tagNon-EroticA Gardener's Touch

A Gardener's Touch

byBurntRedstone©

Author's Notes:

'A Gardener's Touch' is a short story I wrote almost two years ago. It's situated in the same universe as Jack Danner's stories. I enjoyed writing it and I have no intention of writing a sequel to it.

I think it's fine as it is.

I hope you enjoy it as well.

All characters engaging in sexual relationships or activities are 18 years old or older.

********

A Gardener's Touch

Part I

Grenville McKree was born too big. The seventh son born to Margaret McKree was the final straw in her hard life. Granted, the harshness of her living conditions and the desperate circumstances she and her family found themselves in definitely played a larger role in her demise. However, as far as her sons were concerned her passing was his fault. After she gave birth to the 13 pound baby boy she simply closed her eyes and expired on the kitchen floor of the two room shack she shared with her sons.

Kyle McKree, Margaret's oldest child at 17, was well acquainted with the face of death from his years working in the mines and took immediate charge of the others. He sent the second youngest to bring the constables. His mother's death would need to be registered and ownership of the shack transferred to him straight away if the rest of the family was to survive. There was just the little issue of there being too many bodies living in the shack. Margaret had been a soft hearted woman and hadn't been able to part with any of her children. The maximum occupancy of a two room shack in the Sprawl was currently six. With Margaret's death and the latest addition to the family sent off to the state orphanage, they would be able to keep the shack and stay off the street. They'd also get some nice bonus credits for supplying the state with a warm body to press into their indentured workforce.

Once the constables arrived Kyle answered their questions as they filled out the paperwork. As per family tradition Kyle gave the newborn his name. It was all official like on the papers so everyone was satisfied. The truck arrived for his mother's body and they took her away without ceremony. Kyle identified the account the bonus credits should be deposited into and the constables left with their new charge, all 13 pounds of him. It was the last time Grenville would ever see his brothers.

At the state orphanage the baby was given a battery of tests to see what genetic surprises might be in store for the child as he grew up. More accurately, it would determine what expenses the state might be faced with in medical bills. While there was medicine to cure almost anything these days it usually went only to the rich. If it was required for indentured servants or soldiers, like Grenville would likely become, the cost was added to their fifty year contract. Or the treatment was withheld and they found themselves transferred to an occupation which guaranteed a shortened life expectancy.

Moments after initiating the DNA test a little red icon appeared on the technician's screen and he curled his lip in disgust. Grenville was a mixed breed. It seemed that Margaret was not as particular with what she slept with as she should have been, in the state's opinion. Now they were left with a child which was half human and half... something else. With so many surprisingly compatible vagrant alien species now passing through Earth's interplanetary gates, keeping track of the genetics had become next to impossible. The unrecognized parts of Grenville's DNA made applying most of the chemical control tags they used for their servant and soldier program impossible. They'd have to use the old style cortical implants for administering his discipline. This greatly limited his suitability for most of the positions he might have been assigned. The tech flagged the child for lowest echelon, ground troops. Destined for off-planet duty in the Planetary Assembly's Army, nicknamed "The Paw', which maintained order for the planets on the Interplanetary Gate Network. Grenville was no longer the responsibility of the state as he became part of Earth's quota for supporting the Assembly.

Grenville was quickly transferred and integrated into the Assembly's automated crèche system with the other children assigned to his level. Once they left the infirmary with their discipline chips installed, they would spend the next fifteen years of their lives in a system which kept them fed, clean, dressed, and educated by cerebral stimulation projectors. All of the children fell within the expected response parameters except Grenville. He absorbed the lessons and stimulus perhaps a little more quickly than the other children but due to his hybrid genetics his responses didn't register properly so the machines flagged him as intellectually and emotionally stunted.

For their earlier years surrogates were assigned a child to hold once a day for an hour. Grenville enjoyed this part of his day the most. He would look up into the eyes of his surrogate and smile. Some of the surrogates were not very good with children but his was kind to him. She had been warned that he was not as functional as the other children but she never had a problem with him. He never cried or fussed and was always happy to see her. He listened carefully when she spoke to him and gave her all of his attention. She began to wonder if the machines had made a mistake with their assessment but she knew better than to ask questions.

When the children reached eight years of age the surrogates just stopped coming. Grenville was sad for a long time but when he would get that way he would recall what it felt like to be held in her warm arms and that would make him feel better. Some of the smaller kids turned to him for the occasional hug as he was so much larger than the others. Grenville was ok with that too.

On their fifteenth year they were taken from the crèche and moved into barracks. The next day they began training to be soldiers. Six months of basic training weeded out the weak from the strong and a third of the children were moved into training for menial and dangerous service positions. Grenville never saw these kids again.

Next came physical combat training. Another six months of increasingly difficult training. As well as being physically larger, Grenville proved to be much stronger than all of the other kids and even some of the teachers. To their dismay however, they discovered he just wasn't naturally aggressive. This meant he took more beatings than he gave. He was able to endure more abuse than anyone else and if he got a grip on his attacker he'd inevitably pin their arms and stop their attack. The trainers became incensed when he didn't finish the practice by rendering his opponents unconscious. He tried explaining that he couldn't hurt his team mates and they were secretly very grateful for this small mercy.

One evening the trainers discussed his failure to complete the missions and got permission from senior command to push him to extraordinary lengths to see if the will to survive would trigger the aggression they were looking for.

The following day Grenville entered the fighting gym and found himself alone. A man entered the room wearing all black with his face covered by a mask. He told Grenville he had infiltrated the school for the explicit purpose of killing the students, starting with Grenville. He went into a combat pose and Grenville instinctively responded with the counter move. The assassin's hands shot forward and caught his shoulders and pulled him forward. His knee caught Grenville in the stomach then he threw the boy to the floor. The follow up stomp just grazed Grenville's neck as the boy rolled away terrified. This wasn't like any practice drill. This man really was trying to kill him. He popped up to his feet only to receive a kick to the temple. He went down again but was scrambling away the moment he hit the mat. He tried his best to elude his attacker but he was vastly outmatched. Blow after blow struck the boy and each time he'd roll with it and try to avoid the next blow to no avail.

He saw the savage look in the man's eyes as he came at Grenville one more time. He knew he had no other way out.

Grenville took two more savage punches to his face to get inside the man's attack and grab his shoulders. Yanking him forward as hard as he could, he slammed his forehead into the bridge of the man's nose. There was a terrible cracking sound and the man dropped to the ground unconscious, his face shattered.

He was dazed by the head butt and the beating he'd taken but Grenville prepared to make the final killing blow against the man's skull. Suddenly there was an awful pain in his head which caused him to stagger but he pushed it aside and repositioned himself.

The door burst open and he was body tackled to the floor by a teacher just as he slammed his heel downwards. His foot just missed.

It took Grenville four days to fully recover from the beating. He never learned the fate of his attacker. Sadly, one of his teachers never returned to classes and he wondered if the attacker had gotten to the teacher first. What was most confusing was the way the other teachers treated him after the ordeal. Instead of being praised for protecting the other students all of them refused to speak with him and some looked at him with open hostility. From that time on he was never asked to participate in any of the exercises. They didn't seem to care if he needed the skills to survive so he watched extra carefully and practiced by himself.

Another third of the kids had been eliminated during the combat training so a smaller group of sixteen year olds found themselves moved to another barracks. Here they would spend the next six months in intensive weapons training using a more advanced form of cerebral stimulator. Motor memories were programmed into the kids for each type of weapon they might be expected to use of which there were hundreds.

Again, Grenville's responses didn't register properly with the machines so they chose to make him review the weapons directly. This should have taken longer but they discovered that even his reportedly simple mind only needed to be shown something once and he never forgot.

Soon the young recruits were dressed in combat armor, a full duffle of survival gear at their feet, as they strapped themselves into the seats of the transport pod. Thirty kids strapped to the walls of a box that was shipped through the gate system to whatever hotspot needed fresh meat. Many wouldn't survive their first year.

Grenville's team was luckier than most. While they were still sent to some of the worst shitholes on the fringes of the gate network, they had Grenville with them doing his best to keep his team mates alive.

Nest of snipers on a hilltop? Grenville carried the heavy mortar across the open field to a team who were pinned down. He took a bullet in the shoulder and one in the calf but the team leveled the hilltop, wiping out the nest.

Outnumbered 2-1 in an ambush, Grenville drove a truck through the enemy lines with two automatic cannons bolted down in the back firing on anything that moved. He took two in the chest and one in the thigh but nothing critical was hit and he was back with his team in two weeks.

When the enemy sent a pack of trained attack beasts after his team, Grenville fought them off with his gun until it ran dry, used it as a club until it broke, switched to his knives, and finally resorted to his bare hands to kill the last two. The slashing claws and fangs had eventually torn through his armor and he suffered several deep wounds on his face and torso. This took two months to heal but they sent him back to his platoon.

He was always leading the charge with his large body now encased in extra layers of body armour scrounged up by his team mates. He wasn't exceptionally fast but he drew the bullets away from the others so they could take out the enemies in the safety of his shadow.

The original 30 kids in his team had been gradually whittled down to just 10 over the years as they'd been moving from battle to battle. There was no shortage of soldiers trying to get into their unit as its survival rate was twice that of any other unit. The Assembly sent its units on missions based on committee requests from its member planets. These requests were to maintain order over the vast network of planets. There always seemed to be an uprising or police action popping up at the fringes of the network. The work was bloody and dangerous and each mission could be their last. Those with an instinct for survival found their way to Grenville's team.

He'd been a soldier for 13 years when they were shipped to a world to battle against a technologically sophisticated opponent on their home turf. His unit was directed to take the primary target, a large munitions plant which apparently housed their military think tank as well. The limited briefing they'd had simply indicated the enemy was developing a new threat and they needed to identify it, confiscate it if possible, capture or take out the scientists in the think tank, and destroy the facility.

After a fierce and bloody skirmish they gained entrance to the building and Grenville lead half of his team further in. They made it to the core of the building which looked like some kind of R&D lab. Grenville discovered the remaining scientists had locked themselves in a computer lab. His team found no prototype weapons or anything that looked like military secrets so half of the group proceeded with setting the demo charges to take out the entire building while Grenville led the rest against the computer lab.

Suddenly burning pain ripped through his entire body and Grenville witnessed his team mates screaming and clawing at themselves. Some had already fallen to the floor dead, faces frozen in a rictus of agony, eyes wide open. Through the red haze of pain he looked to the window of the lab where the scientists watched and gestured excitedly. The enemy had decrypted the signals to their discipline chips and were killing the soldiers with overloads.

This was the secret weapon.

Grenville grabbed two satchel charges and exposed their adhesive strips. Though agony poured through every nerve in his body, he pushed it aside and staggered over to the window. He glared at the terrified faces inside before he slapped the bags to the glass. He threw himself to the side over a desk and the explosives went off with a colossal thump. The shockwave tore into the room, crushing the scientists and destroying the equipment inside the lab.

The intensity of the pain immediately diminished but damage had been done. Grenville pushed himself to his feet and looked around the room. Every member of his team was dead. He set the timers on the demo charges, and ran as fast as his agonized muscled would take him back to the entrance of the building. Along the way he saw more and more of his team mates lying dead where the kill signal had caught them. He was ten feet from the door when the shockwave picked him up and fired him out of the open doors like a cannonball.

The next day the army sent in the main force of the armored soldiers, who picked their way over the twisted and tortured bodies of the ground troops who'd been killed by their own discipline chips. They found Grenville tangled in a fence but still clinging to life.

The surgeons located the melted discipline chip in his brain and removed it. There was nothing left of the area to support the implanting of another chip. His pain center was badly damaged. There was another indication that Grenville had suffered brain damage. His speaking seemed to be limited to three word sentences punctuated by a blink. As his records showed that he was considered to be in the lowest intellect percentile to begin with, they flagged him as non-recoverable and sent him back to Earth for reassignment to menial labor.

Grenville's days as a soldier were finally over.

Part II

The case worker who processed Grenville when he arrived back on Earth looked up at the big man sitting calmly in the chair across his desk. The scars of numerous battles were plain to see on his face, neck, arms, and hands. His hair was still cropped to his scalp as army regulation required and the terrible head wound from the surgery was only slightly disguised by a small gauze bandage. Several thin white scars crossed the ex-soldier's face and a larger, angry looking purple one ran from his right temple down to his jaw. What might have once been a handsome face now showcased the violence that had been inflicted upon it. The peaceful calm of his blue eyes and the gentle smile that rested on his lips did much to soften the impact of the scarring. The corded muscles of his neck and shoulders bulged out of the tight shirt and his thick arms overstressed its seams. His big hands relaxed on his powerful legs. Everything about the young man screamed power except for the calm and amiable expression he wore.

In a rare moment of curiosity the worker pulled up Grenville's war record. He was stunned by the length of his service and what he had achieved. As a bit of a history buff he knew Grenville would have once received a hero's welcome home. He looked at the job the ex-soldier had been slated for. Fuel Cell Handler. Working with the spent radioactive fuel cells in the city's power plants was a death sentence. The injustice of it stirred the man deeply. He could do something about it so he would. He decided to look for an alternative job to save the soldier. Scanning the listed job openings he saw there was a position for a base laborer in the main municipal garden in Capital City so he switched the codes on Grenville's case file and updated the job listing as closed. For once he felt a warm glow of satisfaction from doing his job. He smiled at the big man and received one in return. Grenville was given his workers bracelet, the largest size they had, permanently attached to his right wrist and he was on his way to Capital Gardens.

Head Groundskeeper Scott was a man deeply in touch with every bit of greenery under his care. He knew how each plant needed to be treated to make it thrive and what each considered a threat. When Grenville was brought to his office he eyed the big man with some hesitation. He knew he could use the extra muscle for the heavy labor in the garden but he wasn't about to unleash a destructive force on those in his care. And this scarred giant of a man had obviously seen some destruction.

He asked Grenville to join him in the greenhouse and brought him to the work bench where he had an orchid he was attempting to save. He pushed the pot in front of his new worker and asked him what he saw. The big man looked close and turned the pot gently this way and that. He looked back at his boss and said in a stilted way that there were pests on the undersides the leaves. The man raised his bushy eyebrows and nodded. He spent the next two hours teaching Grenville how to treat orchids. He was delighted to see that Grenville recalled everything he said with only one lesson. He was also impressed by the big man's gentle touch with the flowers. He tried not to get too excited but he really thought he might have someone here he could train to be his successor. He immediately upgraded his position to apprentice groundskeeper.

Grenville loved working in Capital Gardens. It suited his personality far better than being a soldier. The only thing he was asked to kill now were the insects and diseases that hurt the plants. He liked the old man that taught him about the life in the garden. He absorbed everything he was told and after a year of service he knew as much about the care of the plant life as the old man. He was allowed to patrol the extent of the big garden and review the condition and state of every plant species they managed. He would return to the greenhouse and report on his findings. These reports sometimes took a long time as Grenville spoke slowly at his pace of three words and a pause. Long conversations were mentally painful to the big man so he learned to be concise. The Groundskeeper had patience with him so they got along very well.

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byBurntRedstone© 38 comments/ 33212 views/ 100 favorites

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