“Surely you can see him, hiding behind that bush. That big bush, near the wall. He’s looking back at us through binoculars. You can see the lens reflections when he scans the scene. There!”

Alton agreed that he could see the man hiding in the bushes.

“He thinks he has hope of escape, but he doesn’t. No hope at all.”

Alton didn’t know whether to be happy or sad that the man had no hope of escape. For that meant that he, Alton had no hope either.

“What’s the matter, you feeling sorry for that guy?”

“He’s just a kid. A teenager.”

“He’s one of them. They breed like rabbits. Give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

Alton nodded, knowing that nothing he could say would change the man’s mind in the least.

They brought him in with a guided probe, and after the initial shock the man/boy offered no resistance. They tied his hands and feet with plastic tape and called in his location for the retrieval van. There was no hurry to pick him up. He had already stopped breathing.

When they got back to the barracks, Alton went to his bunk to be alone. He was realizing that his chances of escape were much lower than he had previously assumed. No one knew what happened to boys who suddenly weren’t around anymore, but there was a chance they hadn’t escaped, but were simply killed, or taken away in the middle of the night to some other place even more horrible than this one.

Before the mass conscription occurred, a lot of Alton’s friends and peers were enrolled in school. They weren’t exactly working hard, but they were occasionally applying themselves to their studies. All that came to a sudden end after the Easter Rising. The schools emptied overnight. Camps like this one took their place, constructed on vacant land that had once been the locations of factories which had closed many years ago. Nothing was made here any more. The only enterprise was the trading of services, health care, sex, market investing.

Alton had hoped to be a music teacher with a sideline in concert performing on the piano. There wasn’t a great deal of money to be made in this his chosen career, but it was something he was good at and enjoyed. Forced conscription ended all that. Now, just six months later, music seemed folly. Who cared about anything that didn’t result in profit or death?

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