TEN YEARS AGO
“Excuse me. I have a meeting with the Prime Minister.”
The guard blinked, and blinked again. Somewhere in his maw something coherent was forming, but would fall apart by the end of his tongue. Persistent blinking did not aid him in his duty, nor did it transform the Union Jack stretched over tan biceps into something his pay grade could manage.
“You’re,” he stammered; the rest didn’t come.
“True Blue,” the man smiled behind his beard. “Blue to my mates, or Duncan.”
There was a quality to him that few men possessed; one that could be read from a glance. Skin like leather spoke of experience tempered by the wisdom of his silver locks smoothed on the sides. His smile sparkled and overpowered the shadow of his brow; anyone who knew to look might have seen eyes once so full of hope on posters and billboards without their typical luster.
Shaking back to his senses the guard reached for his clipboard. “O-o-of course! Sir! It’s an honour to meet you! I… let me just check you in.”
He massaged the back of his neck, forced a smile and stepped through the metal detector. “Do your job, son. I know the drill.”
Hot on his heels a cattle dog skipped by the gate. The guard jumped from behind his station in an attempt to block the animal’s path.
“I’m sorry, sir, but we’re going to have to ask for your pet to stay outside,” he said. One look from the battler saw his neck disappear into his shoulders. “Unless, of course, it’s a service animal, in which case we can make an exception.”
“She,” the old man grunted, “has been serving this country long before you were in nappies. If I were you I’d learn to respect your elders.”
The dog sat and peered up at him. Her eyes sagged with more years than any other dog could carry, and the black spots on her already mixed coat had been peppered with white. Regardless, her tail continued to wag from side to side just like it would on an eager pup.
“I…” Looking at brown eyes the guard looked over his notes again and stiffened. “Sorry, sir. My mistake. I forgot who I was talking to.”
True Blue chuckled, patted the younger fellow on the shoulder and pressed further into the building.
“Come on, Rip,” he chirped.
The cattle dog jumped to all fours and followed, then scooted ahead toward their intended destination. Every so often she would stop and wait for her owner, then move further when he was close enough. Then, finally, she waited for him at the office to the end of the hall.
Knock knock knock.
The door opened to a desk in front of a case packed with legal books; between them was an older gentlemen leaning back in his chair, leafing through the contents a manila folder. He closed it, lowered his glasses, and dropped the folder to his desk with a slap.
“Hello again, Duncan,” he hummed. “It’s good to see you.”
“Mr. Prime Minister.”
He groaned as he stood and circled his desk, stopping to give the old dog a scratch behind the ear. “No need to be so formal. How long have we been meeting like this? Twelve years, back when I was opposition leader-”
“I know why I’m here,” True Blue huffed, “and the answer is still no.”
“Funny, I believe your exact words to the Minister of Defence were ‘get stuffed.’”
“Please don’t make me tell you the same.”
“Look,” the Prime Minister reasoned, “I know you’re getting on. You’ve been at this since World War Two, since I was a boy. You’re getting tired, and you’ve earned a chance to rest up-”
True Blue clenched his fists. “You think this is about retirement?”
“You mean it isn’t?”
The hero paused, looked away and furrowed his brow. “I’ve been in every war since we took on the Japanese. Korea, Vietnam, too many to bloody count.”
With a heavy sigh the leader turned away and opened a nearby cabinet. Shuffled inside behind the books were a bottle and glasses. One by one he set them down on the table.
“-And while I’ve always been proud to fight for Australia, I’m sick of government after government finding new excuses to send men to their death. There are battles here at home we need to be fighting. Last thing we need is to throw our power around like the yanks.”
“Have a drink with me, Duncan,” the Prime Minister urged. He poured a glass and pushed it across the table.
“With all due respect, Mr. Prime Minister, you can piss off.”
True Blue reached to the centre of his tank shirt and pulled it apart like tissue. The Union Jack came from his body before the bare chested hero contorted it into a ball and threw onto the desk.
“Truth, justice, and a fair go for all,” he declared. “No more of this empire malarkey, even if we kid ourselves by calling it something else.”
“True Blue,” he said. “That’s my name. It means pure. Good. Fair dinkum. Remember?”
The hero marched from the office; Rip followed when he whistled. Topless in Parliament House he turned to consider the looks, frowned and pressed on. There were more battles to be fought than lay inside these walls.
To be continued in TRUE BLUE #1!