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Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Outcast: Volume 1 Chapter 2

Volume One: Eastwood Is All Stones

Chapter 2 Behind the one hundred boys in black

Wherever there are humans, there are certainly human settlements, or in another word, a city. The biggest city inside the Eastwood Grand District is the capital city of the Riverwest State. In the city, other than those easy-to-spot drunkards everywhere, the most active groups include busy black-market peddlers, dark criminals hidden in the shadows cautiously watching the police patrols, and … orphans.
Eastwood used to be the richest and most developed mine planet in the Federation. No matter how advanced a civilization is, people making a living from the mining industry always undertake more risks. Although the invention of Automatic Ore-Drilling CAT and Fully Computerized Coverage Control, to a great extent, improved the safety of mining operations, complex lithosphere movement deep inside the planet and those geological changes impossible to predict by computational models still took many miners’ lives over the past thousands and thousands of years. Children of such unfortunate miners became a unique species that always wandered about the many city streets in the Eastwood Grand District.
Some lost both parents, and some others lost their fathers but not their mothers. Different life experiences resulted in very dissimilar mentalities. The Federation Government covered their entire living and educational expenses, yet had no means to prevent these kids from playing hooky daily. Before reaching legal drinking age and under surveillance from implanted chips, they couldn’t drink their day away like the jobless miner uncles. Neither could they be engaged in black-market businesses. Although the Federation Government did administer food supplies, such a dark, piglet-like life simply could not exhaust the exuberant hormone productions inside their bodies. Therefore, violence, rebellion, territorial wars, and similar desperate acts all followed naturally.
The phrase “bastard orphans” in Deputy Chief Bao’s glum curse referred to this group. A group that gave constant headaches to the Governor’s Office and the police department.
There was still a long way to go before these young orphans would successfully evolve into sinister gangs, and simple imitation also limited the amount of demolition power they could possess, but their sensitive status, orphan, made the problems more difficult. As the Eastwood mine resources gradually drained out, most of these orphans became orphans because of that last mine accident ten years ago, and that mine accident brought great consequences to the Eastwood Grand District….
“We want to watch Jian Shui-Er!”
“Jian Shui-Er!”
Police sirens resonated everywhere. After receiving commands from their angry Deputy Chief, the Riverwest State No. 2 Police Substation sent reinforcement as quickly as they could, and segregated the over one hundred orphans in the middle of the street.
The numerous police batons and riot shields did not scare the Bell-Tower Street orphan boys in black. Shouting and chanting continued, except those slogan banners made of rugged tarps were no longer held straight. Maybe these kids were getting tired?
The funniest thing was that the youngest orphan boy seemed to have exhausted his strength from the shouting and simply repeated the name “Jian Shui-Er” again and again in a worn-out voice, as though these three characters had some magical power.
“Hey, take it seriously!”
The leader boy was annoyed. He shot a stare toward the young boy and then grabbed the little guy by the ear. He certainly felt some fear when police surrounded the Bell-Tower Street, but … since Xu Le had already said, “In the presence of reporters, that guy named Bao won’t dare to do anything”, for sure he wouldn’t dare do anything, would he? When did Xu Le ever judge anything wrong? As soon as he thought of that name, the leader boy straightened his back and puffed up his courage. Even the indignation on his face looked more sincere.
“We want to watch Channel 23!” he shouted out in an even louder voice toward the video camera lenses behind the police blockade line.
Over one hundred petitioning boys confronting the Federation Government in the street, just so they could watch TV … what an absurd scene that was!
Bao Longtao didn’t think this was some kind of a circus. He didn’t think this was absurd either. As soon as he heard the words “Channel 23” and “Jian Shui-Er”, he already knew these wild kids were serious.
When the Governor’s Office finally gave in to the wailing and secret threats of the several board members of the Riverwest TV Station, Bao Longtao already knew this day would eventually come. As a matter of fact, after the order from the Governor’s Office reached the police station, commanding them to temporarily stop receiving signals from the Federal Channel 23 throughout the Riverwest State using an excuse from the Telecommunication Security Act, both the Governor’s Office and the related police department offices had already received over 1000 protest letters.
The contents of these protest letters were identical to the orphans’ demands today. They all wanted to watch Channel 23, to watch the new TV series that had only been broadcasted at the Capital Star Circle for two months. Most importantly, they wanted to watch Jian Shui-Er….
Bao Longtao had watched episodes from that TV series called “Full Metal Panic[1]” and also knew how incredible and attractive the actress named Jian Shui-Er, who played the Captain of the battleship, was. He could almost see in his mind that lovely face of hers, almost as fine as a comic character; that brush of light-purple hair of hers, sometimes mildly spiky and at other times smooth; that tender and petite body dressed in standard, sharp military uniforms; those childish looks when she slightly leaned her head and squinted her eyes. She was so much like his daughter, only that she was even lovelier than his daughter ….
A sudden quaver woke Bao Longtao from his wandering thoughts, then he noticed that the female reporter by his side was speaking into the video camera. The lense of the camera slowly moved past her shoulder and began aiming at those angry orphans, while a trace of gloat flashed by the corner of the female reporter’s eyes.
How could the relationship between the News Department and the Production Department have degraded so much? Bao Longtao heaved a gloomy sigh in his mind. In order to protect the ratings of the local station, the officials of the Riverwest TV Station used such a ridiculous excuse at such a high cost, just so that they could temporarily stop the broadcast of Federal Channel 23. Who would have imagined that the News Department in the same TV Station, under the supervision of the Grand District Committee, was actually thinking about stabbing them in the back the whole time?
A non-Eastwooder would not understand what television meant to the Eastwooders or what Federal Channel 23 meant to them. As described in that malicious comment made by Bao Longtao earlier, for stupid civilians, soap opera is all they need. Residents of Eastwood had grown accustomed to their dull lives, but that didn’t prevent them from seeking goodness or fantasizing about wonderful freedom from inside a television. To them, this kind of freedom had become an essential element in their lives, like salt and pepper, something not to be taken away.
“Jian Shui-Er….” A warm smile suddenly crept up the corner of Deputy Chief Bao’s lips. At that instant, even those orphans in the middle of the street, who he detested dearly, didn’t look that horrible any more, but just a moment later, his smile quickly froze.
These goddamned orphans had caused dramatic damage to his reputation. If the scene today actually made it into news, the conflict between the News Department and the Production Department would for sure make its way into the Governor’s Office or even the District Committee. If that happened, would he become the scapegoat in this matter?
Bao Longtao narrowed his eyes slightly and slowly glanced over the excited faces of these slogan chanting orphans. He was looking for something – how could these orphans know the reporter’s visiting schedule? What did they really want making such a scene? Was it really just because of “Jian Shui-Er”? To these orphans, Jian Shui-Er was almost like a little Goddess from a far, far galaxy, but that was still not enough to make these orphans so courageous.
This seemed to be a more interesting matter now, as if someone was directing everything behind the scenes. If there was truly someone behind the orphans, could that person clearly know the clash between the News Department and the Production Department and was sure that the chaos today at the Bell-Tower Street would make it into the news?
Bao Long Tao suddenly felt a strong feeling of awareness. He cast a glance at the reddened face of the leader boy of the orphans. He knew this sixteen-year-old wild kid was a ruthless one called Brother Wei, but Brother Wei would never dare to be so aggressive right in his face.
He suddenly felt a throb in his heart. Following Brother Wei’s somewhat flickering gaze he turned his head around and shot a glance toward a shadowy area off the Bell-Tower Street.
But there was nobody there.

[1] I think the author used the exact same name of a real Japanese Comic Series he liked:

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