. It made me kind of groggy, too.
One of the officers started talking. “Now that you’re 14, you can choose to go to a foster home, or you can choose to go with some friends of ours.”
“Friends?” I asked.
“They’re law enforcement. Just a different breed than us.”
My eyes started drooping, and I wanted to lie down.
“That bench is awfully comfy,” the left officer said. “You can sleep. You have time.”
I was down on that bench in a heartbeat. A great thundering woke me, and I looked outside. A helicopter was landing in the parking lot. Two men climbed out. They dressed the same in tan slacks, leather shoes, white button up shirts, and leather jackets, with bulges under their left armpits.
The two men walked up to our table and smiled at me. The officer on my left said, “Go with them, Jim. They’re good guys.”
I stood up. The left man in the jacket said, “I’m Mathew, my companion is Jeffrey.”
Both men were big in the shoulders and legs, with a narrow waist.
Jeffrey waved at the waitress. “Two to go coffees, and a ham sandwich for the kid.”
I just had two plates of pancakes. “I don’t need a ham sandwich.”
Mathew pointed at my chest. “As little as you are, you need a sandwich. You’re 14?”
The waitress came out with two coffees and a plastic box containing a sandwich.
Jeffrey and Mathew took the coffee, and I grabbed the plastic box.
We walked to the helicopter. How could I be that important to these men to justify picking me up in a helicopter?
“Ride in front,” Jeffrey said.
I climbed in the front, and we were off. As loud as the chopper was when it landed, it was nearly silent as we flew.
“This helicopter is Chor-Tan made,” Mathew said.
“Aliens who are trying to help us.”
Aliens? “Like at Roswell?”
Mathew chuckled. “You really think a species capable of interstellar travel would crash land?”
“Well, I never thought about it like that.”
There was a pause. I looked around. The ground was just a blur, sliding by below us.
“The problem is, even though the Chor-Tan are helping us, the Razdoran are trying to assimilate us,” Mathew said. “If they can pull that off, by dismantling our governments, mankind will just be their slaves.”
That did not sound good.
“How do I fit into all of this?” I asked.
“There’s a man who is helping the Razdorans,” Mathew said. “His name’s Centurian. He’s the biggest crime lord the Earth has ever known. You’re going to be his end.”
I don’t think I can do that. Wait. Maybe I could? I could bloody try. “I’m in!”
“We knew you would be. Eat that sandwich.”
I ate the sandwich. After a while, we landed on top of a parking garage surrounded by desert. An older woman in her forties was waiting. She smiled at me.
“I’m Nancy. I’m in charge of this training facility.”
They should call it Home.
“Are you sure he’s 14?” Nancy asked.
“His birthday was today,” Jeffrey said.
“A fire. Burned up his birth certificate, too.”
“Convenient,” Nancy said. “Let’s look him up in the database. Where were you born?”
“I forget,” I said. “I never thought it would be important.”
“The auditors are going to have a field day. Especially as little as he is.”
I looked from one adult to the next.
“You said we needed new recruits, and we got you one,” Jeffrey said.
“Yes, now get me ten more. Just make sure they’re bigger than this one,” Nancy said.
“He just needs a sandwich or two.”
I just had a damn sandwich.
She looked me in the eyes. “Your name’s RedCat now, forget Jim.”
“You’ll work. Study. Exercise. Train. Follow orders no matter what,” Nancy said. “Is all that clear?”
“Except the RedCat thing, can’t I get a cool name like, Scorpion or Snake or something?”
“No, you’re RedCat!”
“This way,” Nancy said.
I followed her. She led me to a door in a hallway. “These are your quarters. Your schedule’s on the computer. Today you can relax, but tomorrow you’ll work.”
I wanted to hug her. And before I realized it, I was hugging her. She patted me on the back, then pushed me off her. “Try and make friends.”
“And eat something, please.”
I laughed. She left me alone, and I read up on agency history. Ate at meal time with a big crew of other teenagers, and I was littlest by far. Two sandwiches went in my belly at dinner.
I lay awake that night. What have I gotten into plagued my thoughts. Since when have aliens been in contact with us? I started reading more agency history on the terminal.
A messenger window popped up on my screen, from somebody named Thomas.
“If you’re not going to sleep, let’s do something. Meet me at the range, and I’ll get you checked out on our 9mm.”
Checked out on a Nine? I pulled up a map of the complex and started looking for range. I sent a message back to Thomas. “I’ll be there.”
The lights in the hallways must have been on some kind of motion detectors, because it was lit up where I stepped into the hallway, but in each direction was darkness. I ran to the right, and the lights above me lit up just ahead of my steps. Behind me was more pitch black. I tried to run faster than the motion detectors in the lights, but they were always one step ahead of me.
Thomas was a bulky fellow who obviously worked out a lot. He was in his thirties and thin as hell. He had kind of an ugly mug though, like his face was originally a typical brick or something. He smiled at me. “RedCat?”
“Jim,” I said.
“No, you’re RedCat now.”
We stepped into the range proper. Fifteen stations plus a control panel. Thomas typed some stuff into the panel, and a slot opened to reveal two boxes of ammo, and a Beretta 9mm pistol that I had seen on TV a hundred times.
Thomas dropped the magazine out of the pistol and showed me how to insert a round into it. Then he gave me the box of bullets. “You can load.”
He smelled very strongly of marijuana, and I was a bit surprised. “You smoke pot?”
“It’s allowed. It helps me relax.”
I started feeding shells into the magazine. No more would fit, so I stopped.
“You don’t have to slam it in, just push until it clicks.” He handed me the pistol.
“Don’t point it at anybody unless you intend to shoot them,” he said. “At the range, keep it pointed down range.”
I pointed it down range.
He moved to one of the stations and punched a few buttons. A target materialized about fifteen feet away. He looked at me. “Pull the top of the gun backwards and let go to chamber a round. Line the sites up and squeeze the trigger like you’re trying to crush a soda can.”
I lined things up. Squeezed the gun together. Bam! It jumped in my hands, but I held on tight.
Thomas clapped. “Good for a 13-year-old.”
I stopped. “I’m 14, man”
“You had better be. And you had better remember your story when the auditors come. Plus you are too damn little, start growing!”
I stood up on my tippy toes.
Thomas laughed, but I wasn’t sure if it was because I did something funny, or he was just that stoned.
“Empty that pistol,” he said.
I did not need further encouragement.
Journal note: Auditors questioned me eight months later, but I was six inches and twenty pounds heavier. I kept my story straight. They raised a few eyebrows, but there were no further investigations.