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7. Art of War

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The war was on, the sides were rivaled, but what could happen? What would result from this? Either we’d have a change of power, or we wouldn’t. I wanted things to stay how they were. I didn’t want more madness. Staying with Colt seemed to be the wiser solution. The ongoing cycle would continue. Linkon was up to no good, whoever he worked for as well. I didn’t want to know more, I didn’t care. The only point that mattered was survival. Everything else faded to black. I could always start over. Always wipe the slate clean. Always. There’s no such time as “too late” in life.

This started as a battle of politics. The fighting was mostly fair, the people jumped should have known better…it wasn’t as ruthless as it seemed. Nobody was killed. And then…people started dying. Bodies started to turn up. The fighting got serious and the weight came down on Colt’s shoulders. He spent more time on the streets, running things himself, keeping things in order. He did everything in his power to keep Dusk and myself off the sidelines. We were told to stay on the benches. As far away from the action as possible. For the most part, we did as we were told. When bodies started turning up, people we knew, people we might’ve cared about…we trusted Colt’s word.

I tried to stay on the sidelines the whole time, watching from afar. I didn’t want to get too close to anybody, just in case. I had nothing to risk. Nothing to gain. Nothing to lose. That’s just the way things worked. As comforting as Dusk was, this was the wrong time to be close to him. He was the boss’ baby brother. He was in the crosshair of every enemy’s gun at all times. Staying next to him was just asking for trouble. It was just…less complicated…to be close. Things were that much simpler without someone else’s consent needed at every turn. I liked my freedom. I liked being able to pick up my cases and walk out the door. I had been running for so long, I’d gotten used to it. Run long enough and it becomes a lifestyle. As such, it adopts a different name. This was simply…mine.

I stayed at home a lot, writing more. I tried other hobbies, trying to branch out. I didn’t play out in the rain anymore, kids were being shot in broad daylight. I spent days in my apartment, playing until I had nothing else to play. When I ran out of anything old, I’d write something new. I had nothing better to do with my days. Colt would drop by when his schedule would allow it; it was the same with Dusk. I learned to deal.

I had just gotten up one morning when things took another one of their infamous turns. I walked out of my room, yawning and stretching, looking around absentmindedly. My eyes swept across the apartment, without thinking. But then they settled on a shape in the shadows. A girl, standing, leaning against the wall, smoking nonchalantly. I knew without knowing.

“Miss Ransom. A pleasure. How might I be of service?”

She took a few steps out, looking around carefully. She held the pack out to me, from which I took a smoke, sneaking the lighter out with it. I returned both to her neatly. She nodded and found her way over to a chair to sit down. I followed her lead.

“So, who are you betting on?”

“Excuse me?” I muttered.

“Which side do you think will win?” She smiled at me. “Yours. Mine. Or Linkon’s?”

“You’re not on Linkon’s side?”

She laughed again. “Who said I was?”

“Being his sister, I’d assume you would be.”

She took a few casual pulls from the smoke, looking around, exhaling the smoke away from my face. She shifted in her seat and focused her eyes back on me. “Assumptions are always dangerous, kid. Always.”

I took a few more pulls myself then decided it was too early for this dramatic nonsense. I looked her dead in the eye. “What do you want?”

She laughed again. “To find out who’s leading in the polls.”

“What does it matter?”

“Doesn’t it?”

I shrugged. “I don’t get it.”

She shrugged as well, leaning back against the chair. “You’re not supposed to. After all, you’re a foreigner.”

“I’m still here for the duration.”

She raised a brow. “That’s a curious pledge…what keeps you here?”

And I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure. I didn’t have a smart comeback or anything. And she knew it. She had me figured out. I’d been caught. She knew I didn’t belong. She knew I had no right to be here. I had stumbled and staggered and found myself in no man’s land. And even once I’d gotten back on my feet, I wouldn’t run. I was so tired of running anymore. I just wanted it to stop, to end. I was here not because I cared about their cause. Not because I cared about any of them at all.

I was here to catch a bullet.

And for no other reason than that.

It is more honorable to die in the service of something worth fighting for than to kill oneself aimlessly and pointlessly. Suicide is a crime of conscience.

“Kid, pack up and go. It’s not the hardest idea in the world to grasp.”

“Why?”

She looked around. “Do you really want to be stuck cooped up here for the rest of your life? Hiding from the demons that will come to you if you aren’t careful?”

She had a point. But I wouldn’t let her win. I wouldn’t run. I couldn’t explain it to her. All that her brother had done to me. Maybe she already knew. Maybe she was just that damn good. Or maybe I just wanted to believe that she was. So I wouldn’t have to explain. So I could get the compassion. Someone would care. I didn’t really care all that much anyway. It wasn’t important. Or so it seemed. I don’t know. I could just be slightly insane. Only slightly. Only.

I got up to pace around, trying desperately to make sense of the situation. There was no sense to be made, no logic to be found. I didn’t know these people as well as I’d like to think. I was replaceable. They didn’t care about me as much as I hoped. It was just a feeling of security, something I hadn’t had in the longest time.

I didn’t belong anywhere in particular. I might as well belong here. Even if it was just for now. Just for the sake of being. It was the best I had. I wanted to explain all of this to her. I wanted her to see it. Maybe she could. Maybe she saw right through me. For the moment, I wished she could. Just to save me the effort. Of trying.

She smiled a wicked little grin and got up from her chair. I stopped pacing, taking a few steps back without realizing. She smiled wider.

“I’ll give you awhile to let that sit on your shoulders.”

And she turned and left.

I felt myself let out such a breath as I’d never held in before. Of tension, fear, confusion. I collapsed back into my chair. And passed out.

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