Author: John McLaughlin

“Children are a protected resource!”

The nine-year-olds repeat the Camp Haven creed and then take their seats, gaze never wavering from the flag.

At the head of the class, a strapping man swells with pride at the sight of these glowing youth. “Hi boys and girls! My name’s Sergeant Wallace.” He waits with an expectant grin.

A smattering of mumbles returns: “Hi, Sergeant Wallace.”

“First, I want you all to know: your parents love you very, very much–” he places emphasis on each syllable,
“–and that’s why you’re here at Camp Haven.” A blank smart-board buzzes on the wall behind him.

“Would anyone like to share their story with the class today?”

A boy in the front raises his hand tentatively: “Well, uh, one night I woke up in bed–and my Gramma was there in the room with me. And she had a big needle and she was about to stick me with it and I screamed and my Dad ran in. And then my Mom and Dad said I had to come here for a while to stay away from Gramma and the old folks and–”

“Thank you, young man,” Wallace bends to pat him gingerly on the shoulder, “what a great start to my story! Today I’m going to explain why it’s so important to protect kids like you.” He clicks the device in his palm and the smart-board blinks to life.

“Has anyone ever heard of Professor Kuruwaza?”

A girl in the second row shoots up her arm: “My Uncle said that he took a really old mouse, and he put some blood in it, and the old mouse got young again.”

“That’s right! He drew some blood from a young mouse and put it in the old one, and that reversed the old age. And that’s why we call it the Kuruwaza effect.”

Wallace summons the next slide onscreen. “And then he tried the experiment on real people like you and me, and you know what? The same thing happened!” Two panels: on the left, a woman in her mid sixties–wrinkled and frumpy, wearing a vacant expression; and on the right, after treatment, looking thirty years younger.

“After that experiment, a lot more old people wanted to try it out too. They wanted to be young again like the lady here. So the government–you guys know what the government is, right? The government made special laws to protect kids like you. Because you’re very special, and you deserve to keep your blood all for yourselves.”

“Eww!” drawls the redhead in row three.

Wallace smiles. He can see a sentry fidgeting nervously in the doorway but ignores him; he’s on a roll.

He spins on his heel and jabs a finger at the next image: an ancient crone, his sly grin revealing a snaggletooth. “Now what should you do if you see one of those?”

“Tell a Guardian!”

Wallace’s grin widens. “That’s right, boys and girls. You just tell me or anyone else here at Camp Haven.”

The young guard finally musters the courage to step over the threshold, marches up to Wallace and stammers into his ear: “Sir, we just took down a pack of Boomers outside the fence.”

“Okay, double our men on patrol. I want–”

When the propane bomb shreds the gates of Camp Haven–triggering the klaxon alarm and a general lockdown–the men don’t hesitate before throwing themselves into battle. There will be carnage, but their mission is sacred.

They know that young blood is too precious to spill.