They were forced to wear chains.
Heavy trinkets that encircled their wrists and categorized them as ethnic, religious, fluid, dyslexia, nearing death. Entire lives strung out like the cheap beads of a child.
For your own protection, they said. So no one mistakes your identity.
Ali wasn't even certain what identity was, anymore.
"I refuse to be branded!" Ali yelled. Fingers wrapped around the beads, Ali pulled harshly at the identity chain. With a fierce tug, the chain broke and droplets of blood slid down the skin of Ali's wrist.
The echoing roar was loud enough to be heard across the entire city.
The hardest part of planning a war is feeding the army.
Irons, in a fit of frustration, swept an arm across the smattering of maps on the makeshift desk. A paperweight flew across the room, slamming harshly against the side of the canvas tent.
After a brief moment of satisfaction, guilt settled heavily in Irons' gut. Fits of anger were no use to anyone.
"It's okay, Irons," Major General Wright said sympathetically. "We're all just as frustrated."
Feeding the International Confederate Army was a nightmare. The confederation had the monopoly on traditional resources. Cattle farmers, locomotives, and steam-powered dirigibles were abundant in their availability. The cattle themselves were the problem.
"Three-thousand fried and left to rot in the fields," General Irons said, throat closing tightly in disgust. "That's just the state of Austin, and you know how they are about their cattle."
Irons' clenched a fist tightly around the nitrogun at the general's waist. The rage that pounded against Iron's breastbone would only be settled by knowledge of sincere justice.
"We'll quell this rebellion," General Irons vowed, "and end this tyranny."
Even with righteous anger burning in the general's gut, somehow the well-rehearsed words tasted false on Iron's tongue.
Cut Away Our Chains
Ali was not the first to demand blood for blood. It was an old tradition in an even older empire. No, Ali wasn't the first.
Standing over the dying, bloody body of a low-level city official, Ali regretted every rebellious word. Ali's incredulous gaze was drawn to the two proud rebels who bought the body to Ali's doorstep like a pair of unruly kittens.
"What did you do?" Ali asked, horrified.
"Cut away our chains," one said, teeth bared in a frighteningly fervent grin.
"No," Ali said, head shaking in denial, "this is not revolution. This is murder."
The shouting and fighting were loud enough to wake both the dead and General Irons, especially when a pair of Gunnery Sergeants crashed into the side of the tent.
Stalking out of the tent in only a dressing gown, the general felt like spitting fire. The entire camp had dissolved into a brawl. Bawdy, half-naked soldiers were rolling around in the mud and the muck, wrestling with each other in anger.
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Tales Told Beneath the Gaslamp : A Wattpunk AnthologyScience Fiction
A collection-in-progress of short stories created by Wattpadders, curated by @Wattpunk, for all those seeking brief adventures in punk worlds. Stay tuned for: Steampunk, Cyperpunk, Dieselpunk, Biopunk, Nanopunk, Atompunk, Clockpunk, Decopunk ... It...