L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 323, June 12, 2005
"News From The Belly Of The Beast"
What Price Freedom?
Special to TLE
The old man sat in the shade in the mine opening, his body wracked with pain. It had been many long years since he had come to this spot, fearing that he would not be able to resist the temptation of a new life, in a new, free world. Held to this world by love of his wife and children, and now, his grandchildren, he had waited, hoping beyond hope that either his wife or children would believe his stories, and make the leap of faith to the new world, or that the disastrous government policies would change before his country became a full police state.
Now, it was too late. His wife and children were dead, killed in a raid on his home while he had been out with his grandchildren. He had seen the cloud of smoke, and hiding the children, had investigated, cautiously, the old skills still there despite his age. He had seen the jackbooted thugs celebrating around the burning ruins of his home, the bodies of his son, daughter and wife laying in the yard. Bottling up his rage, he had gone back to the children and led them to this spot, where long ago he had made a great discovery and became a legend in a world that most people didn't know existed.
They had been discovered just before reaching the mine, and the old man had been hit several times, getting the children into the mine, and through the shimmering curtain to the new world. He had given them a note, quickly scribed in a strange cursive script, and pushed them through, knowing they would be well-cared for by those on the other side.
He had quickly armed himself from the cache of weapons he had hidden here so many years ago, and moving to the cave mouth, had repelled the first assault from the thugs, taking several more slight wounds in the process.
Now, wounded, sick with pain and grief, he looked at the shimmering curtain, and knew he couldn't go through it. On the other side was freedom, respect, youth and health, a world of individual rights, the kind of place he had hoped to make his own world with his writings and activism. But if he went through, there would be nothing to stop those behind him from following. He couldn't allow that, especially since he had sent his grandchildren to safety there. Oh, the inhabitants of that world would eventually win, but at what terrible cost? He shook his head, no, he couldn't allow that.
Moving as quickly as he could, he piled up explosives and ammunition near several of the old mine supports, and ran a fuse to the entrance of the mine. He took up a position where he could easily see, but was still fairly well protected from enemy fire. Looking down the hill toward the tree line, he could see occasional movement, but not clear enough to risk a shot. He knew that the enemy knew he had been hit, and was probably waiting for him to get too weak to mount any resistance. Also, they could see the bodies of those he had killed in the first rush, so they wouldn't be likely to rush in until they were sure he wouldn't be able to resist effectively.
He picked up the bullhorn, and hollered down at them, "Okay! I give up! My grandson is shot, and needs help! I'm throwing out my gun!"
He threw one of the extra weapons out over the edge of the mine mouth, and heard it clatter down the hill. Slowly, one after another, the agents stood up. When no fire came, they went up the hill to the mine entrance, gradually gaining confidence. When they reached the entrance, one of them shouted at the old man to come out.
"I can't! My leg is broken, I can't walk! Hell, I threw my gun out! What are you guys so afraid of?"
The thugs looked at each other, then slowly began to go into the mine. The old man looked at them, then sighed. "Well, boys, it's been a good run! I'll see you in hell!" He flipped the grenade he was holding at the pile of explosives, at the same time activating the detonator on the fuse. His last thought, as the explosives blew, was, "At least now my grandkids are safe!"
When the recovery team finally dug through the rubble to recover the bodies, they found all the thugs, but there was no trace of the old man's body. They never saw or knew of the shimmering blue curtain, and the secret the old man had died to protect remained a secret.
On the other side of that curtain, there is a large marble tomb. On top of it is a strange statue. Part of it shows a young, handsome man, in the full flower of youth and strength. The other part of it shows an old man, wounded and sore, dying, but triumphant, and still free. His grandchildren and their children, and the children of all that world learn his story, not only how he saved them when young and strong, but also how he gave his life for them, the sacrifices he had made for love and for freedom.
Freedom is never free.
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