We marched on in. Behind us came Factory Commander Summers. Benches filled the room and went on into the dark corners. They had these big devices on ’em where old geezers huddled under yellow lamps. And on the walls sat the biggest, brightest News Feeders I’d ever seen.
‘Now I’m sure all you young ones are eager to get started. And I don’t blame you! This is an exciting time in your lives!’ Commander Summers said. ‘You all understand why you’re here — to make a true difference to our great nation, to make our nation great again. You’ll each be assigned a mentor who’ll assist and train you from now on. Now let’s see,’ he looked at his list, ‘Simon Smith?’
‘’ere Commander.’ I raised me hand.
‘Simon, good to have you on board son. You’re going to be a true asset I can tell. A champion in the making!’ He put his hand on me shoulder, ‘You’ll be with Jim. Jim’s one of our most experienced — a real hero. You’ll do well with him I’m sure.’
Jim was old, outta breath, and smelled like the soured milk nana used to drink. As I sat at the bench next to him, the News Feeder came alive.
‘Millions celebrate as challenges overcome on the Southern Borders’, the woman on the News Feeder said and smiled. There were crowds of happy people and a graph came up with a big red line rising diagonally across the screen. ‘That,’ she continued, ‘is the love of the nation, and it’s all because of you.’ She pointed a finger at me. It made me happy. ‘It’s because you create with care that we have so much love to give.’
The blue glow of the News Feeder lit a large poster next to it. It showed a family holding hands and smiling as the sky lit up all red and orange like behind ’em with black smoke reaching up. I thought of mom and dad and Sally.
Sally had just got a job with the Pleasure Division. She didn’t come home much. When she did, she came dressed in fur coats and pearls, but she didn’t look much pleasured. They say the Pleasure Division is important though, it keeps the soldiers happy and happy soldiers make a happy war.
‘What does that poster say?’ I asked Jim.
‘We’ll get you started off on something small, shall we?’ Jim handed me a pair of tweezers.
‘Why are they smiling?’ I said.
‘I take it you’ve learned about detonator basics already.’ Jim rummaged around in his toolbox.
‘That’s a great question Simon! Well done!’ Commander Summers was next to us holding his hands behind his back and smiling. ‘We all need reminding of this, even some of the old timers here,’ he winked at Jim. ‘Tell me Simon, how do we defeat hate? How,’ he repeated, ‘do we defeat the poisonous, destructive hate of our enemies?’
‘With love,’ I said.
‘Exactly, Simon! With love,’ Commander Summers said. ‘The only way to defeat the hate of our enemies in these… “challenges” we face, is with love. Pure and simple love. And this poster serves as a reminder of how important you can be Simon. What the poster says is: “Care Brings Love.” You!’ he turned and spoke to everybody. ‘Each and every one of you have the capacity to bring love by crafting your devices with care.’
Jim explained me the basics of making warheads. It’s a wonderful skill to have. It makes you feel good making ’em. In the old days, they were done by machines. Machines were good but lacked feeling and such important devices have to be crafted with care.
‘Right, take this with your tweezers,’ Jim held out a small, square, metal chip. ‘Now place it in the small holder here.’
‘What’s this for?’ I said.
‘This chip measures the positive impact of the missile on groundfall. That is, how effective and well made it is. At the end of each month, the positive impact is tallied up and a prize goes to the person who’s had made the most positive impact.’
‘We get prizes too? It’s great we can make a difference,’ I said.
‘Yeah, it’s wonderful.’
‘I guess we’re lucky now. Have you ever won a prize?’
‘Lucky? How’s that?’
‘Well, I heard in the olden days, kids were sent to torture camps called shools. Is that true?’
‘They were called schools, not shools,’ Jim said.
‘So it’s true? They used torture kids? I heard they used to be chained to desks for hours and beaten until their hands bled. Did they make you go to ‘em Jim?’
‘It was nothing like that. We don’t talk about that anymore.’
‘I think it’s better we’re allowed to make things now, I just want to make people happy.’
I wanted to make mom and dad happy again, and Sally happy. If I worked with enough care at Ballistics, they said I could go work in Chemical or Nuclear where I could make a real positive impact.