As he sat in his jail cell, Rikishi felt his stomach growl and realized that breakfast and lunch had passed with no signs of the guards. He could hear the radio playing in another room but could not make out the muffled broadcasts through the concrete walls. Something important was happening but until a guard actually showed up at his cell, that news would have to wait. Maybe one of the Blessed survived the blast and marched his army to the gates of the capital.
Rikishi replayed the events at Elam’s school over and over. It was the one thing his nephew asked him to do and he screwed it up. His father would told him, ‘You’ve embarrassed the family name and the Order of the Blessed’. Yeah, like that matters to anyone now.
He had embarrassed himself. This day did not belong to him or the Blessed or the politicians or the generals who directed the military campaigns from the safety and comfort in the capital. No, this day was about the men and women who wore a uniform or who wore whatever they had on their back and picked up a rifle to defend the Republic. It was about the men and women like Muriam who dodged bullets or risked radiation poisoning to put them back together. He was a Blessed, but they were heroes.
The tears fell down Rikishi’s face as he thought about Muriam again, her beautiful eyes staring at his soul as she nursed him back to health even as her own health started to fail from the poison he unleashed. She never complained, even at the end. She was the innocence of the world lost forever when he detonated that weapon.
With nothing else to do, Rikishi settled on his cot and thought about the end of the war. At first the scouts thought he was a ghost, that no one survived the blast from his unit, but the army medics eventually evacuated him from Muriam’s house and sent him back to the Republic. He might have protested more but he had just finished burying his angel in the backyard. He had no reason to stay in Firebrand.
When he returned, the politicians and generals celebrated the sacrifices of his squad, and always included their role in the design of the nuclear device or the plan to infiltrate the enemy capital. Rikishi wanted none of it, but to return home and back to the family farm. But the army still needed him, they said. He was a celebrity that could help millions rebuild what the Order destroyed.
It was all a lie. There was no rebuilding after what he had done, what all the Blessed had done. Only his best friend Jacen was blameless in the entire mess and that was by more bad luck than anything. He was visiting family when the Order first launched their invasion on the Republic and he did not have his wristband with him. At that time, the Blessed did not wear them every day and only took them out to pass down to the next generation of Blessed. But without his bracelet, Jacen was as vulnerable as anyone else and never made it back home. The enemy had succeeded in more than they realized on that day. Rikishi was the only Blessed still alive in the Republic. The others had succumbed to the temptations of power and now ruled the Order with an iron fist and an advanced military, thanks to the knowledge in the wristbands
“Uncle Rik,” shouted a new voice that echoed throughout the jailhouse. “Uncle Rik, wake up!”
Rikishi opened his eyes unaware that he had fallen asleep and was startled by the familiar high-pitched voice. He leaned up in his cot and turned to stare at his nephew at his cell door.
“Finally, you’re awake. I’ve been calling you for a long time,” Elam said as he jumped up and down.
“Elam, what are you doing here? Where’s your mom?” Rikishi asked when he could not see Tarra or the guards. His stomach growled again and he realized that something was seriously wrong.
“She’s at home with the neighbors. We have the best television in the neighborhood so everyone is watching it at our house. She even turned on the radio.”
Rikishi watched his nephew dance excitedly as he told his news. “And you just came down to the police station by yourself? How did you get back here?”
Elam smiled. “That was easy. There’s only one policeman here and he’s listening to the radio. I just walked back here. I got tired of watching the news and wanted someone to play but everyone at home only wants to talk about the visitors.”
Rikishi curled his eyebrows. “The what?”
Elam climbed up the jail cell until he was the same height as Rikishi. “The news people keep calling them the People of the Sky. They say they have ships and everything. Isn’t that funny? The beach is really far away from here.”
Rikishi eyes opened wide as he stepped closer to the jail door. “People of the Sky? Are you sure? They said they have ships?” he asked as cold fear penetrated his body.
Elam did not answer and continued to swing on the bars, jumping from section to section.
“Are you sure?” Rikishi shouted. Elam screamed as he let go of the bars and landed hard on the ground. His nephew looked up with tears in his eyes but Rikishi ignored them.
“Yes,” he said sobbing. “They said the new people have ships coming this way.”
“Think, Rik, think,” Rikishi said pacing in the cell. He looked at Elam. “How far are they? How many?” Elam looked at his uncle but did not respond. “Dammit, you wouldn’t know. I’ve got to talk to the military.”
“I should go home, Uncle Rik,” Elam said as he stood up as he sobbed again. “I’m sure mom will miss me.”
“No,” Rikishi said with his hands up pleading, “Don’t go Elam. Please.”
“You yelled at me and scared me,” Elam said sniffling.
Rikishi kneeled down and leaned on the door. “I know and I’m sorry. This is very important, though, and I need a soldier’s help. Can you do that?”
Elam smiled when Rikishi called him a soldier. “Just like dad?”
Rikishi nodded, “Just like dad. You said the police are not here?” Elam shook his head. “Good. There’s is a box in the room over there.” Rikishi recalled the previous night as the officers took all his belongings he had on him and put them in a box.” You might have to look on the shelf but it will have my name on it, R-I-K…”
Elam laughed. “I know my letters, Uncle Rik, and I know how to spell your name, R-I-K-I-S-H-I.”
“You are a smart boy. Listen, find that box and bring it here. It has something very important to me.”
“I will,” Elam said as he sprinted down the hallway.
“Everything might depend on it,” Rikishi said to no one.