Author's Note: I AM A STRAIGHT MALE, alright? I'm just experimenting with writing from the perspective of a female character. Also, I would like to inform everyone that the timeline in this story is purely fictional: a second martial law period in the Philippines. Although the place setting - the Philippines itself - is real. Now on with the story...

"Drawing Battle Lines"

Truth and Justice – Such words have become so cheap these days. It seems that everybody who is fighting anybody claims to be fighting for such things as truth and justice.

When our nation's ruler declares Martial Law, he claims to be fighting for truth and justice. When soldiers unite under the banner of a dictator, they claim to be fighting for truth and justice. When rebels rally against the law of peace and order, they claim to be fighting for truth and justice.

If everybody's fighting for truth and justice, how come we end up fighting each other? What is truth? What is justice? And who is truly fighting for them?

And what about me? What am I fighting for?

I live in a time when my beloved motherland of Philippines is under the rule of martial law...the second time around. I'm young enough to remember with clarity how it was like to live as a child seeking simple pleasures and without a care in the world. But I'm old enough to see all that change.

My name is Trish. And this is my story.

It was dinnertime for me and my company when the news came in. The cafeteria door busted open and some soldier almost stumbled over himself on his way in. He yelled a message that was as astounding as it was short – "We caught Dante!" – and then he left as quickly as he came. Without thinking twice, all the soldiers in the cafeteria got up almost simultaneously and dashed for the door. In two minutes, all the people in the compound abandoned their posts and were flocking on the fourth-floor of the biggest building in the compund, right outside this particular classroom. But none – save the four soldiers stationed to guard its doors – dared to come within a radius of one meter from the classroom. I found it difficult to believe that a team of mainly rookie soldiers from the compound we were transferred to (a former public school) would have succeeded in capturing the infamous Dante. And I found it even more difficult to believe that I was actually looking at the very classroom that was holding him at that very instant. Still, if it really was Dante in there, I felt like I had to do something. So I proposed to base command to have people from my company take the late-evening shift in guarding the classroom that was serving as Dante's jail cell at the moment. Base command approved it.

I read the report on how they captured Dante earlier this evening. One of our compound's patrols caught sight of him, sitting on a large branch of this really tall tree, doing absolutely nothing. Nobody knew how he climbed that height. The tree was so tall that the lowest branch was situated twenty feet above the ground. It did look suspicious finding him all alone, but Dante had been known to seek isolation, every now and then, from the world – even from his own subordinates. And since our compound had been on operation for only three days, the patrol considered the possibility that, perhaps Dante had no idea that he was taking a stroll on enemy ground. So they called in for a sniper to take the shot. A second before the sniper pulled the trigger, Dante's expression changed from tranquil to vigilant. And by the time the shot was fired, Dante had already run to the back of the tree. The soldiers moved in closer for the kill. Upon reaching the tree, they saw Dante running down (as in vertically) the trunk with a handgun. He fired a shot and grazed the shoulder of one of the soldiers. He then kicked the trunk with both feet, propelled himself into the air, and dropped himself right on top of the injured soldier, using the guy's body to cushion his fall. By the time he got up, the patrol had already lost one man. A fierce gunfight followed that, where Dante killed three more men and injured six others before running out of bullets and giving himself up.

It's almost midnight now. It took me no more than thirty seconds to walk the extension of that fourth-floor corridor, but it felt a lot longer than that. And upon arriving at the classroom at the far end, I found myself staring at its front door for what felt like forever. It felt just as though I was back in high-school. Back where I never would have guessed that martial law would rise in our land once again. Back where I never would've guessed that, when it did, I'd be a soldier.

It was just like any other day of my year as a high-school freshman so far (well, fresh-woman get what I mean). It's just that our English teacher was absent and since she didn't leave any activity for us, the substitute teacher gave us free time. As usual, the rowdy boys went on with their frenzied games, wreaking havoc in the classroom and overturning armchairs in their wake. The popular girls flocked to one corner to discuss God knows what.

As for me? I was contented just sitting there on one side of the room, and maybe reading a novel, too. I would go unnoticed as usual. I wasn't really good at socializing with other people. I guess it's partly because my parents kept transferring me to new and new schools year after year. I never really got the chance to cope with culture shock or get acquainted with too many people. So that English class was no different. I was just as alone as I've always been.

Katherine's laughter exploded to my left. It was him again. Only he could make Katherine laugh like that. My seatmate, Rainier. Funny guy. Infectious sense of humor, too. He always cracked weird jokes that didn't make sense…but were funny for me, nonetheless. And sometimes, when you're talking to him, you feel like you're conversation's going nowhere, especially when you ask him something and he doesn't know how to answer…and he would just say, "stuffs" or something to that effect. Most people didn't find it funny, but I wasn't very much like most people. I found it comic…in a strange sense. But don't let his silliness fool you. He was also an honor student. And I didn't know people very much, but I could sense that behind that humorous facade, he went a lot deeper than he seemed to.

That said, he always had some way of bringing laughter to others…as well as himself. I stroke back the left part of my long hair so I could check out what Katherine was laughing about at the moment. For a second, I thought Rainier was looking sideways at me, but I wasn't sure. He looked like he was trying to snatch away a notebook from Katherine's hands. When he finally got it, Katherine ran to my side and exclaimed amidst controlled giggles, "Trish! There's something I want to tell you!". Rainier had that ok-fine look on his face as he muttered, "Kat, I'm warning you…", but he looked more threatened than threatening. Kat leaned closer to my ear and whispered something…a joke, I surmised. But this joke sure made me laugh…perhaps the first time in school.