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stargate, DanielJackson

Week 4, Title: Needs must

Posted on 2014.04.06 at 21:38
Tags: ,
Tom had been living in the underground halls of the slave rebellion for two weeks and was still struggling to traverse the vast tunnels. He was having just as much difficulty with the slave rebellion itself, dizzy from all the action and still trying to get his head around the notion that he was now free. The combat-instruction and agility exercises were far beyond his slave-soldier training. The comfort and ease with which everyone handled their freedom was intimidating. And despite his usual coherent verbosity, when he had ideas he felt too disoriented to articulate them. It was all so bewildering. And now, one of his trainers, Jim, was taking him somewhere new.  


The door opens and he enters a room filled with screens and maps.

“This is Tom the new recruit,” Jim says, “Tom, this is your new team.”

“Hello,” Tom says, holding his hand out to shake in a manner he hopes isn’t too inadequate. After all he has only been shaking hands for two weeks.
A sturdy-looking, grey-haired woman clasps his hand and pulls him into a bear-hug, then speaks with a tone mixed with maternal encouragement and cheeky teasing,

“The name’s Kelsie. Welcome, let’s see what you do.”

“Tom has a mind for strategy,” Jim says.

“Obviously,” states a boy with his legs curled under himself, who is staring intently at a map and drawing lines on it. He seems to startle at his own voice and winds his arms over the map to make himself smaller, amending in a polite nervous tone, “I mean that’s why he’s here right?”

“Yes,” Jim says, adding to the boy softly, “And Harry, it’s okay to speak here without being asked to first remember?”

“He remembers,” Kelsie almost growls protectively in response, “we all get to ourselves in our own time.”

And just like that, Tom feels he’s right where he belongs.

*

Days are spent bent over maps with rulers and pens and compasses. Harry is gazelle-quick, seeing, finding, what’s there and what’s not, what could be. Tom tentatively picks up a ruler and pen and just hopes he draws a line that doesn’t smudge.

He finds quick kinship with Harry as they chat together over the difficulty of adjusting to freedom. His friendship with Kelsie develops slower, but is just as powerful and warm. They both teach him a lot, and help him learn a lot more for himself. There are another three members of the team, Jake, Allie and Bex, sightings of them are rarer but he likes all of them.

*

Long sprawling lines of speech, of great argument or thought, had once fallen from his mouth only in anger or desperation. Without the anger or desperation those thoughts had stopped almost entirely, trapped. The ideas were slowly sputtered out at opportune moments. And week by week they increased in increments, in regularity.

Then the day comes, words appear quick and fast without effort. Now the thoughts are finally able to flow at all times. His mind is free to think. He realises this is an important part of himself, something he enjoys doing. He had had his doubts at the start. But yes, he is indeed a strategist. It’s on this day a revelation strikes.

Tom had always known he had an identity, a non-slave, non-obedient, independent-thought one. He was always proud of his defiance and remorseless about his efforts to help his fellow slaves, except for when remorse was necessary for survival: then he faked it very well. But it’s only after months with his new family, learning and developing and growing, that he realises how buried the pieces were. It wasn’t something he had wanted to admit when he was a slave: that as hard as he fought, his self was still compromised. But now, he understands, the real freedom is the freedom to become himself.

*

He works hard, does great work, the months slip into a year, and another.

Then an opportunity arises, for someone to be placed in the house-hold of a significant chess-piece on their board.

Tom volunteers.

*

“You know you don’t have to do this.” Harry flitters around the table erratically as he serves dinner. Picking up a knife and putting it down two millimetres to the left. His former masters had beaten him severely for the smallest infraction and the resulting habits arose again when he was nervous.

“I know.” Tom replies in a sombre yet firm tone, while cutting into his roll.

Harry continues as if nothing had been said, the words increasing in speed and pitch as he spoke, “It will be fine though. They’ve been vetted, your new masters, as long as you do as you’re told, you’ll be fine. And you will just be doing what you’re told, so there’ll be nothing to find you out, they won’t suspect. It will just be ordinary boring stuff, until the time comes, they won’t see you coming at all, and then you’ll get away clean. Everything will be fine.”

“Of course he’s gotta do this,” Kelsie lilts, ignoring the rant- it didn’t do any good to think about what couldn’t be helped, “Wouldn’t be Tom if he didn’t, would ya boy?”

He smirks at Kelsie, and says, “Gotta do what we gotta do.”

To be honest he was feeling much trepidation, he’d be a fool to not.

*

Identity. That was the key to it all really. It’s such a trivialised notion, something Tom would have once expected from someone who had never suffered through the brutality of slavery. But now he knew, everything that was stolen from them, their safety, their security, their basic needs for survival, all amounted to something bigger. His identity is the most precious thing Tom has, something so easy to lose. It’s the entire reason he was here. Because he’s someone who has to do this so others won’t have to. He has to do this so one day, maybe decades from now, all who were now slaves would be free to allow their identities to shine.

Tom walks into his master’s home, filled with nervous anticipation, as he always was with a new master. But this time he had secrets to hide, a mission to fulfil. It gives him hope and it gives him terror.

Soon he finds that his master is strict but just, and his days are the ordinary mundane ones of slaves that did as they were told and had masters who responded well to that. Gone was the directionless defiance which had peppered his youth. Now his defiance had direction and purpose and he manages to be submissive like never before, waiting.

As Tom kneels, obedient, he knows this is just an act, but every time he kneels he wonders whether that’s just a lie, whether maybe each time a piece of himself trickles out through bent knees.

He has to be careful not to slip into slave-thought, springing forth ideas of obedience and loyalty and how wrong this plan was. He reminds himself it’s important and an honour that it’s his job to do it. That doesn’t mean he has to like it.

*

The knife is heavy in his hand just as it had been on that first day in Elziah’s castle. A trusted slave, he’s able to slip inside his master’s chambers without suspicion. He stands beside his master’s bed, heart joyless, and perfunctorily slits his master’s throat.

Blood spurts fast and bright and thick, pooling onto the sheets. Tom presses fingers against the man’s pulse until he is dead. And then leaves.

Some slaves will herald this as a massive victory, cutting off the head of the snake, but he knows another would only grow in its place. This wasn’t victory, it was strategy, one little cog, one movement, among many manoeuvres designed to put everything into place. Regardless they will all rightly see it as a step forward, something to be celebrated.

He knows it as the action of killing a man who had been good to him. This deed makes him a murderer in the ways following orders on the battle-field did not.

It’s as he walks to freedom in the crisp air, feeling broken and tarnished, that he realises he has lost a piece of himself he couldn’t replace. He has lost the most important thing of all. But he will carry on. Kill whoever needs to be killed, do whatever needs to be done. Even if it meant for others to have their identities, he’d have to give up his own.


Comments:


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kick_galvanic, zagzagael, skull_theatre
bleodswean at 2014-04-07 00:39 (UTC) (Link)
This is REALLY heavy. And could so easily be expanded. You've captured an entire novel in a few words. I was so relieved by your last paragraph....because Tom "gets" it, and that was as liberating as it was restricting! Nicely done!!!
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-07 06:10 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad you liked it :).

Yes, so much could be in it, I was struggling to keep this short. Pleased that last para worked for you :)
Es'ka
eska818 at 2014-04-07 02:37 (UTC) (Link)
It's nice to see you continue this story! I definitely like it, though the story line feels a bit rushed in this piece, and you switch tenses so much that it almost makes my head spin! I really love this character though, he's a keeper.
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-07 06:16 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much, I really appreciate the concrit and these are very helpful comments :). I always struggle to make the tense accessible when I need to switch it a lot, it's hard when some parts of the story happened before and some happen presently. It' something I'm constantly working on.

And glad you like the character, that means a lot :)
penpusher
penpusher at 2014-04-07 13:42 (UTC) (Link)
Definitely so much more psychology working here, more than the physicality. It's a fascinating exploration of what "freedom" really means.
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-07 13:44 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, I was hoping the 'what does freedom mean' aspect would come across well, so I'm glad :)
Teo Says
eternal_ot at 2014-04-07 14:30 (UTC) (Link)
I liked the end..chilling but satisfying!...well done!
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-07 14:31 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad you liked :)
kianna_leigh
kianna_leigh at 2014-04-07 20:37 (UTC) (Link)
Wow. Super heavy piece. But it stood well, so to speak. I really liked it.
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-08 06:09 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad you liked it :)

Dan
muchtooarrogant at 2014-04-07 22:54 (UTC) (Link)
This was a very nice continuation of the piece you wrote last week. I thought you did an excellent job of portraying Tom's outward triumph, while also showing us the failure he felt inside.

One word of critique, telling the story in present tense gave it an immediacy that was nice, but Tom's frequent reflections, and by necessity their flip into past tense, were jarring to me.

I hope that helps, and look forward to reading more of Tom's story.

Dan
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-08 06:12 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, so glad you liked my portrayal of outer triumph vs inner failure :)

Thank you for the critique, I really appreciate it and it's very helpful, I can see the switches between tenses is an area I need to work on :).

Bridget Ilene Delaney
kagomeshuko at 2014-04-08 06:51 (UTC) (Link)
So much, but I like that identity is the key to it all . . .
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-08 06:52 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you :)
darkdreams1222
dreamsofspike at 2014-04-08 15:43 (UTC) (Link)
Oh yay!! :)
More of this story! :)

This makes me very happy!

I love your characters, and the way you write them really makes me genuinely feel for them... you're building the suspense very well... I cannot wait for more :)
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-08 17:01 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so much, it means so much to know you're loving my characters :)
A Karmic Sandbox
karmasoup at 2014-04-08 17:35 (UTC) (Link)
Your understanding of human psychology in this piece is profound, and I am lost in the truth of this tale, and the beauty of this sacrifice. Brilliant.
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-08 18:14 (UTC) (Link)
Oh wow, that's such a huge compliment, thank you so much, so glad you liked it :)
Jemima Pauler
jem0000000 at 2014-04-09 04:30 (UTC) (Link)
It's really a difficult choice to make. I'm glad he did find his identity, and was able to make his own choice.
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-09 06:39 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad you liked :)
i_17bingo
i_17bingo at 2014-04-09 19:08 (UTC) (Link)
After all he has only been shaking hands for two weeks.

This was an amazing detail. And that ending was intense.
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-09 19:12 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, so glad you liked that bit, it was one of my favourites too ;)
C.x
itsjustc at 2014-04-09 22:31 (UTC) (Link)
I thought this was a great continuation of last weeks story.

I really enjoyed it :)
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-10 06:18 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad you enjoyed :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors
halfshellvenus at 2014-04-10 03:29 (UTC) (Link)
but every time he kneels he wonders whether that’s just a lie, whether maybe each time a piece of himself trickles out through bent knees.
I liked this phrasing very much-- I know why he would be afraid of that trap, of slipping back into enslavement even inside his own mind.

The ending... I felt very bad for him. While this might be a step in a movement, the person killed was very real and not actually deserving of it. What does that make the man who wielded the knife?
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-10 06:24 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, so glad you liked that line, I was hoping it would work. Yeah, it would be a very real issue :).

I'm glad it evoked emotion. That's something I really wanted to explore: the idea of how not all actions for a cause will be 'just' or 'righteous', and there has to be someone to do those. What does it do to that person.

MamaCheshire
cheshire23 at 2014-04-10 05:11 (UTC) (Link)
This is clear and complete of itself but I would love to read more in this setting!
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-10 06:27 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, so happy to hear it made you want more :).

(PS. I don't know if you read my entry for week 3 but that's set in the same verse, it's here: http://swirlsofblue.livejournal.com/19516.html)
n3m3sis43
n3m3sis43 at 2014-04-10 08:10 (UTC) (Link)
I like the way you've built the characters in this piece. I agree with eska's comments about the tense and the pacing, but overall, there was good stuff here. :)
swirlsofblue
swirlsofblue at 2014-04-10 08:56 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, glad you liked the characters :)
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