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The Secret Draft - Episode 1 by Milwaukee
(Not a realistic story, more inspired in the vain of Robotic Discipline)
Freedom in the United States has always come at a price. Yes, lives are lost everyday fighting for the American Dream, but the cost progress has had on the armed forces is, without a doubt, noticeable. Once, when any man turned eighteen in this nation, they were expected to be ready for warfare, but nowadays we stress the importance of higher education on our young boys as more and more matriculate to universities and colleges and fewer choose to enlist. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up for debate, but the American government, with all it’s desires to maintain their status as the world’s ultimate superpower, have turned to JROTC programs in high schools to solve the issue that is their diminishing population of soldiers. They needed young men who were unafraid and willing to die for their country at all costs, but as most young men nowadays wish to live lifes as actors, scientists, and other non-life threatening work, they were going to have to get creative. They were going to have to implement "the secret draft".
This story is the first test of the secret draft at Monroe High School during the summer of 2018. The government had reached out to the recent graduates of the school, asking them if they wished to participate in such a program. Well "reached out" and "asking" depends on your definition of the words, but that’ll all be explained soon enough…
"Where am I?" said the six eighteen-year-olds simultaneously, almost as if they were programmed to do that. They all awoke in their six respective barber chairs, but they couldn’t help but to immediately notice two things. One, there were a plethora of scientists and army men staring back at them with almost bewildered amazement and two, their hair had grown to become both extremely uneven and very long. Ace, the stoner of the group, might have worn his jet black hair like this regularly, but none of the other guys remembered ever growing their hair out to this length.
"Okay, I’ll say it," started Joseph, the resident lead actor in every high school play. "What the hell is going on here?" He flipped his now overgrown curly brown hair behind his shoulder, but when he tried to get up, an unexplainable force pushed him further down, back into his barbershop seat.
Lieutenant Mark Howell, the overseer of the program, had been given special permission by his government to treat the boys in any non-criminal manner he saw fit, but instead of yelling, he just murmured to one of the scientists, "Him with the curly hair, I want him with a high fade on the sides and the top cut long and pushed forward. Very trendy."
Everyone else just sat in shock as one of the women dressed in a white lab coat came up to Joseph to cut his hair as instructed.
"What do you think you’re doing?" Joseph fought. "You have to tell me what’s going on, this is-"
The female scientist, Brenda, pulled out a remote looking device and muted Joseph’s voice. You could still see him talking, but no sound came out. The other boys took note and all decided it would be better of them to comply. Even Joseph realized this as a single tear rolled down his face, not knowing what these people were going to do to him.
Lt. Howell, with tattooed muscles bulging out of his highly decorated uniform, asked the boy furthest to the left, "What’s your name, sir?" with a warm intonation not expected of a military officer.
"Ma...Madison?" he answered. Madison felt weird as he usually only wore button down shirts and dress pants, even to school, but now found himself in a white tank top and gym shorts, just like everyone else.
"Lucy," Lt. Howell began in his deep, masculine voice, "Give Madison here a disconnected undercut. Like a 2012 Macklemore but longer on the sides."
Madison, a conservative Christian, was happy that he would not have to deal with his long, dirty blonde, hippie hair much longer.
"You? Next to Madison. What’s your name?"
"Kieran Van Houts," responded the eighteen-year-old frightened.
Lt. Howell sensed this and wished no harm on the young man. "Don’t worry Kieran, this is not supposed to be a scary thing. I’m with the government, all we’re here to do is help."
"Okay?" Kieran, preppier than the whole of Connecticut, responded as he saw tufts of Joseph’s newly grown curls get thrown to the ground.
"Can I give Kieran’s light brown hair a mid-length shaggy cut?"
"Of course," said one of the lab technicians.
"Add some wave and keep it out of his face please."
The lady nodded as she turned Kieran around and Lt. Howell got back to business. "You?"
"You can call me Levi," responded the class clown, blowing locks of auburn hair out of his face.
"I think I’ll call you whatever you want," fired back Lt. Howell, eliminating any chance of a smirk on Levi’s face. "Friar tuck."
"What?!" exclaimed Levi. He began to beg and argue with Lt. Howell, but Brenda quickly muted him just the same.
"I’m teasing." It was now Lt. Howell who looked amused with himself. "You’ll get a longer cut. Something Kurt Cobain-esque, but I warn you of the danger your humor can put you in around here."
Levi nodded as he was unmuted. "Yes, sir."
Joseph looked over to Brenda, wondering why she still hadn’t unmuted him as well.
"Lieutenant? I believe this one’s name is Joseph. Shall I let him speak?"
Lt. Howell chuckled. "No, it says here he’s a theater kid. If we unmute him then he’ll go on and on about himself for hours. Wait until after the cut."
Joseph, like the dramatic actor he was, couldn’t help but look pissed beyond all belief as Brenda worked up the sides of his head.
"You? With the muscles?"
"I’m Hunter Whitmore. I play quarterback for-"
Brenda muted him as well.
"I didn’t ask for all that," announced Lt. Howell. "Piece of advice for all of you, I’m lenient, but don’t test me. Hunter will get a faux hawk, something in which he can spike that chestnut hair up."
Another scientist, the same confusing story as Hunter had chunks of his bangs cut off instantly.
"I guess I’m the last one left!" said the stoner boy unprompted. "I’m Ace."
"Yes, you. What on earth are we gonna do with you?"
"What does that…" He looked over to Brenda, eyeing him with the remote pointed his way. "I’ll be quiet now."
"Learning, I see. Well Ace, let’s do a bowl cut, parted down the middle. Also very trendy."
Ace, like all the boys, complied. Weirdly enough, none of them struggled, probably as they were too frightened to do so. Clumps and clumps of hair continued to fall to the floor. The cold metal teeth of the clippers only hit one or two of their heads, but only for fading near the edges. Everyone else only felt a plastic guard on their sides, if any clipper action. For Levi, they added highlights in his hair and cut the length in a straight line across his back before calling it a day. After only thirty minutes, these overgrown orangutans had been transformed back into pretty normal looking streetwalkers, with each of their haircuts highlighting their central personality traits.
"Now," started Lt. Howell. "Any questions?"
Brenda, who happened to be the head scientist, unmuted everyone as a cacophony of confused and angry voices filled the barbershop. Without missing a beat, Lt. Howell gave a small nod to his associate and she muted them again, this time forcing them to get up and stand at attention.
"Rule one," yelled a now more dominating Lt. Howell, "No questions! They make you deviate from the team."
The boys all looked to their sides, trying to find any rhyme or reason to how they got here, butt none of them could answer for themselves, let alone the others.
"Now you may not know why you’re here, but I tell you, it is a PRIVILEGE to be where each of you are standing. You understand me?"
Unmuted for a second, all but Ace had the brains to say, "Sir, yes sir."
"Stoner boy, you just earned a demerit. You wanna know what it means?"
Now extremely frightened, Ace tried to say yes, but was cut off with a "YOU DON’T GET TO KNOW WHAT IT MEANS," spit right into his face.
The boys all were shaking in their boots. What was this man, this program they hadn’t signed up for gonna do to them?
"Recruit Ace, since you wanna stand out so badly from the crowd, you’re gonna be first."
The room stood silent as none of the new recruits knew what was about to happen. Were they about to be killed? Were they gonna be sent to war? Questions filled each and every one of their minds, but not a single one could vocalize it.
"Drop and give me as many pushups as you can."
Ace’s face said it all. Like the other boys, he was thinking, ‘This is it? Pushups?’ He didn’t question it, however, as he pushed his nicely quaffed bangs out of his face and complied, getting down on the hair-ridden ground and reaching a total of thirteen pushups.
"Thirteen?! That’s it?!" screamed Lt. Howell. "You’re gonna lose this game before it even begins, maggot!"
Ace, although usually high through the pain, couldn’t help but to feel tears well up in his sober eyes.
The boys went through the same command in alphabetical order. Recruit Hunter did extremely well, as expected by Monroe High’s top athlete, almost hitting a hundred with a solid 98. Recruit Joseph, on the other hand, found his theater skills not to be as applicable as he struggled to get even five.
"What! Skinny little chicken arms can’t do it?!" yelled Howell, but Joseph walked off solemnly, thinking he was going to get picked on more than anyone else for this.
Kieran, glad he wasn’t in his polo shirt, hit a surprising total of nineteen which, at this point, Lt. Howell couldn’t knock considering how horribly Ace and Joseph did. Levi was an even bigger shocker as he managed to hit a total of forty-two before giving up.
"Not bad for a clown," said Lt. Howell, returning to his somewhat warmer tone. That quickly faded however with a good, hearty "NEXT!"
Madison was last, but he wasn’t scared. As long as he got better than Joseph, he was gonna be just fine.
"Are you ready?" asked Lt. Howell.
Madison nodded and began. One pushup...Two pushups...Three pushups...Four pushups...
But as he went for the fifth, he felt his knees buckle behind him. He tried to fight it, but SPLAT! He hit the floor.
"Four?!! From you!"
"I buckled! I didn’t mean to-" Madison mouthed before realizing no sound was going to come out.
"Fine then, final score of four for Madison, which means you’re our big LOSER!"
Everyone’s eyes widened, but you could see the reflection of the entire room in Madison’s. He dropped to his knees, pleading for a chance to speak, pointing to Brenda, but receiving nothing close to an ounce of sympathy.
"Ace, follow me," commanded Lt. Howell.
Finally learning, Ace didn’t question his motives.
"Sit here," the officer said, gesturing to the barber chair.
Again, Ace complied.
"Madison...I’m not feeling very nice today," said Lt. Howell. "In fact, because of these shenanigans, I’m gonna teach all of you a quick little lesson, right here, right now."
Madison, now resigned to whatever his punishment would be, knew there was no way of getting out of this.
"Now, for some explanation," began Howell. "This was your first test. Your first of five. If you notice, there are six of you. Do you get what I’m saying?"
They nodded, hearts beating faster than ever before.
"In case you didn’t, because I suspect some of you aren’t all that bright, the big loser of each test will lose this whole little game and will not move on to the next test. So Madison...do you know what that means?"
Brenda unmuted him for a moment. "Yes, sir. I’ve lost."
Lt. Howell revelled in the moment before grabbing a remote and pointing it at Madison. "I’m afraid, you don’t."
With one click of the button, Madison winced, but it was Ace who now found himself strapped into the barber chair. The stoner with such beautifully parted hair yelled for help, but not a single sound came out of his mouth. With almost too much enthusiasm, Lt. Howell grabbed a pair of clippers and faced them towards Ace’s direction.
None of the other boys knew what was happening, but they also understood that this would be the fate for all but one of them.
Ace wiggled and pushed as hard as he could, but sooner or later, that force Joseph had felt trying to keep him down was growing stronger and stronger around Ace, eventually, but only in a few seconds, forcing him to sit still.
"As punishment, I’ve deducted ten pushups from your score," said the officer as the other soldiers gasped. "Now, now. Where shall I start?"
Ace was helpless. There was nothing he could do except let Lt. Howell do his magic.
With one pass of the clippers, a boy who looked one moment like a boy band star with beautiful jet black hair, parted down the middle now appeared as if he were Dr. Phil, with only stubble in the path of destruction. Lt. Howell laughed at him. The other soldiers observing also laughed. Even some of the good-hearted scientists couldn’t help but to laugh.
"You can laugh as well," Lt. Howell directed the other boys. They were quickly unmuted and found themselves with no other options but to comply to Howell’s will and laugh at their colleague. The fact that some of these boys were Ace’s friends in high school only made him tear up more.
Lt. Howell continued to make passes of the clippers against Ace’s head, tearing long black locks of hair piece by piece, almost as if he were making him naturally bald in a Norwood sort of fashion.
More than anything else in the world, the other boys did not want to end up like this. They would’ve done anything in the world to avoid looking like Ace did at this moment.
Right before he was to cut the back and sides off, Lt. Howell got close into Ace’s ear. "You look f***ing stupid," he whispered.
Tears came rolling down as the laughter diminished and the lieutenant finished giving his near surgically perfect induction cut.
The room broke into applause. The other boys followed, but Levi tried his best not to look straight into his former friends' sad, betrayed eyes.
"Now for the best part!"
The boys looked confused. What else could Lt. Howell possibly do to poor little Ace?
"You see boys, I’m with the Marine corps and it’s young men like you that would rather work in a theater or an office that are causing us to lose ground all over the world. You disgust me. The military is a great cause, but nobody wants to die for it anymore. Nobody wants to defend the people you so care about. Therefore, we are attempting to initiate a new program. Hair follicles have recently been found by our top scientists to hold a connection between your body and your brain. A connection that gives you personality. Even bald men still have, although dormant, hair follicles so they still have personality. That’s why we can’t simply just put nair on your head to make you a good soldier."
The boys stood aghast as Lt. Howell grabbed a jar of cream. The scientists and army men, however, didn’t even flinch.
Rubbing the blue goop all over Ace’s head, he continued, "But we have found another solution. This cream not only makes your hair follicles dormant, but they also make them fall out entirely. It also replaces the connection between your brain and body with a new genetic code that makes you, let’s just say, the new American, ready to do whatever they are told and die for the cause if they must."
Ace’s tears suddenly stopped as he suddenly became free of the forces holding him. This excited the boys, but only for a moment as, like clockwork, Ace grabbed a towel, wiped off all the cream, and gave a perfect salute to Lt. Howell. His head was now shiny and it was obvious from the lack of even a shadow that there was no chance of him ever being able to grow his hair back again, let alone return to his stoner ways. He was, what Lt. Howell called, "the New American".
"What is your name recruit?" Lt. Howell asked Ace.
"Recruit 000000001, sir," Ace answered back.
The boys' mouths all dropped to the floor. Ace was no longer Ace, and the realization hit them that four more would be brainwashed just the same.
"How efficient," joked Lt. Howell. "Names were always meaningless to me anyways."
Nobody could move. Nobody wished to receive the same fate as Ace. Nobody wanted to no anymore.
But alas, the officer continued his monologue.
"So why don’t we just do this to all of you? Well you six were randomly chosen to be a part of this secret draft we’ve put together. There was no special criteria we put forth. We’ve tested drugs on your body already, such as the hair growth treatment we gave you during surgery, so our scientists no longer need to test on your bodies. So what now? Well, because we can’t just brainwash everyone as we would lose the smartest and strongest among us, we’ve decided to test for who that is. They will receive paths to higher office, fame and fortune, or even my position one day. But only one, as the other five’s minds will essentially be property of the government. Property of people like me. Nod if you understand so far."
They nodded, even if they lost a fact or two along the way.
"Good. Now I will unmute you all and you will be free to do whatever you like, so long as you remain on campus grounds. You will see we’ve Macgyvered the boy’s locker room into a barracks, so feel free to sleep there. However, I make the rules around here, kapeesh?"
Lt. Howell unmuted the contestants and they responded quicker than they ever had before, "Sir, yes sir." Levi raised his hand afterwards, however, knowing that he might be reprimanded immediately.
"Yes?" said the Lieutenant.
"What happens to Ace now?" asked the comedian.
"Ace? Oh he will remain with you all. He’ll sleep in the same place, he’ll eat the same food, and he’ll also keep an eye on you," answered Howell. "But remember, he’s not Ace, but Recruit 000000001. Boy is that a mouthful, but if we hope to have millions of him then...why don’t you all just get on your way and get to know one another better."
The boys all stood for a moment as Brenda guided them to their new home. As they were about to leave though, they heard something that shook them and their new trendy hairstyles to the core.
"See you tomorrow."