Red Line: The Future Part 4

The night before the last step in their training the sisters gather in the rec center. Melissa’s playing pinball while Tara sits in a nearby chair, her face stuck in a book of military strategy.

“Stupid ball.” Melissa tries to shake the machine to avoid losing her final ball but she doesn’t bump it hard enough. The machine starts to flash her final score. “I was so close to the high score.”

Looking up from her book, Tara smirks at her sister. “I don’t think the ball’s the problem.”

Sticking her tongue out, Melissa walks up and stands in the light Tara’s reading by. “If you think it’s so easy, why don’t you try?”

Tara laughs and returns to her book, ignoring the shadow blocking her light. “I don’t have time for pinball Melissa.” Turning the page, she gets a slight grin on her face. “Besides, if you could come close we both know I’d destroy that score.”

Melissa’s jaw drops and she grabs Tara’s hand, pulling her to her feet. “If you want to act big, you’re going to need to prove it. Get up.”

Fighting to free her hand, Tara laughs and sets her book down. “Alright, maybe one game. Then I need to get back to studying.”

Moving to the machine, Tara’s hands slowly find the flipper buttons. She tests them to make sure both are responsive. Melissa inserts a few quarters and they’re under way. The ball bounces back and forth and Tara manages to avoid losing it for several minutes. The score goes higher and the lights flash. Melissa’s constantly leaning in, her eyes wide. She tries to nudge the table at one point to avoid a scratch. Tara takes her eyes away just long enough to give her a stern look. “Nobody likes a back seat player. This is my game.”

Rolling her eyes, Melissa says, “Yes mom.”

The narrowing of Tara’s eyes is immediate. She’d likely chase her sister down and tackle her if it weren’t for the game.

Tara blows past her sister’s score and then the game’s high score in no time. She keeps going and before she runs out of balls she’s doubled the record. Melissa has a goofy grin as she watches. “The other soldiers are going to hate you. Nobody’s touching this score.”

Shaking her head, Tara walks back to her book. “They already do, so who really cares?”

“That’s not true.” Melissa walks up behind her sister and wraps her arms around her neck, lightly hugging her from behind. She rests her cheek on Tara’s shoulder. “You’re just kind of stand offish.”

Tara grabs Melissa’s hands, pulling herself free. “I’m not stand offish, I just don’t waste time making everyone around me comfortable.” She plops back into her seat, immediately pouring herself into her book.

Grabbing a chair to pull up next to her, Melissa sits backwards, resting her arms on the back. “I get that but maybe you could make a little more effort? People like you when they get to know you. They just need a chance to get that far.”

With her face fully back in her book, Tara ignores her. Melissa wants to push further but she knows where this is leading and doesn’t want a huge fight. Instead she walks up behind her sister and hugs her. “For what it’s worth, I love you no matter what.”

Reaching behind her, Tara pats her sister on the hand a few times. “I know. That’s all I really need.”

Part 3

Part 5

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Red Line: The Future Part 3

No call ever comes about the special project though thankfully no call comes from the soldier either. Soon they’re being pushed into boot camp. Long days of pushing every muscle in their bodies to their limits turn to long nights in the nearly empty women’s barracks. The facility’s huge but there’s very few women enlisting in their unit. They’re nearly fifty miles from home and Melissa has rarely been further. Tara only was during her brief college try. They spend a lot of time talking about their parents and their little brother Frank. Melissa feels terribly homesick despite having her sister at her side and tries to call home as often as she can. The phones on base are always busy though and the long distance fees add up so fast that even their mother asks them to limit the calls.

The few other girls in boot camp try to make friends but Tara tends to scare them away at every opportunity. Melissa tries winning them back and she makes headway with a few but then Tara comes along and she’s back to square one. One of the girls pulls her aside. “Look, I don’t want to be mean, but your sister’s crazy. I was waiting for the shower when she got out this morning and she yelled at me for standing around and wasting time. What does my time have to do with her? You need to talk to her.”

She ignores the advice. Her sister comes before making friends. On a personal level their lives are difficult but training’s great. As they near the end of basic they’re excited to go home for a few weeks before transferring to their permanent base in Georgia. Their dad’s excited for them to be gone long enough that he can take over their rooms. All that’s left is to pass the graduation test. The first few tests are easy. After knocking them out without issue Melissa swears she sees her drill sergeant smile. It might be her imagination.

Part 2

Part 4

Red Line: The Future Part 2

When the Chance sisters’ father comes home that night he finds his wife bawling on the couch as her two daughters try to console her. The look he directs at his daughters is icy, his eyes narrow and his eyebrows rise. “What did you do to upset your mother?”

Melissa smiles and tries to look confident. “We went and signed up for the military dad. Mom doesn’t like it.”

Tara cringes, expecting an explosion. Their dad grins instead. “Wait, you’re telling me my daughters have decided to serve their country?” Both girls give slight nods. He runs over to his wife. “What are you crying about? This is a cause for celebration. Our daughters are going to be heroes.”

Their mom looks up, her eyes wide. “How can you be excited at a time like this? Our girls are going to end up dead.”

“Oh please, we haven’t had a shooting war in almost ten years. They’ll get good training and be safe.” He lowers his voice. “Not to mention we’re going to have two less mouths to feed around here and two more rooms available. I know you’ve been wanting a knitting room.”

He tried to be quiet but Melissa picked up every word. She cringes. Their dad’s never been that interested in his kids but using their being gone as his attempt to cheer their mom up is bad even for him. “Mom, I promise we’ll do what we can to stay safe. This is a good job and a chance to do something with our lives. Don’t you want that? We might even be picked for a special project.”

Their dad shoots up and walks over to his youngest daughter. “What sort of project?”

“They didn’t give us a lot of details but there’s some special project they want us for. Maybe. We’ll get a call if we’re picked. It seemed like a big deal.”

Glancing down at himself, their dad looks surprised. “This calls for a celebration. Let me get out of these overalls and into a decent pair of jeans. We’re going out to celebrate. Somewhere decent. You can even get a steak if you want.”

As he rushes upstairs Tara rolls her eyes. He’s seemingly forgotten all about his wife who’s still bawling away. She walks upstairs grudgingly. It could be worse. Tonight she’s definitely having steak.

Part 1

Part 3

Red Line: The Future Part 1

Life’s full of choices. Every day we make decisions which could change the course of our lives. From the moment we wake up we choose whether to get out of bed, whether to eat breakfast, what we want for breakfast, if we want to go to our jobs. We even make a choice to come home when our job grants us a temporary reprieve. Those choices combine into millions of possible endings.

For Melissa Chance though there hasn’t been much in the way of choice for a long time. She wakes up every day whether she likes it or not. Someone makes sure of it. She takes her pills whether she likes it or not. They’re too important to allow any other choice. The only real choice left is whether to live or die and even that isn’t really up to her. If she chose to die it’s unlikely her captors would allow it. She’d give almost anything to make a choice that genuinely matters. She’s only in here because she chose to be.

 


 

The year was 1998 and Melissa and her older sister Tara had just graduated high school. Technically Tara graduated a year earlier but she failed out of college in near record time. Her parents gave her disapproving looks when she arrived back in Many, Louisiana but she insisted college just wasn’t for her. Their parents always wanted their daughters to get a good education but after Tara’s issues Melissa had no interest in pursuing further education.

Raised in a small town, there weren’t a lot of paths out and from a young age both girls knew they needed to get out. They both wanted more from life than their corner of the world could provide. With college out that left only one choice that made sense to them. They decided to enlist in the military. With no sort of major military action in years, they saw it as a great way to get started in life, save some money and figure out the next steps.

On the day they walk into the recruiter’s office the lone soldier with a square jaw and buzzed head takes a long time to notice them. When he does he stares at them with stars in his eyes. “Good afternoon ladies, welcome to our office. How can the United States armed forces help you beautiful creatures today? Did you stumble in the wrong door? I’ll be glad to help with directions.”

Tara gives him a look that could turn a man to stone. From a young age she was the most intimidating person in any room. She doesn’t have a lot of friends outside of her sister and the biggest reason is how hard it is to approach her and break through her icy exterior. She clenches her fists a few times, her palms turning white.“We’re here to register for the United States Army. Where do we sign up?”

Things somehow get worse from there. After the man decides this must be a joke, the girls spend twenty minutes convincing him to register them instead of hit on them. He eventually runs out of excuses and passes them each a packet full of paperwork. He also seems to give up on getting the date he feels entitled to. As they fill out their paperwork he pulls out an extra packet and glances at the girls. “Just out of curiosity, how much do you really want to serve your country?”

Tara’s eyes rest on him and start to narrow. “We’re here aren’t we?”

Glancing down and then turning around he shrugs. “Ya, I suppose so. How would you ladies be interested in a special branch of the service? I’ve got a special project I’m supposed to find ladies to recruit for but we don’t get a lot of women registering out here. You don’t have to do anything special today. Just fill out an extra form and someone will be in touch.”

The sisters look at each other and Tara raises an eyebrow. What have they got to lose? Melissa offers a smile which seems to relax the soldier. “Sure, we can give it a try. Have them give us a call.” After turning down his phone number one last time, they manage to escape.

Part 2