This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.
The old man had been plowing his field that afternoon, just as he had for the past fifty years, much as his father and grandfather had done before him. For countless generations they and thousands of others had performed their chores, blithely ignorant of governments and tyrannies and rebellions.
This all abruptly changed when the ground suddenly trembled violently, as if mortally wounded. The old man paused in his work, squinting at the horizon. An ugly patch of smoke drifted heavenward in the distance. Mystified, he pondered on this odd situation and wondered what might have happened. Moments later, he shrugged and decided that whatever it had been, it had no bearing on him or his life, so he returned to his fields, which did.
Within six months the old man and untold thousands were dead, killed by radiation poisoning. Millions more waited for death to release them from their agony. Federation emergency medteams struggled to save as many as they could, but it was a hopeless cause. Triage was a grim joke--when all were in equally critical condition, no one could decide who would live and who would die.
* * * * *
"Mother, why are we hiding?" the small child demanded, squirming impatiently against her.
"Shush, Josiah." Her calm voice was betrayed by the tense, fearful look in her eyes. "We'll have to stay in here for a little while, that's all."
"But why, Mother?" Josiah had been playing quietly with his toys when his mother had abruptly pulled him away and taken him down into the cellar. To his surprise, she went straight to his secret room and slipped inside, holding him close and pulling the door shut. They'd been sitting in the musty darkness for hours now, and he was getting hungry.
"Because…because we're playing a game of hide and seek, and we mustn't let them find us," she replied. Her head was tilted slightly, straining to hear the telltale signs of Federation troops breaking in. "Just sit still and rest, love, it'll be over soon."
"I don't wanna do this," he demanded. "I'm hungry, and I gotta go!"
"For God's sake, shut up and be quiet!" she all but screamed, silencing the child with the force of her words. Josiah cowered and slunk away, leaving his mother alone with her thoughts.
It didn't matter that she wasn't one of the rebels in the town. It didn't matter that she had nothing to do with the attack on the government. It didn't matter that she cared nothing about Roj Blake and his precious rebellion. All that mattered was that Blake and his followers had destroyed the Federation base in a coordinated, well-planned attack, and now the ruling elite was going to punish the masses as an example.
Josiah and his mother huddled in the darkness, waiting for a very uncertain, bleak future.
* * * * *
It was well past curfew, but Federation rules and regulations meant little to the two furtive figures creeping about in the streets. As they slipped from shadow to shadow, they gazed in fearful incredulity at the destruction that the great Blake and his "Seven" had wrought.
Rubble littered the sidewalks and roads; from time to time, they could make out crimson puddles seeping out from beneath the ruins. The air was dry and dusty, making it difficult to breathe without sneezing or coughing. But to do so invited certain discovery and even more certain death.
"We did the right thing," one of them whispered to the other.
"Of course we did."
"They would have killed her before long."
"Avalon is every bit as important as Blake."
The taciturn figure stopped and placed his hands at his hips. "Look, we saved her life. We're heroes for the Cause. What's wrong with you, anyway?"
His friend stopped and glanced around. "I don't know…"
"This is war!" The words hissed out like escaping air from a tire. "Innocents do get hurt--there's no other way to win except by going all out!"
The uncertain one lowered his head and froze; he stood in a pool of red water. "I know, I know. It's just…" He gazed at the ruined rubble of a city that had been bustling and busy only that morning.
"I just wonder if the ends justified the means."
* * * * *
"So, Sallier, where do we stand?" Federation Commander Anton Demmedich looked up wearily from the dismal status reports on his desk. As he focused on his aide, he looked at the cramped, cluttered, temporary offices he'd been forced to claim from the city's government. It was completely inadequate for his needs, but Demmedich did not complain when doing so served no useful purpose.
Captain Mitchell Sallier was still firmly at attention, looking rather battered from the ordeal they'd just been through but still every inch the soldier. "The garrison's a complete loss, sir. Squads are still pulling bodies out of the rubble. We've set up temporary medical facilities for our men--medteams are doing what they can with whatever they can supplies they can…acquire."
"What about civilian injuries?"
"Per your orders, they are being treated according to seriousness of injury. Our own men of course have first priority, but several teams are using civilian assistants in order to attend to as many patients as possible." For a moment, Sallier's face clouded with emotion. "Sir…we've taken heavy losses, I thought you should know."
Demmedich nodded tiredly and propped his head against the palms of his hands. "Well, we asked for it. I warned Space Command that our facilities were inadequate to handle the incarceration of Avalon and any attempts to free her, but they insisted. So we have paid the price for their folly…again." He sighed heavily and stroked his peppery goatee. "What about the search for the terrorists?"
"They're continuing, sir, but meeting resistance from the populace. It's a safe guess that Avalon is long gone with Blake. I've repeated your instructions that minimal force is to be used in interrogation, but some of the men are rather frustrated, sir."
"Call the dogs off, Sallier. Have them join the medteams and the rescue teams. No sense in further antagonizing the populace." He smiled ruefully at the candlelight. "I believe we'd best get used to candlelight and cold baths in the river, eh?"
"I'm afraid so, sir. Whoever planned the attack did an efficient job of knocking out the power plant."
"Ah yes, but then, considering that Blake was an engineer, he would know where to strike." Demmedich looked out the window for a while, then turned to his aide. "By the way--is the water supply contaminated?"
"No, sir. We were fortunate in that regard."
"At least in one," Demmedich chuckled ruefully. He picked up a small white sheet of paper. "And I've just been informed that the Supreme Commander will be arriving tomorrow, for 'a full, complete debriefing concerning the Blake affair'. In other words, we're going to pay the price for their folly." He slammed the paper onto the desk, then returned to the window. "Ah, Sallier, I'm getting too old and too cynical for all this. And too soft."
"Never, sir," Sallier declared passionately. "Surely they'll remember all the good things you've done here…remember that it was Blake who destroyed the city, not you…"
"Perhaps," the older man softly nodded. "But I fear they'll remember why Blake even bothered to attack here--because of our presence--before they'll realize that he, not the Federation, was responsible for all this carnage." He sighed again and turned away from the depressing panorama. "Sallier, get some relief and some sleep, in that order. Tomorrow is going to be pure hell, and we might as well be rested and ready to burn."
* * * * *
"Are we fanatics?"
"Does it matter?"
"Many, many people will die without Star One."
"Are you sure that what we're going to do is justified?"
"It has to be. Don't you see, Cally, if we stop now, then all we have done is senseless killing and destruction, without purpose, without reason. We have to win!
"It's the only way I can be sure that I was right."
There are a handful of stories I've written that I can look back on and be able say, "That was good." This is one of them.
I wrote it for the Scorpio Writing Contest. Scorpio was the B7 convention of the mid-80's, the one you did not miss if you could help it. I cranked this out at the last minute and sent it in, wondering if it was any good. When The Redhead and I arrived at the hotel, I was almost immediately accosted by the judge of the contest. "I've got a bone to pick with you!" she announced rather hotly. When I meekly asked why, she grinned. "I had the winner of the contest all decided, and then your submission came in!" That was my acknowledgement that yeah, it probably was a pretty good story.
The title of course comes from Paul Simon's "The Boy in the Bubble". Actually, the story idea is from the lyrics: "It was a slow day/And the sun was beating/On the soliders by the side of the road/There was a bright light/The shattering of shop windows/The bomb in the baby carriage/Was wired to the radio". Something about this stuck with me the first time I heard it, and its echoes can be heard in the story, or at least I think so.
A few people have asked if I was royally ticked off when I wrote it, because there is an aura of anger in it. I think it was just the idea that all we ever really saw of Blake's rebellion was his view and Servalan's--never the people who were affected by their actions, the innocents on all sides who suffered as a result of Blake's cause. That's especially why Demmedich is in there--a good man, a good soldier who is in a really lousy situation and is trying to make the best of it. I wanted someone in there who would show that not all Servalan's armed forces were soulless goons (that view annoyed me almost as much as Roddenberry's Federation officers being Boy Scouts). I always meant to bring Anton and Sallier back in another story, but never managed it. Shuckydarn.