The flatscreen faded into a minute-long video montage of events that had occurred over the previous half-century, accompanied by associated faded year numbers. The montage started with the 2018 lunar landing by Chinese taikonauts, followed in order by the 2013 resolution to the North African revolution under one government, the 2022 development of the first sentient android, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, and finally the 2026 activation of the world's first commercial nuclear fusion power plant near Denver, Colorado. The theme instrumental played as this montage continued mirrored what had been used for Turning Points of History with a triumphant overtone, coming to a synchronized, reverberating end as soon as the title of the show, Breakthroughs, centered on screen in full with a slight swivelling animation upon appearing. Then the screen faded back into black once more, the reverberation lingering, only to be followed up by the fade-in of the episode`s subject of interest: "Trinity Task Force One". This lasted for one second for viewers to read before the whole screen faded away to reveal a regimental parade for 3RCR at CFB Petawawa undergoing a military inspection. Amid the formation of consistent uniforms, one entire platoon stands out amongst the rest, being comprised of anthropomorphic animals.
As the inspection is taking place with jumps to two different camera angles further in, the narrator began speaking with a low, gravelly voice as to remain serious about the subject matter, "September 26th, 2040. It has been exactly five years since the United Nations gave sanction to Trinity Task Force One as a permanent international unit, the first military unit of its kind. Today, 42 nations are called home to members of this unit, bringing its combat strength to the equivalent of a single battalion."
Combat footage of similar anthropomorphic animals is shown, sporting combat fatigues and small arms from different nations, taken in Pyongyang near the end of the Second Korean War, followed by video footage of a unit of similar composition escorting a UN relief convoy in Eastern Turkey.
The camera then jumps to an anthropomorphic velociraptor, with tan protofeathers and dark brown dagger stripes, in CADPAT, carrying the rank of Major on an epaulette slip-on and Patterson on his nametag. As with the platoon of anthropomorphic animals in the previous footage, he wears no headdress, leaving exposed a carefully trimmed patch of dark brown human hair that seamlessly flowed into the dagger stripes. Multiple jumps at different distances and foci occur before stopping in a portrait shot at three-quarters view, opposite of an interviewer who was off-camera.
"This is Major Eric S. Patterson, commander of Trinity Task Force One. At 25 years old, Patterson has seen his unit's development since three years before its official founding."
The Major sits stoically with his back straight and his fingers loosely interlocked, but at the same time in a subtly relaxed and professional manner. Despite the initial shape of his jaw and tongue on the exterior he never slurs any sounds as he speaks, his accent, typical of someone native to Eastern Ontario, carrying very little Canadian raising. "At one point, I would have said that I was no different from anyone else. But what happened the night of the 23rd of August, 2032 was beyond what any of us expected."
Manotick, Ontario, Canada
23 Aug 2032 18:12 EST
Weather-wise, I couldn't have picked a better night to go out on a date. Clear sky, warm weather... perhaps a bit too perfect... No, it worked out well. My parents were away at a party in Montreal that I turned down, having just gotten back from out west with Cadets the previous day. Of course, having not unpacked my bags since the flight yet and no desire to travel for a while were just my excuses not to go - I was just looking forward to spending some extra time with Madelena.
Getting into the suburban, I was about to turn the ignition when I heard the rear passenger door open with an audible click. Letting go of the keys to look back, I groaned - I had almost forgotten about Daniel, my six-year-old brother.
This kid's scary. There was nothing I could do without him mysteriously peering over my backside at home. You could be hiding in a pitch-black basement with absolutely no light and he'd find you without you noticing.
I looked back at Dan as he got in the back seat on the passenger's side. "You conned me into thinking you were tired."
"I'm not tired, Eric."
Of course, typical Daniel, the only time he acts 'normal' is if he's tired. "Sure, keep telling yourself that."
"Really, I'm not."
"Alright, if you want to dose..." Daniel slumped over with his eyes closed, held back by the seatbelt. "off..." I sighed, frustrated. He's pulling my leg again. "Knock it off, Dan." He didn't respond. Typical.
Surprisingly for his age, Dan is able to fake sleeping very well, even when he's close to falling asleep for real. I reached over to get at the inside of his closest knee and tickled. Dan spasmed, laughing while trying to get his leg away from me.
"You going to behave?"
"You're giving me every reason not to."
"Don't do that."
"I said so, mom and dad will say so, and the police, if you do something really dumb, will most definitely say so."
Oh, so he's starting to play that game? Fine. "Why not?"
"Aw, that's no fair!"
"I played that game too, so cut the act."
"Going on another date with your girlfriend?"
"You really want in, don't you?"
"Not really, but mom and dad said that you need to look after me."
"Look. When you start driving, you'll understand a little better then." Legally in Ontario, I couldn't drive with more than one passenger, let alone one who was as young as Dan - at least not until I either turned 21 or got my full "G" driving license.
Dan snorted. "You're not ditching me that easily."
Living in the same household, I constantly have to remind myself that Dan's a lot smarter than he lets everyone on to believe. Evidently, I kind of forgot at that point. "Are you sure you don't want to stay at home for one evening?"
"Do I look like that kid from Home Alone to you?"
I burst out laughing, much to Dan's discontent. It had suddenly dawned on me that Kevin McCallister was about his age in the first movie. Add two bumbling idiot thieves and you'd probably have a Canadian remake if we ever left him home alone by mistake over Christmas, pun intended.
"Dan, you're smart enough to know how to use the toilet, the phone, the microwave, the entertainment system, and the grilled cheese sandwich iron, and you know where to get the step stool. So let me put it this way: you're set for an evening on your own at home."
"Mom and dad don't need to hear about it. I promise I won't make it a habit of leaving you at home when I'm not away."
Without warning, a familiar female voice, with a slight slip of a real British accent - not that exaggerated crap on television - interrupted. "Decisions, decisions..." I tensed up, thinking to myself, Ah yes, who can forget that voice?
As I looked back over, Mad braced herself against the open window on crossed arms, smiling. I paused. "Learning tricks from my brother now?"
She shook her head laughing, still maintaining that grin of hers as she strutted around the front of the suburban and climbed in the passenger side. "Nah, you two were busy talking."
A mundane way to start the evening, a hug and a short kiss in a vehicle. We did it anyways - six weeks away from one another called for it. "Good to see you again, Mad."
"You too." Breaking the embrace, Mad shifted in her seat, looking back at Daniel, while I did my best to keep a straight face through what she was about to say. "And what about you? Want a kiss from your brother's girlfriend?"
My brother not only cringed, but buried his face in his arms as he curled up on the spot. "Gah, cooties!"
Again, Dan wasn't too pleased when I burst out laughing at his reaction. Madelena admitted to liking hearing me laugh at some point in our relationship, so my best guess was that it was intentional.
"Sorry if I have to drag him along."
"I'm not going to argue with your parents, but I don't mind."
The next thing I see out of the back seat is Daniel pulling a Dr Hax impersonation in my direction, sans flying ancient computer monitor aimed at head height. I rolled my eyes, thinking to myself, Prepare for unforeseen consequences, kid.
"Anyways, got something in mind?"
"Some place out of town. I heard there's a good spot in Merrickville."
"Been a while since I was down that way. Works for me."
Okay, now that that was settled it's a case of getting there. So long as we didn't get pulled over by the cops or get caught in a vehicle accident as a result of doing something stupid, we should be fine.
There isn't much to see heading south on Hwy 416, other than forest and farmland with three overpasses before crossing the Rideau. Just on the other side of the Rideau was the overpass for River Road which meant another ten kilometres would be the off-ramp to get onto County Road 43, where we would be turning right.
From there, we first passed through two traffic circles with a mall containing a Walmart and Canadian Tire to our left, followed by two repurposed gas stations before coming to a bridge over the creek. From there, a small strip mall, a cemetery and an ice cream parlour were at our left in that order, and farmers fields extended from the cemetery up to St Michael, one of the two high schools in town, on the right. Two sets of traffic lights - one for a crosswalk and the other for a four-way intersection that lead both into Kemptville and out on County Road 44 - were just beyond St Michael on the road, and a third gas station was located at the far left corner of the intersection. Further down was another strip mall, run-down but still being used, on the left, and Kemptville Building Centre on the same side of the road after a third traffic circle.
From there on afterwards, it was forest, farmland and swamp with the occasional rural development and country road for about 27 kilometres before reaching Merrickville, the scenic trip ending under a raised railroad track before entering the town. The entire trip to Merrickville took about 45 minutes, mainly due to shitty roads in Manotick and late traffic in Kemptville.
And I need to stop memorizing the scenery...
Anyways, we stopped in at a restaurant in the "old" part of Merrickville, just up the street from the locks. The interior of the place was traditional, so to speak - given that the building had to be at least a century old, it looked like the owners did a pretty good job of restoring and maintaining it. It didn't take much waiting for what we ordered, but I did have to explain to the waitress that we were really killing two birds with one stone and not a couple of teen parents.
Madelena and I have been in Cadets together for over three years, and I'll admit that she's one of the few female cadets in our corps who pulled through magnificently. This past summer, Mad had the privilege of going on an exchange trip to the UK, which wasn't easy to get on this year. I lucked out trying to do the same and ended up going out to Alberta instead, which turned out to be quite the experience in itself. As for my comment earlier about the "real" British accent, some of the guys I was with out West were British cadets on exchange.
Anyways, by the time we got to Merrickville, we had already discussed a fair amount about what we did over the summer. Once we get what we ordered, Mad and I resumed talking. Daniel remained curious enough to listen in to what we were talking about for the time being.
Mad kind of spun an empty glass of iced tea along the rim of its base. "So tell me, what did you do every weekend out West?"
"We went to a fair number of places each weekend. Mostly in Calgary."
"I take it you went to the Stampede?"
"First weekend, before we got into the training schedule. Can't really say that I'm interested in rodeo though." I really wasn't. The country music just made it worse.
"You still went and saw it though, didn't you?"
"Where else did you go?"
I started counting off where I had all gone, except for the indoor wave pool and one of the malls in Calgary. "There was the Calgary Zoo, The Museum of the Regiments..."
Mad chuckled, expectedly. "Obviously."
"Yeah, no kidding... the Royal Tyrell Museum..."
I smirked, sneaking an extremely brief glance at Daniel. "The only museum in Canada dedicated to palaeontology. It's near Drumheller."
I recall Daniel's eyes lighting up as soon as I said "palaeontology". As long as I can remember, he's had a morbid fascination with dinosaurs. Who am I kidding... what child hasn't at his age? Thank you, educational programming and Steven Spielberg.
"What dinosaurs did you see?"
"A lot more than what you're going to see at the Museum of Nature, and not just dinosaurs."
"Sounds like you enjoyed yourself there."
I smiled, recalling how much I was like a kid in a candy shop at the time. "Who wouldn't? I went through the place like a Japanese tourist."
"You know, I have a hard time imagining you using a camera that much."
"You don't need to be a photographer to know how to get good shots. Just take a lot of pictures and look for the good ones after."
"Sure. Fire enough bullets and hope to hit the target."
It took me a while to get the hint. "Allan Quartermain, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."
"We watched it during our stay in London."
"League of what?"
"There have been many times when the world was in need of more... singular individuals." I had not expected Mad to recite that line in the exact tone used in the movie, and I choked back a laugh so I could avoid coughing up my meal. Dan's face when he finally chimed in didn't help matters much for him.
"Oh... That movie..."
On the way back from Merrickville, we stopped at the Dairy Barn, the ice cream parlour we passed going the other way. Mad and I shared a banana split while Dan had a small chocolate sundae. Mad and I continued talking, while Daniel eventually got tired of our conversation and let his eyes wander around the place. Mind you, when all you can see from there are the cemetery, a car wash, a motor repair shop, a few other buildings down 43, and fields across the road, I'll admit it gets boring after a short while. It wasn't long before he was wandering around the picnic benches waiting for us to finish.
When Mad and I went to clean up for the drive back to Manotick, Daniel was talking with some guy who must have been - I don't know... 15, perhaps? - with dirty-blond hair and a light farmer's tan. Anyways, he was showing Dan his sketchbook, which was enough for Mad and I to go over and get hold of my brother.
"These kind of look like Disney characters."
I noticed the teen giving a barely noticeable nod as if to acknowledge what Dan had said. "They're called anthros."
Wait. Did he just make reference to...
"Anthros?" Thankfully, I could count on Dan's curiosity to a fault.
"Animals that act and look like people..." I suppose the guy finally felt us standing not too far off, since he immediately broke off what he was about to say. A bit jumpy too. "Can I help you?"
I gave a courteous smile. "We're fine. Just waiting on my brother." God, it sucks living up to a stereotype...
"He's a good drawer Eric. You should see." Ah yes, leave it to my brother to drag me into things. Thankfully, he was barely coherent when I joined Cadets.
Anyways, we came around to take a look. I of course had to play Captain Obvious when I saw two things: anthropomorphic animals on paper and a guilt-ridden face on the teen. "I take it you're a furry?"
Sure shit, he panicked. "I don't do that freaky stuff online." Either he's in denial or he's genre savvy.
Mad chose to step in. "That doesn't answer the question. Are you doing this as a request or are you doing this on your own?"
"On my own."
Crossing her arms, Mad tilted her head with a slight nod. "Then you're a furry."
Looking back and forth between Mad and I, he certainly looked unsure. "Are you trolls or something?" It was all too tempting to roll my eyes - I could care less about what idiots do online to pass the time, even when it equates to cyber-bullying for the sake of getting a quick laugh.
I braced myself against the picnic table, careful of an earlier spill that wasn't cleaned up properly. "Look, kid. Just smile and wave and you'll be fine."
"A friend of ours nearly went through this, so it's nothing new." Right, I can thank Mad for getting rid of some confusion there. The friend in question was Jessica, who avoided the fandom like the plague once she found out about the 'dark side' as she's referred to it since. The rest of us didn't care for the whole thing.
I took another quick glance at his then-current work which, despite being about anthropomorphic animals, was actually pretty good. I then got caught up in reading his signature block. "Not my preference, but interesting... Ian, is it?"
The teen smirked, nodding. "Ian Mackenzie."
All together fitting to shake his hand in intro. "Eric Patterson."
"And you've already met my brother, Daniel."
"Laugh it up."
I'm no art connoisseur by any means, and with Madelena around I would be loath to even think of porn. Thankfully, as Daniel found out earlier, Ian's work was quite clean, both in quality and in content. I was still unnerved by his choice though. "Is this all you draw, Ian?"
"I've got two sketchbooks at home. One of them's got stuff that you'd find in horror movies and the other is generic scenery and people."
Perhaps I didn't give my brother all the credit he deserved the first time. "So what's easier: anthros or humans?"
"Humans; you only need one reference guide: real life."
We chuckled. Ian had definitely thought that one out well. "That's a good one."
In the midst of the joke, Mad checked her watch. "Shouldn't we be hitting the road soon?" I know she's patient, but even she has her limits.
"Yeah, we should. Pippin here looks like he's about to nod off."
"Eric, I told you, I'm not tired."
"Yeah, two hours ago. Let's see if that will keep up when we get back home."
Ian quickly butted in. "Not from around here?"
I shook my head. "Manotick."
"There's a cadet corps up that way, right?"
I then couldn't help but think that Ian was in Cadets, or at least a base brat, based on his haircut. It fit, to say the least. "2958 Manotick, 1 Anti-tank." To the best of my knowledge, there were two other cadet corps in the area - a sea cadet corps came to Kemptville some twenty years ago and an air cadet squadron was all the way down in Prescott, I think. Army's the best out of all of them if you ask me.
"Artillery? Man, I didn't think I'd be going from sapper to gunner that soon."
Suspicions confirmed. "You were in the program as well?"
"Oh, Hell yeah. 2328 Flin Flon, Manitoba. Field Engineers."
"Master Corporal. What about you guys?"
"I'm a Warrant Officer and she's a Sergeant."
Ian's eyes widened. I'm sure he wasn't expecting to be meeting with senior cadets this early, his reasons being his own. A short pause later, he grinned, glancing away for a bit. "Anyways, I shouldn't tie you guys up. I'll be at the corps when it opens up next month."
"Sure thing, and remember what we said, Ian."
"Smile and wave."
"See you around."
Sure enough, Daniel was actually falling asleep on the way back, being kept awake by the bumps in the pavement on the highway. Just a matter of getting him to go to bed for the final time tonight. I caught him yawning on the way back, seeing if I could make it into a bit of a game.
"Ah, there's another one."
"Oh shut up, Eric!"
"You said you weren't tired, Dan."
The sun had pretty much set by the time we got back into Manotick. No traffic this time, but the roads are another story. After getting off of the 416 at Bankfield, the main road going into Manotick comes to a four-way intersection. We took a left onto Bridge Street, where we passed by St James Anglican on the right and crossed over - surprise, surprise - a bridge over part of the Rideau. From there, it was a trip past the high school on the left until we came to South River Drive, which was pretty much before another bridge that crossed the Rideau. From there, a slight left brought us onto South Island Park Drive. A few people on the street were having parties out back, but beyond that there wasn't much.
There was still very little action going on as we turned right onto Christopher Drive, save for perhaps a few rebellious kids playing a game of 21 on a portable basketball hoop or ball hockey on the street. Nothing major - not that it mattered anyways; my home was the first one on the right.
Dan certainly wasn't faking his drowsiness when Mad and I got him out of the vehicle. It took a bit of convincing, but he was quick to get ready for bed shortly afterwards. He was fast asleep by roughly nine o'clock.
After one last check to see that he was asleep, I went back down the hallway to the living room. Mad was patiently waiting. "Again, I apologize for having to take him with us."
"Eric, I don't mind if we have to babysit him."
"I know. It's just..." The words I had in mind up to that point only made me think that I'd be digging myself a deeper hole. "You know what, forget I just said that."
"I would rather not have that talk again. I know you mean well for both of us, as well as him, but you have to let things go. You're worrying too much, and talking too much."
"You're right." I paused, thinking about what she just said. "Wait, did you just equate me to a video game character?"
Mad smirked. I rolled my eyes, smiling. Clever, even though I don't even sound like Keener or whoever the voice actor's name was. "Yeah, I did kind of want a few things to go right for once."
"Fairy tale endings rarely happen in real life, you know."
Having left my shoes on, I led Mad out the door to accompany her on the way to her house. "It all depends on the perspective." And sometimes I wonder what I'm getting myself into.
Every time I leave Mad, there's always that initial underlying fear that I might never see her again. For about fifteen minutes after I walked her home, I was pacing in my bedroom in the basement, thinking over what I did right and what I didn't. Call me lovesick if you will.
Anyways, enough was enough, and I eventually crashed on my bed by 11:15, still wearing what I had on that evening.