Thursday, March 3, 2011

Heavy Type - Jacob's Watch

by John Prins

When the ceremony ended, Jacob rose and took up his portion of the burden. As one, he and seven fellow officers slowly walked from the small shrine, their strides in perfect time.

The funeral for Amos J. Lee, civilian, was over.

The funeral for Sergeant Amos J. Lee, Peacekeeper, had just begun.

It was six kilometers to the hill. None of the eight bearers broke step. They walked the whole distance, closely followed by Amos' family, kith, and friends. Behind them, a solid wall of Peacekeepers marched in equally flawless step. As they marched through the streets of Mekong, the normally unflappable crowds parted like water before the procession, maintaining a respectful silence until they had passed. Even after they were gone, the bustle of the populace remained subdued for some time.

The hill was small, on the edge of the city, and topped with nothing more than a large paved circle. In the center of this circle stood a neatly squared lattice of fernwood logs. It was atop this that the officers laid their burden for its final rest.

Standing back, Jacob took a good last look at Sergeant Lee. Cold and dead he rested atop the log pyre wearing his Peacekeeper dress uniform. Only this one, unlike the regular black suit, this uniform was the purest white. Peacekeepers only wore white uniforms once, though every officer had a set of whites in his closet. It was a reminder only; to actually wear it while still alive was to invite disaster. Sergeant Lee never would have worn his whites before now, though they looked to be a perfect fit.

Jacob's captain broke ranks with the body of Peacekeepers, stepping up to the pyre. Without ceremony, he stripped the Mekong flag from the body of Sergeant Lee, folding it with an all-too practiced hand. Stepping back, he presented the flag to Amos' wife. She took it without comment. She knew, in this instance, she was an outsider. It was clear from the Regimental flag that covered Amos' body now, revealed when the country's was stripped away.

Only one thing left to do.

Jacob and the other bearers took the torches from their belts. Quickly they were lit, and in at an unmade signal, tossed as one into the base of the pyre. The propane jets located below the logs caught fire immediately, burning just long enough to let the wood properly catch fire.

As the sun went down, Amos' family, kith and friends descended the hill, escorted by the orderly troop of Peacekeepers. In the morning, the ashes would be delivered to them for burial.

But tonight, tonight began the watch. Jacob and the other bearers would stand guard over the pyre until morning, to insure a peaceful departure for their brother.

The fire could be seen by most of the city. They knew what it meant.

In the morning, when Jacob and the others bore the ashes down the hill, their feet would not touch the path for the flowers.

[Next: Honor and Face]

[John Prins] [Heavy Type]

The above article was archived from Heavy Type: A Heavy Gear Fan Fiction Website as part of the Hermes 72 Archive Project. It has been edited from its original form and is used without permission.

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