He decided to join the army. He had finished the paperwork listening to the news talk about the collapse being possible terrorist activity, like that bomb that went off near an apartment a few blocks away. He had packed his bags and was leaving home when the riots first broke out. Apparently some newspaper had printed a convincing story that said the collapse was actually due to mismanagement by the government and that one rescue squad leader had found documents saying that the death of her brother was deliberate.
He was already in the army though. There was never a choice about him joining. His family needed the money to educate his brothers and sisters and his mother wanted to leave the city. He was the leader of all his siblings and he was a good shot. He just decided to join then out of patriotic fever.
He met Captain Damien Montechristeu the winter of that year, and spent much of the next year overseas at some dusty embassy. He was nineteen when he lost his arm and when Damien was arrested for treason. He could still remember the sun that day, and the way the air seemed to ripple on the streets. The nerve gun that killed his arm was about the size of a grown man, but most of the size was due to the crappy black market parts. To Montague, the worst part wasn't that it killed nerves. It was that it made no sound.
He waited six months before he dared to ask Damien's father what happened to his Captain.
When Montague was twenty-one, he was just starting to get out of the bodyguard business. He was getting tired of turning down jobs from over confident punks who's gangs died in a year or jobs from twitchy older leaders who feared that their pasts were catching up with him. He had enough money to live quietly on the occasional job and the dole, and he had an apartment that was fairly pleasant. He even registered with the government to get the dole sent to his apartment.
It was midmorning when he heard a knock at his door. He abandoned the morning paper and the news and checked the peephole.
There was a short man in a dark coat standing outside. He had a military cap pulled low on his face and he was holding a duffel bag. Montague reached for his gun. Whoever it was at the door didn't look like a cop serving summons. If anything the body language was exhausted and defensive. The man reached up to knock again, and then hesitated and dropped his arm. As he looked up, Montague could see that his face almost looked like the Captain's.
Montague unlocked the door and opened it. "Yes?"
The man looked up, and despite the cap and the hair in his face, he still looked like the Captain. "O - Orchard?" He adjusted his hat with a slightly shaky hand and smiled a shadow of his old smile. "It's me. Damien. They let me out of the army." His voice cracked and slipped into an almost hysterical babble. "They said that it was shell shock which is silly since I didn't see any shells. I don't think they used shells in fighting for years, but they gave me a medical discharge and -"
Montague swallowed and his voice sounded strained to his ears. "Captain?"
Damien stopped babbling and nodded nervously. "Yeah. It's me. I - I was wondering if you could take me in for a while? Just till I get my feet under me? They gave me a pension. It's for a higher rank, but I think that's because they felt sorry for me. For the shell shock." He chuckled shakily. "Please?"
"Come on in." Montague opened the door wider. "You're always welcome here." He hesitated. It was hard to find a polite way of asking why they let Damien out of prison. Or if they sent him to get Montague arrested for helping gangs. Not that Montague didn't do what the police asked him to. Besides, the Damien that he knew couldn't lie to save his life.
Damien stepped into Montague's apartment and stood there looking utterly lost.
Montague shut the door and hesitated before reaching out to touch Damien's shoulder. "Captain?"
Damien jumped and visibly shivered. "No - just - I'm not a Captain anymore. Just - call me Damien." He dropped his duffel bag and suddenly hugged Montague. "Montague."
Montague put his arms around Damien. "Damien, I saw you get arrested -" He had assumed that Damien was still overseas at some dusty military installation. All he knew about Intelligence is that they could drug you until you told everything you knew.
"They wouldn't tell me why. I didn't do anything and they wouldn't let me go and they wouldn't tell me why." Damien was shaking under Montague's arms. "You'll let me stay, right? Just till I'm back on my feet? If I get back on my feet -"
"Yes." Montague hesitated and then continued, "You can stay as long as you want."
Damien relaxed slowly. "They thought I was committing treason. My parents denounced me so they'd sound loyal. I didn't. I was loyal. They said you got a medical discharge when I looked you up at the social services office. And then I had to find your address. You moved -"
"Yeah. In that fight, my arm got hit." He pointed Damien toward the couch and Damien sat down heavily. "I was kind of glad to get out though. I didn't want to go back and do peace keeping stuff here."
Damien nodded. "It just doesn't seem sporting to shoot at people who you know and have been properly introduced to." He chuckled shakily. "That sounds stupid, doesn't it?"
"I don't know. I'd sooner not shoot at friends." Montague petted Damien's back soothingly, and tried to think of something comforting to say. "You're here now though." That didn't sound like it was enough.
"Yeah." Damien smiled at him and then his smile faltered. "I - just hoped you'd take me in."
Montague blinked. "Of course I would. You're my Captain."
"Not any more." Damien shivered. "They could come back for me -"
"You'll always be my Captain." Montague touched Damien's cheek. "And they won't take you back."
"They said that I'm not supposed to talk about my arrest, which is silly since I should say where I've been. They honestly thought that I was betraying the city. Why in the world would I -" He trailed off. "If I had the guts, I would be treasonous. I'd tell everyone. I'd say we can't put up with this anymore. I'd say that - that -"
Montague said nothing.
"I'd say that we deserved real newspapers. And books that aren't censored or late. And to be able to pick up the mail without some guard standing over you. They wouldn't let me get my pension in a lump sum, because they want to know where I am." Damien shivered again. "I'm just whining. I should be grateful. Things aren't that bad, I mean -"
Montague said softly, "Capt . . . Damien, I'm not exactly thrilled with the way things are going."
Damien blinked at him, and then smiled another shadow of his old smile. "You miss the books?"
"And a real newspaper in the morning." Montague touched Damien's hand and Damien's hand trembled before curling around Montague's. "And if you want to talk about your arrest, I can help get the word out."
"I couldn't stand up in front of people and talk -"
"You could write speeches. Or deliver essays." Montague shrugged. "All we'd need is a sane rebel group to deal with."
"I'm not sure if one exists. All the ones I've seen are all about fighting and getting a hold of the power in this town."
"We don't need the power. We need to let people choose who they want in power. With all the information and all that."
Damien nodded firmly. "It's just so hard to get anyone to listen. It's not a glorious thing to fight for free speech and elections with lots of safeguards."
"Or for water purity and greenspace projects." Montague chuckled softly. "The Fighters for Good Sewers just doesn't have a ring to it."
Damien leaned against him. "Yeah." He sounded almost sleepy. "It doesn't."
"Do you want me to call Yvette?"
"Mm? Yvette?" It took a bit for Damien's face to lose it's confused expression. "No - not yet. I - I don't want her to see me like this."
"Fair enough." Montague touched Damien's back again. "Tired?"
"Yeah. I walked around trying to find you. And threw a fit at the pension office to get your address." Damien yawned. "You don't mind?"
"No." Montague closed his eyes. He didn't mind at all.