Feature of the Month
"The Faces Of Hate" Challenge
"...Against All Enemies"
DISCLAIMER: This is a TCP story, so all the people in it belong to me. Well, some of the ones that are implied or referred to belong to Marvel, and they're welcome
to them. The organizations and institutions within the story are the property of the United States of America.
DEDICATION: To Colonel Jack Thompson and Staff Sergeant Scott Pittock, who both taught
me very different things about selfless service and duty. *salute*
"Colonel?" The voice came from the crack in the large wood-paneled door. The crack widened as a narrow-faced corporal poked his head through. "Colonel Thompson?"
The rail-thin man behind the large mahogany desk sighed. "Yes, Wigley?"
"Private First Class MacDonald to see you, sir."
"MacDonald?" the colonel ran a hand through his iron-grey crew cut. "Hmm.. new soldier to Alpha Company, right?"
A nod. "Send him in."
The door opened, and the young soldier stepped inside, snapping to attention and firing off a perfect parade-ground salute.
"Private First Class John MacDonald reporting, sir!" his baritone voice echoed off the walls. Colonel Thompson returned the salute and nodded.
"At ease, MacDonald. Now, Captain Hathaway mentioned that you wanted to speak to me?" As he spoke, Jonathan "Jack" Thompson surveyed the young soldier.
This kid looks like he just stepped off of a recruiting poster, he thought. From the brilliantly spit-shined jump boots, to the spotless uniform, to his regulation high-and-tight haircut, PFC MacDonald looked every inch the ideal US Army paratrooper.
"Yes sir!" MacDonald barked. Colonel Thompson winced, then motioned with his hand. The private reddened momentarily, then replied in a quieter voice. "Yes sir."
"You know that as brigade commander, I have an open-door policy," Thompson intoned, "and that any of my soldiers have the right to come to me with issues that concern them. I'm proud to see some of them actually use it. Now, PFC MacDonald, what can I do for you?" The young soldier fidgeted, and the colonel motioned him to a chair.
As he sat, MacDonald looked around the colonel's office. Framed pictures told the story of a career soldier, from a framed copy of the colonel's enlistment papers to a signed photograph of a younger Major Thompson with General Norman Schwarzkopf.
"Well, sir," MacDonald began, "it's about the billets, really." Jack raised an eyebrow.
"The billets? Something wrong with your room? We have the barracks manager on call, you know." PFC MacDonald coughed into his hand embarrassedly.
"Well, sir, not really. It's just, well, my roommate, sir." Colonel Thompson nodded slowly, beginning to understand. Often newer soldiers were paired with more experienced soldiers, so as to ease them into the military experience. He had seen a great deal of these "forced marriages" result in hostility more often than not.
"I think I understand, Private." Thompson stood up and faced his window overlooking the brigade area. "I remember my first roommate, back at the Academy. I was a West Point graduate, you know."
"Yes sir." replied the private. "Top of your class, they said at the orientation." The elder soldier nodded. He turned, opening a folder on his desk.
"That's right, son. And as for you..." he perused the spreadsheet before him. "Says here you graduated top of your AIT class. What's your MOS, son?"
"An infantryman, splendid. Nothing like a hard-charging line dog, I always say. We're the front line, son, the core of this man's Army."
"Yes sir." MacDonald smiled, feeling a kindred spirit with this man, despite the differences in rank and years.
"Says here you were honor grad at Airborne school, too. Takes a special breed of soldier to be a paratrooper, son. Are you that kind of soldier, MacDonald? The kind that'll go the places other's won't, face the dangers others fear?"
"Yes sir!" MacDonald was positively beaming. Colonel Thompson nodded.
"Wonderful to have you in my brigade, son. Now, as I was saying, your roommate?" PFC MacDonald nodded.
"Yes sir, well, we've got a bit of a problem."
"What? He hassling you or something? We don't allow 'hazing' the new soldiers, not in MY unit." Thompson fixed the private with a steel-eyed stare. "What seems to be the problem?"
MacDonald swallowed. "Well, sir, it's Ennison, sir. He's, well..."
Colonel Thompson's expression slowly changed. "Specialist Ennison?"
"Yes sir. He's..."
"He's what, Private?"
MacDonald took a deep breath. "He's a mutie, sir. I got nothing against their kind an' all, I'd just like another roommate."
Colonel Thompson was silent for a long while. The only sound was the tapping of his fingers on his desktop. Finally, he spoke.
"Ennison's a mutant, is he?"
"And you just don't feel comfortable with him as a roommate? Sharing close quarters and that sort of thing?"
MacDonald swallowed. "Yes sir, it's that sort of thing." The colonel nodded, pacing back and forth.
"Private, can you tell me what Legacy is?"
"The Legacy Virus, sir?" MacDonald looked aside. "We learned about it in my Health class. It's a mutie disease."
"Just mutants, they say?"
"Well, they say it can spread to humans, sir." The colonel nodded, and kept pacing.
"And is this the reason you don't want to room with Ennison? Scared of catching the 'mutie disease?' "
"No, no sir." MacDonald sat up straight. "It's nothing like that. It's just that..."
"It's just what, Private? Is it the harassment from the other troops?"
"I know about Specialist Ennison, soldier. He's what they call a gamma-class mutant. Do you know what his mutation is, PFC MacDonald?" The colonel turned his stare on the young man before him once more.
"Well, sir, someone said he's got some sort of funny stomach thing, sir."
"Ferric gastroserosis, MacDonald. You've seen the pills he takes, right? Vitamin supplements. He needs it to keep his body chemistry stable."
"I know about the pills, sir. But he's got these..."
"Patches of metal on his skin? It's because his body produces iron as a byproduct of exercise, like you or I produce sweat. Not very nice looking, is it?"
"Well, to be honest, sir, it's not that bad. It's just... I'm not comfortable around him, sir." John MacDonald looked down. The colonel finally took a seat, then spoke again, in a more conversational tone.
"Where's your family from, Private?"
"My family, sir?"
"Your mom and pop. Where do they live?" The colonel was smiling. MacDonald let out a sigh of relief.
"Boston, sir. Ninth generation MacDonalds." Jack nodded slowly, his eyes never leaving those of the younger soldier.
"So you're family's been there almost... 200 years. Pretty well established, I'd say?"
"Yes sir. My grandfather funded the City Commerce Library."
"Your family. Irish, aren't you?"
MacDonald thought. "Yes sir. But I think of myself, well, as an American first, sir."
"Proud to hear it, son. Now, I'll see what I can do about getting you a new roommate."
MacDonald paused. "Thank you, sir." he managed to blurt out. The colonel raised a hand.
"If." he intoned. "IF you can answer me one question."
"Specialist Ennison. Where's he from?"
MacDonald blinked. "I don't know, sir."
"He have any brothers or sisters?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Let me ask another question, soldier. You know who the Friends Of Humanity are?"
"Yes sir. An extremist organization, with a political platform against mutants, sir." MacDonald paused. "...Sir, you don't think I'm...?"
Colonel Thompson steepled his fingers. "I'm not asking that, PFC MacDonald. What I'm getting at is this: is Specialist Ennison an American?"
"Is he, Private?"
"...Yes sir, he is."
"And he signed up in this Army, same as you, didn't he?"
"Yes sir, he did."
"You know what passive discrimination is, MacDonald?"
"I... that is... no sir." PFC MacDonald began sweating under the collar of his camouflage top.
"It's holding a preconceived opinion of a person or group, based on usually second-hand knowledge."
"Something to think about, MacDonald. You're dismissed."
"I said dismissed, Private."
PFC MacDonald, stood, saluted, then turned to leave.
"Yes sir?" He turned to see the colonel glaring at him, with all his years of experience focused on the young private's eyes.
"No room for this kind of shit in my Army, you got that?"
"Are we clear?"
"We are, sir."
"Get out of my office." Thompson growled.
PFC John MacDonald didn't have to be told twice. In his haste, he nearly knocked Corporal Wigley to the ground as he departed the building.
"Sir?" Wigley's voice came through the door.
"Come on in, Corporal." The skinny soldier entered, noticing his commanding officer staring intently at a framed piece of paper.
"Foreign and domestic..." he muttered.
"Excuse me, sir?"
"Part of the Oath of Enlistment, Wigley. '...to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.' "
"I remember it, sir."
Colonel Thompson sighed deeply, for a moment allowing his fifty-two years to show on his weathered face.
"You ever think about what that means, Wigley? 'Foreign AND domestic?' "
"Not really, sir." Wigley arched an eyebrow. The colonel shook his head, then slowly sat down.
"Used to be that you didn't have to, Wigley. You never used to have to."
"If you say so, sir. I just needed to let you know that Major Weston's on line two about Wednesday's training exercise." Wigley threw a quick salute and exited.
Jack Thompson sighed, glancing out his window. He saw a formation of troops marching by, and could hear the muffled sounds of marching cadence. His eye fell on the flag flying from the pole in the lead.
Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes. Symbol of a nation.
Jack Thompson sighed. "God help America..." he breathed, picking up the phone.
"...Against All Enemies"
©David D. Amaya
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