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The band played and the crowd cheered. Everyone stood in line, smiling and proud. It was hardly believable, the Dear Leader, the Great Father of the Nation, that man-god who had won the war against the oppressors and guided His people to a glorious future in which, due to His ideology of Self Reliance, they were the envy of the world. He, the man Himself, had chosen to bless their small town with His presence, to visit the local quilt factory and give some of His legendary On the Spot Guidance to its workers. And she, humble Hong Yong-Hee, from a simple working family, had been chosen to present Him with a bouquet of local mountain flowers. She felt like the Flower Girl from the famous film, meeting the greatest figure on earth in person.
“Quilts are important, for the weather in winter in Hamgyong Province is bitter and icy. It brings tears to my eyes when I see these fine quilts produced for the benefit of working people across the province. But please, remember, stuff each one fully with eiderdown, for cutting the corner just a little could result in the freezing to death of an honoured elderly citizen.”
They all gasped at such sage and invaluable advice. He truly understood them! He truly cared about them and their needs! And he was right, for with the power shortages occurring more and more frequently, due to the machinations of the evil imperialists, then without a warm quilt, folk could – and did – die. They clapped and cheered all the more and Hong Yong-Hee stepped forward to present the Dear Leader with his flowers.
He smiled as He took them off her, looked into her eyes and asked, “And what is your name young pioneer?”
“Hong Yong-Hee, sir.”
“And how old are you Yong-Hee?”
“I am fifteen, sir.”
“You are a fine and beautiful girl and your country needs great Pioneers just like you. I shall remember you always, Yong-Hee, I shall remember you always.”
Chapter 1 – The Visit
Around a month after the Dear Leader’s visit, they came to the door. They were dressed in Mao suits like all the other men but they all knew from their bearing who they were. “The girl is to come with us,” they said. “She has half an hour to pack.”
“But she has done nothing wrong!” protested mother.
“Wrong, no, she has not. She has done right, great right, and our Dear Leader, the Light of Our Nation has chosen to favour her and, by extension, you. She has been selected to join the elite Young Pioneer 72 Platoon and as such, your rations shall be doubled indefinitely.”
“But she is 16 in a week’s time and so ineligible for the Pioneers after that!”
“72 Platoon is a special platoon which relaxes the age requirement. Her services are needed by the Dear Leader and her age is not a barrier.”
“Oh, let us thank the Dear Leader for his kindness, wisdom and mercy!”
They all bowed before the portraits of the Great and Dear Leaders on the wall.
Half an hour later she left her childhood home forever.
Chapter 2 – Arrival
She opened her eyes and looked around her. She could not believe this place, the bedroom that she was lain in was bigger than her whole house before, with a fine king-sized bed, beautiful wooden walls and a large picture window showing the mountains and forests beyond. She got up and walked to that window. The view was breathtaking.
She had expected to be taken to the capital but instead they’d driven north, for hour after hour, through the dark unlit towns and villages, along the bumpy roads of the Workers’ Paradise. Then, in the dead of night, they had pulled up beside a large building deep in the mountains. Unlike everywhere else, it had an electricity supply. She was ushered in and shown her bedroom. Then she had fallen fast asleep.
Just then the door opened and a lady walked in. She was an older lady dressed in a beautiful hanbok. She bowed to Yong-Hee, introduced herself as Comrade Jun and then instructed her to come with her. She went through a second door and found herself in a beautiful bathroom. “Shower yourself thoroughly and wash your hair and then get dressed. As a Platoon 72 Pioneer you must always wear the full uniform whenever out of your room. When you are finished, come out and I shall attend to you.”
Hong Yong-Hee had never known such luxury. The water was warm and the flow steady. Never before in her life had she known either before. She lathered herself in gorgeous-smelling shower gel and then both shampooed and conditioned her hair. Oh how benevolent the Dear Leader is! Then she towelled herself dry with a thick, soft towel and used a hair dryer on her long black hair. Then she dressed herself. It was only after she had put the clothes on that she noticed the difference.
The uniform was the standard pioneer uniform. For her feet there were white socks with a blue trim that reached mid-calf and then a pair of black shoes; there was the pleated blue skirt with white trim and straps over her shoulders; there was the standard white blouse with white collar and short sleeves, also trimmed with blue. On its shoulder was her platoon badge – 72 – and around her neck, of course, the famous blood-red scarf. That was normal, but somehow the way they fitted was not. The shoes for example, usually they were flat but these had considerable heels, whilst the skirt did not reach mid-thigh, but instead only just covered her bottom. And around that bottom was a pair of silk pants that were lewd in the extreme, covering very little, being mere pieces of string around the waist and at the back. She felt exposed but supposed that they had merely made a mistake with her size.
Emerging back into her bedroom, the Comrade Jun bade her to sit on a chair and she brushed Yong-Hee’s hair until it shone before then putting it into two pig-tail plaits. This surprised Yong-Hee as she hadn’t worn her hair in that way for many years, it being the style of young girls but she was told that it was the standard style for Platoon 72. Then she was led out of the room, taken down some corridors and into a large room with tables and chairs in which other girls dressed as she was were sat. To her surprise, all were much older than the standard young pioneers, the youngest looking sixteen like herself but the oldest perhaps in their thirties. The lady in the hanbok announced her as Hong Yong-Hee, the latest recruit to the platoon and they all crowded round her and greeted her with kisses and kind words of welcome. Then she was led away to a room with a doctor’s operating table where she was, strangely and without any explanation save that the Dear Leader is concerned for the health of all His Pioneers, given a thorough medical examination including her private areas. Then she was led to another room where a second hanbok-clad lady was sat. Yong-Hee was asked to sit down and the lady began talking.
Chapter 3 – Platoon 72
“Hong Yong-Hee, welcome to Young Pioneer Platoon 72. Being chosen to serve in this platoon is a great honour for any girl as all members are handpicked by the Dear Leader Himself. I am told that He picked you after you handed Him flowers when He visited your province recently. That must have been a great day for you.”
“Yes Comrade, it was, the greatest day of my life.”
“Indeed. My name is Comrade Kim and I am your platoon leader. You will follow me and learn from me and thus become another successful member of this platoon. Platoon 72 was created by the Dear Leader Himself as soon as He ascended to power after the sad, sad loss of the Great Leader whom we all miss dearly. The platoon was established under His benign wisdom to provide entertainment and comfort to the Dear Leader Himself when he stays at this place which is His mountain retreat and also to foreign leaders and diplomats. Our existence is a secret for the Western imperialist dogs would probably use it in their propaganda but the job we do is invaluable to the Revolution. Therefore, you are to question nothing and only obey, is that clear?”
“Yes Comrade Kim.”
“Good. Tomorrow you shall attend hospital. The Dear Leader Himself has requested some modifications to your appearance which, whilst you may not like them, are for your best interests as He has suggested them.”
“I would never question the will of the Dear Leader, Comrade.”
“And nor would any of us. After your modifications have healed, your training shall begin in order for you to be ready for service when the Dear Leader returns here in a month’s time with the President of Pridniestrovia.”
“Do you mean that I shall be meeting Him again, Comrade Kim?”
“Oh yes, you certainly shall.”
“I feel so honoured!”
“You are Comrade Hong Yong-Hee, you are.”
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