Where Honor Lies – #1

Photo prompt: pixabay.com

Where Honor Lies -#1

By BearStarfire McQuinn

C. 2021, McQuinn.

Prologue

From his pocket, Charles withdrew a tattered fragment of a flag that had once belonged to his father, and had once flown over a capital on Terra Firma. the flag itself had once represented an ideal concept of freedom for all. He pulled the fragment to his lips before dropping it to the bar in front of him, saluting it despite its sorry state. Then, he began to address anyone who would listen to his drunken diatribe.

‘To a once glorious land where everyone tasted freedom! We believed we could be the change our world so desperately needed. We tried to enforce that change by fighting anyone who didn’t actively pursue what we believed was a sacred right to our version of freedom. Our young men and women died; living sacrifices to that ideal. And, we honored them for it!’ Charles punctuated his slurred speech to freedom with a fist pounding the bar as ale rolled down his bearded chin.

The sight of his inebriated personage was not one befitting the war hero that he was. In fact, his present appearance was as disgraceful as it had ever been. In short, he resembled the tattered fragment of flag in front of him too well. He’d gone downhill since the last memorial service. Today, was an anniversary of sorts that reminded him of Terra Firma and all that was lost there.

So it was that every year on this night, he would come out to Ol’Salts to rant upon the injustices of life in general, and the loss of Terran ideals in specific. Each year, he’d bolster his spirit and insanity with the purest ale he could afford. And, every year, he’d drink a pint, or several, in honor of his homeland, the late Terra Firma.

‘May she ever rest in peace.’ He thought, not entirely referring to the planet.

‘Ye see this here flag, my friends? This – this flag – died! Just like its ideals, it died. It died from apathy and neglect… neglect, I tells ya. The worse form of abuse there is in this life, too. Those people entrusted – trusted- with its care, let it rot away… untended… ignored until – hic- until it was too late to save her.’ Charles paused for a draught.

‘Terrans took their freedoms for granted. They forgot – FORGOT – that freedom came with a hefty price tag… that price paid in the blood of its brightest and best. They forgot the men and women who gave their lives to keep it alive. That’s what they did, my friends! That IS what they did!’

Charles rose, the tears on his face ignored as he raised his mug into the air. ‘My father rescued this flag for me – He did! He pulled it down with his own hands and wrapped it around his shoulders as he died. MY father – the HERO!’

Overcome, Charles wept and wailed for several moments. ‘It was given to me, so I would never forget his sacrifice! I’ve carried it since. I fought for freedom! I fight for freedom – Freedom for ALL! This – this scrap of flag may be tattered and faded, but its values … its ideals… they are still alive! Kelt it all, it still stands for something!’ To FREEDOM!’

Charles slammed his fist down on the bar hard enough to rattle everyone else’s tankards. He rose unsteadily and began singing an old Terran anthem at full voice and off-key. The song spoke of star spangled banners and the red glare of bursting rockets; most of all, it spoke of giving proof that freedom was still alive and well amid the battle. When he finished, Charles Collapsed on a barstool as he was once again overcome with grief and pride. Between sobs, he cursed reality.

The barkeep, Ol’ Salt himself, sat a fresh pint in front of Charles before stepping back. He’d seen this tirade before. With practiced ease, Salty placed a call to security, hoping they arrived in time to prevent the inevitable. Last year’s tirade had left his tavern without liquor for an entire cycle while he waited for replacements. No, Salty didn’t want to repeat that incident again this year.

A few moments later, a young security officer stepped through the door and up to the bar. Ol’ Salty nodded in Charles’ direction as he began removing his stash of expensive liquors.

‘Excuse me, Sir. I need you to come with me, Sir.’ The officer kindly suggested.

Charles wobbled his head sideways to squint at the young man. ‘Let me tell ya something, Sonny. This here – …’ He jabbed at the tattered fragment. ‘… This – flag – means something.’

‘Yes, Sir, I’m sure it does.’ He nodded.

‘Ye don’t believe me, do ye?’

‘Believe what, Sir?’

‘In freedom; my boy, in freedom!’ Charles’ voice rose.

‘Sir, I need you to come with me, now, Sir.’

‘Tell me, Sonny, do ye e’en know y’er fightin’ for? Ye got that fancy-dancy shirt and that shiny sidearm, but do ye really know what y’er fightin’ for? Do ye e’en understand that – that y’er fancy shirt won’t do ye any good? It only makes ye a walkin’ target, Sonny. All it’ll do is get ye kilt! Ye’ll be as dead as – as this flag. D -E – A- D – Dead!’

‘Sir, perhaps it would be better if we took this discussion to a a different venue, Sir.’ The officer suggested patiently. ‘Sir, it would be in your best interest if – …’

‘Best interest? Did ye hear what ye jus’ said? Y’er worried about me best interest… ‘ell, ye ain’t e’en old enough ta know what an interest is, Sonny.’ Charles tipped his tankard, sucking it dry.

‘Sir, please don’t make this more difficult than it needs to be, Sir.’ The younger officer laid a firm hand on Charles’ shoulder.

Charles suddenly sobered. ‘I sincerely suggest that ya remove that hand, Sonny.’

‘Sir, I sincerely suggest that you come with me, Sir. And, without causing more of a scene, Sir. I’ll escort you home, Sir, professional courtesy.’ The officer’s tone was firm if not compassionate.

Charles looked into his empty tankard before setting it down gently. Then, he frowned.

‘A scene, ye say? Well, Sonny, ye ain’t ever seen a scene like this one.’

With that, Charles lifted the younger officer from his feet and launched him down the length of the bar. The young officer made contact with the shelves, sending bottles of liquor tumbling and crashing around him. Beneath the shattered glass, the officer was now unconscious.

In complete calm, Charles withdrew his credit chip and clicked it onto the bar. Nodding to Salty, Charles pocketed his precious fragment of flag and quietly walked out the door.

Author’s Note: I have made some serious revisions to “Where Honor Lies” so I felt that I should start the serials from scratch. I haven’t figured how to tag/ categorize with this new site yet, so you’ll just have to scroll. I might just do a tag cloud.