My father once told me a religion should not set itself up to be testable. That is, don't make a claim based on something that is easily proven or disproven, if you want people to have faith. He said it was a problem with many religions, especially newer ones. The older ones had, either intentionally or unintentionally, learned that rule.
While very different than religions - most of the time - lies are pretty similar in one way. If they are easily proven to be untrue, then people believing them will be almost impossible. Those that will believe them are almost assuredly not the ones you really want to buy in to your story. It's always better to tell the truth. Either own up to the situation and accept the consequences or be ready for the worse consequences if the truth comes out after you lie. And it will come out. It always comes out. Even if you are the best liar in the world.
And then the payment for that lie will come due.
Jaideep had lied to us. He thought we were just kids he could tailor his truth for for sympathy and help. It's not a uncommon story: adults often lie to kids to get what they want. Sometimes it is because the situation is very complicated and they want to simplify the situation. They often leave out details make a certain narrative that makes sense. Sometimes it is to make them seem like the victim or hero or just an innocent bystander that got caught up in something. Sometimes it is to try to keep them from looking bad. Really bad. Sometimes, it is because they fear what the kids will think if they knew the truth.
The truth will out. Some times it takes a long time. Sometimes it's really quick as the lies are transparent. Here and now, I would say the truth was freaking out Helmet really bad.
Cheenee. Hindi for Chinese.
Wonderful. Just wonderful. Just freaking wonderful with whip cream and cherries and yummy sprinkles.
Where we were, captives of Indian soldiers on an American world with CHINESE soldiers looking for them. Awesome sauce. Really. I'm thrilled. This is my thrilled and happy face. Don't believe me? Why? I'm so cute and amazing! Really!
Good. That was a lie. Less damaging than Jaideep's but, still, a lie.
Helmet shouldered his/her weapon and was scanning. Jaideep scrambled and pulled on his own. There were no lights to tell what was happening inside and he was saying. Jaideep turned and seemed to be scanning off axis from Helmet. Helmet then turned to Jaideep and began gesticulating wildly. No words were heard. It was pretty obvious Helmet was berating Jaideep.
The tent popped and Jaideep began to leave. Helmet gestured at us even more wildly. Jaideep seemed to just ignore Helmet as far as we could tell. Jaideep ran for cover and aimed his rifle: he seemed to completely ignore that we existed. Even without verbal cues, it was patently obvious Helmet was furious and frustrated.
Helmet turned to us and handed back our needlers and boosters.
Just then a drone the size of my thumb zipped past us. I didn't recognize it. Was it Indian? Was it Chinese? Was it American military? I didn't know. In that instant, Jaideep opened fire on whatever was coming from the direction the drone had come from and Helmet fired something from his or her rifle that chased after the drone.
Then, Helmet turned to us and in plain, accented English, said, "Run. Do not slow down. Do not look back. NOW RUN!" The words were harsh, but said in as kind a manner as could be. The weirdest thing was, his accent was NOT Indian. It was also not one of the American accents either. I could have sworn it was ... Nigerian.
Helmet then turned and began popping off his, yes, his own drones from the back of his armor.
With that, we ran. We climbed up and over a hill and down another and over another and down into an arroyo, a dried up stream. We were thinking it would work like a trench if explosions started going off. We ran down the arroyo bed pounding on sand and through Jefflife brush. Trying to get away.
And as we ran, it hit me. Helmet hadn't been angry or contemptuous of US. He had been of Jaideep. he didn't want us to get hurt because of what they were doing. He thought Jaideep was risking OUR lives for whatever he wanted: information? food? We didn't know. We didn't have TIME to know.
In that moment, my opinion of Helmet wildly changed. It was a bit head spinning on top of everything else.
And as we ran, we heard explosions and the sounds of a huge swarm of drones crashing, clashing and exploding.
We had run for what felt like a long time when a really big explosion was behind us. The explosion was so big it knocked us to the ground. Stunned, we got up. After a moment, we franticly checked our leathers and balkavas: we they torn? Compromised? Remember, that can be life and death out on Jefferson. We were ok.
After a second of elation, we realized we were still close enough to get hurt! We got up and started running again. We ran up and over the hill and then down into another arroyo. We ran and ran.
We stopped to breathe, plopping ourselves in a creepy bush again. PLEASE don't let this one's fruit pop while we're in it!
We were panting and gasping.
I could feel everyone smile, thinking we were safe. The explosions had stopped. We were ok. All we had to do was contact our parents and we could be done with this adventure. Not the butt chewing that was coming afterwards, but at least the really dangerous (but not the scary part) would be over.
I reached into my pack and started to fish out the other clean booster when I heard it.
"Ahem. Excuse me."
I looked up. We all looked up.
There stood someone in powered armor. Again.
It wasn't Indian.
It wasn't American.
It was Chinese.
Or so the shoulder flashing with a red flag and yellow stars indicated.
We were caught.