Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012: [Pargons Of Virtue: book #1] Day #6

In this day's writing, you could see me use blanks for filling in later. I wanted to focus on the bigger picture first. Please bear in mind that the ending is abrupt, because I finished writing that part at the start of the next day. I wrote it in a different file, so that it would be easier to count words for each day. Enjoy day #6 of my NaNoWriMo writing.

Reed said, “What do you think we should do now?”

I looked in the corner of my eye, and canted my head. I knew that he was not going to record my answer and grade me, but I always wanted to try my best to pass with flying colours. “Well, generally speaking, we don't have any leads. We don't have a clear picture of what happened. If the claims are true, then we need to trace the steps of the impersonators. Frank was behaving unusually. We need to answer questions about him.” I looked at Reed to see if I got everything.

“Such as?” We started walking back to the car.

“Perhaps, why did he go berserk? He didn't appear to be attacking anybody in particular. Perhaps he was just crazy, but still. Why didn't he try to get off the hook? Didn't he care about his wife, assuming that she was his wife?”

“Good. If the claims are true, then what do you think the impersonators needed to do?”

This was a tough one. I've never impersonated anybody before, and it was never covered in our training. “Well, he would need to find people to push around and threaten.”


“He would need to collect the money.”

I only came up with two things, but I couldn't come up with anything more.

Normally, Reed tried to not help out, but he must have sensed that I was struggling. “Try repeating everything you said, but state it in the form of a question, starting with, 'Did they really only ___?'”

That seemed so odd to me, but Reed never let me down. “Did they really only...they went to...they threatened people...and they collected money--”

“Okay. Try to make it grammatically correct.”

“Did they really only...threaten people...and then...collect money...? Did they really only threaten people and then collect money?”

“And what is the answer?” Reed said, as he opened the door.

“ They must have done other stuff.”

“How do you know?”

“Because they can't just show up and expect people to...believe that they are paladins!” A smile popped up on my face, and I began to nod my head in tiny movements. “They must have had to get uniforms...if the uniforms were really ours, then maybe somebody is helping out...maybe somebody is accidentally providing them...maybe the impersonators made fake uniforms. How would ordinary people know what an actual uniform looks like?” Everything seemed so clear. “We could look at records of when some of our uniforms might have disappeared, but we might have better luck searching business records for when somebody ordered various parts of our uniforms.” I turned to Reed to see how I was doing.

He smiled his approval, and nodded.

“We could also try to figure out when the impersonators started impersonating. If we are thorough in searching the records, then we should be able to correlate the first occurrence of the impersonation.”

He was still smiling, and he nodded again.

“However, the odds of finding that information is pretty slim, and we might have to shelf this case.”

He looked much more sober this time, and he nodded in a way that conveyed that we needed to be realistic.

Although this was the first time that I had ever heard of paladin impersonation, it was not really surprising, when I really thought about it. We used commercial off-the shelf parts.

# # #

John said, “Wait. Wait. I thought that you made your own armour. You guys are supposed to have your own black smith. Aren't you supposed to sanctify your uniforms and your equipment?”

Tom smiled, and snickered a little. “Ah, the reputation persists. In dirty thirties, we were hit hard, just like everybody else. We have a strict moral code of maintaining a balanced budget. In those days, things were already getting pretty modern, and that meant that we had to let go of stuff that we really didn't need anymore. It's too bad. I really do enjoy wearing the traditional uniform. It had remained unchanged since the fifteen hundreds. If only the dirty thirties hadn't occurred, then that uniform probably would have stayed in regular use, and I would have worn it as regular use. There is just something special about the shiny metal. You have to admit, though, there is something strange about wearing a breast plate in a car.”

John smiled. “Yeah. Did you ever catch the impersonator? Was there even an impersonator?”

“Yes, and yes. If it wasn't for God's intervention, we would have never even started up on it again.”

# # #

Mayer Rosenberg said, “Those damn Chinamen! I've had enough of them. If you guys want to continue working here, then you'll do something about it.”

Ordinarily, that would have been yet another remark. Rosenberg was well known for pushing his weight around the city. He really knew how to play politics in the 1960s. In the 1990s and afterwards, politicians, who knew how to play politics, tended to have a sliminess about them. Rosenberg tended had a fearsomeness about him. He was always slithering his way into every organization to find its weakness, so that he could exploit it. So, when he complained about a group of people, and then threatened others to do something about it, we just assumed that he was being himself.

Our highest cleric, General Caldwell, said, “Sir, certainly, we will look into any problems that they might cause. However, I must say, that they are good citizens, and have a good reputation among the community.”

“I didn't ask you for your opinion, Caldwell. Do you think that I would get you to do a job, if I knew that they were innocent? Is that what you really believe?”

“Sir, I never said that. What I--”

“Then get the job done.”

“Sir, please explain again, what is it you specifically want.”

“They are just a bunch of snakes. They constantly evade local taxes. We have been too lenient. I order you to send in some troops to bust down some doors. Toss around some furniture. Smash a few plates if you have to.”

“Since you are a politician, you could certainly appreciate the...the unpopularity of the action.”

“You have never followed the path of popularity. What do care of it?” He walked around the desk, and sat on it, in front of General Caldwell. He said, in a firm tone, “Need I remind you, that you are here by my permission. You guys serve the community because of me.”

“We are here because of the people, and because of God.”

“And how do you intend to protect the people and serve God, when you are no longer authorized as public servants? What are you going to do, when I bring in a police force to oppose your every effort? You know that I could hire more police than the amount of paladins you could muster.”

General Caldwell never told us how he specifically reacted, and we know that he is usually a very calm and controlled person, but I could almost imagine him calling down fire and brimstone on the mayor. He never liked ultimatums and forcefulness from anybody. He even encouraged courtesy and gentleness as the first resort for the chain of command.

He also encouraged obedience to authorities, even when it was not convenient. He said to us afterwards, “Gentlemen, we don't have to do this. We serve God to the best of our abilities, and with the opportunities that are given to us. We won't go looking for opportunities. We take what's given us. Mayor Rosenberg is wrong, but we will follow his orders to the extent that it does not conflict the standards of courtesy. Tax evasion is wrong, so we will search out tax evaders as ordered. Even though we know nothing about preventing tax evasion, we are to go about doing. He wants us to bust up homes and belongings, as if we are chaotic evil tax collectors.” He held his hands up in surrender. “Yes, I know. It makes no sense. He wants us to start in Shawnessy, in East Vancouver.”

In my head, flags went up, and bells went off.

“He want us to start in the poorest neighbourhood, as if there are lots of taxes to be collected.” He shook his head. I got the impression that he did not believe that he said it. “We will go out in sections.”

Sections were composed of eight paladins: one IC [i.e. “in charge”]; one 2IC [i.e. “second in charge”]; and six paladins. Three sections made a platoon. Three platoons made company. A section could be split up into two groups: one led by the IC; the other led by the 2IC. A group could be split up into teams. If the team was not led by the IC or the 2IC, then it would be led by the lead corporal.

“He says that he has reports of them gathering in homes on this street,” he said, as he gestured with a pointer on a map, “and scheming.”

That was the exact same part of the street that Reed and I had knocked doors on. I looked at him, and he shook his head to reflect how uncomfortable he was with how the situation was getting.

“The mayor says that they have been making claims of being unemployed, and that they are unable to pay property taxes. We need to go into their homes and search for signs of misspending, hording, and deceit. We should look for signs of lavish creature comforts and luxuries. If we find something, then we will report it. We will explain right away that we conducting investigations regarding tax evasion. We will not break anything. We will not enter in where we are not welcome.”

I said, “Sir, we went there just to ask questions ten years, ago, and they wouldn't even answer basic questions. I doubt that that will let us in.”

He held up his empty palms, shrugged, and said, “Oh, well.”

So, here we were, sent on a fool's errand to do something that was not doable, and all because we are paladins; people who followed orders to the best of our ability, even though it would result in us losing our authority anyways.

In the car, I broke the silence. I said to Reed, “So, this street seems to have people who are afraid of us, because they have been extorted, and the mayor is now complaining about them not doing enough, and accuses them of having more money than they claim to have.”


I looked at him, and I could see the wheels turning in his head.

Reed said, “It's too bad that we didn't have enough time to check their federal tax records.” After a pause, he added, “It's not as if we talking about a rich neighbourhood.” After another pause, he said, “Maybe we're looking at this all wrong. We're probably looking at it as if it were all about whether or not Frank is innocent, and whether or not the neighbours are telling the truth, and whether or not there are mysterious impersonators. Let's pretend to be bad guys, who are trying to oppress these people.”

“Okay.” I could feel my brain straining. I had never thought so much about being bad, as I had in the order. We always had to climb into the heads of the bad guys. I thought that I would escape a lot of badness, when I joined the order, but apparently not. I tried to think about the problem, but I decided to let Reed lead.

He took a deep breath, and said, “Okay. So, we want to oppress a bunch of poor people. They must have some money to extort.”


“Why not rich people? Because they would be too powerful.”

“Right, right. Even the impersonators have limitations. When oppressing the poor, there are less limitations.”

“Less limitations, because the poor have less people to appeal to for help.”

“They could have come to us.”

But, these poor people might have language issues.” He held his chin, and narrowed his eyes a little. “But, what if they had good English? They would still not come to us...because...because what?”

I offered, “Maybe that's what the extortion is for.”

“True.” When I glanced at Reed, there was a bit of a smile on his face. “Are they actually Chinese?”

“What's the difference? If I were bad, I would oppress them all.”

“I don't know. Maybe that was a dumb question, but to them, it might make a difference. Maybe they are so isolated. We wouldn't know it, because we don't care about last names and whether or not they are Chinese or Japanese. Maybe the bad guys do know. The bad guys need to know how isolated these guys are.” He started nodding his head a bit more. “Yeah, the bad guys have to know a lot about the poor people, in order to anticipate what they will and will not do. Would you try to extort a random person, and then just assume that that person will not go to the paladins?”


“Okay. We don't know who knows about the neighbourhood, but in the day to day world, who would know the most about these people?”

“The employers.”

“The federal government. The tax department. The census. The city.”

# # #

John said, “You know, I would like to become a paladin. I think that I'm going to apply. I can't even imagine going to a boring job all day. I'd love to always go to a job that I love. I don't believe that I should have to settle for anything less. Settling is for quitters. Being a paladin should would beat coming to a boring volunteer job.”

Tom's eyes opened; a reflex that had not been lost, even though he was blind.

John felt an awkwardness. He quickly thought through what he just said. “Not that this is boring or anything.”

Tom's face relaxed, and he kept his patience. “You should know that there were a lot of tough days. I have to admit that although the life was rough and strict, it was very liberating.”

“Wha-a-at? Whoa, whoa, whoa. Okay, how could it be strict and liberating?”

“We had our own high standards that were very hard to live up to, yet those standards were our own. Outsiders were not really allowed to tell us what to do. In that sense it was liberating. And we didn't have to deal with internal corruption.”

That's what I want. I want the freedom to not be forced to do anything. Be my own boss. And no corruption. Nadda. I can't believe that you would have a tough day. General Caldwell sounds really cool. I bet that he never forced you to do anything bad.”

“I don't think that you mean it in the same way that I did. First of all, think about Mayor Rosenberg. Effectively speaking, he made us barge into people's homes. We didn't physically barge in, but it was in a figurative sense. That was a real bad time for us. Even though we were polite, we felt ashamed of who we were. Secondly, we are normal people. I like to think of us as elite good people, and we are, but we are also vulnerable to corruption and bad mistakes. We had a big rule to deal with that. Any paladin could accuse another paladin of mistakes and wrong doing, as long as it was done carefully. Even a private, fresh out of his training course, could accuse High Cleric Caldwell. I can tell you that he probably regret making the rule.”

“I don't believe it. You guys accused each other of...of,” John said, and he said in a hushed tone, “of evil?”

“Yes. Absolutely. We are imperfect people. Like I said, I believe that we are elite good people, people of virtue, but we are imperfect. Even if we were perfect, we would still have to struggle, because we are morally weak.”

“I can't believe that anybody would accuse you of anything big.”

Tom's eyes opened so wide that the white could be seen all around the iris. “Oh, trust me. I got a good sized helping of that.”

This time, John's eye's flashed open. “No. Really?”

Tom nodded.

“No. What happened?

# # #

I finally got promoted to sergeant. I was also fortunate to get command of a section of paladins. It was the greatest honour that I had, up until that time. I still remember getting the new sergeant's insignia. The day seemed so much brighter, than before the promotion. It seemed so much more colourful, too. The air smelled so sweet.

The next day, we got a call. We had to go into the interior to hunt down a kidnapper. He had his day in court. It was an open and shut case. We had enough evidence to prove that he was guilty beyond a doubt. He had escaped, and it was our job to bring him back. Our order sent up a company to hunt him down.

I was pretty excited to prove myself. I had loyal men under me, and we were well trained. We were chomping at the bit.

Reed had been promoted to sergeant earlier on, but we still got to work together. My section and his section got tasked to patrol a particular valley with a creek. Because of what the others were doing, we walked up the creek to the tail. His section took the left, and mine took the right.

We had the habit of checking our binoculars. We had been marching for several hours already.

At about one o' clock, the sun beat down on our heads. We should have stopped, but I was desperate to bag the kidnapper. I really wanted to catch a bad guy on my first task.

My 2IC, Sub Sergeant Dickerson, said “Sergeant, let's stop for a break. There's some shade over there.”

I wanted to press on. Since the shady area was ahead, I agreed to it, in hopes of finding an excuse to push on, before we actually arrived there. I took a quick look in my binoculars, and then I nodded to him. Just as we arrived at the shady area, I took another scan in the binoculars. It was perfect timing, too. I spotted the kidnapper just ducking behind a big boulder. I turned to my section, and yelled, “Keep your packs on, boys! I see him.”

Dickerson looked ahead, and said, “We could post sentries to prevent him from backtracking. That would force him upstream. He would need a break, also. He can't get too far ahead.”

I looked at Reed's section. He was bringing them to the shady area. I loved him like brother, but the kidnapper was just over yonder, and I didn't want to share the credit.

Just a few steps later, Reed called out, “Smith! Take a break! In the shade.”

I shook my head, and gestured for my section to keep moving. A minute later, I checked back, and saw that Reed's section was in the shade. In the order, and presumably the military forces, it is all a marathon, and not a sprint or a walk. In my entire career in the order, I have felt that “fatigue” clearly describes every single physical activity.

When we are smart and well trained, we have less fatigue. When we are arrogant, unwise, and/or uninformed, we have more fatigue.

About ten minutes later, we arrived at the boulder, that I saw him duck behind. We cocked our guns for action. We expected him to have heard us approaching, so we set ourselves up, with a paladin laying prone with machine gun, to give us cover, as we checked around the boulder.

Not surprisingly, he was not there. We checked for prints by the creek. We checked in crannies, and nooks, and there was nothing.

We took a quick break. There wasn't much shade here, but we made do.

Dickerson said, “Let's go back and check some little crannies that I saw between the shady spot and here.”

“I don't remember seeing anything.”

“It was there.”

My trophy was getting away, and my trusted adviser wanted to backtrack. There was no way that he could convince me, but I didn't feel like saying no.

“We could meet up with Reed's section. They should be leaving in a few minutes.”

He had a good point. Ideally, we were supposed to travel as a single group.

I looked up creek with the binoculars, and I thought that I saw him. It was too far, and his skin blended too much with the rocks of the canyon, assuming that it really was him.

He suddenly moved.

“Come on!” Without looking back, I could imagine my 2IC closing his eyes, to hide the fact that he was rolling them.

When we arrived, we saw fresh blood on some rocks. We speculated that he probably stumbled while trying to climb some rocks to get to higher ground. The canyon floor was getting very uneven, and there was a natural ledge above. Judging by some foot prints near the creek, he seemed like a large male. He seemed very tired, because he seemed to be stumbling.

Knowing that we were probably catching up and that he seemed tired really built up our morale. The men were smiling. I could see them looking at me with admiration. It also built up my confidence. I was beginning to wonder if we would ever find some solid evidence of anybody in the canyon.

I wanted to keep going, but I ordered a rest. The first thing that we did was drink the remainder of water in our canteens. We filled them from the creek. It looked clean, but we said a prayer, just in case. We stepped back from the water line, and poured water all over ourselves. Once again, we filled our canteens, and then we sat in a shady spot nearby. Every one of us winced as we gingerly removed our boots. As I removed my boots, I could feel them pulling at the blisters on the back of my heels. The weather was too warm and humid to see any steam from our clothes, boots and feet, but I imagined that there was some.

I felt a tinge of guilt for pushing my guys so hard, so I took most of the sentry duty.

After the break, we moved at a slower pace, and took more breaks. We were fortunate, in that clouds floated by, and the wind brought in some cold air. I never claim to understand it, but I do believe that it wasn't just a coincidence.

Over big boulders, around big holes, and along steep walls, we forced ourselves onwards.

We arrived at a hole. Its mouth reached from canyon wall to wall, where each wall was straight up and down. There were only hand holds that protruded one centimetre. The ledges had disappeared long ago. I looked back to see if Reed was coming up behind us. I had a feeling that he gave up.

Perhaps it was the heat of the day combined with exhaustion, but the mouth of the hole appeared to stand sentry, preventing all from passing. This figurative sentry seemed to intimidate the most hardened hero. I wanted to cry. Even the creek disappeared into a crack in the canyon wall, about half a kilometre ago.

I was getting a little scared. This obstacle seemed very dangerous, and I felt like I was out of my league. I had hoped that Reed would have enough experience to explain how we would get across.

Dickerson said, “Turn back, Smith?”

I felt like we could not turn back, because I wanted to gain the confidence of my men. I also did not like the idea of admitting defeat, and walking away from an obstacle. “We are called to be paladins. We need to capture the kidnapper, and bring him to justice. We must be willing to overcome the worst adversity.”

“If we become foolhardy, and make bad decisions, then we essentially forfeit the mission; and for what? What do we hope to gain, by attempting the impossible, when simpler possibilities have not been tried yet?”

I gestured across the hole in front of us. “What possibilities could we try?”

He shook his head. He didn't believe that I said that. “The creek disappeared a while ago. I bet that we could find a hole that's big enough to hide him. Come on. Were you always looking ahead and scanning both left and right?”

I looked away with frustration. Did I always keep my eyes up? I did not even remember.

I reached into my sacred pouch. Every warrior of the order has one. It is a gift from God. If we have any questions, we are to ask it in a way that can be answered as a straight forward yes or no. We are then to pull out one of two stones. If we pulled out a white stone, then the answer was, “Yes.” If we pulled out a black stone, then the answer was, “No.” I felt so guilty for what I was about to do. I prayed in my mind, “Dear God, I want to do what is right, and give you the glory. Please bring me success. Is there anything on the other side?” I pulled out a white stone. A wave of joy passed over me, and I smiled. At least, I think that is was joy. I held up the white stone to show Dickerson. I held my other hand up for a high five.

His eyes cut deep in me. In a scolding way, he said, “What did you say?”

That guilt came back pretty fast. “I asked, whether or not we should go over...”

His angry look turned to disbelief. He looked over the hole, and then back to me. He sat down, and stared at the ground, and rested his head on his hand. The others sat also, and sipped from their canteens. Occasionally, he looked at me.

I sat down, to give him time to respond. I looked up. We still had lots of light left in the day, but the sun disappeared over the western canyon wall.

I saw Dickerson close his eyes. He opened them, then reached in, and pulled out a black stone. “What did you say?”

I furrowed my brow. I would have thought that he would have pulled out a white stone, and then supported my decision, or pulled out a black stone, and then try to lead the team away. The stones might be opposite, but the responses could never contradict each other. He must have asked a question, that I did not expect. I looked at canyon floor on the other side, then gestured, and said, “Well...” I furrowed my brow, as I tried to recall. Was it, “Is the kidnapper on the other side?” or “Should we go to the other side?” or “Is it dangerous to get to the other side?” I was sure that I did not ask the latter, but I remember asking a question that pertained to safety of my men. I shut my eyes tight. The more that I thought about it, the more that I became confident that I had asked, “Is the safest course of action crossing the hole?” I checked my notepad, since we were supposed to record the exact phrasing of every question, the time and date that it was asked, and the context, which prompted the question in the first place. When I saw nothing related to the question, my heart sank. Every moment seemed to be working against me. I said, “I asked if the safest course of action was crossing the hole.”

He pressed his lips together, widened his mouth, and shook his head.

I looked at him in disbelief. I wondered if he questioned my authority, when he pulled his stone.

“Pull it.”

“You know the rules.” The rules state that each response was supposed to be so authoritative, that we are not allowed to question the response. We were allowed to discuss the question, and the possible meanings of the question and the response, but we were never allowed to ask for a second opinion, no matter what. The response was final. The idea is that if there was any doubt about the possible responses, then that means that we have not thought thoroughly through the problem enough. We were required to get to an unfortunate situation or some kind of point of no return before we asked.

Pull it.” He took a sip of water. He was essentially countermanding me, but he did have that authority. Everybody did, when it came to interpreting the questions and the stones. I had no record of what happened, so I have nobody to blame but me.

I reached into my sacred sack.

“Nah! Uh uh.”

I looked at him quizzically.


I nodded. I pulled out the pen and pad. I thought through the question out loud. “Is it safe to get across? Where is the guy? Is he over there? Is...Should we turn back?” That seemed okay, but that would be in contradiction of the previous question, if I recalled correctly. “Should we keep going? Should we cross?” I looked at Dickerson.

He nodded approvingly, and I penned down the correct information.

I pulled white. I felt a sense of heaviness flood me, this time.

He shook his head. We all trusted God and the stones, but I know that he blamed me for any negative consequences that were about to happen.

My section pulled out rope and any things that could give us an edge. We tied rope around our waists. The biggest paladin wedged the end of the rope under a boulder, and leaned back pulling his end tight. With our slack end, we slowly climbed on the east wall of the canyon.

My fingers grew tired. As I reached for a hold, the hold under my left foot gave out. My left hand grasped a hold, but it was too weak to stop my fall. My right forearm scraped against the sharp holds. My fall pulled the next paladin down. The next came also, and the next, and the next, and the next. The only paladins that didn't get pulled down were the paladins that had not begun their crossing. When the rope would no longer give way, we bounced against the wall of the hole. As for me, I bounced against my face, busting my nose.

There I was dangling by a rope that was tightening against my hip. I went first, because I believed that it would be the most dangerous, yet my guy dangling closest to the mouth of the hole was feeling all of his own weight, plus ours. I was feeling too dizzy to react to any of this. I just felt myself fumbling around for any hand hold.

The guys were commendable. I later found out that they managed to absorb most of the shock with their feet and legs. They got footing on the wall quickly, so that they didn't do too badly. As for me, I did get footing, but it took me a few extra moments.

Once I got my bearings, it was smooth sailing, relatively speaking of course. We took several minutes to clean ourselves up, and give ourselves and chance to recuperate.

The end. Thank you for reading!

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