There was only silence within the main hall. It's polished, marble floors, complimented by the ancient relics and statues, did well to extract looks of amazement and quiet whispers within the flock of young, Helghan boys. The main hall was vast, and it's high ceiling looked down upon them all as if they were nothing more than ants, which was not far from the truth in this place. Ten year old Gorahm Vikar, surrounded by boys of similar age, looked around with mute questioning. Less than three hours ago, he had been asleep in his bed, after one of his father's furious beatings, while his mother looked on in helpless resignation. She would sometimes attempt to step in, and sate his rage, which came from the drinks he had one too many of. She often had the scars and bruises to show for it.
It was strange, how one's future could be drastically changed by a simple sheet of paper. His paper had writing on it, claiming that, like many, many other boys, he was being drafted to train and fight in the Helghan Army, like every other Helghan boy before him.
"Draft is effective immediately." Said one faceless soldier, as if he were seizing an asset, rather a young life. The somewhat frightened Gorahm, stood beside his mother at the doorway, clutching the hem of her plain dress, as if he was no older than five. Every heartbeat felt like a straight punch to the back of his head. His mother swallowed hard, her sharp stare eyeing the soldier over. Strapped up in full military gear, with glaring, red goggles, reminded her of the ominous Death, and he was here to claim her only child.
" Yes. Alright..," She said, meaning to sound louder, but her throat had tightened up to the point where speech was raspy and hard. "May I please have a few minutes to speak to my son?"
The soldier stared ahead with the unwavering, masked glare. It was impossible to foretell what he would respond with. A polite nod, or a few gunshots, the possibilities were endless. With some relief settling within the Helghan woman's throat, the soldier nodded curtly, slightly down, then back up. "Fine. Quick." He spoke with his altered voice. He moved a few meters away, and stared at them, as if expecting her to try and sneak her son out the back window. He knew it happened from time to time.
Gorahm's mother took one more sidelong glance at the soldier, then knelt quickly down to her child's eye-level. His small hands perspired within the tight grip of her's. Her familiar lips curved into a loving smile, one that the young Gorahm could not help but return.
"Am I leaving, Mother?" He asked, the fear evident in his red eyes, yet his voice remained level and calm. His mother always believed he was smart, and so very mature for his age.
"Yes," She said, his frightened eyes causing tears to well up behind her's, yet she fought them back fiercely. "You'll be going away for a while. Somewhere with other boys your age, and meals to keep you strong and healthy." She claimed, attempting to make the trip appear appetizing to him.
The boy cocked his bald head to one side slightly, something he always did when he sensed things were not as they seemed. "... And.. You won't be going with me?" He was almost afraid to ask, since he was certain of what the answer would be.
She shook her head lightly, the tears now fighting ever-harder to break out. "No, Gorahm." She said, her voice cracking slightly. She pulled the frail boy into her tight embrace, and he returned it instantly.
"I need you to be brave," She said, with her face buried into his small shoulder. "Can you do that for your mother, and your people?"
Gorahm nodded slowly, "Yes, Mother," He whispered back, his arms wrapped around his mother's neck. "I can do that..."
Her eyes were shut tight against her son's shoulder, as she could feel him being pulled away. She knew it was the soldier, she knew it without having to look. She felt nothing but helplessness as her only meaning for existence was silently being led towards a large military truck, with a heavy canvas over the back. She knew what was behind it. More boys like him, as frightened and confused as him, all to be assimilated into the Helghan war machine."
In that moment, after the last few boys were placed on the truck, and it's engine growled to life. As it drove off into the distance, and a cold, dusty wind kicked up sand, Gorahm's mother simply knelt there. Helpless, and alone. Within the back of her mind, she heard groans coming from the back room. Her husband would be up soon, and hung over. She knew it would be hours before he even noticed that someone was missing from the house. Someone young, and innocent.
"I love you, Gorahm." She whispered. She didn't know why she said it, as the rising wind covered her words easily. She just wanted to hear it, she wanted someone to know; anyone.
Gorahm looked around the truck's floor. Both side-benches were packed with others like him, as well as the flatbed, which was where he squished himself into a sitting spot, evoking a chain reaction of annoyed and surprised grunts from the other boys.
"Quiet!" The one soldier on guard snarled, as he sat near the exit, most likely in case any of the boys thought to try and make a clever escape. Not another peep was heard from the young passengers, even as Gorahm finished squeezing himself into a sitting position amongst the others. An open flap on the truck's back allowed the red, afternoon sun to shine through, playing with Gorahm's vision as it went away suddenly, then shot right back in for every building or house they passed.
Un-consciously, his hand raised to his shoulder, and it caressed the worn cloth. It was damp. Gorahm's face remained even, as he knew he would start crying if he even allowed himself to recognize that the dampness was his mother's tears. The boy simply ignored his mind, ignoring the buzzing thoughts it tried to batter into his conscious.
"I miss my mother."
"Will I ever see her again?"
"Where are they taking us?"
Those three thoughts seemed to scratch at his mind the most, but they were only able to scratch and claw, Gorahm would not recognize them. Not now.
"I love you, mother."
And here Gorahm stood. The group he came with was pushed in with several other groups, forming a bald, pint-sized mob within the great Main Hall. Gorahm stood on his toes just to glimpse at the sea of pale orbs that stretched to almost every corner of the first floor level. Surrounding them on every side were Helghan soldiers, keeping the frightened boys in line for whatever mysterious plans they had.
After what seemed like minutes, a single light turned on with a loud clang. The gaping polished hall did well to echo the sharp sound, and once again, every child knew to shut their mouths.
Beneath the light's gaze, one man stood, high up on the second floor, overlooking the small faces that gazed back, wide-eyed. The man gleamed beneath the light. His long, leather overcoat, the collection of medals and badges, even his bald head, slightly spotted with sweat, reflected the light in a bright sheen. He spoke, and his words hit them in tidal waves.
"...Sons of Helghan...The strength in my hand, and the pride in my heart," His powerful voice echoed across the hall, so each could hear his impassioned words. "You represent many things to our great nation. Our safety, our wisdom, and most importantly, our future, rest in your hands! When your forefathers made the great Exodus here, it was with that hope that they could raise strong, exemplary children, like yourselves; ones that burned with the fiery spirit of the Helghast; ones that would give their total love and conviction in defense of their families, their government, and their very way of life!"
Every child looked wide-eyed, at the fierce, powerful man, his every furious motion, his furrowed, intense gaze, his voice that elevated each of them to a status they had never thought existed for them. They had heard this powerful orator many times before over the radio, and his name was spoken almost constantly amongst adults and older children. It was their Emperor. Scolar Visari.
"In these dark times, of foreign oppression, and manipulation. Under the chains that bind our people, it is you that has the power to free us! It is YOU that will have the strength and the loyalty to lead our people to freedom!"
By now, more than a few children were crying out in joy to the man on the stage, their cheers and yells were coated over by Visari's words, ones that boomed about the main hall, and entered your mind as well as your soul. Their leader, this prophet, called to them, and more and more boys were answering.
His broad gaze swept across the Helghan youth, in an almost challenging way. "Your caring nation can give you the training.. It can give you the tools.. It can give you the chance to strike at the hearts of those who would see us dead, and dying, with no hope of salvation!" A black, leather finger pointed out to the crowd of cheering boys. "Will YOU be our salvation?!"
In that moment, the boys were roaring with fierce approval to the Emperor, who's pallid lips stretched into a benevolent smile. They were angry, they were loyal, they wanted to tear this unknown enemy limb from limb, like savage beasts. Scolar Visari, opened his arms beneath the light, as if to embrace each one of the children into his love and care. "Welcome to Radec Academy!"
Down a darkly-lit hallway, Gorahm, and three other boys followed a woman in a form-fitting Helghan dress-suit, as well as a standard issue mask, and air supply. Gorahm missed his mother very much, and wanted to hug the woman tightly. But she, was not his mother in any way. Her movements were sharp, stiff, and obedient. There was only coldness from her, and it seemed more like she would sooner hit them, than smile in welcome. She held a small device in her hand, and worked on it diligently.
"Keep up." She commanded, and the one or two boys in the back scooted up closer, to avoid her possible wrath. She suddenly came to a stop at the collection of doors, Gorahm nearly running into her leg, and relieved that he didn't. The door was a gray metal, spotted with a few very minor dents. In chipped, red paint the door was titled "93" in the Helghan language. Her pale, spindly fingers danced across her small pad. "This is your sleeping quarters. Any equipment you will need will be given when ready. Your names are listed on your bunks. Go."
Each of the four boys moved quickly into the room, and Gorahm just barely avoided getting caught in the heavy door as she slammed it shut. A familiar metal grating sound was heard, as it was obvious the door was being locked. The room was a drab concrete, complimented by four beds, with thick chains on the far corners connecting to the wall, holding the beds even. Two over two was the placement. Used, stained mattresses were laid roughly on top, with neither a blanket nor pillow in sight. On the far corner was a rusty squat toilet with several old newspapers and a waste bin next to it.
Each of the boys slowly looked around the room, still very much fearful, even disbelieving that this was happening to them. They wanted their old beds, and a toilet they did not have to share with complete strangers. They wanted many things, but there was a mutual, sinking feeling that they would have to get -very- used to these accommodations.
Each shuffled to his respective bed, their last name and first initial written on tape, and adhered to the adjacent wall.
"Mardel, W.", "Treiak, L.", "Vikar, G.", "Yoban, M."
Each boy made his way into their bed, and simply lied on it, no words, or sounds passing between them. Only the light buzzing of the single light could be heard, and it made Gorahm dizzy, the more it droned on. After what seemed like an hour of horrible silence, the light turned off, ushering in a blinding dark. Only a tiny sliver beneath the door allowed a thin sheet of artificial light to spill in.
"I want to go home." One boy whispered into the dark silence. The words mirrored exactly what Gorahm was thinking, but he kept his mouth shut, knowing it would not change his feeling of emptiness to tell the others.
"Shut up," Another boy whispered back, in the frustrated, and short-tempered way some do. "Stop being a little cry-baby. You're mom and dad don't want you anymore, so they sent you here."
"Yes they do." He replied, the tears obvious in his voice. "They wouldn't leave me here. They're gonna come and get me, you'll see."
The aggressive boy's voice now took on that sadistic edge, the kind that haunted you when you were all alone. It was the voice that couldn't be negotiated with, and it's only purpose was to enjoy your pain. "They're never coming for you. Babies like you don't belong in the Helghast, and you're gonna be dead meat real soon."
Gorahm didn't say a word, his eyes closed as he tried to block out the other boys words. They were maddening in their supposed logic.
"Stop it.. Please," The boy's pain-stricken voice squeaked out. "I hate it here.. I wanna go home. I wanna go home.," He repeated the same few phrases over and over, slowly letting them drown down to mutterings as sleep began to take him.
Gorahm felt salty tears course down his face to pool on his mattress. He refused to make a sound, lest he be the sadistic voice's next victim. He simply let his tears out slowly, and tried to ignore the inevitable thoughts in his mind. That he would never see home again. He never got to tell his mother he loved her, but he hoped she knew he did. As the wet streaks down his face finally began to dry, and he felt the numbing sleep creep over him, he heard the powerful words in his head once more, the words that sealed his fate to glory, and duty. The ones that made him feel unstoppable, and impenetrable. Those words would be in his dreams tonight.
"Welcome to Radec Academy!"
So, that's the first chapter, and I've written most of the second. My continued effort simply depends on how much feedback I get. xD Positive or negative criticism, if reviews come in, I'll do my best to keep posting!