Chapter 9.5: Hunter Games

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Seth reveled in the static hum of the war room. His war room. No, politics. No people pleasing. No more recruit applications to go over. All that was left to do was to lock-in Daamon as a member of his squad and schedule the next four weeks of training.

The past week had been exceptionally stressful. It was his fault. Since the events of his last game, the reality of his situation struck home. Researching training regimes and field tactics were no longer the distraction they had once been. Having realized that the Council's Academy's answer to the demon war was to keep throwing soldiers at it until the problem resolved itself left Seth emotionally crippled and a long-term residence of his bed.

He was sure that he wasn't the only member of his squad who felt the same way. He couldn't help but resent members like Regina, who could opt for a marriage contract and serve her civil duties by pushing out babies for the next six to twelve years. On second thought...

He nudged the corner of the display table, coaxing his padded leather chair into a soft spin. Erik, he could safely resent. His father paid for all four of his son's civil duties, effectively rendering their service on the war front obsolete. Buying out their place on the roster was one of the few ways the Council could afford to maintain the war effort. The people who returned from the killing fields would use their terror to fuel the workforce. They would churn out bullets, shields, mech armor, and whatever else that could be produced in high quantities at the lowest price. Meanwhile, people like Erik, who would inherit the future, would jack up the cost of resources to bolster their profit margins to maintain an increasingly lavish lifestyle. On the other hand, the fee for the release of their civil duties was getting harder to afford even for the wealthy. He could blame the Council for a lot of things, but he admired their efforts in trying to keep the system fair. They should be revising the conscription laws roughly around the same time he left for the killing fields next year. Not that it mattered. The law changes got stricter every year as exclusion practices continued to abuse the system.

Wallace was in the same situation as Seth. 'Had been' Seth corrected. Wallace was dead and a permanent resident of topics to not discuss. The town of Hallow Haven was also added to the list. It bothered him that everyone seemed to be okay with Wallace not turning up for school. It was business as usual for the senior class, all without sparring a thought to wonder why a star player of the winning squad would give up everything. He should have paid attention, maybe Wallace knew what was coming for his hometown. Then again, deep down, they all knew that sooner or later the demon hoards will come knocking.

It bothered him that news feeds didn't so much as mention the loss of yet another top-side city. They gave off the impression that the only place that mattered was the Capitol. While the people top-side worried about their safety, they pray for the chance to gain residency within the last refuge for humanity. It was like the people of the Capitol didn't know that important resources such as food, wood, and steel came from the surface world. Even their oxygen was pushed through a specialized filtration system and recycled a few hundred times over. If the killing fields grew, the people of the Capitol would starve. Maybe, they figured out a way to depend less heavily on the surface world...

The door to the war room slid open, prompting Seth to stop his mindless spin by using his foot as a break against the display table's leg. Regina's dark eyes hardened at the sight of him. He wanted to smile, just to prove that everything in his world was okay; that he didn't need her. "Early as always," Regina acknowledged and took her preferred seat directly across from him. "I saw that you haven't made up your mind about our last recruit. I don't think you should worry too much about it. It's not like the squad's going to be your responsibility next year." Regina was the descendent of the ancient native tribes who span the northern territories, the names of the clans forgotten by the remnants of civilization.

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