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YA Fiction - Serial Novels - The Sunshine Time

The Sunshine Time Season 1 Episode 1

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On the long train journey from Samanbar to her new home in Alsalem, 18 year old Lea Chantry is intrigued by a handsome and taciturn Mitrione officer, quite enough to disregard the deep-rooted familial hatred of the dreaded paramilitary force and make a nuisance of herself.

“Here we are, your compartment, Sir,” said the TC, as we left Monireh, the last train stop in Samanbar District, and he sounded very obsequious and excited. “If there is anything you’ll need, anything at all, please say so. I’m only here to help. Just call on me, Sir, and...”

“I’ll be grateful if I’m not disturbed,” said a calm, deep voice.

“Of course, Sir, of course not. Rest assured you won’t be,” said the TC, throwing an admonitory look at me and the two soldiers that were there with me, and gabbling still about being around only to help, stood aside to allow the object of all this attention, a very tall, young Mitrione officer in a long black trench coat and peaked cap with the silver insignia, to enter the compartment. He had to duck his head to come in and he paused on seeing us and raised inquiring eyebrows.

I found myself looking straight into the coldest pair of cerulean-blue eyes I’d ever seen, and there was a startled moment. The earth actually seemed to shift and tilt and I suddenly had trouble breathing. The sound of the train seemed to grow louder and louder, and, with an ear splitting whistle, we rattled through a tunnel, the compartment darkening and then lightening again as we emerged back out. He showed no sign of recognition, but there was no mistaking him. It was the very same Mitrione officer that I had seen at the train terminal in Samanbar two days earlier...

He had been standing then by one of the massive stone pillars that upheld the high, overarching station ceiling, standing tall and proud, hands in the trench coat pockets, his rucksack at his feet, surveying the crowd with an aloof detachment, and people had been moving around him with the circumspect deference that the Mitrione evoked everywhere. It was certainly the uniform that had caught my attention to begin with, but only a glance upwards had assured me that this was no ordinary being. He had such an aura about him, like here now was a person completely in command of himself and his destiny. It was a weird thing to think about a total stranger, particularly someone from the hateful Mitrione, but that really had been my first impression. His gaze had swept over me and away, as though he was thinking deeply about something and wasn't even really noticing the things around him, and then had abruptly returned to alight on me and he had stared back at me, with a sharpening expression.

And then something even more inexplicable had begun to happen, something that was both an unaccustomed experience and an unwelcome one for me. I mean, I might have felt an instantaneous rapport with people I hadn’t even spoken to on several occasions in the past, but never before had there been such an immediate affinity with the enemy. It was like having a veil lifted from my brain. I looked at him and the surrounding noise faded away and time seemed to come to a standstill. And in that moment of crystal clear clarity, I knew that whatever beckoned in the future, he was going to figure in it. Our destinies were irrevocably intertwined. It was not rational, it was electrifying. I stood there inside a busy railway station and felt like I’d been struck by lightening. I watched his expression change from that of surprised appraisal to complete astonishment. He gave his head a slight shake as if to make certain he wasn’t hallucinating, and removed his hands from his pockets as though he was going to come right over and...

And then my maternal grandfather’s rough-edged voice had yanked me out of it.

“Place is crawling with the lot of them, the sods. What’s with him now? Another Lothario, eh? Can we not even be out in public without our young girls getting ogled by these boors? Gawd, they sicken me, these lot.”

And he had spat with deliberate intent in the direction of the officer.

Granna!” I had said, floundering as I tried to get my brain together, half-outraged, half-frightened. People got arrested for less. “On...on a public platform, Granna? This is disgusting. Completely unacceptable. When we’ve spent 15 days cleaning up and picking the trash in the mountains and...”

“Oh, shut up. Move on. C’mon, right now!” He had thrust me ahead of him, throwing a grim look backwards at the officer, who had halted and remained where he was, frowning after us. “Bastards. You can’t go anywhere without them bothering you. But her grandmother said no trouble, so we’ll not invite any,” he had added to my boyfriend, Rabin Mazlory, in case Rabin imagined that he was afraid of the bastards.

There was, of course, no question of that, even without the spitting demonstration. In the four days that he had spent in Granna’s company, Rabin had come to realize fully well what an unrelenting fighting spirit my aged relation possessed. If there was any opportunity to pick a quarrel, he would take it. Just that morning, as we were returning to our hotel from shopping in the old town, he had insulted a soldier who had offered me a seat in the bus.

“She’ll bloody well stand,” he had said. “If you Kheranish riffraff want to get chivalrous, you’re not doing it on our time.”

Frantic intervention from my step-grandmother Nana, Rabin, and the other passengers - and, according to the infuriated soldier, the fact of Granna’s pensioner status as revealed by his thick head of silver hair - had prevented a massive fight there and then.

“I’ll give you pensioner!” Granna had shouted over the clamor of the intervening public.

“Why can’t you keep quiet and let things be for just once?” Nana had said later, and Granna, who had quite enjoyed the to-do, had said, “Make up your mind, you don’t like it when I say nothing either.”

That was true. Granna carried a card in his pocket that said ‘Travish Zarafshan is deaf and mute and doesn’t know sign language’, and every time the military police stopped him in the street to check his ID, he showed them that. He got a real kick out of doing that too, but Nana didn’t at all find it amusing. Apart from being completely insensitive to the deaf community, it was only inviting trouble, she said, and he invited enough trouble already with his political cartoons and dissident views.

Granna didn’t care though. He had once been a fearful man, as he liked to inform everyone himself, but he had stopped being that after Mitrione soldiers had held up his car unnecessarily at a checkpoint, preventing him from taking his pregnant Kirzheik first wife, Alin, to the hospital in time. She had died giving birth to twins, my mother, Salila, and my aunt, Sarvani, from complications that immediate medical attention might have averted, and Granna’s world had collapsed. Where previously, as an ethnic Azarzhen, he had been more or less apolitical, he had now turned virulently anti-Kheranish and stridently pro-Kirzheik. He had become so well-entrenched in the Kirzheik camp, he even out-nationalized the nationalists. Every time the Kirzheik Nationalist Party (KNP) organized protests against Mitrione atrocities and marches demanding a separate Kirzheik nation, he was right there in the forefront. It was only his utter incapability of personally harming another human being that kept him from being involved in the gun-running, more violent side of things.

He supported the Kirzheik Liberation Front (KLF) though, he insisted, yes, even the Caraindon hotel bombing of two weeks ago that had killed 3000 people and injured scores more. The Mitrione’s Commander-in-Chief was Sarmand Caraindon and, as the scion of one of the wealthiest business clans in the world, he was the recipient of Granna’s most vile epithet, ‘elite, rich bastard’; if it wasn’t bad enough that the family firm had such a stranglehold over the entire national economy, the elite, rich bastard had to go soldiering too. The Mitrione had only been a moderately offensive anti-terrorism paramilitary force before he had taken over, it was he who had turned it into such a powerful symbol of brutal repression for all right-thinking Kirzheik nationalists.

Yes, so it was no big deal if a building belonging to ‘those people’ got its glass and brickwork blown out. They didn’t lose any sleep, after all, when they mined entire villages and killed us, did they?

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