Six out of Five

by Leo David Orionis

For a moment the screen is black; then a picture appears. We see a man, sitting on a stool in a non-descript room that could be any basement, garage workshop, or family room in America. The wall behind him is concrete block, painted grey. The light comes from overhead, but we don't see the light fixture; just the man, sitting on the stool, looking at the camera. He's a white man, with light brown hair cut short, and regular, handsome features. He has no mustache, sideburns, or beard. He's dressed in blue jeans, and a light blue, short-sleeved shirt. He begins to speak.

"My name is John Stowe. I'm a citizen of the United States of America, born in the city of Modesto, California, in 1960. I graduated from high school there in 1978. I was too young to serve in Vietnam, but I joined the Army after graduation, like many of my family before me. Like every other recruit then, and I hope still, we were taught the lessons of Vietnam. The chief one was, if you're ordered to commit a crime, you must refuse to do it, and you must report the illegal order to the chain of command."

He looks to his right, our left, and holds out his hand. A white woman moves awkwardly into the light, takes his hand, and looks at the camera. She's visibly pregnant, perhaps six months along. There's a huge bruise on the right side of her head, marring a pretty face framed in auburn curls She's wearing a brown skirt and a white blouse.

"This is my wife, Madeleine. We met when I was going through Advanced Individual Training at Fort Benjamin Harrison, near Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1977. We got married in 1978. The bruise on her face is from a pistol in the hands of a government agent in a suit and tie, wearing sunglasses. He struck her because she kept demanding, as an American citizen, who he was, what he was doing in our house without a warrant, and what agency he worked for."

"You could've been shot," he says to his wife. She doesn't reply, but lifts her head and stares at the camera, defiantly.

Still holding her hand, Stowe looks to his left, and holds out his other hand. There's a rush of feet, and two teenaged girls run into the light. The younger takes his hand and buries her face in his chest. The older stands in front of her mother, as if to defend Madeleine and the unborn baby from the camera. The younger girl wears blue shorts and a white top, and has her hair in a ponytail. The older girl wears a blue skirt and a white top, with her hair falling to her shoulders. Both girls are blondes.

"These are our girls. Turn around, baby," he says to the younger, and gently turns her so that her face can be seen. "This is Karen, and she's 14. You'll have to forgive her shyness. She's not usually like this, but then, she's never had armed strangers break down the front door in the middle of the night, drag her screaming from her bed, and SHOVE GUNS IN HER FACE!" By the end of the sentence, Stowe is shouting.

He recovers himself, and puts both his arms around his younger daughter. "Sorry, baby," he says, and kisses the top of her head. His wife does the same to the older daughter. John smiles a little, and says, "Our other daughter is Joy, and she's 16. We're going to call the new one Tara, if the criminals in our government don't kill her first.

"They say we're terrorists," he says, looking directly at the camera. "They say I planned to blow up an Army base, or maybe a Federal building. It's been two days since they abducted us from our house, so there's no telling what lies they've planted; what guns, what explosives, what literature from actual terrorist groups. But if you talk to my buddies at the base, they'll tell you I'm not that kind of guy, I don't own a gun, and I've got no beef with our government except for Bush and his illegal attack on Iraq, and Cheney and Rumfeld and the other criminals around him. I've voted in every election since I was old enough to vote, and I always vote Democrat. Whoever heard of a Democratic terrorist?

"If you check with the ACLU, you'll find I've been a member since high school. Same for the Southern Poverty Law Center, People for the American Way, and a host of other 'liberal' organizations. Whoever heard of a 'liberal' terrorist?

"I'm a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army with an unbroken string of top evaluation reports, a personnel-records folder stuffed full of commendations, just waiting until I have enough time in grade and time in service to be promoted from E-6 to E-7. Don't let them lie about me and my family, the way they lied about the illegal war they started in Iraq, and the reasons they invented to kill all those soldiers on both sides. Investigate them, prosecute them, and send them to jail!

"But they didn't break down my front door because I see Bush and his cronies for the criminals they are. They didn't drag me, Madeleine, Joy and Karen from our beds because I'm a Democrat or a 'liberal'. They didn't shove pistols and rifles in our faces, handcuff us, and haul us away in unmarked vans because we write letters to the newspapers, sign petitions, and demonstrate in the streets.

"A couple of months ago, I was asked to attend a special leadership course. Courses always look good when you're being considered for promotion, so I agreed. They sequestered me, and a dozen others, on base. We were confined to barracks at night, ate at our own mess hall, and took weird tests during the day, that made no sense. So what else is new, right? After a couple of weeks, they said we were done, and we went back to our regular posts, with orders not to discuss the whole thing.

"Then, two days ago, they come storming into my house like I'm a drug-dealer or a white supremacist, pistol-whip my wife for standing up for our rights, handcuff us, gas us, and haul us away.

"We woke in some kind of government facility, still handcuffed. There were armed soldiers with M-16s, who refused to tell us what was going on, and pointed their weapons at us if we got too close. But we had two beds to sit on, and a small latrine. It could've been much worse.

"Presently a medical type came in, wearing a lab coat, and five people in suits and ties, wearing sunglasses and carrying pistols. They still refused to answer questions. The head agent said, 'We don't have to tell you anything, Staff Sergeant Stowe. You've been declared an enemy combatant, and you have no rights. We can do anything we want to you, your wife, or your daughters. But if you cooperate, we'll let you all live.' "

" 'This is bullshit!' I told him. 'I'm an American citizen, and a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. Everything you've done since breaking down my front door is a crime, and every one of you is a criminal, whether you ordered it or whether you obeyed the order. Every one of you is going to jail for this!'

" 'I don't think so,' he said. 'As an enemy combatant, you're never going to see a lawyer.'

" 'That's a crime, too!' I said.

"That's when Madeleine said, 'Cooperate how? What do you want from us?'

" 'Ah! There are some brains in the family! Well, Mrs. Stowe, it seems your husband took some tests, and they show that he has certain abilities, He can influence people to do what he wants, especially if they don't know he's doing it, and maybe other abilities we couldn't test for except here, in a top-secret location. We also want to test your daughters, and see what they might've inherited from him.'

" 'In short, you want to find out what we can do, then turn us into weapons against anyone you decide is an enemy.'

" 'Now you're catching on, Sergeant Stowe,' he said.

" 'And afterwards?'

" He spread his hands and smirked. 'There is no afterwards, I'm afraid. The war against the enemies of the United States never ends.'

" 'The only enemies of the U.S. that I see are you and the people behind you,' I said. I looked at Madeleine. 'Well, honey?'

"She nodded. 'Do it,' she said.

" 'All you men, FREEZE!' I said. 'Don't move a single muscle. Fingers off the triggers, NOW!'

" 'Good. Now, point all the weapons straight up at the ceiling.'

" 'Better.' I looked at the man who'd thought he was in charge. He wasn't smirking now. He was turning red in the face as he tried to move.

" 'Don't bother, you'll hurt yourself. Who has the keys to these cuffs?'

" 'Answer him!' Madeline said, adding her power to mine, and his resistance vanished. 'I do,' he said, glassy-eyed.

" 'Toss them at my feet, then go back to being frozen,' I told him.

"When the handcuffs were off, and while Madeleine was comforting the girls, I looked at the agents, the soldiers, and the doctor. 'I should shoot you all,' I said. 'But I've never killed a man in my life, and I'm not sure that the crimes you've committed tonight are capital crimes. I'm not a judge, and this isn't a court.

" 'We're leaving now. After we're out the door, arrange yourselves to block it from the inside. You will not move, and you will not call out, for 24 hours. When you need to piss or crap, do it where you stand, I don't care.'

John Stowe looked directly at the camera. "When I met Madeleine all those years ago, I realized she was another like me, with certain powers. I'm not going to list them, or tell you about them. But thanks to them, wherever we go, everyone around us is on our side. I hope, after our friend with the camera makes copies of this tape and mails them to hundreds of newspapers, TV stations, military facilities, and Democratic politicians, they'll be on our side willingly, because they've seen this tape, and others like it.

"Despite out powers, the odds are in favor of the criminals in our government. They must be exposed, and made to answer for their crimes, but they have the guns, the men willing to use them against us, the snipers, and the helicopters.

"But every time you see us, there are others you don't see. If you see four of us, there are at least five. If you shoot five of us, six will stand against you. Six out of every five is the kind of numbers the enemies in power can't beat.

"My name is John Stowe; Staff Sergeant John Stowe, United States Army. My wife, my daughters, and I are fighting for the American dream. I hope you'll fight for our country, too."

Stowe smiles. "You'll hear from us again."

The screen turns black. White letters appear: The Beginning

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