Chapter 2:

Years Ago — Two

The Story Of Who

So-Eleh 1 used to be a safe zone. Father moved us here when I was three. Our old home had been under the orange domes of So-Eleh 24, the information hub of Milday. Bombs used to drop from the sky everyday until barely anything was left standing. The shields there had been useless when it came to protection. Father said that they were decorative and started making his with the scraps leftover from the cleanup.Bookmark here

Jethro turned two yesterday.Bookmark here

The skies of So-Eleh 1 were now the color of soot because of all the fires that had started once the 'real' war reached us. Our neighbors died a week ago when a bomb fell directly on their house. There hadn't even been ash that time around, just nothingness. It was as though a god had taken a massive eraser and wiped them out of existence. It made it seem like they had never existed.Bookmark here

The shields the Resistance provided us with had kept us safe during the worst of it but ever so often I saw it flicker. It was losing power and that was bad for us.Bookmark here

My teacher taught me that all shields needed energy to work. Government shields used energy from Arantine; Resistance shields used energy from the suns.Bookmark here

It had been three months since anyone in So-Eleh 1 had seen a sun, three months since I had gone to class. My school had been one of the first places to be bombed.Bookmark here

The government didn't want any child in the rebel states getting an education and building more weapons so they erased schools first before hospitals. So-Eleh 1 had been officially declared a rebel state half a year ago, on my birthday. It hadn't been a happy day. Only a few families decided to stay in the Society after that, including us.Bookmark here

There was nowhere else that was safe so why bother—Bookmark here

Jethro startled me out of my daydreams, his angry cries piercing my ears as his rattle slipped out of his hand and tumbled to the floor. With my heart working the hardest it had in a while, I took him in my arms and tried to hush him before he drew attention to our house.Bookmark here

Despite Father saying that he had configured the shields to block out sound, I didn't trust it. It would fall down any moment now and Jethro needed to have learnt to be quiet by then.Bookmark here

Father once told me that the Army had been ordered by the Governing Society to take babies and send them to the Sorting Farms to be raised as soldiers. It had been like that since before I was born.Bookmark here

So-Eleh 24 used to be one of the few States where parents got to keep their children, until the Governing Society decided that it needed more child soldiers if they wanted to continue their fight with the Resistance. We had moved here so that the scary men wouldn't take Jethro from Mother's belly before he was even born.Bookmark here

The men in the Resistance weren't as scary—they didn't use child soldiers or hold executions. Sometimes they brought me toys and dresses, and Mother cooked them meals, and they ate at our table like they were family.Bookmark here

The moment I managed to get Jethro to stop crying, Father burst into the bedroom with two bags strapped across his shoulders. "Let's go, Princess."Bookmark here

I didn't ask where we were going, I already knew. I just didn't expect us to be leaving so soon.Bookmark here

I balanced Jethro's head on my shoulder and scooped up his rattle before placing my free hand in Father's.Bookmark here

Since the bombings here started, Mother and Father had been arguing whenever they thought I was asleep. Father would shout and say that he had wanted to leave So-Eleh 1 since the moment Jethro was born, and Mother would shout and say that the Resistance would have killed us if they found out we were running away.Bookmark here

They were both wrong, that was why they could never agree on who was right.Bookmark here

Running then and running now, what difference did it make? Running from the government would out us as members of the Resistance and they would come after us. The Resistance would also be after us. Running was not the solution to our problem.Bookmark here

Public executions had been broadcasted on the Screene, where government officials in shiny silver suits strung rebels up on a giant metal pole and shot them full of lasers until they looked like soggy, red cheese.Bookmark here

My teacher said that putting holes in something was perforation.Bookmark here

I didn't want Mother or Father or Jethro to be perforated on giant metal poles. They didn't deserve that—especially Jethro.Bookmark here

Father's sweaty palms closed tightly around mine as we made our way past the shields. Mother had left first to buy tickets for the boat we would use to leave Milday. Since she was a medic and no soldier was allowed to shoot her, she could go wherever she wanted whenever she wanted.Bookmark here

Father and I had to sneak our way across the city. Before we stepped out of the compound, he gave Jethro a shot to make him sleep then threw a lumpy XOry blanket over the both of us. At first glance, no one would notice that I was carrying something—or someone. It hid everything but my face from sight.Bookmark here

Jethro was well-fed and heavy for his age but I didn't even want to think about the pain building up in my shoulder and back. I couldn't drop him no matter what. It wasn't even an option.Bookmark here

At each checkpoint we passed, Father only needed to flash his card and the soldiers of the Resistance would let us through without a hassle. So-Eleh 1 had been completely taken over by the Resistance for a year now. It should have been the safest place for us, but Mother had gotten word that the silver men were dropping bombs tonight—not the strategically placed bombs that spared the innocent but HE bombs meant to wipe out the entire Society. They would spare no one if it meant that all the leaders of the Resistance would end up dead.Bookmark here

My teacher said that was called 'killing a thousand to kill the one'. She told me that, for some people, casualties didn't matter in the grand scheme of things.Bookmark here

Maybe after tonight, there would be no more war, no more child soldiers, no more bombings. Jethro would be safe and grow up to be a scientist who built something other than deadly weapons.Bookmark here

"Okay, baby." Father gave my hand an encouraging squeeze and I turned my head to look at him. "We are almost there. When I give you the signal, do your thing, okay?"Bookmark here

I nodded. We had gone over this several times in our home-run simulations. There was no way I could fail. I wouldn't fail. The life of my family depended on my success.
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Real Aire
Taylor Victoria
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