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4. Prologue

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A new day crept over the horizon as I stared with appreciation at the marvel of nature. Sneaking through the quiet rooms I found my son sleeping soundly, nearby slept his sister. They were perfection born to flesh, given embodiment. Like angels they slept, chests heaving rhythmically as the clock’s tones settled into the background. I kissed them each and moved to leave without upsetting them. Much to do in the new society. I kissed Darius as she slept and crept out the door; time for work.

Syrius and Draven were outside, dressed and ready. We went down the familiar road together as friends, and now, comrades. The world was changed, the society more . . . uncontrolled. Violence had run wild as hysteria over-ran the nation. War. The social concept is highly understated. History came full circle, a repeat of the riots during Vietnam, only worse this time around. Hatred turned into a contagious disease, a virus that plagued us all. The idea of war is hard to grasp until you’re in the middle of it. Then it’s a nightmare. Hell is never really “real” under you can feel the heat of the flames.

We’d all been drafted a long time ago, or maybe it just seems like a long time. The days away from those we loved were long and fleeting. We weren’t really drafted, more or less it was paying back the government for being a pain in the ass as a youngster. So there we were, the three of us. Uncle Sam tried to get Darius too but couldn’t because she was pregnant and had to stay with the kids. Here’s to beating the system one last time.

The three soldiers we’d become walked together through the deserted streets, empty of the hectic holiday crowds and seasonal joy. Snow covered the city, giving it a deceiving air of innocence and beauty, hiding the true nature. The people who did happen to stray out of their homes were quiet, some hostile. The duties of the military stretched beyond the battle front. We had no time off, we were always on duty. I think we all took well to the adjustment of doing justice; enforcing the law instead of breaking it. Time had flown by in a heartbeat, barely a glimmer. All amounts of evil arose to destroy human nature. Christmas was a distant memory.

This war made the U.S. seem heartless. The draft age was dropped to 16 when they realized the amount of manpower necessary to win. Children, young children, instead of going on their first date, they earn their first kill. We were men now, old enough to decide for ourselves, but kids? Our enemies were strong and idealistic, but evil. Reminiscent of Vietnam and Nazi Germany, but different. A new war fought in new ways for the new generation of fools; ready to perish, to give up everything of value for a torn bit of fabric, our faded, glorious flag. Our reason to fight, characterized in cloth.

The new war was different in many ways, not just sheer size but the idealism involved. Times had changed, drastically.  The enemy was driven by madness and they refused to break. So there we were, in a new conflict with new enemies, sacrificing . . . everything for the “cause”. What were we fighting for, or against? Freedom to be individual in a conflict against those who sought to make everyone the same – blind, thoughtless fools. The enemy preached to conform society but using illegal means. Gene therapy made special operations soldiers unstoppable; governments strived in a race to create clone armies.

Many countries were involved in the new, currently untitled war. Our NATO allies came into the dispute after they too were attacked, as we were. Similar to Pearl Harbor, we were hit unexpectedly at several locations simultaneously to cripple our nation’s will to be unique. The country that was the core of evil doesn’t matter, their reasons and methods are all that effect us. So Syrius, Draven and I were soldiers, fighting for the common good. Loyal ambassadors of freedom and justice.

Darius escaped the draft as the sole civilian parent, our children’s only caretaker. Madison wasn’t as fortunate; she was drafted and sent off elsewhere. She wrote to tell us how things were on her end. Rumor was that she might be shipped to the front lines soon; we all prayed that she didn’t. We were all very protective of her and Darius. They were like sisters to the entire group, even though one was married and the other engaged. Draven was too nervous to read her letters on his own anymore, his bad temper only strengthened with age.

And there we were, walking the streets as comrades in arms, brothers. It seemed a century ago that I’d gotten my job at the tattoo parlor and we’d all met. Sketch, Madison’s father, was back in the war, stationed near the fighting. Here at home, war waged on as citizens lost their reason. Madness was in the air like a disease. Idealism caused revolts and violence as blood flowed in the very streets. Through this insanity we moved to our post.

The building was dark, like all the rest and looked abandoned. It was our station though, so we checked in and got our assignments. Security for the most part, as per usual. Checking I.D.’s at the door, giving directions. The same as always. So we went to our posts and watched the day drag by slowly, meeting at meals, then back to routine. An officer stopped us on the way out and eyed Syrius, then moved to the rest of us.

“Come with me.”

We followed blindly through abandoned buildings, old and damp, in silence, marching in unison. At the end of the darkness was a light, faint, but steady, greeting our approach, waiting patiently as we had in the world above, motionless. A door opened and we stepped through without a glance back.

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