tagRomanceHornet's Nest Ch. 01

Hornet's Nest Ch. 01


Author's note: This is a 10 part story, with two POV characters.

The setting is very mildly futuristic, but mostly alternate dimension. My warnings would be some violence (not particularly graphic), and unlawful characters behaving badly.

I welcome all feedback, positive or negative.



I think the pettiest thing that annoyed me while growing up, was that I was supposed to be taller.

My best friend, Wesley, was taller than me at every age. My uncles were both taller than me. My dad, way taller than me.

You see it in the family photos. Of all the males, I'm the 'short' one. And six foot isn't even short. I spent all my childhood thinking I would match my father's height, then at some point I had to accept that I'd stopped growing.

Sounds like I've had an easy life if that's all I had to worry about.

The war started when I was about eight or so. I'm probably supposed to talk about the things that changed, and how it affected everything. I don't really know what to say. I don't remember what things were like 'before'.

The war seemed far away. It was a sequence of events seen through the TV screen. Slightly detached news stories that only told half the story. Told whatever the government deemed necessary. There was some tense cold war going on between world superpowers, and it eventually erupted.

Things did change, but they were subtle, small. Certain products slowly disappeared off the shelves of shops. Certain TV shows stopped. New movies and games stopped being regularly released. It always seemed so gradual, and I was young. In teenage years I'd turn around and wonder why something happened, swear that things used to be different when I was, like, 12.

The internet being hit was probably what started the biggest uproar. We didn't lose it, but it closed in. We had the national grid, but they tried to shut off the rest of the world. ISP's could block whatever the fuck they wanted, whatever the government told them to.

Our island was trying to close off from the world, losing trade with other countries, and suffering because it couldn't support its population.

There were problems. Things definitely changed. A lot of this war was economic. I suppose I was oblivious to it because my parents, my family, were rich. And that money was not drying up any time soon.

I was one of the lucky ones.



At some point, I had to realise I was bottom of the food chain.

When it's all you've known, all you've seen, and never had a chance to look in from the outside, it goes over your head.

You think you're okay. You think this is normal. You've never known better.

We were normal people. We just did some illegal things to get by. The way I actually saw it as a child, we were smart. Adapt and survive. Are you going to starve today, or will you slip that breakfast bar up your sleeve and make a run for it?

Better run fast. The slow ones get caught. And drafted.



The second uproar came when the fighting actually started, and the law changed. They introduced the National Service.

It was a disguised conscription. You could get out of it, if you did the right things. Once turning 18 and finishing school, you had a year to get a job or enroll in higher education.

Sounds easy enough, right? Good fucking luck getting a job. Getting into university was no walk in the park, either. You needed the right grades, they could be as selective as they liked, and you'd get horribly in debt for the rest of your life anyways. Then you probably still couldn't get a job once you were finished, so you were only delaying your drafting.

People wouldn't be dragged into the service anymore over the age of 29, except in special cases. So there was a long time of stalling.

I was 13 when it came into full swing. There were lots of school assemblies to make sure all the kids understood. If you misbehaved enough to get expelled, you were going to be put into the youth service. If you were a little shit in society, your third arrest would see you in service.

Nobody took it seriously at first. Then those naughty kids, the ones who always answered the teachers back, the ones who were always getting sent out the classroom, the ones who got into fights... they started disappearing.

It became that bullshit thing. Don't do this, or you'll get drafted. Don't do that, or you'll get drafted.

Even if you got through school without getting drafted, the year gap was reduced to six months at some point. They needed to deal with all the youths, because the youths were a problem.

People rebelled and tried to fight it. Kids ran away from home before the system came knocking at their door. Homeless kids formed gangs. It snowballed in a few short years.

There were anti-war activists - people who blamed the government for getting involved in things it shouldn't have, for dragging the country down. I'm sure they had some good message at the start of things, but it got marred somewhere down the line. Give people a cause, and the ones who want some way to take out their anger will taint it.

The activists struck close to home, because they targeted my family. Or more specifically, my uncle, Darren.

It built up for a while. I remember my dad coming home, swearing about the protesters he'd been chasing off company grounds again. There were conversations between him, my mother, my uncles, which usually trailed off because they thought it wasn't suitable for us kids.

Not like they could hide it, because the media took an interest.

I was 14, and I remember it clearly. It was one of those nights where my parents were out late, so Wesley and I were at home, looking after my little sister, Hanna. We were eating in front of the TV, watching the live six o'clock news. The name of the family company came up and we paid a little more attention.

There was some commotion somewhere. A swarm of protesters. The reporter's voice was hurriedly explaining whatever was going on, claiming it was happening because Darren Sörensen was there. It wasn't the company complex. I wasn't sure where it was. The cameras focused on people coming out from a building, and I took a moment to realise I was looking at my uncle on live TV.

He looked both bewildered and angry at all the commotion and harassment. Bodyguards were trying to clear a way for him to a car, alongside a few police officers.

A protester broke through and threw a bucket of blood over him.

"Oh shit," Wesley said, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, staring at the screen in disbelief.

Chaos was erupting and the camera wasn't very steady, but it still captured everything. Darren just stood there, wiped a hand down his face, and tossed blood from his hair with a flick of his head. Then he glared at the crowd with eyes of ice.

To be fair, I think he handled it well. The bodyguards were getting more aggressive, but he didn't let them usher him away. He stayed right where he was, and unbuttoned and pulled bloody clothing off. He literally stripped down to his trousers, jacket and shirt of his suit tucked over an arm, then sauntered off to the car - 'Do I give a fuck?'

He was pissed off and upset about it, though. Everybody was.

The long story short is that the company was producing things for the military. That's why the money wasn't drying up any time soon. As long as the war kept going, we kept getting rich.

According to the protesters, Darren was a murderer.



The first time I saw a dead body I was 11. I don't know why I was there. Probably because I had to go with Mum and Dad everywhere.

There were all these angry voices of Mum and Dad's 'friends'. Swearing, cursing, blaming each other.

"Fucking idiot. You expect me to clean this up?"

"Yeah, y'know when I called? If you'd have listened-"

"Don't fuckin' give me this."

I didn't pay much attention because I cared more about the corpse, trying to edge closer and get a better look. It was laid carelessly on its stomach, still wearing the jacket and jeans it had died in. Were the eyes open or closed? Had rigor mortis set in? If I moved the arm, would it be floppy or stiff?

My mother grabbed my shoulder and yanked me back, eyes sharp and lips tight. No, I didn't get to investigate. My father did instead. He walked around it with that typical tired, jaded look on his face, then crouched down.

"Well, John?" one of the other men asked.

I didn't like it when they used that tone. I didn't like it when I knew my parents were getting bossed around. There was never anything I could do.

My dad wasn't a very big man. Not very tall and not very broad. He was pale as a sheet of paper, with dark hair and eyes to really enhance it. His face was always hidden behind a beard and he was good at being expressionless. He'd come from up north, and might've been in the south for years, but still had a bit of that Scouse accent.

I'm not sure what my mum's heritage was. Something hispanic. She certainly wasn't pale like my dad, but she was a Londoner, born and bred. She also usually did all the talking, so it was no surprise that she started answering when my dad had been questioned.

I watched Dad handling the body while Mum's voice went over my head. He was careful, respectful even. He turned it over and I saw that the eyes were closed, that the clothing beneath the jacket was soaked with blood.

"Well, maybe she can do it," a voice said, snapping my attention to the conversation.

"No," Mum replied. "For fuck sake." Her fingers gripped my shoulder again and pulled me back a little further, against her.

The man ignored her to crouch down in front of me. He was the one with the front tooth missing, and I hated it whenever he grinned, which he always seemed to do because I was a kid and he thought it'd make him seem more friendly to me.

"Vi, sweetie, do you want to do a little something for us?"

I blinked, then stared. I knew to agree, to keep my parents safe. They were the types of people who got in and out of situations un-noticed and unscathed, and left violence to others. My mum might disagree with this man, but then something bad could happen.

I was always getting used for things. I was the perfect decoy. Nobody suspects the cute little girl with big blue eyes and freckles.

They were probably trying to make the most of it before I hit puberty.



I don't want to paint a horrible picture of horrific things. It was always there in the background, but we were still a normal family living a normal life. Sort of.

My sister, Hanna, was born when I was 7. There was some drama about it. My mum spent two years trying to get pregnant, then when she finally popped out they discovered she had a brittle bone disease.

She cried a lot as a baby. My parents were horrified to find out it was because she had broken bones in the cot.

It could've been worse. She could still walk around, but she was always very delicate and careful. There were many, many accidents, things easily broken and fractured. She was barely a wisp of a thing. We both had our father's black hair and green eyes, but she didn't have the tawny skin. She was white as a ghost, with a thin face.

Sometimes, my household could be loud. And to contrast it was Hanna's little figure and shuffling gait, silently moving between rooms.

I didn't go to a private school - Dad thought they were a load of bullshit, and that I needed to experience the 'real world'. I suppose I did go to the most posh ones available that were state, with strict uniforms with blazers and things. My primary school was a bit of a trek across town, but by the time I was 9 I made the journey myself in the mornings. Because I wanted to. It was also around that age that I met Wesley.

He moved to the school at the start of Year 5. He was actually a year older, but he'd been held back, or something. I suppose he was that typical, lanky, funny guy. He got all the 'new kid' attention, and he thrived on it. I don't know how he became best friends with me, but he did.

We were always hyper, always being loud across the classroom, especially when the teacher seated us apart. But we didn't mean to be difficult or malicious. We always shut up when we were told to.

For two years, he often came around mine for dinner, for sleepovers. But I never went anywhere near his house. I didn't even know where he lived. I pestered him about it all the time, but he'd go very quiet and shrug.

"They're like my parents, but not actually my parents," he said.

"Like my uncles aren't actually my uncles?"


At the end of Year 6, disaster struck. He had to move foster homes. He was going to have to move town. He couldn't go to the same secondary school as me.

I cried my fucking eyes out to my parents. I was going to lose my best friend. I would never see him again. Sure, I had other friends, but none of them were Wes. It wasn't the same. They didn't understand. They had to do something.

And they did. They did something amazing. They decided to adopt him.

My dad went through foster homes when he was a kid. He had a soft spot. I don't think my mum needed any convincing at all. She already loved Wesley like her own son.

It wasn't exactly a fast process. He did still go to that other foster home for a while as things went through, but it was okay, because I was going to see him again. It's hard to explain that absolutely explosive excitement when I was 11 years old. My best friend was about to become my brother.

He got to move to my secondary school as Wesley Keane. And we got to grow up together.



I was lucky to go to school, I think.

My parents did everything they could to make life bearable for me. When we did have money, they spent it on me. I'm lucky, in that sense. They didn't mean to have me. I was an accident that served to make their life harder. I could've been treated like shit. I could've even been dumped somewhere.

No, despite everything, they loved me. I think I loved them, too. The problem with my childhood memories is that I remember lots of events. I remember smells, tastes, things on my skin. I don't remember feelings.

Did I ever feel anything?

Very basic things, perhaps. I remember raw curiosity each time we moved into a new flat. Exploring every corner, every room. Pulling up the carpet to see what that lump was beneath, investigating every stain on the wall.

I remember that my primary school was somewhat of a comforting place. Other things kept changing, but that one stayed the same. I enjoyed going. I usually had a lot of fun doing my work, and I had some good teachers. There was one woman in particular, a classroom assistant, who tried very hard to understand me.

I didn't really have issues with other kids when I was younger. Things were never complicated enough for that. I liked to be very quiet, to sit at the back and observe. I suppose that was what the lady needed to understand. I wasn't shy. I just felt no need to fit in.

There was an incident, eventually, in Year 6. This one girl had never liked me. Apparently I was smiling at her 'boyfriend', and he smiled back. She started on me at lunchtime. She shouted in my face, pulled my hair, slapped me. I hit her back twice as hard, then I dragged her screeching to the school pond, and threw her in.

Most of the other kids thought it was hilarious, but the teachers and parents, not so much.

Mum had to come and pick me up on the motorbike. She told me I couldn't behave like this, that I must be good. She also reminded me how important it was that I didn't tell people about the things that went on at night sometimes.



I always got along well with my mum. Our humour was almost identical - if I ever found something funny, Mum was the first person I'd tell or show. Even before Wesley.

She also thought my energy was a good thing. She encouraged my hyperactivity, much to the disdain of everyone else.

If I can't quite explain why I got along so well with my mother, I also can't quite explain why I clashed so much with my father.

It doesn't really have this easy point I can think of, where it started. He just got annoyed with me a lot, and it got worse as I got older. It only took one of us to flare up, and the other would explode. Smacking was illegal as I grew up, but tell that to my dad. To be fair, I think the occasional slap on the butt or back of the head might've been the only thing to snap me out of it sometimes.

I didn't mean to be difficult, I just got carried away.

I got this bad idea in my head, that when I got older, I'd 'stand up to him'. I was probably around 12 when I was first brave enough to shout back. Wesley being there gave me a confidence boost, but Wesley never wanted to play up like I did. So I was on my own.

Dad and I argued about so many stupid things. Mum got so fed up with it, giving us looks until she verbally intervened. Wesley would let out this exaggerated, loud sigh at the dinner table. Hanna would look nervous. I was being a typical, insufferable teenager, but I swear, it was him sometimes, too. I think he had standards for me, and I wasn't meeting them.

When I was pissed off with him, and Mum was pissed off with both of us, I went to my uncles to rant. Usually to Tyler, especially when I was under 15.

He always took my father's side. I kept doing it, thinking that at some point he must agree with me, that I'd have some backup.


"You know what your problem is, kid? You're a spoilt brat."

"How can I be spoilt if they never spend money on me?"

"No, you don't get things. But you want. That's the problem. This fucking entitlement. The sooner you realise and accept that you're being a little shit, the sooner you'll grow up and be a happier person."


"No. The world sucks. We know. Stop being difficult. Now what was that physics assignment you've still not handed in?"

Could always trust Tyler to say it how it was. He didn't take bullshit. But then, neither did my father. I wonder why I listened to him and not to Dad, when they said the same things. Maybe it wasn't a fair field to judge - whenever something fun happened during my childhood, it was because Tyler was there. Tyler got me in doses, while Dad had to put up with me all the time.

It was always 'kid', 'kid', 'kid', for as long as I can remember. Mum used to get so exasperated with it - "He has a name, Ty."

It was a bad thing if he used my name, though. If Uncle Tyler ever barked a "David!", then shit was going down. And even worse, if Uncle Darren ever got angry with me, oh boy, was I in trouble.

Darren used to scare me a little when I was younger. He could be difficult to talk to, and his eyes were just so cold. My parents always scolded me if I did the smallest thing wrong around his house. Sometimes he had these grumpy vibes, too. He was just the family's 'patriarch'. He was always to be respected, everybody always did as he said.

When I look back on it, I honestly think he was bad with kids and had no idea what to do with me. So he left it to Tyler. It mellowed out when I got older and more intelligent. Suddenly we held all these conversations and I was spending more time around him.

I guess some of those nights where I stayed around my uncles' house were good for everybody. When I got older I just got too much for my grandparents to handle.

The problem was that my flare-ups with my dad were only the start. It spilled into the outside world. Things might've settled a bit at home, but they got worse at school. I had a lot of energy, but it just seemed to make me highly-strung and short-tempered as I grew up.

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byIvoryTusk© 6 comments/ 26405 views/ 43 favorites

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