Meet My Character: Tommy Bailey of Counteract and Resist

Tommy Bailey’s blond hair sticks out at angles from a knit cap, and he’s wearing his favorite football t-shirt—the one with the sleeves cut out. He hurries into the pub and slides into the booth across from me. He’s almost nineteen, strong, self-confident, and completely at ease, but with an alertness about him that makes you feel like he’d protect you if anything bad were to happen. So very different from the guy he once was…

He takes a sip from the water glass in front of him. “So where should we start?”

I smile at the young man across from me. He might as well be my son. “How about we start with what’s going on at the beginning of Counteract?”

“Yeah, I guess, but that’s still hard for me to talk about. The accident, I mean. Especially with all the stuff that’s happened since.

“I didn’t know—I mean, how could I? I’d barely begun to recover from what happened—inside and out, and you know better than anyone what I mean. I was barely off crutches, wondering if it was even worth trying to get back to what I was before—then all of a sudden, the OCSD* says there’s gonna be a terrorist attack—soon—so everyone should report to the nearest Distribution Center to get their bottle of the antidote that’ll protect them against the chemical weapons.”

*EDITOR’S NOTE: OCSD is the acronym for the Office of Civilian Safety and Defense, created in 2019 to oversee all aspects of domestic security in the United States. The OCSD is a regulatory agency and also a security agency—basically they make their own rules—and they answer to no one.

We both glance up at the ceiling. That voice from above sounds suspiciously like the voice on the loudspeaker that reminds everyone to take their daily dose of the antidote. 🙂

“Go on, Tommy.”

“I had to think twice about whether it was worth it to fight for my life again.”

“Yeah. I remember. You’d hit a serious low point.”

“Hell, I’d just turned eighteen. I should’ve wanted to be first in line for the antidote, but I felt so alone. Seems crazy now, but at the time…”

“Turns out, you might have been better off without it.”

“Not necessarily.” He lifts an eyebrow and smiles. “There was a certain someone who got tangled up in my crutches while she was trying hold the door open for me at the Distribution Center.”

“Not so alone anymore, are you?”

He laughs. “You know it wasn’t easy getting to know Careen—and things are still complicated. If love was easy, I probably wouldn’t be spending my time talking to you right now…”

“True. Remember that blog post I wrote entitled Time For a Quickie?”

“Yeah. That was kind of embarrassing, actually. And it’s weird talking about my personal life with you, Tracy.”

“All right.” I guess I can let him cling to the illusion of some privacy. “Let’s carry on, then.”

“Well, I was following the OCSD’s orders, taking the antidote every day, but it gave me these…I guess they were hallucinations. I saw things that were crazy and impossible, but I didn’t care. Nothing mattered. I stopped working on my physical therapy. But at night, my dreams were still mine.”

“And did that make you feel like something was amiss?”

“It was bugging me, in the back of my mind. That’s why I started working out in the morning, before the siren blew signaling that it was time to take the antidote. I wasn’t ready to question the OCSD’s authority or motives. Not at that point. Not until after Careen showed up at my front door.”

“The same girl who’d gotten tangled up in your crutches?”

“Yeah. Even though I was only with her for a minute that day at the Distribution Center, she stayed in my head, and in my dreams. She told me she came to find me because I’d been in her dreams, too. She stayed for breakfast, and before long, the siren blew. Except it wasn’t a drill. It was the real thing. And she was out of antidote, so I shared my last dose with her.”

“Okay—we’re getting dangerously close to spoilers, here. Maybe we should wrap it up.”

“Typical grownup–ruining the fun. That’s the time I like to talk about! What happened that day was the real beginning of my life—when I started questioning everything I’d thought was true.”

Next up: Meet Wes Carraway

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