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I walked out of the decrepit, old office building, more thoughts roiling around in my head than debris in an explosion. I looked again under my coat, at the precious cargo I carried with me- still unbelieving that it was there. This was supposed to be the Resistance’s final strike. The NEO, or New Earth Order, had finally managed to take a prisoner from higher up among us. Hopefully, they would remain strong through whatever NEO could give them, but that was a feeble hope. Ever since NEO had taken over, feeble hopes might as well not be there at all. Ever since NEO had taken over…
I laughed, tumbling over my brother’s sand castle with my mini launcher; we had each just gotten one for Reformation day, and only a few hours later we were using them to destroy each other’s sandcastles in the park next to our apartment. Justin yelled and kicked the dirt of the sandbox off to the side in frustration.
“Butler, Jason cheated! His launcher was up too close!’ Justin yelled at Butler, our babysitter while all the adults celebrated Reformation Day. Mom and Aunt Beth had made us go outside while they did all the “grown-up” stuff they never let us do on holidays- apparently this one was super important, the planet getting better rule or something. I don’t care about that stuff though, it’s just a day to get presents.
“No sir, I calculated the distance between your toys as you instructed and made sure they didn’t move once your playing commenced,” Butler replied mechanically, standing unmoving over us. I had to look away from Butler, the sun was super-bright today and it reflected off his new shell way too much- even Butler got new stuff on Reformation Day.
“You heard him Justin- Butler says I didn’t cheat, and Butler’s never wrong. So eat the worm,” I said laughing, holding the worm we had found earlier out in front of his face with a grin.
He swallowed fearfully, took the worm with a glare while I giggled happily, and was about to eat it when mom came out of our building, screaming and running towards us.
“Awwwww, mom we were just joking, Justin wasn’t really going to eat the worm, were you?” I asked with a fevered wink.
He shook his head a lot, giving out a relieved breath and saying, “No, mommy, we were ju-“he stopped, looking up at the sky with- fear, wonder?
And then I saw the ships.
Giant behemoths of shining metal and fire, these were hundreds of times the size of the small hovercraft that sometimes flew overhead, and that we had once ridden inside to go on vacation. They flew just above the tips of the New York’s skyscrapers, sometimes sending the higher points flashing to the earth as they ground mercilessly through the sky. Light suddenly flashed out their bottoms all at once, spraying little beams of blue energy all over the city, breaking glass and toppling the great buildings I had always looked upon with wonder. Tiny ships flew out of holes in the larger ships, with energy shooters much the same as the ones on the larger ships. The ships began to fire rockets, somewhat like the ones we had just been playing with, except that these larger versions exploded when they hit the buildings
Mom finally came up to us, grabbing my arm and pulling me towards the house while yelling something I couldn’t hear in all the noise. I looked up and saw more little fliers of a different color emerging from the city and shooting their little lights at the other fliers. Mom ran back and grabbed at Justin, but I could see he was yelling, trying to get our toys.
A huge noise rocked me where I stood, and I looked up to see a flaming ship coming down towards the playground. I yelled at mom and Justin, telling Butler to go get them, mom had made him come up with me- but he started dragging me towards the house; he must’ve thought that’s what I said. I yelled, and mom finally looked at me, and then up, and she saw the ship coming, and coming, and-
I snapped back into reality and looked around to see where I was- the playground.
The swings were long gone, there was just one chain swinging forlornly from side to side, as if remembering the days where it had merrily carried children into the heavens. The jungle gym was mostly fallen down, bars of painted metal leaning on sturdier pieces that had withstood the explosion. There was no mulch anymore, just beer bottles scattered around with grass growing up around them, trying to hide the shame of being desecrated in such a way.
There was still a crater in the ground where the ship had fallen.
Where my family had died.
Where my life had ended- and my new life began.
It began with fire and death, with loss and fear. NEO had wanted everything to be chaotic, so we would be easier to control. Not to mention the date of the invasion, Reformation Day. It was ironic but not at all coincidental that they chose Reformation day to invade. Reformation Day celebrated the day, a bit less than 500 years ago, when the most important nations of the world got together to make a better planet, pool their resources to make everything better and more efficient. Eventually the smaller nations followed suit, and soon there was no war, a better environment, and petty criminals were the only ones to commit violence. Technological advances skyrocketed in this period.
Then NEO took over, at first a defensive army force called Shield, created in case there were aliens and they were hostile, but after years of inactivity they began to plan more sinister ideas.
After that fateful day, I lived with Butler for several years, learning the arts of thieving, like pick-pocketing, open robbery and lock-picking. I used Butler for things like security and a source of heat, as I lived on the streets without any real place to call home. During these rough years my hatred for our tyrannical government grew, until I met the Resistance…
I ran down the street, dodging between people rich and poor as my former target ran after me. He was a tall man in a suit, so I had assumed him to be wealthy, and I had been right. His wallet contained a substantial amount of cash. However, I hadn’t expected him to have a security alarm in his pocket- he hadn’t looked that rich.
So I ran for the first time in a few weeks, as I’m usually good enough not to be noticed when I take someone’s cash. My heartbeat was going a mile a minute , as I knew NEO didn’t punish with a slap on the wrist. NEO took care of all problems quickly and decisively- by killing them. I learned this from my old friend Tom. I ran with him for a couple of months before he and a couple of other kids weren’t fast enough. They were captured and several days later publicly executed by a firing squad. I definitely didn’t want to get caught.
So that’s why I screamed when a large hand grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me forcefully into a back alley. Another smaller hand covered my mouth, and a woman got into my face and put a finger over her lips, making a shhh noise. They pulled me farther into the alley, and I began to see my capturers more clearly. A big, dark skinned man had me by the wrist, while a shorter, very pale man was hunched over and kept jerking his head to the sides as we walked. Probably shell shock, something many people suffered from nowadays. The woman had run up ahead and was looking around the corner, but turned to us as we approached.
As soon as Big Man took his hand off my wrist, I burst out, “Please, don’t kill me, I swear I’ll return the man’s money! Here!” I hastily outturned my pockets and flung the money-heavy wallet to the ground, spilling blue bills everywhere.
Big Man put his hand on my arm, but gently this time, “We’re not going to turn you in” he said with a surprisingly quiet voice for someone his size, “We’re here to help you”.
I looked up surprised, not many adults said that to me nowadays. “Wha-at?” I said fearfully, looking up at the three adults in front of me, not so very imposing anymore.
“We’re from the Resistance” the woman said proudly, then the three began walking off. Without looking back, the woman said, “Are you gonna come?”
I started, looked back down the alley, and ran after them without another question.
They told me who they all were, what they wanted, and why. The first goal was all the same- destroy NEO utterly. Most of their situations where similar to mine- family and friends killed in the initial battle, reduced to thieving, or even less honorable things for the women. Those three were only a recruiting party, there were hundreds of people in the Resistance. They explained themselves to me after I followed them, and after a few weeks of a sort of training, life kind of blurred. A blur of stealing, petty thievery, and recruiting, and as I got older and higher up in the ranks, of assassinations, robberies, and raids.
“Until today,” I say to myself, looking up at the huge building in front of me. I broke the lock on the back gate and with a running start started climbing the building. My Gecko gloves easily found purchase on the smooth stone of the building, and I began my long climb to the 40th floor, my designated entry point.
I carefully burned a hole through the thick glass, which had replaced the marble many floors ago. Eventually the welder burned through, and I started to sweat. I took deep breaths to steady myself, and started my walk down the hallway. I would’ve been dead by now, shot up by ceiling mounted turrets, but about a week ago we had recovered a pass card from an executive of NEO. It made me invisible to the machines.
I walked into office 349, an inconspicuous number, holding no one important. It was its location in the building that mattered.
“Do you have a problem?!” the suited man behind the desk in the room angrily asked, looking up from his holo-screen. Just a regular guy, another suit among many. He didn’t know me, know what I had suffered. He hadn’t killed my family. He probably didn’t know they had ever died. I felt kind of sorry for him for a second.
He should’ve called in sick that day.
“No,” I pronounced sadly, “not anymore,”
I flung open my coat, revealing the explosives strapped to my torso, enough to wipe out three city blocks. He didn’t even have enough time to look surprised before I hit the button.