(N.B. -- The formatting here is sometimes not precisely accurate, e.g., the dialogue should be left-justified. My translation program is imperfect.)
1. INT. HOUSE, DINING ROOM -- DAY
DEREK HENDERSEN, 45, a moderately successful businessman, sits at a cluttered dining room table. A golden shaft of early afternoon summer sunshine baths the scene in its peaceful light. A Vivaldi concerto drifts through the air on this lazy Saturday. Sipping at a glass of iced tea, Derek peruses the day's mail.
Across the table from Derek sits his wife, MARLENE, early-forties, attractive in her own quiet way. Yawning, she flips through a clothing catalog. A half-consumed dish of melting chocolate ice cream rests atop other catalogs.
Abruptly, Derek freezes. His dark brown eyes widen as he focuses on the return address of the business envelope clutched in his right hand.
As seconds flow slowly by, stretching into a viscous eternity, Derek's knuckles whiten. His trembling fingers threaten to betray his mounting agitation.
Quickly and surreptitiously, he glances at Marlene. She is oblivious to his distress as she hums softly in time with the music.
Blinking away isolated beads of sweat dripping into his eyes, Derek swallows. Casually, he places the rest of the mail on the table and lowers the suspect envelope to his lap.
With a quiet urgency, Derek digs a fingertip under the envelope's flap and saws it open. The ragged ripping of the paper sounds as loud to his suddenly sensitized senses as the thunder of Judgment Day. The jagged edges of paper mask a single, white sheet of paper nestled inside.
He pauses, closes his eyes for a moment, then nonchalantly extracts the neatly folded paper. Stealing another sip of tea, he sets the empty envelope atop the already processed pile of bills and solicitations that forms the bulk of his daily mail. With a snap of his wrist, he shakes open the sheet. Before reading it, he again checks on his wife. As she focuses on her catalog, her serene gray eyes hold no hint she has detected anything awry.
With a look of horrified fascination, Derek lowers his gaze to the sheet with its official seal emblazoned at the top.
The Draft Commission seal stares up at him in red, white, and blue.
Squinting ever-so-slightly, Derek begins to read.
Greetings Citizen Derek Hendersen, the letter begins.
As he reads past the salutation, an involuntary gasp escapes Derek. His sweat-sheened face reddens as he clamps his fingers into the casual shirt covering his chest. With pain ratcheting through his torso, his face contorts in a combination of agony and terror. Unable to control himself, he slumps in his chair as he attempts to suck in a lungful of air.
With frantic concern marring her features, Marlene tosses aside the the catalog and scrambles around the edge of the antique table.
As he slides bonelessly to the floor, Derek hears his wife's voice fading away in echoing remoteness. The forgotten announcement from his local Draft Board flutters from his nerveless fingers and seesaws to the floor like a dying leaf of autumn.
In clean, crisp print, the message contained on the paper is only too evident as he rests face-up on the polished wood of the floor:
In the name of the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number, you, Citizen Derek Randolph Hendersen, shall please report to Draft Commission Office #1026 on Wednesday, the Fifteenth Day of July, for induction into the Donor Corps.
2. INT. HOSPITAL ROOM -- NIGHT
The quiet stillness of a hospital room presses in on Derek at age fifteen like a smothering blanket of foreboding. His mother, HELEN, late thirties, lies in her rumpled bed. A single overhead light captures her in its oval halo like a heavenly spotlight. The rest of the room huddles in shadows. Barely visible there are Derek's sisters, 8 and 10.
Reluctantly, DEREK glances over at his father, MR. ISAAC HENDERSEN, 40. The elder Hendersen's lined features harden into a glare at his son's questioning look. Thinning his lips, Derek's father nods towards his wife.
Woodenly, Derek approaches the side of the bed. Wincing slightly, he takes his mother's emaciated, almost skeletal hand and holds it limply in his own.
His father's recent words reverberate in his head.
3. INT. HOSPITAL WAITING ROOM -- NIGHT
Derek stares at the cracked linoleum floor as his father looms over him. His TWO SISTERS, 8 and 10, sit quietly on plastic chairs to one side, studiously ignoring the confrontation occurring in front of them.
His father's piercing gaze holds a warning Derek knows he cannot resist.
Frowning, Derek nods his assent and follows his father as the older man grabs his forearm and drags him along like a recalcitrant puppy.
His father's hollow, sleep-deprived yet boldly determined eyes brook no dissent.
Wordlessly, his sisters rise from their chairs and follow timidly behind.
4. INT. HOSPITAL ROOM -- NIGHT
Loosely, Derek continues holding his mother's feeble hand. Like some celestial being, she lays shrouded in a sparkling white sheet. In a hamper to one side, a corner of a blood-and-vomit stained sheet peeks from beneath its plastic lid.
With only flickering awareness, his mother's lidded eyes focus on her eldest child and only son. The faint rise and fall of her diminutive chest alone marks her as existing yet on this side of that eternal, one-way barrier Derek has no desire to cross.
Gratefully, Derek glances away as the door whispers open. A young internist, DR. SHERYL BANYON, 26, glides into the room as eerily as the ghost his mother will soon become. Her thin, pale features and straggly blond hair repulse Derek as she squeezes his shoulder. Her empty smile hides secrets Derek does not care to learn.
Extending bony fingers, Dr. Banyon solemnly shakes the hand of Derek's father.
Dr. Banyon lowers her voice slightly, steps away from Derek, and returns her attention to Mr. Henderson.
Mr. Hendersen's jaw bunches. For a moment, he gazes upon a vision only he can see.
Abruptly, he nods curtly.
Dr. Banyon surveys the rather frayed accommodations and sighs.
Her narrow lips thin even more.
With a sidelong glance, Derek sees his father's spine straighten almost imperceptibly.
Dr. Banyon glances at her watch and flashes an artificially apologetic smile at Derek and his father.
As the doctor exits, Mr. Hendersen nods absently.
A chill slithers through Derek as he studies his father's thoughtful, preoccupied expression.
With subconscious awareness, Derek turns towards his mother. Her eyes have closed. The cool hand he holds in his sweaty palm has grown colder still. It offers no resistance when he squeezes.
An involuntary revulsion causes him to jerk his hand free. As he does, his mother's arm flops lifelessly to the bed.
The muffled sobs of his younger sisters flank him as they come forward and kneel at the edge of the bed.
Tears never mar his father's flinty eyes.
5. INT. HEARING ROOM, WASHINGTON, D.C.-- DAY
The room is crowded with cameras, reporters, and lookers-on. Two tiers of tables and seats at one end of the room, the focus of all the attention, rise above the melee. Distinguished looking men and women sit there surrounded by aides and advisers as they gaze across the gathered throng of potential voters.
Glancing at his colleagues for confirmation of their readiness to begin, SENATOR IRWIN RUMHART, grips a large gavel and raps twice, hard, on the table top before him.
As the crowd quickly quiets, Rumhart automatically touches his lapel microphone to life.
A murmur ripples through the faceless crowd.
The audience erupts into a loud buzz of anticipation and questions at this assertion. Rumhart does not interrupt the excitement. As he lets it play itself out, he covers a faint smile with a cupped hand.
Senator Rumhart gauges the audience's reaction. Rather than the pandemonium he expected, silence greets him. Stunned -- perhaps even shocked -- silence, but silence, nonetheless.
He smiles and reaches for the microphone.
6. INT. VARIOUS LIVING ROOMS -- NIGHT
Various families watch television reports on the passage of new Draft legislation. The adults in each family glance nervously at each other, but no one dares voice his opposition.
7. INT. HENDERSEN DINING ROOM -- NIGHT
Marlene eases her husband to the floor. Quickly -- not quite frantically -- she unbuttons Derek's shirt. Fear and confusion wash across her face as she tries to decide what to do. Sweat drenches Derek's face and clothes. His breath comes in short gasps.
Suddenly reaching a decision, Marlene reaches for the phone.
Reluctantly Marlene lowers the handset.
Derek forces a smile he does not feel and waves her closer.
Struggling, Marlene half-drags, half-guides Derek to the aging brown cushions of an old couch in the family room. Minutes pass. Derek's color gradually returns to normal.
With an arm flung across his face, he watches Marlene retrieve the dropped letter. The slight stagger in her step tells him his wife grasps the seriousness of his -- their -- situation as readily as did he.
Sitting precariously on the edge of the sagging cushions, Marlene dangles the refolded announcement between her index finger and thumb as though it held the Virus itself embedded in its threads.
Derek does not respond to what could only be a rhetorical question.
With a sick pang seeping into his chest where the pain had so recently dwelled, Derek lets his wife of twenty-five years ramble on. Each of them must deal with the tragedy in his own way. Only a barely noticeable moistness glistens in his eye.
8. INT. HENDERSEN DINING ROOM -- NIGHT
A pall hangs over the dinner table as the family eats. Despite the furtive, questioning glances of their two teenage sons, ANDERS, 15, and CHAD, 10, and their grade-school age daughter, ERIN, 7, neither parent feels much like talking.
9. EXT. CUBE FACTORY -- DAY
A thirty-year-old Derek stands outside an abandoned cube factory. (Computer storage is now done in three-dimensional cubes rather than hard drives or CD-ROMs.)
STAN NEWSON, 45, a local realtor stands with Derek as they inspect the property.
A calculated yet appreciative smile wreathes Newson's broad face.
Only half paying attention, Derek nods.
Newson arches a bushy brow and grunts skeptically.
His green eyes narrow shrewdly as he examines the derelict factory in light of this new information. An angry, jealous scowl flashes across his features. It disappears, though, before Derek notices.
Shaking himself from his reverie, Derek glances at his watch.
The two men head for the realtor's luxury car parked in the sheltering shade of a tall maple tree.
Derek pauses with the door open and smiles across the roof at the realtor.
Derek offers a weak smile but otherwise is at a loss how to reply.
10. INT. KITCHEN -- DAY
Derek's oldest boy, Anders, enters the kitchen. The new Draftee swallows a mouthful of orange juice and carefully places the short glass next to the plate of untouched scrambled eggs and toast Marlene had prepared for him.
Anders glances briefly in his father's direction.
Heading across the room, he flings open the refrigerator door and buries his face behind its concealing white enamel. Seconds tick uncomfortably into the past.
When the door finally slams shut, Anders emerges holding a large slice of cold pizza in his teeth and a can of cola in one hand. Popping open the flag-colored cylinder, he takes a bite from his impromptu breakfast and heads for the outside door.
His eyes dart from direct contact with the man who had helped conceive him a lifetime ago.
As the door rattles shut, Derek tightens his grip on the half-empty juice glass. His mouth thins to a hard line.
Derek stiffens at the unexpected presence of his wife. He glances over his right shoulder then stares ahead.
Only when Marlene digs her strong fingers into the hardened planes of his shoulders does he allow his posture to sag.
Shaking off Marlene's hands, Derek bolts upright and strides four paces away.
Marlene's eyes glistens as she bites down on her lower lip.
Hesitantly, she extends a hand. Derek half turns, anger flushing his face.
Listlessly, Marlene lets her arm drop.
At sight of his wife's crumpling face, Derek instantly regrets his words. Marlene's shaking shoulders and barely contained sobs tear at his outrage, shredding it into tatters that vanish in the wind of the immediate moment.
Awkwardly, he steps forward.
Uncertainly, he extends his arms.
Rushing forward, Marlene melts into his embrace, her tears flowing more openly as he tightens his arms protectively around her.
Stroking Marlene's hair with one hand, he looks out the window to where his son stands on the curb waiting for the school bus. Anders's narrow shoulders reveal the wire-taut tension digging into them all.
Marlene sobs into his chest.
As Marlene continues crying, she has no answer for his questions.
11. INT. KITCHEN -- NIGHT
A younger Derek and his brother-in-law, TOM PENDLETON, 23, sit at the kitchen table. The scraggly remains of a turkey rest in a pan on the counter. Each man holds a shot glass of amber fluid. A half-empty bottle of Irish whiskey stands like a lone sentinel between them. It is obvious from their bleary eyes that they have been at this for quite awhile.
Frowning, Tom swallowed a big gulp of whiskey.
Despite his heavy lids, Derek pulls back his lips in disgust.
Tom knocks back the rest of the whiskey in his glass, grimaces, and reaches for the bottle. He laughs humorously as he pours himself another drink.
Derek blinks then yawns.
Tom waves that aside.
Derek's brow furrows.
Tom grins savagely.
Derek drains the last of his drink. He raises a feeble objection when Tom fills it again to the brim. His brother-in-law ignores him and tilts back the kitchen chair on which he sits.
With a heavy thump, Tom drops his chair down on all fours.
Derek tosses up his hands and laughs incredulously.
Wearily, Tom shakes his head.
Derek slams a fist against the table. The almost empty scotch bottle dances a short jig across the wooden table top.
Glaring, Tom downs a third of his glass.
Derek waves dismissively at his brother-in-law.
Tom leans forward and extends his bare arms across the table, his wrists held together, his fingers flaring as he seeks to make his point.
Derek grunts his opinion of that position.
Exasperated, Derek scrubs at his face.
Unsteadily Tom shoves back his chair. The legs scrape preternaturally loudly across the tile in the late night quiet. Weaving, he stands and points a finger at Derek's chest.
Derek stumbles to his feet. His fists curl into hard balls at his sides as he casts about for some appropriate response. When at last he speaks, his words come short and to the point.
12. INT. LIVING ROOM -- DAY
Moaning softly, Derek weaves his way downstairs. Marlene is cleaning up. An apprehensive expression flickers beneath a surface calm.
Marlene shakes her head.
Miserably, Derek sinks onto the bottom stair. He does not meet his wife's gaze
13. INT. DRAFT COMMISSION OFFICE 1026 -- DAY
The Draft Commission Office reception room is nothing more than a utilitarian room filled with plastic chairs. Are all filled. Most o the new Draftees are men. A few are women. No one meets the eyes of the others.
CAPTAIN GEORGE PARKER, 52, stands at the front of the room examining the new Draftees.
His gaze drifts across the faces of the subdued crowd but does not linger on anyone.
The captain nods to a noncom standing discretely in the background near the door to the exam rooms.
Derek's gaze follows the SERGEANT, 36, who steps smartly forward.
The sound of the sergeant's bass voice drones on. Casually Derek observes the "honor guard" stationed by pairs at each doorway. Though the burly soldiers wear no helmets, they sport the hard look of veteran combat soldiers. The dark-metal, laser weapons leaning on their right shoulders appear to be anything other than ceremonial.
As the sergeant calls his name, Derek shoves aside the implications of those weapons and advances to the front of the room to accept his forms. A quick scan of his fellow Draftees reveals that his group consists of at least three dozen men and half a dozen women, ranging in age from twenty to fifty, the current upper limit.
No one makes eye contact.
14. INT. EXAM ROOM -- DAY
Derek hands his forms to an elderly doctor. He endures a half-hour physical, probed and prodded and stabbed. At the end, the doctor perfunctorily stamps "Approved" across the front of Derek's forms and hands them back to the new Draftee.
15. INT. HALLWAY -- DAY
Derek sits in an austere hallway painted an innocuous beige that does little to stimulate his senses. His eyes droop.
A young CORPORAL, 26, enters the hallway through a door labeled "Draft Counselor." The soldier glances at a sheet on a clipboard and barks a name in a bored tone.
Startled, Derek rises stiffly from his plastic chair shoved against a wall. Stifling a yawn, he follows the soldier's pointing finger.
16. INT. COUNSELOR'S OFFICE -- DAY
The counselor's office proves more luxurious. A smiling, gray-haired man, MAJOR KARL WEATHERBY, 60, stands from behind his desk and extends a hand which Derek shakes. Settling into the indicated leather-upholstered chair, Derek glances discretely at the name plate perched on the edge of the mahogany desk.
Wetting his lips, Derek essays a flickering smile.
The major's white brows arch like twin caterpillars. He sounds genuinely puzzled.
Awkwardly, Derek waves a hand.
Major Weatherby lowers his hands to the desktop.
The counselor spreads his leathery hands apart.
Derek blinks his confusion.
Abruptly Major Weatherby stands and extends a hand.
Automatically, Derek follows suit.
The corporal who had shown him in mysteriously opens the door and hustles him out.
17. INT. FAMILY ROOM -- NIGHT
Younger versions of Derek and Marlene sit in their family room. Derek sits at a desk while Marlene watches television on a flat screen covering one wall.
Mildly annoyed, Derek glances up from the first-year financial figures for his new cube manufacturing business. Sighing, he squints at the screen.
His eyes widen as he recognizes the larger-than-life image of his wife's brother, Tom, occupying the left side of the screen. Quickly, he joins Marlene on the couch. The grim-faced ANNOUNCER filling the right side of the picture stares out at his unseen audience. His sonorous tones reverberate through the air.
Tom's frozen visage expands to fill the entire screen then melts into life.
Though Tom obviously continues to speak, the words are muted as his face shrinks and dissolves into images of charred ruins, rioting citizens dashing across darkened streets, and determined looking police and military units marching in heavily armed groups in front of savagely burning buildings.
Slowly Derek pads down the sound. Turning to Marlene, he shivers. For a long moment, the spouses search each others' eyes.
With anger submerging the fear bubbling within him, Derek frowns.
Marlene says nothing but merely returns her attention to the television.
18. INT. BANK OFFICE -- DAY
Derek sits rigidly at a long, polished table as legal documents pass around the people gathered there. The bank's board room holds him, his lawyer, WALLACE CRANDALL, 51, the VICE-PRESIDENT, 55, who had handled the financing of this deal, the LAWYER, 48, for the purchaser...and that new owner of the cube manufacturing business -- the business he had rescued from oblivion and built into a solid concern -- Stan Newson.
Crandall clears his throat and offers his client a pen for the signing. He looks embarrassed.
Stan Newson, on the other hand, beams a broad smile as he lounges in the chair across the table from the Draftee.
Snatching the black-barreled pen from Crandall's manicured fingers, Derek holds it like a dagger he could plunge into the fat belly of the man whose amused expression tells Derek all he needs to know. Seconds passed. An uncomfortable silence balloons around them, yet Newson acts unaware of anything untoward.
Swallowing the bile in his throat, Derek finally uncurls his fingers and shifts his grip on the pen. Barely looking down, he scrawls his name in all the spaces his lawyer indicates. When the last signature had been affixed, he clicks the pen closed.
The two lawyers gather together the papers.
Without a word, Derek stands and tosses the pen like a spear. His target, Newson, does not flinch as the projectile strikes his broad chest and falls impotently to the polished wood of the table. Knocking over his chair, Derek storms from the room and into the hallway.
19. EXT. PARKING LOT -- DAY
Seconds later, Derek is outside and heading for his car. Wispy clouds brushes across the penetrating blue of the afternoon sky.
Unlocking his car, Derek clambers in, starts the motor, and speeds away without a backward glance. Racing down the street, he roars towards home. The possibility of a ticket does not concern him in the least.
20. INT. BEDROOM -- NIGHT
Derek and Marlene are making love, fiercely and frenetically. When at last they separate, sweating and panting, he draws her closer and holds her tight. For a time, his wife tries to hold in the tears. At his comforting words, however, the tears finally flow in great sobbing torrents. He soothes her upset as best he can.
After Marlene drifts into an exhausted slumber, Derek extricates himself, slips on a robe, and heads downstairs.
21. INT.OFFICE -- NIGHT
Derek pads into his office and eases shut the solid-core door. For a long moment, he stands with his back pressed against that reassuring solidity. He pauses uncertainly for a moment and then hurries to his computer.
Turning on a desk lamp, he flips on the monitor and accesses the net. With an ease that would surprise his wife, he zeroes in on the site he wants. Anxiously, he scans the information that not even the government has yet been able to eradicate: an anonymously maintained Draft resister site.
After reading the postings and discussions and announcements, Derek enters a privacy room. He hesitates. Though he knows well enough how to utilize the net, he has no great assurance that "secure" rooms truly are.
Slowly he closes his eyes. With great deliberation, he types in the message that had gradually coalesced in his brain.
As soon as he finishes, he exits the net and closes down his machine. For a silent space of time, he sits in the chill gloom, clasping his trembling hands on his lap.
22. EXT. PARKING LOT, DRAFT COMMISSION OFFICE 1026 -- DAY
In five rows of seven men each, the latest group of Draftees stands in the parking lot of Draft Commission Office #1026. To one side, Captain Parker watches them, pride in his expression. The crisp cotton uniforms of green and white give the men a disciplined air. Silver pins commemorating their sacrifice glitter on their chests in the early morning light. An honor guard flanks them as row by row they enter the comfortable, air-conditioned bus that will transport them to the Donor Processing Center.
Numbly, Derek stares at the graying hair of the slump-shouldered man just before him in line. Blank thoughts and anesthetized emotions allow nothing of his true feelings to show on his face.
A stream of images plays across his mind: the oddly formal farewells with his wife and children that morning; the cab ride that had brought him to the Draft Office; the discarding of his street clothes and the last shreds of his individual identity; the final breakfast that had gone untouched by nearly all of the Draftees; the rousingly delivered speech presented by Captain Parker reiterating the great good they would accomplish that day; the lack of applause which had done nothing to diminish the captain's bracing demeanor and hearty handshakes; the pin ceremony; and finally this stepping onto the bus, gliding soundlessly from sunlight and fresh breezes into well-modulated gloom and canned air.
23. INT. BUS -- DAY
Wearily, Derek slides into a window seat near the back of the bus. The luxurious cushion and back support eases around his body with a caress like a mother cradling her infant. He pays no attention to the young man who takes the aisle seat. Mellow music wafts from concealed speakers. Short minutes pass. Derek barely notices the whoosh of the closing door and the strong, smooth acceleration of the bus.
At a steady forty-miles-per-hour, the transport pulls into the light morning traffic. Block after block of run-down buildings, trash-littered gutters, and abandoned, rusting automobiles blur past. The unsmiling faces of commuting drivers pace them until divergent destinations peel the citizens away from the green-and-white painted bus. After awhile, Derek leans back his head and closes his eyes against the scenery he would soon enjoy no more.
Short snatches of voices swirl chaotically through his mind. Conflicting messages of "sacrifice and duty," "selfishness versus selflessness," "the greatest good for the greatest number," "freedom and individualism" war against each other on the interior battlefield of his brain.
As the bus pulls into the parking lot of Mercy Hospital, Derek searches the landscape with the wild hope that his rescuers will appear at the last possible moment. Unfortunately, he sees nothing out of the ordinary.
With imperceptible deceleration, the bus comes to a stop near the entrance to the Donor Processing Center.
A soothing voice issues from the bus's speakers.
As Derek shuffles down the bus aisle, a faint trembling wells upward from some deep inner source and sets his arms, legs, and hands to shaking like leaves in the faintest of winds. Going down the four steps of the bus, he has to grasp the railing for support.
24. EXT. RECEIVING AREA, DONOR PROCESSING CENTER -- DAY
Squinting into the painfully bright daylight, Derek pauses for a moment and surveys the scene. Another honor guard lines the green-carpeted path the Draftees follow towards the entrance of the Processing Center. No one here smiles. As each Draftee comes to the open doorway, a PRIVATE checks each individual's Donor card and matches it against a master print-out.
A gentle hand presses against Derek's back, urging him forward. Stumbling forward, he swivels his head and catches the empathetic gaze of the man behind him. With a deep, shuddering breath, Derek resumes his slow march down the carpet. The narrowed gaze of an honor guard tracks his progress towards the hospital.
With each step, Derek starts to shed his lethargy. Casting about with his eyes, he scans every sheltered nook or elevation where a marauding band of Draft resisters might be lurking, ready any instant to make their deadly assault against the governmental forces arrayed before them.
But as each Draftee holds out his Donor card for inspection, Derek's eager expression stutters to a halt. He scans the faces of his fellow Donors and knows his hope is a forlorn one. These are beaten men, fatalistically, obediently, dutifully and dully accepting the fate their leaders have decreed for them.
Sweat stings Derek's eyes. He blinks and rubs at them. Only eight men stand ahead of him in the line. His Donor card swings from its silver chain around his neck, seeming to choke the breath from his lungs as he creeps nearer and nearer to his goal.
An image seers itself into his mind: his eyes, skin, liver, heart, pancreas, lungs, kidneys, bones, nerves, and parts of his brain being excised and scattered to the far corners of the country.
For the first time, he notices the sign posted above the doorway with its message emblazoned in large letters: The Greatest Good For the Greatest Number.
The words of his brother-in-law reverberate through Derek's clouded thoughts: "freedom," "live for yourself," "your life and your values," "for your families and friends, not for strangers."
Four men separate Derek from his fate.
The line in front of Derek shrinks to two.
Derek's step falters as he stops. The Draftee behind him bumps into him and grumbles something that sounds like an irritated insult. The young private at the door frowns a thin-lipped disapproval and motions the recalcitrant Draftee forward. A weary condescension wreathes his face at this all-too-familiar burble.
Derek's muscles lock at the words of the round-cheeked corporal. For a brief moment, he squeezes his eyes against the world that is closing in around him.
Inhaling a long breath, Derek nods once, lifts his lids, and takes a step...
...sharply to the left.
Like a string-tethered marionette, he walks woodenly away from the diminished line of Draftees. Unintelligible voices echo incoherently around him. Though the words launched at him do not penetrate his suddenly hardened focus, their emotional content stings like agitated bees. Surprise in those voices flows into alarm which melts into anger and outrage.
With each step farther from the Donor Processing Center, Derek feels his movements ease, his pace quicken, his stiffness loosen. A concentrated and increasing happiness sweeps across his face.
Grinning at last, he begins to run.
The honor guard is well-trained. With precision born of practice, each soldier snaps his laser rifle to his shoulder and centers the targeting light on the back of the skull turned towards them. Silent nods among them grant the shot to the man most directly in line with the target subject.
The faintly visible beam bores through wisps of dust in the air and into the brown hair waving in the wind. The lance of light sears through hair and skin and bone and brain and exits the forehead of the fleeing malcontent.
The remaining Draftees stare, stunned, at the drama unfolding so closely by them. But none bolts, none yells, none resists as the private hurries them into the processing center.
Minutes later, a Donor Preparation Team emerges from the same doorway pushing a cart loaded with monitors and equipment. As they deftly roll the dead Draftee into their refrigerated cart, Derek's eyes are opened wide.