A young man sat quietly on a hilltop as he watched the sky turn from a bright orange into a soft blue as the morning went on. He knew he shouldn’t be wasting time sitting here, but the cool mornings were the only opportunity for him to take a breath and have a moment to himself.
He wore the simple clothing of a farmer, but it wasn’t modern like the rest of the world was. His village didn’t believe in all of the massive technological and modern advances that the world had taken on, and they chose instead to be devout to the gods and keep a peaceful type of life, which meant only the basics were allowed.
They worked hard together, they survived the harsh winters, and the blazing heat of the summers, and so far they hadn’t needed anything else. Vance liked this life as well, even if many people around his age would leave the village to seek the modern world and find their fortune, or something. They even cut their hair! It was rather obscene.
Vance was a valued member of their village as well because he was so strong and capable and never argued any chore given to him. He was tall for his age and had a muscular build because of the hard labor he did almost everyday. He had deeply tanned skin, which was his skin tone but also likely because of all the time he spent in the sun, and he had pitch black hair that was kept loose around his shoulders today. Their village didn’t believe in cutting off their hair, because their hair was a symbol of honor. Anyone in the village with cut hair likely committed a great sin of some sort and therefore had lost their honor. Vance knew he’d never do anything like that.
The cool grass underneath him was still wet with dew, but he didn’t mind that his skin and pants were going to be damp. It would dry quickly as he worked, he imagined. It was hot during this time of the year in his village, after all.
He turned his gaze from the sky and towards the horizon where a grotesque metallic city shone like a beam of light, but it wasn’t something that he was looking at with intrigue or fondness. His brow was furrowed, he knew what lay in that metal city.
That metal city, known as Xach City, was a place of contention for most people outside of those walls. It was well known that inside that City there was an army like no other known as the Battalion, and in that army they employed men and women who could fight like ferocious beasts and destroy anything in their path.
The reason for their soldiers being so strong was a secret to anyone outside of the Internal Government of Xach City, but it was pretty well known that the massive department of scientific discoveries within the city experimented on human subjects to gain their knowledge, and often harvested those human subjects from small towns that couldn't fight back. It was a horrifying thought.
“Vance!” a voice called out from behind him and he turned to look over his shoulder. A young girl was walking up to greet him, but she looked like she was almost out of breath.
She was a tiny thing, all skin and bones, but she looked much like Vance did. Her eyes were a warm hazel, her skin was a deep tan, and her hair was black and wavy and kept back with a piece of pink ribbon. She wore a simple dress, a plain yellow color that had faded over time to prove it’s many years of use, and she had black socks that reached her knees and simple black boots that were as worn as the dress.
“Timera!” Vance exclaimed as he hopped to his feet and ran down the hill to meet her, picking her up despite her protests. “You are not supposed to be doing strenuous activity. You know that! The village healer told you so.”
Timera scrunched up her face, but then she sighed. “I know,” she coughed, but then took in a deep breath. “I just missed you. It gets lonely being stuck in the house all the time, especially when..”
“Is dad awake? Did he bother you?” Vance demanded to know. Their father was a drunk, and he didn’t do anything for their family anymore. Honestly he hadn’t done anything since the death of their mother when Timera was only three years old and Vance only six.
“He didn’t bother me, but he left the house an hour ago,” Timera said with a small shrug. “I expect he’s going to try and find a drink, or two.”
Vance nodded in agreement and he tilted his head. “Where do you want to go? I should take you back home but I’ll give you the option for now,” he said. He loved his sister dearly, and had pretty much raised her. He wanted her to have the best life she could, even with her illness. He would make sure she lived a long life.
“The top of the hill! I want you to tell me what you were staring at,” she said with a chuckle. Vance smiled and started to walk back up the hill.
“Nothing interesting,” Vance muttered as he finally reached the top and gently set his sister down on her feet on the grassy ground. “I just wanted to look at the sky.”
Timera hummed thoughtfully, smiling as she looked up at the clouds. “I don’t think that’s all you were looking at,” she said. “You’ve always got worries on your mind, Vance. Are you worried about Xach City? The experiments?”
“How did you know about that?” he asked as he looked at her, tucking some of his pitch black hair behind his ear.
“I heard our neighbors talking about it,” Timera said as she looked up at him, then she slowly sat down on the grass. Vance sat down next to her and frowned a bit. He wanted to protect her from how frightening the world was, but it seemed he couldn’t do that.
“I’m just worried they’ll come here,” he admitted. “But don’t worry. Nothing’s going to happen. We’re always going to be together, and I’ll protect you.” he nudged her arm lightly. “Right?”
Timera smiled brightly at him. They looked so much alike, even if Vance wasn’t really the smiley type. “I know you’ll keep me safe, but you need to keep yourself safe, too.”
Vance nodded in agreement once again. He knew he had to keep himself safe, because in doing so he could continue to keep Timera safe. “It’ll be okay,” he said. “But we really should get back to the house, okay? You’re gonna get sick with how chill the air is.” He stood back up, then held his hand down to her to help her to her feet.
“Well, thanks for letting me come out for a minute, anyway,” Timera smiled a bit and allowed herself to be lifted onto his shoulder. She started braiding a piece of his hair as they walked, focusing on taking even breaths and trying desperately not to cough.
“We can go out for walks more often, if you want,” Vance said. “But let’s do it when it’s a bit warmer out, alright? That way it won’t hurt your lungs so much.”
Timera smiled and tied off the braid gently. “Yes,” she said. “I would like that very much! The healer did say that going for walks would be healthy for me, you know.”
“He did, but not up hills, alright?” Vance chuckled lightly and then finally approached their small home.
It wasn’t anything fancy, but it suited their small family. It was made with logs, like every other house in the village, but it was insulated with a cement like substance that they made just for their homes. Their house only had two bedrooms and one large living space which was connected to the kitchen area. To most modern people it would be seen as a hovel, but to them it was comfort and safety.
He set her down and then walked her to her bed so she could rest. He made sure she was all tucked in and comfortable before he could walk away from her. His mind was still heavy with thoughts about the army showing up at their village, but he knew he couldn’t focus too heavily on that right now. He had work to do.
As he walked out the door to head over to the work site, he saw his father wobbling towards the home. He had an empty bottle in his hand, so it seemed that he had found someone to take pity on him and offer him a drink, despite being penniless. Vance didn’t even like looking at his father, so he averted his gaze and began to walk straight past him.
He was a dishonorable man who had short hair and dirty clothes. He never helped the village and only ever indulged himself. Vance worked very hard to never be associated with him. He even wished the villagers could forget he was this man's son.
He felt a hand grab his bicep to stop him, and Vance wanted to pull away but then the grip became like a vice and yanked at him.
Vance looked at his father sharply. “Let me go!” he snapped. “I have work to do, unlike you!”
His father let him go after a moment, then shook his head. “Show some respect, boy,” he managed to say between slurring words. “A son shows his father respect.”
“Then maybe you should be a respectable person,” Vance scoffed before he finally got away from him and continued down the street. This was a daily occurrence, so he was used to such obnoxious confrontations, but it didn’t make it any easier to endure. He was always humiliated because of his father, and he had to keep working hard to prove that he wasn’t anything like him. He was not his father’s son, he was his own person.
He would prove it to everyone, but most importantly he would prove it to himself.