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    March

    The Divine Farmer

    Written by Ghost Archer. No comments Posted in: Characters, Fiction

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    August 26, 1962: East bank, Bei Jiang (“North River”), 22 kilometers south of Yingde, China

    For seven thousand years, since the legendary time of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, the lot of the Chinese peasant had changed little. Born to till the land in their hundreds of millions any hope of improving their place in the world was little more than a passing dream. At the age of seventeen a boy born to a farmer took up the harness of the ancient plow that had served his family for centuries and began to trudge across the field. Hard times had fallen abruptly on his family when one of the local Communist ‘warlords’ had taken their oxen to give to a favored cousin. Left with no option, the boy and his father had placed themselves in harness and, with his younger brother steering, dragged the plow from one side of the plot to the other. He had been thirteen at the time. Now, over four years later, he did not need the help of his father to pull the plow. Though not yet fully grown, at 187 cm, the boy stood nearly a head above any in the village. He had a broad, powerful chest, massive legs and the arms of a weightlifter. His strength was attributed to his years at the plow because in 1962, no one had ever heard the term ‘meta human’.

    The band of soldiers swept into the small village aboard rusted-out American deuce-and-a-half trucks left over from the Second World War though the Chinese-made assault rifles were much more recent. Quickly, efficiently, the soldiers piled out of the trucks and began a systematic search of each house, forcing the cowering peasants out into the open where they were herded into the small village center. Times had been hard in China with the failure of the Great Leap and the ensuing famines that were to cost China 30 million lives. The village and surrounding farms had been ‘collectivized’ several years earlier and all private farming outlawed. Now the soldiers had come for what little the exhausted land had given up.

    The boy was forced into the village square with his family and stood mutely watching as every last sack of the yingdehong tea the village grew was piled onto the waiting bed of a truck. Rage seethed within him knowing that the pile of sacks represented the money needed to buy food and was all that stood between his village and starvation.

    “What will we eat?” the village elder asked the soldier in charge.

    “Each other!” the soldier laughed and slammed the butt of his rifle into the elder’s face. “Kill them all!”

    Not one villager made a move as the man’s words penetrated then as rifles were raised to shoulders, the small crowd broke. None took more than a few steps before the bullets ripped into the cluster of humanity. Instinctively the boy turned to his sister and mother, covering them with his body. Blood erupted, people screamed, bodies fell, the young man toppled, covering his sister completely but leaving his mother exposed. When the last had fallen and the gunfire ceased the crunch of boots on the gravel was loud as the commander of the soldiers began to move through the corpses making sure all were dead with a shot to the head. When he reached the boy, he paused, then using the barrel of his rifle, tried to roll the youth over. He had seen the girl beneath move.

    A hand shot out to grip the barrel and twisted, bending the hardened steel like a pipe cleaner. A jerk on the gun pulled the soldier down and against the blood soaked young farmer. The man didn’t make a sound as the boy rolled onto his back, pulling the commander into a bear hug that snapped his spine. With a heave, the body slammed into three of the solders, sending them sprawling then the farmer was on his feet. In two steps he was on a pair of soldiers and slamming them together hard enough to crush their ribcages. The last lost his nerve and turned to flee but a sack of tea brought him down before he’d gone ten meters. The three on the ground, entangled with the body of their commander, fumbled to bring a weapon to bear, two succeeded but one managed only a single round before the weapon was empty and the other watched in horror as five rounds bounced off the young farmer.

    ****

    The pillar of smoke disappeared into the night as the boy used an oar to steer the small boat to the center of the Bei. There was no need to expend energy as the slow current pushed them south. Both were dirty but all traces of blood had been washed away. The boy, grim-faced, held his sister across his lap, her head resting against his shoulder. The girl’s tiny body was wrecked with sobs, her tear streaked face buried in a tattered and filthy rag doll. In the bottom of the boat were three sacks stuffed with tea leaves, two blankets, two stoppered gourds for water and a bag filled with the village’s meager stock pile of food that none there would ever need.

    Rolled up tightly and hidden within the shabby doll was the money the soldiers had been carrying which was far more than the boy would ever have been expected to earn in a lifetime. It would be a start in a new place and meant life for his sister.

    The next morning a squad of soldiers, seeking their tardy compatriots, rolled into the village to find a pile of blacked corpses and the burned out carcasses of the trucks and the tea nothing but ash. None lived to remark on the missing boat.

    ****

    September 1, 1962: West of Canton, China

    The journey down the Bei had been uneventful for the most part with only a single encounter with three PLA soldiers at a river crossing. Their interest had waned quickly when they got a closer look at the two and the battered boat. Peasants taking tea down to market, and that a very small amount of tea. Not worth the trouble to take and worth even less than the trouble selling the stuff would be. They let them pass unmolested and returned to their smoking.

    At dusk the following day the boy had pulled the boat up on the west bank of the river having spent the daylight hours constantly pushing off one sand bar after another. It had not been hard work but the numerous stops and starts had made it impossible for his sister to nap in her accustom place, his lap. Coupled with an increase in river traffic as the river meandered into more civilized regions the two had needed sleep as well as something hot to eat so the boy had nosed the boat into the shore at the base of a thickly forested hill.

    With his sister clutching his hand, the boy hoisted the boat, sacks and all up onto one shoulder and moved into the forest. There he found a sheltered hollow in a rock outcropping and settled them in. Long skilled at making fire without matches the boy soon had a small but comfortable fire going with a small pot of tea brewing. He shared out the day’s rations to his sister, a single stale loaf, all that remained of their scant provisions. Without hesitation broke the loaf into two pieces, presenting the larger to his sister. She took it eagerly and was already chewing her first bite when she noticed he had tucked his half away in their nearly empty sack.

    “Brother, why do you not eat,” she asked.

    “I am not hungry, little sister,” he replied. “I will eat it later.”

    It was an easy lie and she was too young to further question him so she finished her bread then moved off behind a rock to relieve herself. When she returned he had spread one of the blankets atop a pile of leaves and held the second out to her. She stepped into it and he wrapped it around her. Lifting her and laying her on the covered mound of leaves, he folded the edges up to cover her, creating a warm cocoon for her. She was asleep in an instant.

    The morning dawned clear and crisp with hint of what the day would bring. The boy presented the girl with the crust of bread he had stashed the night before and she took it without a thought. Once she was finished, he bundled all back into the boat and lifted it to his shoulder. Setting it once more into the river, he lifted her from the shore to the boat so as not to get her wet, and then climbed in after her. Though they did not know it they reached a confluence of the Xi and Bei rivers within an hour and found far more traffic than anything they’d encountered in their entire trip to that point. Power boats began to appear then the first large freighter cruised by nearly swamping their small boat with its wake.

    The little girl watched the second great vessel pass by then screamed in fear as the wave of its passing topped the boat’s gunwale and left nearly a foot of water in the bottom of the craft. Now paddling rather than letting the current carry them, the boy steered toward the east bank to clear the shipping traffic. Closer in to shore, though the wake of passing ships still presented a problem, they felt safer with the shallower waters.

    For hours the boy pulled the boat south into broader areas of the river careful only to note the passing of these larger vessels. Sometime after noon though, the river traffic disappeared. The boy lifted his head and scowled. From the east a thick layer of clouds rolled toward them and the fresh scent of rain reached his nose. A storm was coming and fast. Digging deep he pulled toward the nearest structure, a pier and squeezed the small boat in between the pilings into the darkness beneath.

    They spent the remainder of the day and all of that night tied up under the protection the pier offered as Typhoon Wanda roared inland from Hong Kong to dissipate. In its path 434 people died and 72000 were left homeless in the British Protectorate alone. It was the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in Hong Kong.

    The two reached Macao two days later and were in Hong Kong the following day.

    ****

    December 31, 1962: Hong Kong

    The man grinned at the boy, his hand resting on the leg of the little girl. The boy wanted to kick himself. He had left her only long enough to run to the local inn for a meal and when he’d return, two men with guns were waiting. Now he stood in the office of the man he knew to be the boss of the local gang.

    “You have not paid your fair share,” the man said, stroking the girl’s thigh.

    The girl was tied and gagged, wearing only the thin shift she slept in.

    “What do I owe,” the farmer said through his teeth.

    “I think this girl will be enough to pay your debts,” the man turned his attention to little sister.

    It was the gangster’s last mistake. The three shots did not startle the six men in the other room, instead it elicited smiles and chuckles of amusement. They turned their attention back to the dominoes and beer. It was the sound of breaking furniture that made them pause. One, senior of the group rose from the table and pulled a Webley Mk IV .30/200.

    Of the nine men in the building that day, six died, and suddenly the boy found he was the new leader of the local gang. The first thing he did was change the way the gang made money. No more drugs, no more prostitution and especially child prostitution.

    May 10, 1963: Hong Kong

    “Brother,” the little girl said, her eyes wide as they watched the news report displayed on a wall of new television sets stacked in the front window of a Hong Kong department store. “Is he like you?”

    She sat on a broad shoulder, her small arm around the top of his head. On the screen a grinning Nikita Khrushchev stood before a bank of television cameras with one hand on the shoulder of a man dressed in a tight leather costume with a gold star on the chest. His face was covered by a domino mask that did nothing to hide the red glow of his eyes.

    “No, little sister,” he replied. “He is nothing like me.”

    Turning away he carried her back to the small room they shared, his mind turning over the possibilities.

    November 12, 1963: Near Hong Kong

    The first attack came at one of the border crossings from the PRC to Hong Kong, the weapon? A tank, a flying tank. It came from the PRC side of the border and landed on the roof of the border post building. The forty ton vehicle flattened the structure and killed the four men inside. Investigations, aimed at finding a way to lay blame on the British, could only conclude that the vehicle belonged to the PLA, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. How it flew nearly 50 meters to land atop the building was not explained until much later.

    December 22, 1963: Canton, China

    “I am Shénnóng, the Divine Farmer, and I have returned to restore China to the people!” read the flyers scattered around the military base. Crews armed with hoses battled the flames of the burning aircraft that half an hour before had waited in pristine glory for the call to defend the PRC, a call none would ever answer. Eleven new Shenyang J-6 jet fighters burned as the Chinese countryside erupted in a search for British or American saboteurs. No one noticed the young peasant with a little girl.

    March 10, 1964: Hong Kong

    ‘The Divine Farmer Sinks PRC Warship’ proclaimed the English language newspaper. The boy grinned as one of his men read it aloud. His campaign against the PRC was progressing and the Chinese government was in an uproar, totally at a loss to explain the military assets being destroyed by this so-called Divine Farmer. Hundreds had died in the sinking adding to the body count of this terrorist. Over forty tanks and two dozen aircraft had been destroyed but the sinking of the PRC’s Soviet built warship had been a stunning disaster. Three generals had been relieved, more than a dozen men had been imprisoned under suspicion of working with this Farmer but nothing was ever found.

    Little sister ran into the room dressed in a frilly pink dress, white calf-high stocking and patent leather shoes. Without hesitation she threw her thin arms around her brother’s neck and squealed with childish delight.

    “Do you see, brother,” she cried relinquishing her hug and stepping back. She spun on a toe, the dress flaring out.

    “You are very pretty, little sister,” he said with a gestured to the two men in the room. They stepped out, closing the door behind them. Only then did he gather the girl into his arms and hug her tightly.

    June 14, 1964: Taiwan, China

    The broadcast came from Taiwan and was instantly suspect by the PRC but there was no denying the costumed man’s demonstration.

    “I am Shénnóng, the Divine Farmer, and I have returned to restore China to the people!” the man announced, then tossed a tank into the ocean. The background was the Shanghai harbor.

    The Taiwanese announcer appeared on screen.

    “This film was sent to our studios from Peking and the Taiwan government does not claim any knowledge of actions taken by this individual.”

    World headlines the next day where rife with speculation of the world’s second ‘metahuman’. This one was not acting against criminals and for a government but in direct opposition to the vast power of the People’s Republic of China. Chinese newspapers labeled him the world’s first recognized ‘super villain’ and an enemy of the state. It promised massive retaliation against any nation that chose to harbor the man.

    Secret Identities would become the norm for all ‘metas’.

    RPG

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