Petre’s Story by Mark Spencer
“’ere Mister, show us yer gun.”
Petre turned at the insistent tug at his sleeve. The small group of children gathered around him, eyes wide in awe at the semi-automatic he cradled in the crook of his arm. They had worked their way closer and closer to him over the past few weeks – local children, their wild laughter reverberating through the mostly deserted streets – making this checkpoint one of the most pleasant to work at.
He handed them chocolate to share between them, the sweet milky kind that these English seemed to like so much, and they nursed it lovingly, determined that it should last forever. They watched him wide-eyed and squealed excitedly as he hoisted his gun and pointed it in their direction.
“Your hands! Put them up!” he growled with a smile.
They scattered in all directions and Petre chortled at their delighted little faces. He turned back towards the guard hut and walked past the pushbikes propped-up against the guardrail.
“We need to win their hearts and minds,” he thought to himself. “The children are the key. They understand all the good that is in the Volgan heart, they can see that we are only here to help. They know that we want to make things better.”
He did not understand the ferocity of these English, the violence of their Resistance Movement, their insistence on freedom from Volg control. His country had brought so much to this tiny, angry island; a stability and security it had never known; order of an unprecedented kind; Volgan art and Literature, ballet never before seen in this insignificant part of Europe. What was wrong with these people?
He recalled his own childhood. The grinding poverty and how it had all changed when the Volgs came. The ruthless way they had rooted out corruption in the government, the way they had provided education and food and housing for him and his family, the way they had done all they could for his people in order to strengthen the Empire and give equal protection to all. They had brought joy to his heart and the light of liberation to his country. As soon as he was old enough he had enlisted. He wanted to give his life to the Empire that had given him life. His heart swelled with pride at the memory of his father’s tears on the day of his Passing Out Parade and that smile lingered as he refocused on the job at hand.
The large black staff-car, the kind only used by the highest-ranking bureaucrats, glided serenely to a standstill and Petre snapped to attention. The driver’s window slid down. A hand emerged from the darkness and presented him with documents. Petre looked through them quickly and efficiently. His heart hammered against his ribs and he swallowed dryly. He glanced at the photo-ID papers and checked them against the occupants of the vehicle.
“These are all in order,” he said.
He handed the papers back. The window slid noiselessly up, the driver did not acknowledge Petre’s fine work. The children’s laughter had stopped. The barrier lifted. As the car moved forward flames erupted from the stack of pushbikes. The blast of heat threw Petre back. The staff car was engulfed by fire and all Petre saw was the impassive, chocolate smeared faces of the small group of children.