The Rise of Jade Force
Chapter 6: The First Class
May 5, 1976
Scared of what was happening, Jibat followed the girl in front of him, glancing left and right at the adults who were spaced along the route they were following. He and 29 other kids, all around the age of five, were marching in a line across an open space towards an airplane. He had never seen a plane up close like this. His only knowledge of planes was watching them move across the sky high up in the air.
He glanced down at his chest. A large oval piece of metal hung down from a string that went around his neck. There was a fish, a dog, a bird, and some writing on it. The strange family who had found him, half dead from disease, had given it to him telling him that he was to wear it always. Looking around, he saw that all of the other kids had a piece of metal just like his, although the animals shown on others were different.
He clutched the little canvas bag which some nice lady had given to him tightly to his chest in an attempt to protect it from being stolen by another kid. Earlier, he had looked inside it and discovered that it contained a treasure. There was another set of clothes just like what he was wearing, but that wasn’t the best part. It also had a sandwich, an apple and a bottle of juice in it. He could live two days on that. It was only now that he noticed that his canvas bag had the same fish, dog, bird, and writing sewn onto it that was on the piece of metal hanging from his neck.
The line of children reached the airplane and stopped. A few seconds later there was the sound of a scuffle behind him. He recognized the sound of two people fighting over something of value. He turned to see what was going on, just in case it might affect him. One of the boys was now holding two canvas bags, and a girl, having lost hers, was crying.
He clutched his canvas bag even tighter knowing that once the thieving began that it would spread like wildfire. Several kids would band together and start preying on the others. His eyes darted around seeking some place safe to which he could flee. His treasure was too valuable to lose and he was too small to defend it.
Two men strode over to where the two kids were. One man grabbed the kid with two canvas bags and roughly pulled him off to the side. The kid tried to run off, but the man’s grip was too strong.
The other man gently placed a hand on the back of the girl who was crying. He guided her to a place beside the other kid. By this time, everyone in line had turned to watch what was going on. There was this sense that something big was about to happen.
The man holding the boy started talking. Jibat listened, but didn’t understand what the man was saying. Jibat knew that adults often used words he didn’t know, but there were always a lot of words that he did know. This man, though, didn’t talk right – the sounds were all wrong. There wasn’t a single word coming out of his mouth that Jibat recognized.
Once the speech was over, the man who had guided the girl over there reached down to the piece of metal hanging around her neck and held it up for everyone to see. The other man grabbed one of the canvas bags from the boy. He held it up next to the piece of metal so that the symbol sewn onto the bag was facing the line of kids. Even from a distance, Jibat could see that the symbols on the two items were different.
The man held the canvas bag up next to the boy’s piece of metal. The symbols matched. The man set that canvas bag on the ground near boy’s right foot. There was a kind of precision about how he did it.
The man then grabbed the other canvas bag from the boy. He held it up next to the girl’s piece of metal. The symbols were the same. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the bag belonged to the girl.
Saying something incomprehensible, the man handed the canvas bag to the girl.
The girl was led back to her place in line by the man who had taken her out of the line. He was gentle with her, guiding her without rushing her along. She was clutching her canvas bag so tightly that she crushed the apple inside it although she was unaware of it at the time. She had nearly lost the bag once, and wasn’t going to risk losing it again. It had a treasure inside that was just too valuable.
The man holding the boy once again started jabbering in that strange language. Jibat still couldn’t make heads or tails out of what the man was saying, but it was obvious that he wasn’t too happy with the thief.
The other man returned and pulled something out of his shirt pocket. It was a little silver cylinder about a half an inch in diameter. The man then pulled on one end and it got longer. Jibat had never seen anything like it. The man kept pulling on the end until the thing was longer than Jibat was tall.
The man holding the kid turned the boy so that he was facing away from Jibat and the other kids. The other man swung the silver thing around and — thwack — it landed on the calves of the thief. The kid shouted out in surprise and pain.
There was a second, a third, a fourth, and a fifth swat that landed on the calves of the thief. By now, the boy was crying and begging not to be hit again. He was unaware that the man who had administered the whipping had closed the extendable rod and put it back in his pocket.
Jibat could only imagine how much the whipping had to hurt. He noticed that neither man looked particularly angry or upset. It was like they were doing an errand and weren’t taking any pleasure or displeasure in doing it. It was something that had to be done and they were doing it.
The man holding the thief turned him so that he was facing the rest of the kids. The man spouted some more stuff that Jibat didn’t understand, but understood that he was being told that this was how thieves were punished.
When the man finished talking, he bent down, picked up the canvas bag, and handed it to the boy. The boy, still crying, clutched it tightly to his chest. The man led him back to his original spot in the line and released him. The man turned and walked back to where he had been standing when all of this had started.
Now that the punishment was over, a lady came down the stairs from the plane. She talked in that strange language for a minute and then took the first three kids up the stairs and into the plane. The line of kids shuffled forward quietly, as if no one wanted to attract any attention. They all had experience in not being noticeable; it was a survival skill and they had all survived this long.
The woman would come out, talk some more, and then lead another three kids into the plane. Jibat sure wished he knew what these people were saying. It was really beginning to bother him that these people couldn’t talk right.
Finally, it was his turn to be led into the plane. The girl in front of him and the one behind him walked up the stairs. He had no idea what to expect inside the plane. He was surprised to see that there were rows of seats, three on one side and two on the other. All of the kids who had been led into the plane were seated on the side with more seats.
Jibat and the two girls were taken to the first row of unoccupied seats. The woman said something while gesturing at the available seats on the side that had three seats. They sat, with Jibat sandwiched between the two girls, and waited. Now that he was seated, it seemed to him that the seats were big. He guessed they were meant for adults and not kids.
Once all of the kids were in the plane, five adults took seats on the side of the plane that had two seats per row. The adults sat every other row so that they could watch the kids. There was a man seated on the row with Jibat.
Having the man seated there made Jibat nervous. It would be different if the man smiled or said something that Jibat could understand. As it was, it seemed to him like the man didn’t like kids. At least the nice ladies had smiled at him.
A woman got up at the front of the aisle and started talking. Just like everything else anyone had said, he had no idea what she was saying. She held up a seat-belt, showed how the two pieces snapped together, and pulled on the strap to tighten it. Jibat watched, but had no idea what he was supposed to do as a result of her demonstration.
The man that was sitting on Jibat’s row, leaned over to the girl seated next to Jibat, fished around in her chair, and pulled out some straps that looked just like what the woman was holding up. He put the two ends together with a click, and pulled it tight. He pointed to Jibat and the girl seated next to him. Now Jibat knew what to do.
Well, he thought he knew what he was supposed to do. At first, the thing didn’t go together like the woman had showed them. He kept twisting and turning the metal things on the end of the straps but they wouldn’t click together. The girl seated next to the window was having similar problems. The girl who the man had helped kept pointing at how her seatbelt was done.
Between Jibat and the two girls, they figured out how to use the seatbelts without any more help from the man. It wasn’t easy. Each of them was working one handed while making sure that he or she had a good hold on his or her canvas bag.
After a couple minutes, the woman walked down the aisle checking the seatbelts. She would walk from one row to the next, reach down and tug on the seatbelt. Sometimes, she would talk to someone for a minute. Finally, she made it to Jibat’s row. She wasn’t smiling when she tugged on his seatbelt. He wondered if he had done something to upset her.
She continued onto the next row of seats. He turned to watch her, but couldn’t see her over the back of his seat. It was a few minutes before she returned to the front of the plane.
Suddenly, the plane got very noisy when the engines were started. Getting excited, all of the kids on the plane sat up and looked around. One or two of them cried out in terror. The girl in the aisle seat grabbed his hand and squeezed.
The fear was contagious and Jibat was sure that something was wrong. He wanted to run out of the plane. With the girl holding one of his hands and him holding his canvas bag with the other, he couldn’t figure out how to get the seat-belt off so that he could get away.
Jibat was about to panic when he happened to look over at the man seated on the row with him. The man made a big production out of yawning. It was one of those big long yawns like some people get listening to boring sermons at church.
The effect of this was almost immediate. He decided that all of the noise and vibration he was feeling wasn’t anything to be nervous about if the man was that bored. Juggling the canvas bag, he used his free hand to point it out to the girl. She relaxed her grip on his hand.
It seemed like forever, and it seemed like in no time at all, before the plane was rushing down the runway and then in the air. There was a thunk thunk when the wheels were retracted. The noise and bump caused all of the kids to jump.
Jibat and the two girls were watching the man to see his reaction, using him as a means to gauge the level of danger they were in. When he didn’t react and nothing else happened, they slowly relaxed.
The girl seated next to the window said, “We’re so high.”
Until she had said that, Jibat hadn’t realized that anyone spoke the language he understood. He said, “You speak real words.”
“I do, too,” said the girl on the other side of him.
“Do you understand what the big people are saying?”
“I wish they would speak right.”
“Where are we going?”
“The daddy of the nice family that saved me said I was going to a school.”
“I was told it was a school to learn how to be a soldier. I might be wrong. The family that saved me talked funny. Sometimes I didn’t know what they were saying.”
“A family saved me, too. I was sick and they took me to a doctor. The doctor said that I almost died.”
The three kids started exchanging stories. They quickly discovered that each of them was an orphan, had been taken in by a family that spoke funny, and then brought to the airport with the promise they would go to a special school.
None of them really knew what the special school was about. Actually, none of them had a clear idea of what a school was. They decided that it was a kind of place with trees and flowers, like a park.
Jibat didn’t care where he went. All he wanted was food. In the past twenty days, he had eaten every day — three times in a day. That was the best he had done since his family disappeared. He didn’t want to leave the family that had saved him, but they said he had to go. He had a destiny. He guessed that was the thing that had made him sick.
The mommy had looked sad that he was leaving, but she kept saying that she hoped he would make her proud. He didn’t know what that meant. The daddy of the family just said that he was going to be part of a great dream. He didn’t know what that meant either.
A couple rows in front of them, a man got up, and started talking to one of the kids. He was loud and making sure that he attracted everyone’s attention. Of course, he had everyone’s attention the second he stood up.
At first Jibat thought someone was going to get a whipping. Then the man put his hands over his crotch with his legs crossed and started dancing from foot to foot while jabbering in that strange language. Kids laughed. Everyone recognized the pee-pee dance.
The guy raised his hand. Another of the adults got up, took him by the hand while talking, and led him down to the far end of the plane. A minute later the guy came back walking like he didn’t have a care in the world. Although overacted, the message was delivered in a manner the kids understood.
Jibat said, “Raise our hand if we need to potty.”
“I wish they knew how to speak right.”
“I do too.”
About that time, hands started going up all over the plane. There was soon a line of antsy kids in front of the bathrooms. After a while, things calmed down a bit. Everyone finished their visit to the toilet and had returned to their seats.
Always alert to his surroundings, Jibat noticed when the guy seated on his row started moving. The guy reached under the seat in front of him, fished around for a bit, and then pulled out a canvas bag from under the seat. The bag was just like the one Jibat was clutching in his arms.
The man opened the bag, pulled out a sandwich, unwrapped it, and started eating it with great enjoyment. He took great big bites out of it, chewing it well before swallowing, and taking another bite.
Jibat watched each bite disappear. Just watching the guy eat was making him hungry. The guy opened his juice and took a sip before returning to eating his sandwich. When the guy finished his sandwich, he pulled out an apple and started eating it.
Jibat debated if he should eat now or save his sandwich for later.
Jibat could smell the apple from where he was sitting. His mouth started watering. He didn’t want to eat his stash of food. It held enough food for two days. He was hungry now, but he wasn’t that hungry.
He was about to break down and eat the apple in his canvas bag when the guy held up his canvas bag. All of the kids who could see him turned to watch him. They were all curious about what he was doing holding the bag. It was like he was inviting someone to steal it.
A woman came down the aisle with a little cart. He handed her his trash – the wrapping from the sandwich, the core of the apple, and the empty bottle. She deposited the items in a hole in the cart. He held up his canvas bag for her to inspect the contents. She looked inside it, picked up a sandwich from the cart and dropped it in the bag.
Shocked, Jibat’s mouth dropped open.
She held up an orange and a banana while spouting a few words. The man answered in that same language while pointing to the banana. She put the banana in his canvas bag.
Jibat’s eyes got wider.
She pointed to three little juice containers on the cart. The man answered and she dropped one into his canvas bag. The man jabbered at her. He closed his bag and put it back under the seat in front of him. The woman with the cart left.
Deciding to take a chance, Jibat opened his canvas bag and pulled out the sandwich. He ate the sandwich, hunched over protecting it from thieves. He kept glancing left and right at the two girls beside him as if expecting either, or both, of them to make a grab for his food.
It didn’t take long for the sandwich to disappear. The idea was to get as much food in him before anyone had a chance to steal it from him. It was another of those survival skills one picked up living on the street.
The moment of truth came when he had finished his sandwich. Hoping that he wouldn’t be disappointed, he held up his canvas bag making sure that it was held firmly with both hands. The woman with the cart started down the aisle. He couldn’t believe it – she was actually coming to him.
She stopped and spoke some words to him. She pointed to the sandwich wrapper. After tucking the canvas back under his arm, he handed the wrapper to her and she tossed it into the trash. She said a couple more words and then pointed to his canvas bag. He held it up to her, again holding it with both hands so that it couldn’t be taken from him. She said a couple of words to him, then dropped a sandwich in it.
“Can I get a banana?” he asked still holding the canvas bag up to her.
She looked inside the canvas bag and jabbered at him. After a bit, he decided that the answer was no. The girl next to him opened her bag, grabbed her apple, and held it out while pointing at the banana. The woman took the apple and handed her a banana. It appeared as if they could trade, but not hoard.
Jibat ate his apple and drank the juice. He raised his bag, and the woman returned. A minute later his bag had been restocked with an orange and a bottle of juice. He decided that he had died and gone to heaven. He had been given a magic bag.
About that time, he realized he needed to urinate. He raised his hand. The guy on his row stood up and started talking while pointing at the seat-belt. Jibat managed to get it undone, and went to the back of the plane with the man while clutching his canvas bag tightly to his chest.
Once there, Jibat looked inside the little room. He couldn’t believe it, there was a real toilet on the plane just like at the house in which the family who had saved him lived. He thought was easier to just go outside and squat, but the family had insisted that he use the toilet. He went in and, with one hand, started to drop his pants.
The guy started talking at him while pointing at the door. It took a bit, but Jibat got the idea and closed the door. The family who had saved him was insistent about that also.
When Jibat started to get out of the toilet, the man blocked his way. He started talking in that strange language. The man pointed to Jibat’s hands and then at the sink. It took Jibat a while to puzzle out that he was supposed to wash his hands. The man had to show him how to operate the faucet and how to dry his hands. Jibat ended up having to put the canvas bag between his knees in order to wash his hands.
Feeling much more relaxed now that the pressure was off his bladder, Jibat returned to his seat. The man jabbered at him while pointing to the seat-belt. Jibat got the idea and, with a lot less struggle this time, managed to put the seat-belt back on.
Jibat sat there thinking that it sure would be nice if the adults spoke like they were supposed to. There were a lot of things he wanted to know, but he didn’t think he’d get answers to his questions. They appeared not to understand what he was saying, and he didn’t understand them.
The girl seated at the window had drunk three bottles of juice. When she finally had to go, she really had to go. She raised her hand waving it around frantically. It was a little awkward for her to get out, but she raced to the back of the plane. Like him, she carried her canvas bag with her. She was probably worried, just like he was, that if she ever lost that canvas bag that she’d never get to eat again.
Jibat had no idea how much time passed before the plane finally landed. The kids, not knowing what to do, just sat in their seats. Every one of the adults except for a woman got up and left the plane. The woman started talking to the kids. Finally, she got around to leading them out, one row at a time. Outside the plane, three adults waited there to make sure the kids got into a line and stayed where they were supposed to be.
As soon as Jibat stepped out of the plane, he knew he wasn’t home any more. It was a whole lot warmer here than it was where they had come from. It wasn’t that uncomfortable, just a little hotter. The sun was also directly overhead so that might have explained the difference in temperature.
When he went down the stairs, the differences from the other place became even more obvious. There, the ground was cement and here it was dirt. There were a lot of buildings at the other place and this was an empty field with the exception of a bus. Where he came from there was a city in the distance while here there was just a large wall.
The open space made him feel vulnerable. It was hard to hide when there nothing in which to hide. Knowing how to hide was an important survival skill. There were lots of people, particularly bigger kids, who would hurt you unless you could hide from them.
He didn’t see any trash or containers for holding trash. That made him a little uneasy. Trash usually meant there was food. Without trash, he wouldn’t know where to find food.
Once everyone was together and standing in a line, a man started talking to them in that strange language. Then they followed him over to the bus. He pointed inside the vehicle and then helped them get in, since the first step was a little too high. There was no adult pointing out where to sit, so kids just took the first open spot they found. It was a little chaotic particularly with everyone clutching their canvas bag.
When the bus drove off, Jibat looked out the window. For a while, there was just open space. The things he did see he didn’t know what to think of them. There was a spot where there was a dirt hill with big boards arranged in a line in front of the hill. He figured that might be a good place to hide. He didn’t know that a rifle range was probably the worst possible place to hide.
They drove past some more empty land with nothing around. He was really beginning to worry. If he was left here, he wouldn’t know where to get food, safe places to sleep, or how to keep from being found.
Then suddenly, the bus was driving past a number of buildings of a style that he’d never seen before. The sight of the building was a relief. Buildings meant people, people meant trash, and trash meant food. Buildings also meant there would be little odd corners in which he could hide. Places where he could hide were places he could sleep.
The bus turned a corner. The buildings were gone, and they were now driving along a huge grass lawn. Jibat couldn’t believe how big it was. The open spaces had grass, but there was a kind of unkempt wild feel to it. This lawn was perfectly level, not a thing out of place, and just felt different – special.
The bus stopped in front of big building. The door of the bus opened and the driver started pointing out the door. They were met by a different bunch of adults who talked to them in that strange language. Again, the kids formed a line. A woman talked to them some more before she led them into the big building.
It seemed to Jibat that most of the time, except when on the airplane, they were getting in a line and following someone. He wondered if that was going to be his life from now on.
The woman smiled at the kids and started talking in the impossible language. Based on some of the muttered comments, everyone was getting tired of hearing that nonsense language. They just wanted someone to speak right, like people are supposed to speak.
Seeing that no one understood what she was saying, she went over to one of the girls. She held up the little metal disk with the animals and symbols. Then she pointed to a little plaque above one of the doors. The set of animals on the plaque matched those on the metal disk.
The woman talked some more. The girl stared at her. Finally, the woman took the girl over to the door. Another woman who had been waiting by the door put a hand on the back of the girl and guided her through the door. They disappeared inside the room.
The woman who had led them into the room started talking again. Jibat decided that she was trying to tell them to find the door with the symbols matching those on their metal disk. He walked around the hallway until he found the right door. There was a woman waiting by the door. She smiled at him when he walked over to her. She opened the door and gestured for him to enter. She was talking a mile a minute, but not one word was recognizable.
He stopped just inside the room. There were ten beds with five beds along each of the two side walls. At the foot of each bed was a cabinet. Most of the beds were made up with a sheet, blanket, and pillow on them. There were two beds which just had a folded sheet and blanket sitting on top of the pillow.
She then led him to one of the unmade beds and pointed to a plaque above it while talking. It matched what he had decided was his symbols. He decided that she was trying to tell him that this was his bed. He patted the mattress as if to say, ‘Okay, this is mine.’
She opened the cabinet at the foot of the bed and gestured to it while talking. He went over and looked inside the cabinet. There were three shelves, but they were empty. He looked back at her wondering why she wanted him to look inside an empty cabinet.
While talking to him, she gestured to his canvas sack. It took a while, but she managed to convince him to put his spare set of clothes in the cabinet. She was very insistent that the pants went in one spot, the top in another, and the pair of slippers went into a special bin. The slippers were a surprise. He hadn’t even known they were there since they had been hidden under the clothes.
He almost got into a fight with her over leaving his canvas bag in the cabinet. It held a sandwich, an orange, and a bottle of juice. There was no way he was going to give that up. He wrapped both arms around the bag.
She started talking to him in a very stern tone of voice. He growled at her. When she started to pull out one of those extending rods from her pocket, he gave in very quickly.
There was a short tour of the room where he was shown the toilets, sinks, and showers. Since he didn’t need to urinate at the moment, that didn’t seem so important. Then he was shown a little closet which contained cleaning supplies. The contents of the closet meant nothing to him.
Then came the lesson on how to make the bed. That did not go well. She showed him how to put the sheet on the mattress, cover it with the blanket, and place the pillow at the head of the bed. She tore the bed apart and pointed at him and the bed. It took a dozen attempts before he got it made to her satisfaction.
He decided that he’d rather sleep on the floor than have to do that again. He had gone a long time without sleeping in a bed and he could just do without one if it required going through that ordeal. In fact, he wasn’t sure that he wanted to sleep in a room with other people. He wondered if he could find his way back to where all of those buildings were. He’d feel a lot more comfortable there than in the room.
After that, the lady took him back out into the hallway where the others from the plane trip had gathered. One of the girls had tears running down her face. He guessed that she hadn’t wanted to put her canvas bag in the cabinet either. He was kind of glad that he gave in.
By now, he recognized just about everyone who had been on the plane. He didn’t know anything about any of them except for the two girls who had sat on the same row as he. Still, he figured that they would all be together from now on and that it would be a good idea to get to know them better.
It was only at that moment that he realized that no one else who had been on that plane with him had been with him in his room. He didn’t know what to make of that.
Feeling tired, he was starting to get a little down about this whole thing. He didn’t understand the adults, he had no idea what was happening, and they had given him a magic bag and taken it away. He was thinking that maybe coming here wasn’t such a good thing despite what the family who had saved him said.