"Governors in a dozen provinces order militia into countryside after third militant attack this week.” - Tesla Times, Pre-Faction Wars 3015
Aevan crouched low in the shadows cast by a crumbled building, waiting for her moment to run. She shifted a booted foot and patted the dark shawl wrapped around her hair and face to make sure everything was tucked in. A beam of light swept over the broad street before her, illuminating rubble and fine gray ash that lazily drifted from low clouds and blocked the stars from her view. The storm cover increased security, but she hoped it would pass soon as it also tended to lead to a nasty cough.
She shrugged her thin shoulders tight against a brief blast of wind, waiting. As soon as the searchlight passed over her hiding place she moved, dashing across to her target - a dilapidated wagon laying broken on its side. Furry shapes disturbed from the shadows scampered between her crouched legs. Aevan muffled a surprised yelp then a little chuckle in relief. Four-legged scavengers were better than two-legged ones, and they couldn’t make off with large goods.
Hooking a leg over the rough wooden edge of the wagon she hoisted herself up and over into the bottom with a thunk just in time, the searchlight passed over the street again. Aevan rolled onto her stomach to catch her breath and grunted as a broken rib of wood stuck uncomfortably into her shoulder. Stilling her breath, she propped herself up on an elbow to search the wagon as fast and quiet as she could. She knew other citizens were out there in the cold dark streets, breaking curfew for the tantalizing possibility of discovering something valuable in someone else’s stash, or maybe dropped during a raid; like a warm blanket, a good coat, or even a knife. Like her they crept from shadow to shadow; maybe this very moment dodging, scuffling, snatching from piles of rubble and one another.
Aevan didn’t expect to find much from an obvious target like the wagon, but she was an equal opportunity enthusiast. Any type of junk was a possibly useful trade. To her joy she spotted a dark sack nestled in the bottom corner of the wagon. She squirmed around on her belly to reach it and delved in with cold questing fingers. It was rotten grain - revolting. She was about to withdraw her hand when she realized something hard was at the bottom. Aevan bit her lip and thrust her hand down to the bottom of the squishy meal. She pulled it out with a silent ‘aha’. Her reward was a tin can of packed food someone had hid beneath the rotten mess.
Aevan popped it into the thick rucksack fastened around her shoulders, squashing a momentary pang of guilt, knowing the hot meal she received once a day as a worker for the Council was more than most citizens in the city of Tesla did. The people living in the slums stood in lines for rations, but if she herself was half-starved as a valued employee, she could only imagine what poor excuse for food the masses received.
Unfortunately there was nothing she could do for the weak and suffering without going hungry herself. The litany ran through her mind nearly every night as she rummaged. She shook away the knowledge that she probably had found someone’s emergency stash and prepared to move.
Aevan watched the lights in the sky sweep their long trails across the sky, then hopped out of the wagon. She pulled up short with a small gasp of dismay. Two ragged men wove unsteadily on their feet before her with toothy grins. Great. It was common knowledge that when the planet began to show vigorous signs of dying, the average person's moral compass seemed to fade as well.
"What did you find there little lady?" the taller of the two men leered at her hideously. Aevan regarded him with disgust. He was a typical looking citizen, wearing rough pants that were filthy, ripped, and probably hadn't been changed in months. What would he change into after all? He wore a heavy coat and many of his blackened teeth were gone, giving him an air of the ridiculous.
The other man gave a sour grunt, "Never mind, let's just get it Rat." His dark skin was so dirty she could barely see the distinct sun-bronzed color of her race. It looked more like the man had rolled in wet dirt one day, found that he loved it and never quit.
Aevan backed up against the wagon, measuring them against her own defenses. They looked weak, bullies that were probably used to getting what they wanted with a few threats and a wave of a club. She had a few tricks up her sleeve though, the men on the streets never dreamed that the Council drilled their workers, which possessed the limited commodity of youth, in self-defense. She would have been dead or worse a long time ago if she wasn’t able to think fast.
Aevan let fear show on her face, rounding her gray-blue eyes and parting her small mouth in surprise. The tall man snorted and stepped forward, grabbing her by the arm. She yelped and bent her body as if he was far stronger than he was. He shook her around a good bit like one might air out a tunic.
"Tad she's just a whelp. Come 'ere and shake her down." He gave her arm another yank for good measure.
Tad let light shine into his food-stained maw - he had all his teeth she noticed - as he grinned and moved towards her. Aevan moved quickly then, twisting in Rat's grip before he could react. She spun her body sideways and kicked him under the chin, wrenching her arm free at the same time. The man staggered back, a look of comical surprise on his narrow features. He was well nicknamed, she thought.
Aevan pulled her fist back and stepping forward brought it up swiftly with all her might under Tad's incoming chin before he could register what was happening. The sound of his jaw smashing into upper teeth before the man crumpled into a dirty pile was like the clattering of dice. Rat got onto one wobbly knee and grunted. There was an angry spark in his small eyes.
Aevan didn’t wait to see if he’d recover. She nimbly hopped over Tad who was laying dazed with blood on his chin, and stooped down to nab the bag lying next to him. Not wasting any further time she darted away down the street as fast as possible to get out of the line of sight of the towers which emanated the lights down the roads like spokes on a wheel. She charged around the first corner she came to into a cramped alleyway full of hiding places but she didn't stop there, she pelted straight down the dark path her heart thumping wildly in her chest. Tall buildings on each side of her watched silently as her black scarf came undone and flew off exposing her bright red-gold hair.
Aevan cursed loudly. She didn’t know if any of her fellow workers from the village defied the Council as she did, unwilling to suffer quietly and coldly at home, only that she’d never seen anyone climb the walls at the same place she did. There was no question of trusting anyone with the knowledge, only herself and her younger sister Hialeah waiting back at home knew of her jaunts. The last thing she wanted was to be standing in line tomorrow at the Core waiting to be signed into her daily tasks while speculating eyes appraise the unique color of her hair. She glanced over her shoulder and glimpsed the two spindly figures determinedly chasing her.
Cursing silently this time she increased her speed. Real fear was beginning to enter her chest and constrict her breath. Running in full view of all the intersecting roads was reckless. So much for her promise to her sister to be subtle and careful.
A section of the street coming up in front of her was collapsed into huge piles of rubble blocking half the width of the road. It looked like an old residence building had spilled its guts, but the roof and several tattered levels were still hanging in there, the face of it completely ripped off and exposed. It could have been from the Faction Wars, over thirty years ago now, but more likely it was when the Council took control of the city and set up shop. The fighting decimated large portions of residential neighborhoods and the evidence was everywhere.
Aevan leapt onto a brick of the rubble, her soft black boots landing soundlessly. She scrambled up the pile into the safety of dark shadows. She could hear the men uttering threats and and wordless yells of rage in the near distance.
Suddenly a piercing klaxon blared, echoing down the broad arteries and narrow passageways of the city, freezing her gut. Aevan quickly ran to the far concrete wall pocked with holes. She held her breath and peered through a chink. Searchlights lit two of the streets green right beneath her, and illuminated Rat and Tad. Green was a bad sign.
A few dark shapes sprang out from behind piles of trash on the lit corner and dashed away down the dark street, disappearing around the next corner. Fellow scavengers who knew better than to stick around.
Aevan gritted her teeth and boosted herself up to a block that leaned against the exposed interior of the building. She was deep in shadow tucked into the corner with a perfect view of the street through the holes. Now the Brutes would come, the only question was, would they find her too? The street underneath her exploded with life.
Rat and Tad had caught up with her building to the left, but after a hasty look at the sky they took off straight past her building away from the lights. It was too late though. Little floating platforms almost invisible in the gloom hummed overhead. Dark armored men wielding long rods and short clubs slithered down the ropes. Then, she heard the roaring. Citizens forming a mob were drawn to the scene like a dog to spoiled meat. Any chance they got under cover of dark to take on the Council, they would do what was unthinkable by day. She knew what was about to happen, it was a scene Aevan had seen before and did not enjoy. The armored men were called Brutes for very real reasons.
Aevan slipped off the block down onto the dusty floor stepping carefully. Old papers as dry as dust fell apart under her weight as she crossed the room. As her vision adjusted she only saw broken furniture and twisted metal in the half-exposed room. Anything useful in this open place was no doubt a decade gone. She was surprised there was furniture at all, it was definitely flammable. From her vantage point she could see the low orange glows of fires in metal barrels near the walls for those intelligents who stayed inside the designated curfew zones.
Aevan huddled down to wait in the far corner from her peephole, wrapping her arms around her shaking legs. Not for the first time she questioned the wisdom of her trips into the city. She couldn’t deny that she enjoyed the adrenaline rush, her secret rebellion against the drudgery and boredom that made up her days. She felt more alive skulking along the streets like a thief than she did working at the Council Quarters waiting for the end to come. Hialeah wanted to come with her she knew. After tonight there was no way she would ever allow it, and after Hialeah heard what happened hopefully she wouldn’t want to come.
Shouts went up on the street right underneath her making her jump. She stood up warily, unsure of what to do but unable to deny her body’s urge to be ready to run. Angry yells and howls of pain filled her ears making chills run up her arms. Moving into view beyond her she could see a large group of citizens clothed in ragged clothes advancing aggressively towards a small group of Brutes with assorted makeshift weaponry. She glimpsed an enormous heavy looking candlestick and a thick beam of timber flashed briefly past her vision as it swung through the air. The Brutes had lowered the visors on their black beetle-like helmets and were making a small circle with small hard shields. Then they turned on their rods. Old World technology. Lightning sprang from the tips hungrily. The crowd howled, held their ground, but did not retreat.
A lump came into Aevan's throat as she watched the mass of men disappear gradually under the rods of the Brutes. It was over quicker than she’d have thought. Dead or unconscious men were dragged aside and tossed aside like refuse. Refuse that scavengers like herself would be drawn to rapidly. She watched the Brutes examine a few of the cowed men. They seemed to choose randomly and signaled for the men to accompany them to the waiting air boats.
Aevan swallowed and slid down with her back to the wall. She knew it wouldn't go well for those men. She had been assigned to the medical floor in the CQ often enough to see that the 'samples' the doctors worked on were not quite the volunteers they were said to be. Then there was the Claw, the dark building the Brutes mobilized from. If a worker disappeared, or was said to have reported to the Claw, they were rarely seen again, only reported to have ‘moved departments’.
By the time Aevan felt safe enough to leave her hiding spot and make her way to the breach in Tesla's walls the ash clouds had cleared. Fianna’s double moons Calias and Caltra were high and small in the sky. She approached the walls feeling nervous. Her hands trembled, but nonetheless she scrambled up the rough handholds expertly. At the top she paused a minute grasping the cold stone and working her stiff knuckles, surveying the ground below her on the other side. She had never encountered anyone else using the gap but it was ignorant to assume she was the only one. The moons lit her way and showed familiar knee-high grasses empty and tipped with ashy-looking frost. Throwing down her extra bag she climbed down the opposite footholds and jumped clear, landing perfectly with a little thrill of accomplishment and a small smile. Safe.
She again thought about Hialeah who was hopefully asleep by now and not worrying about how late it was. Aevan smiled picturing the look on her sister's face when she heard about Aevan’s narrow escape. She bit her lip. She should dampen down that enthusiasm in light of the night’s events.
Aevan started forward, picking up the dropped bag and tossing it over her shoulder. A sudden hand fell on her shoulder. She whirled around, fists coming up in defense. A familiar face grinned at her, lit by the moons. The man in front of her was no thief or guard.
"Liam what are you doing here?" Aevan brushed his hand off her shoulder and tightened her grip on the bag. Liam shrugged, his bony shoulders rolling back easily. Everything about Liam was long: his legs, his arms, even his face. His dark eyes glinted at her under the falling shadow of his dark wavy hair. Aevan put her hands on her hips. She saw now Liam had been waiting in the shadow cast by the stone wall.
"I could ask you the same thing Avy."
“I only let you call me that because I feel sorry for you.” Aevan narrowed her eyes. “Are you stalking me?”
He looked away. “Making sure you stay out of trouble.”
“Hah!” She turned and started back on the slight path to the village. Liam fell into place beside her, glancing at her face.
"I'm surprised to see you here Aevan, I thought only thieves, guards and rats roam the city at night. Which are you?”
Aevan elbowed him in the side. He was too tall for a decent jab in the ribs.
"I hardly have to remind you how little food we get at the Core, besides since when do you concern yourself with me?” She pushed her hood back with a swift movement and faced him. “You’re hardly the thieving type, too worried about your job. So what are you really doing here?"
"Taking the night air of course," Liam said coolly, looking up at the stars. Aevan snorted.
"Fine. If you don't want to tell me, I don't need to know, but warn me first next time before you jump out of the shadows like a Brute!" Aevan lengthened her strides hoping to avoid further questions.
"Aw Avy don't be mad." He hesitated. “It’s been three years now since we came from Redcross, I, I’d thought you were resigned to our fate. Only joking,” he added seeing Aevan screw up her nose.
Aevan sighed. “I am Liam, it’s just - I know it happened to everyone, ‘preserving the last of Fianna’s youth for the future of our race,’” she quoted, “I mean I don’t have to like it do I?”
“Well, free housing, free food - okay I know it’s not a lot but you really wouldn’t be better off anywhere else would you?” Seeing the mute stubborn acceptance he continued: “The chance to repopulate our planet, isn’t that worth sacrificing a few things for? The alternative is dying when everything else does.”
Aevan mustered a smile. “I know Liam, really I do.”
A few minutes were spent in silence then Liam nodded at her bag. "Treasure I expect then, or gourmet pre-war delicacies?"
A small bit of tension went out of Aevan’s chest. "I see how it is, you turn up at the right moment and I share my spoils of war with you." He looked so boyishly guilty for a moment she laughed aloud. She linked her arm with his suddenly feeling much lighter. She had escaped a frightening ordeal in the city and it seemed her childhood friend was not going to turn her in for illegal foraging.
"Well since you are halfway in on my secret, do you want to come home with me? I really did find food.” She saw that he was torn between hunger and loyalty to the law. “I'm sure Hialeah would like to see you too, we never have enough time for friends lately."
“I don’t know if I should, it’s getting late.”
"Come on, I found a can of something, beans I think. Remember how delicious baked beans are Liam? I bet you haven't had any in awhile, I know I haven't. Please come?" She thought he would refuse after all but then he looked straight at her with a serious expression.
"You're too nice."
No, she wasn't. She flushed, glad it wouldn't show in the dark. They were almost back, she could see the dark cluster of houses in solemn rows making up Arklow. It was quiet and dark, most of the residents were due to be up shortly after dawn.
“Come on then let’s hurry.” They quickly crossed the dirty mud hardening in the cold surrounding the edges of the village, jumping a bit over mushy sections. They landed on her doorstep and collided a bit in the doorway to get inside, laughing. Aevan dropped her bags and briskly ran her hands up and down her arms. She looked at Liam, he wore nothing over his long sleeved tunic.
"Don’t you have a warm coat?" she exclaimed.
“I haven’t been able to trade for one at all.”
“What happened to your old one?”
“Ah, I traded it for some food. Saw some poor lady pawning her last family jewels for the saddest blanket you ever saw.”
“Well where are your family jewels?” Aevan mocked him gently.
Liam lifted his well-sculpted chin, “I’m not sure if you mean what I think you mean, or you heard my dad on one of his famous rants about the family losing its riches during the wars.” He gave her a reassuring smile.
Aevan picked up a little lantern and lit it taking care not to burn herself.
“Go ahead and make yourself comfortable,” she told Liam setting the lantern on the low table. A warm yellow glow filled the small room. Aevan used the flame to light a candle then she took it into the dark bedroom. A small window was always open by their nest-like bedding and the moonlight fell into the room in golden pools of light. She could see Hialeah's wild black curls poking out of a mass of blankets. Aevan smiled. She poked the shape under the white quilts. Hialeah's sleepy face popped out, cast in candle glow and shadows. Aevan laughed aloud, she couldn't help it. Hialeah looked like a little ground animal emerging to nibble the wheat stalks. Hialeah's small serious face twisted into a furious scowl that her sister knew was all for show.
"Ow!" Hialeah claimed.
"Oh please," Aevan said plopping down on the bed. The blankets were warm from Hialeah's body heat. It felt glorious, she couldn’t wait to sleep. "I brought a surprise visitor," she poked her sister again, "And we're cold!"
Hialeah's curiosity was piqued. She crawled out of bed clad in a pink layered sleeping gown, the hems smudged with creamy orange color. Aevan pursed her lips considering her own clothing, ugly dark browns and green.
"Did you find anything?" Hialeah: with a hint of plaintiveness in her voice. Aevan regarded her fondly, she refused to let her sister come to the city. Once Hialeah had followed her through the fields, but Aevan wasn’t oblivious to the not-so-sneaky rustling in the grasses. She doubled back and hid, watching until her sneaky lithe little sibling gave up and went home. She had been glad that was as far as the episode went, she hadn’t been entirely sure Hialeah wouldn’t stay out all night looking for the place in the towering walls that allowed Aevan entry.
Aevan admired her sister’s pluck but she couldn’t let anything happen to the one person left in the world that she loved, she had made that last promise to their mother before they were taken away. And she wouldn’t let her sister starve either.
"Wait and see," Aevan promised, grabbing two large warm cloaks from pegs on the wall. Hialeah pulled a blanket free from the bed and wrapped it around her as they stepped back into the communal room. Liam was sitting on one of the mismatched little chairs Aevan had bartered for last summer with a few of her old velvet hair ribbons. Aevan had been a little sad to see the physical reminder of her old life go, but the two girls were sick of sitting on blankets on the hard floor and ribbons were not very comfortable. Besides, Aevan had carefully laid away of her two favorite ribbons in the trunk the sisters shared. They had some of their old wardrobe, as many warm blankets as Aevan could manage to acquire, and just a few mementos of an extinct lifestyle.
Liam looked up at the girls and gratefully accepted the cloak Aevan proffered to sweep over his broad shoulders.
"Thanks," he said. "Hello Hialeah, you’re looking beautiful as always." Hialeah gave him a mock dirty look. She was fifteen though she looked younger and was even more petite than Aevan. Even sitting down, Liam dwarfed the two of them.
"Not all of us can be giant beasts Liam, nice to see you too!"
Liam and Aevan both laughed, Hialeah was all bark no bite. The more sarcastic she was, the happier she was.
"So," Aevan began, picking up the bags, depositing them onto the table and sitting, "Not only did Liam pop up out of nowhere, I had a pretty scary encounter tonight." She smiled, intending to draw out her story. "It turns out two stinky men with barely any teeth who try to steal from little girls are no match for your scrappy sister."
Hialeah's jaw dropped just a little, her dark eyes lit up. "What happened?"
Aevan regaled Liam and Hialeah with the story of her brief fight and escape, followed by the raid.
"I was scared out of my mind, but I had no time to think about it. I just reacted. I should say I never want to go back, but at the same time I'm kind of itching to clock someone else on the jaw," Aevan grinned.
"So violent," Liam murmured.
"Anyways," Aevan sighed, dropping her cloak of excitement, "I did get a little food, let's just eat it now. Do you mind Hialeah?" Hialeah shook her head, her gaze on the table. Aevan got up and got a little electric pot out of the cupboard. The homes in the village were each supplied a small amount of power every day to spend how they saw fit. Aevan and Hialeah spent none on heating, thus the blanket pile.
“One hot meal a day in the city is NOT enough. I think I’ve got enough power left,” Aevan said, spooning the food into the pot. It was beans after all. A wonderful warm smell filled the air. Food was just amazing.
"Hey, what's this?" Hialeah asked behind her at the table. "What in the stars..." A sharp edge in her tone made Aevan glance back over her shoulder. She paused with the wooden spoon in her hand staring. They all gazed at the necklace in Hialeah's hand, speechless. It was strung with golden beads like none of them had ever seen, not in this age. A stone pendant shaped vaguely like a carnivore's tooth was hanging from the middle. Hialeah wonderingly ran the beads through her fingers.
“They’re warm to the touch,” her voice was soft.
"Where did you get that?" Aevan's voice stuck in her throat.
"From your bag. The one you said you picked up from the men. Look Aevan, the stone and the beads almost glow. It's beautiful."
The skin on the back of Aevan’s neck began to crawl. She had the most illogical feeling that somewhere out in the night, prying eyes had turned to their small home, drawn in by the luminous glow of the beads and the strange allure of the stone. Impulsively she plucked it out of Hialeah's fingers and stuffed it back into the bag.
"Put it away!"
Hialeah stared, fingers still poised in the air. Aevan gave a guilty shrug. "I'm sorry, I don't know why I did that, it's so beautiful - expensive...but it feels dangerous. We shouldn’t have something like that."
Hialeah just blinked at her. Liam spread his hands. He didn't know what to say either.
“Where could it have come from? Did the men know, of course they did -” Aevan turned and paced to the counter, absentmindedly taking the electric pot off its burner. “The old world wealth is all gone by now, should be - isn’t it?”
"Do you think someone will be looking for that?" Hialeah asked in a small voice. Aevan shook her head, not trusting her voice to speak.
Liam finally spoke. "It's not likely anyone would have a chance of finding it if they were, what with the tangle of crap and trade and thieving that goes on."
Aevan dropped into a chair and pressed her fingers to her temples.
"What do you think we should do with it? We could never trade it without raising huge suspicions. You don't just come by stuff like this, it looks like...well I don't know, like nothing we should own."
"I really like it," Hialeah said softly. Aevan turned her gaze to her little sister. Hialeah looked vibrant. Her eyes sparkled and her cheeks were flushed.
"Well I like it too but it's out of the question to keep it," Aevan said.
"Why not?" Hialeah frowned. "No one is going to search our house, no one is going to know we have it."
"Yes but," Aevan raised her hands helplessly. "If they did."
"She's right," Liam said opening a palm towards Aevan. "The very existence of something like this in your house makes it clear someone has been doing something she shouldn't," he looked at Aevan meaningfully, "and that could have disastrous consequences for anyone, especially someone working in the Capital."
Even though that was completely true, it rankled. If Aevan didn't 'do something she shouldn't' regularly, she and her sister wouldn't have enough to eat or enough blankets to keep them warm at night even. She glared at Liam who was about to eat the product of her 'thievery' and who was borrowing her warm cloak she had dug out of a crushed barrel a few weeks ago.
"Well no one is going to know, like Hialeah said, right Liam? How would they find out?"
Liam glanced from one sister to the other taking in Hialeah's high color and Aevan's raised eyebrows then the incriminating bag before them.
"No," Liam said finally, "no one will find out."
Aevan sniffed and allowed him to have some warmed beans. After a couple bites Liam added, "I just don't want anything to happen to either of you. It's dangerous to do anything remotely out of line you know, and you two are the only ones...the only ones who know home."
Hialeah’s expression softened immediately, she reached out to lay her tiny hand comfortingly on Liam’s large sun-dark one, but Aevan turned her face away. It was indeed very hard to toe the line and live like a worker ought to, and to also try to hold onto any fragment of their former lives.
"I’m only able to deal with it by moving forward," Liam said quietly. His eyes were on Hialeah but Aevan knew the words were meant for her. "I won't say anything, I would never. Just, please be careful. Think of a plan."
"It's going under the bed for now," Aevan said looking at the bag like it had a dangerous animal in it. "Was anything else in the bag?"
Hialeah shook her head, wide-eyed and sooty black curls swinging.
"Alright we'll put it away for now, we'll figure something out, bury it or something." Aevan laughed suddenly. "Our own buried treasure that we can't use for anything!"
Liam smiled but his face looked drawn and tired. He stood up slowly and handed his cloak to Aevan. "I'd better be getting home. Early morning you know." He stopped by her side.
"You're braver than I could ever be, going into the city after dark. I don't know how you get any sleep. And now that I’m picturing you fighting fighting off rabid scum and narrowly escaping capture by Brutes to boot, I don't know how I'll sleep either."
He put a hand lightly on her arm. "You'll be careful won't you Aevan?"
She nodded, feeling a strange turning in her stomach at the serious look in his hazel eyes.
"I wouldn't want anything to happen to you. We have a good chance at beating this, at living again, right? The Council promised us that."
Aevan nodded again, the peculiar feeling rising up into her chest and warming her unexpectedly. She got up from the table knocking her chair back with a scrape and picked up the sack.
She headed towards her room saying over her shoulder, “I'll be careful. Keep the cloak please, we have plenty."
She didn't see the wistful expression on Liam's face as she departed. He spoke to Hialeah.
"See you later scamp."
Hialeah smiled back but her expression was thoughtful. Liam went out, closing the door quietly behind him. Hialeah got up to put out the lantern, and padded into the bedroom with the candle. She sat on the edge of the bed swinging one bare foot. The sisters looked at each other.
"He's right about one thing," Aevan said, pulling off her trousers and slipping a warm gown over her head. "I don't know how we sleep at night."
She slipped into the covers and Hialeah followed, climbing over her sister so she could be near the window. Aevan snuggled into the thick blankets with a sigh. She was acutely aware of the item in the bag stuffed under the rushes at the bottom of their bed. The girls could hear rough winds whistling down from the ancient purple hills to the northwest. The planet Fianna spun increasingly larger weather systems almost as if trying to rid itself of its sickness.
If the age-old double moons could look in the tiny window, they’d have seen a far-away look in Hialeah’s dark eyes and quiet tears on Aevan's golden face as she asked herself for the thousandth time if she should just cave and do what she was told. Aevan pushed her tangled hair away from her forehead and sighed.
“I love you Hialeah,” she whispered. Her sister murmured a quiet reply.
Gradually, under the soft light Aevan drifted to sleep. Her dreams that night were of her world only a short time ago in childhood when it had seemed vibrant and alive. She reached out to that world but the memories seemed like fragile gossamer webs spinning out into the night and she couldn't grasp them. The dream-fantasy slipped away from her and the strands of the web snapped. She opened her eyes and raised her head to look through her window. She could see an orange glow on the horizon. The great city of Tesla, last of its kind, was burning.