Squire sat at the banks of Lake Privus. Two suns set in the horizon casting a pale orange glow on the barren rocky landscape. He absentmindedly tossed rocks into the grey lifeless water and watched the bubbles as the impurities dissolved. An extra large stone splashed a little of the water onto his boots. After being transfixed for a moment by the acid’s path through his thick rubber soles, he quickly tore off his boot before the acid penetrated any deeper.
There was now a huge hole in the bottom of his boot. Normally, ruining a pair of military boots would mean serious trouble. Not to mention the act of leaving the military installation without permission would compound his trouble. However, Squire wasn’t worried. He earned his nickname by being a bit of a squire to his superiors. Often, they would have him go to supply depots to fetch one item or another. He would just have to remember to pick up a new pair of boots for himself.
With that thought, he sat up and turned to face the large military compound in the distance. He enjoyed getting away from the compound every so often. Even though his trips involved exploring a bleak and desolate landscape, it was better than the daily grind at the compound.
The tanned sand dunes with intermitted grey rocks jutting from the sand stretched out on the horizon. On the other side of the lake, a hundred meter cliff marked the northern boundary. The cliff was composed of varying shades of grey and white.
Life in the Interstellar Forces rarely varied from day-to-day much like the landscape around Squire. The same vitamin enhanced but lacking in taste meal rotations were served in the mess halls. He woke up each morning to the exact same exercise routine as the previous morning. Like clockwork, he knew exactly what would happen anytime. Even when they were surprised with a drill, he knew that it would be exactly the same as the other surprise drills before it. Squire felt trapped.
Squire originally joined the military to satisfy a sense of adventure when he really was just trying to escape mediocrity. A civilian life in the United Planets of Earth would have a routine except he could choose the routine rather than it being chosen for him. The military life decided that he would always be a private and never fit to wield authority. Not that he wanted to be a leader; he would just feel less trapped if the opportunity was there. Squire understood that civilian or not, his life would be spent in servitude to someone else.
The United Planets of Earth valued the freedom of choice. Yet Squire knew that there wasn’t really any choice involved. Every choice a person could make depended on the opportunity around them. Squire was born in the gas mines of Jupiter. Even though planets in the U.P.E. jurisdiction hundreds of light years away were as wealthy as the capitol planet of Earth, Jupiter, only light minutes away from Earth, was still a struggling cesspool of humanity.
Squire knew that his only choices were to work in the gas mines like his father or join the military in hopes that he wouldn’t reduce his life span by thirty years like his father. The military life at least offered adventure. His sense of adventure was cut brutally short when he discovered that military life was exactly like the gas mine life with the exception of living on a world rather than a floating platform.
Squire despised the United Planets of Earth. He felt as if it was a system set solely in place to feed itself. The politicians and media alike often displayed a different, warmer, reality than real reality of the system. Reality wasn’t wholesome, it was morbid and dreary. The U.P.E. was created with the idea that all sentient life possessed basic rights. Most of the population of the U.P.E. dealt with different sentient life with a high degree of fear and ignorance. Wars, enslavement of harmful races, a regressive paranoia and fear flowed through the government.
Squire understood the real reality, but he did nothing as there was nothing he could do. He decided to keep out of politics, keep to himself, and look out for his own survival. His father followed the same simple rules of life and seemed to lead a genuinely happy life. Squire thought too much about everything. At least on his unsanctioned walks, he could clear his mind for a while and forget about everything.
Squire’s deep brown eyes caught some movement in the lake. He immediately pulled himself out of his meditative haze and focused his attention on the water. The grey murky sludge was still. He stepped closer to the edge of the water. The only sound was the slightly increased pace of his own breath. Something wasn’t right. He could feel it.
He glanced around and could see nothing. Back at the compound, he saw life going on as usual. There were no signs that they had gone on alert during his absence. A splash broke his train of thought.
Squire whirled around to see a distinct set of ripples in the lake like stone had been through into the depths. Scared, he slowly knelt down and picked up a stone from the ground. He tossed the stone near the fading disturbance in the water. The water rippled again from the stone. He watched, listened, and saw nothing.
The lake was pure acid anyway and nothing could survive in its depths. A stone must have toppled into the water. He probably unconsciously kicked it in when he was thinking. He needed to get back before the guard change at the depot because it was Jace’s turn for the night shift, and he knew Jace wouldn’t let him get away with taking a pair of boots.
Before he was able to take a step towards the compound, something prevented his legs from moving. He toppled over into the dirt. The chemicals in the soil slightly burned the skin on his exposed face. He would have a hell of a time explaining that to his superior officers. Before he regained himself enough to see what had tripped him, he was dragged into the lake by an unknown force. All that remained was the bloodstained sand, his boot, and the churning water of the normally placid lake.