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OLD VENTURES: REFUGE, One, Rowher, Arkansas, 9/28/42

11/06/18

  08:32:00 pm, by Nic Wilson   , 804 words  
Categories: Old Ventures: Refuge

OLD VENTURES: REFUGE, One, Rowher, Arkansas, 9/28/42

Jack was full of nervous energy. His boot camp had lasted only a week. His instructors had to take him in shifts, because even shouting commands from the back of a Jeep they couldn't keep up with him for long. But he knew he wasn't a soldier. The discipline, the camaraderie, all of the things that the U.S. Army did to break a man down and remake him as a G.I. Joe they skirted. He was a show soldier, only, good enough to keep the real soldiers from smelling the fakeness and nothing more.
Jack didn't feel good about it; these other boys were risking life and limb for the good of the world, and it seemed the least they could have done to be honest with them. He could still hear Colonel Millen barking his mantra, "An Army lives and dies on morale." Jack had heard it differently, that an Army survived on its stomach, and said so. "Oh, an Army won't even show up to the fight if you don't feed them. But they won't even make it to the mess tent if they lose hope. That's why we aren't letting you anywhere near the front line, son. You're hope, made flesh, with 'Made with pride in the U.S.A.' stamped on you like a rack of Grade A beef. But unlike beef, you become useless if somebody puts a bullet through your skull."
This was supposed to be a dry run, boys who hadn't even left the continent, yet, let alone seen any combat. But they were boys, skinny, na´ve kids who didn't know the dangers they were rushing towards- and had never been given a choice in the matter. Not that Jack was much older, or wiser, but h also wasn't rushing into a hail of Nazi bullets.
Idly, Jack's hand dragged at the chain link fence to his left as he walked. When his fingers grazed flesh, he recoiled; he'd learned that much in training, that what the vaccine did to him made him a bull loosed in the China shop that was the rest of humanity. If he wasn't careful, he could break people without trying.
The finger he brushed against belonged to a little boy on the other side of the chain link. Jack frowned, not realizing what the fence was, or who the boy, or his family, were. A sign declared it a Japanese camp, meant to concentrate citizens descended from that island nation. The U.S. was petrified at the idea that Japanese Americans might divide their loyalties, acting as sappers and saboteurs.
The boy's parents were frightened, huddled together just behind their son, and Jack was taken aback when he realized they were scared of him. He was, after all, dressed as an American Captain, even if he didn't feel he had properly earned that rank.
He knelt down, and touched the boy's hands again, through the fence, this time on purpose. The boy was scared, too, but within that fear was a question, as well. Why us? What have we done? How could we scare you so much that you could do this to us?
The boy tilted his head, uncertain how to react to the gentility of this soldier. "What's your name?" Jack asked. His eyebrows shot up, and he pursed his lips.
"George," his mother said, stepping forward.
"George," Jack said, and beamed at him. "That's a good name. I had an uncle named George, who fought in the Great War. A Japanese soldier named Shiro saved his life; if he hadn't been there, my uncle would have died in a trench in France."
Jack took in a breath, and held it. He could feel the other eyes on him, even before he knew they were no longer alone. A handful of new recruits, on their way to the show, had stopped, and were watching. He kept his eyes on the Japanese family, who he had known for less than a minute. He knew these people were not his enemy. But his first day on the job, he couldn't go against the President- an Army, after all, succeeded on its morale- no matter how much it rankled him.
"We're going to wrap up this war as quick as we can," Jack said, "get you out from behind this fence."
One of the soldiers behind him snickered. "Nip-lover," he mumbled. Jack turned on his heels with a speed that surprised even him. The soldier spit out a mouthful of chew. "They belong in cages," he said.
Jack grabbed him by the ear and twisted him around, until he was kneeling, with his head at an awkward angle, but was still looking at the boy. "That's an American family, private," Jack said, anger rumbling in his chest, "and you will show them their due respect."

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