Character Development – The Truck Driver

The Truck Driver
The truck was government- issue, purchased from an army surplus sale. The driver worked as a subcontractor for the Office of Financial Affairs delivering cargo to different Vocational Education Programs around the country. He wore an old tattered shirt and a leather jacket that had seen better days. He smelled of armpit, cigar smoke and fast food.

The driver laughed as he pulled himself into the cab of the truck. His cargo this trip consisted of two dozen frightened children on a one-way trip to hell.

Character Development: The Cost of Debt

The Cost of Debt
Family debt forced mothers and fathers to surrender their children to the state-run Office of Financial affairs. As commodities of the state, children could be bought and sold until the age of 18. By law, the collectors could gather children to satisfy unpaid debt using any means necessary.

It was too late. Pleading for more time and promising to sell a kidney, she watched as the collector and two armed security guards load her eight year old son into the back of a truck. The boy was crying. He begged not to go. She yelled out his name and cried, “I’ll get you back!”

Character Development – The Retriever

The Retriever
He was in his mid-thirties but he looked older. 10 years spent as a retriever of runners had caused not one but two ulcers to develop in his stomach. He wore a black suit as required by the agency. A 9mm .40 cal semi-automatic pistol and a badge rested on his belt. The badge gave him the authority to capture runners. Dead or alive it didn’t matter. He had a quota and he was running behind this month.

The rain pounding on his windshield was making it difficult to see. He pulled into the Diner parking lot. The signal from the girl was weak but she was somewhere in the area. He slapped the side the tracking device a couple of times before giving it a big shake. The damn thing never worked right.

Character Development – The Waitress

The Waitress
Her entire wardrobe consisted of half a dozen blue waitress uniforms. As a child, she had been a commodity; life was hell. Her teenage years spent on the run fighting to survive in a world that treats children as less than human. Her employment at the diner began at the age of 18. The previous owner and father of the young man behind the counter had been good to her. She cried the day he died.

A member of a secret society of child advocates, she aids runners in evading capture by the retrievers.

Character Development – The Young Girl

The Young Girl
Her brown curls were from her drug- addicted mother. Her father unknown, he could have been one of a thousand men. Life as a commodity started at the age of four. If the state penitentiary had welcomed her mother a couple years sooner she might have had a chance at adoption and a good home.

Her days of picking vegetables and daily devotional were numbered. Too old for the needs of the church, the elders had taken her picture and marked her for sale. The caption on the bottom of the Commodity Trade show flyer indicated she was a good reliable worker. She ran away from hell to stay with the young man. Pursued by a retriever, her tracking device still functioned.

Character Development – The Young Man

The Young Man
The young man’s tracking device ceased to function the day he turned 18. In a few months, the device implanted at the age of four would break down leaving a small scar, the only evidence of his forced servitude. He stood released from the life of a commodity. The Vocational Education Program that bound him, as slave labor could no longer force him to work. He walked a free man. His life his own, he could travel anywhere, go to college or seek employment. All traces of his life in hell erased from the books, sealed by the courts as governed by law.

The young man looked out the window; the rain slowed to a drizzle. “We gotta go,” he said nudging his girlfriend out of the booth.

Character Development – The Travelers

The Travelers
The diner was a temporary stopping place, a safe haven from the torrential downpour outside. The booth made of old wood was cold and drafty but offered a clear view of the road. Exhausted from their journey, her head of brown curls resting on his tired shoulders she whispers, “I love you”.

The waitress brings the weary travelers two glasses of water and a day old cinnamon bun. The young man scratches his stubbly chin and nods in appreciation. He could offer no more. His pockets were empty.

The waitress sighs, “There would be no tip from this table”.

The VEP Administrator

The sign on the door designated his title as Vocational Education Program Administrator. His dark blue jacket hung on the coat rack next to the door. The white shirtsleeves rolled half way up his forearms. He sat behind his desk with his face in his hands attempting to calm the migraine. The stack of VEP applications on his desk were at an unmanageable level. His staff of four overwhelmed. There weren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week to complete all of the required inspections and paperwork. His most experienced and reliable inspector abandoned her position for maternity leave. She would not return for at least 4 months and there was no replacement. The remaining inspectors slow, sloppy and teetered on the line of incompetence. Government funding for the program depended on the number of VEP applicants certified in a given year. His boss breathed down his neck to increase productivity 8 percent over last year. He looked at the stack of applications, he could fabricate the reports and save time, no one would know.


Sealy stood on the steps of Loftis Hall, her home for the last four years and looked out over the campus grounds. It was time to leave. Graduation was over and awards given out. Tomorrow she would catch a flight to California to start a prestigious internship. An internship coveted by her one and only friend Meghan.

The girls met at freshman orientation. They had nothing in common except for a determination to better themselves with high paying careers after college. Smart and beautiful Meghan needed a roommate that wouldn’t care about closet space. Smart but plain in comparison; Sealy needed a roommate that didn’t mind school books scattered on the floor and her late night studying.

For four years, the young men of Preston followed Meghan and her cleavage around campus like hungry puppies. The colorfully displayed ample bosom was an ingenious plan to keep half the student body from focusing on their studies.

Sealy focused on her professors. She did everything she could do academically to get their attention and they noticed. This ultimately paid off in the end. Highest honors went to Sealy not because her grades were better that Meghan’s but because the Preston College Professors found Sealy to be a more focused and grounded person.

With exception of last year’s tragedy when her parents died in an automobile accident over spring break everything was coming together as planned. Financial security was a mere year around the corner; the internship the last stepping stone.

“Sealy! Quit daydreaming.” Meghan shouted from the bottom of the steps “We’re going to be late to the graduation party!”

“I’m coming” Sealy yelled as she tried to maneuver her way down the mountain of steps without falling to her doom.

The short colorful dress, the high heeled shoes were Meghan’s idea. Sealy would have preferred a more casual simple dress and black flats. But her best friend insisted it would not be a proper graduation party if she didn’t let their hair down and enjoy the moment with flair and style. Life was fleeting, it was time to look like an educated woman on the prowl and have fun.

With the last step traversed without injury Sealy stepped into the street toward her best friend and the waiting taxi cab.

Sealy hadn’t noticed the parked police car or the two officers walking with vigor in her direction. She focused on checking the length of her dress and the sudden regret of letting Meghan choose her outfit, if she bent over even a few degrees from straight up and down the whole world would see the lace panties beneath.

“You look fine. Get in!” Meghan laughed as she scooted over to give Sealy ample room on the back seat.

“Ms. Ghent?” Sealy turned toward the unfamiliar voice and the big burly police officer attached to it.

“Can I help you, officer?” Sealy asked innocently as she looked at her giggling friend hiding in the cab. If Meghan was pulling a joke, she was going to die a long and painful death.

“Are you Ms. Sealy Ghent?” The officer had Sealy’s graduation picture and was comparing Sealy to the picture. Sealy rolled her eyes at the two officers “How can I help you?”

“Ma’am you need to come with us.” The officer grabbed Sealy firmly by the arm and gave her a tug away from the cab causing her to stumble.

“Hey, that’s not nice and you are hurting my arm.”

The joke had gone too far. “Meghan!” Sealy said sternly as she tried to free her arm from the death grip of the officer, “Tell your friends to quit. I am not amused wit this little joke of yours. This heathen caused me to twist my ankle.”

Meghan looked out from the cab, her hands raised in denial. “This is not me. I didn’t do this.”

The two girls stared at each other as the realization hit Sealy something was terribly wrong. “I haven’t done anything!” She looked back and forth at both officers and then at her friend. “What? I do?”

“Ma’am you need to calm down.” replied the shorter of the two police officers. “Everything will be explained down at the station.”

Meghan smiled as she tapped the glass separating herself from the taxi driver. “You can take me to that party now….tomorrow I’m off to California.”