Chapter 1.1 - Robbed of Their Pasts

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August 13th, 2026. 18:45

Logan Preaker

Mirages form on the searing tarmac of Route 108, California, as the sky slowly turns orange. A pale blue transport bus drives across the road, where it carries a handful of people with their luggage. The stale air inside smells of sweat and baby powder, and some passengers comfort the screaming toddlers in their laps, while others try to catch up on sleep.

Six soldiers are on guard with their M4 rifles on the bus. No one is safe anymore.

Among the passengers is a timid, tan-skinned man slumped next to a window. His breath fogs up the glass, a single tuft of brown hair sticking out from a slicked-back style.

Riding alone with some lovely people, I guess. I just hope I can make it out with the others.

His eyes are puffy and distant as he wistfully stares at a picture on his cracked phone.

Mom and Dad, your faces at the anniversary are now a scarce happy memory in these times. Alongside those who fought with you all your lives.

He swipes the screen of the phone with his thumb, as another picture crops up.

Did you use your knowledge to create a safer future for yourselves, my students? Even my love for you to carry?

He swipes for one last.

And how can I forget that my time training paid off? Winning both the championships of fencing and kendo sure did lots of wonders for my health... or so I hope.

He gazes at his left hand, like a gift he loved and now away from his grasp.

All he has is himself.

His trembling fingers curl into a fist, pressed against his chest as tears slide down his face and breathes slowly.

My blood, the blood I share... all left undone. For the sake of my unseen future, I'll do my best to start anew. He squeezes his eyes shut and tries to hold back his tears.

I'm so sorry.

He wipes them away with shaky hands.


Graffiti covers every tiny surface of the bus stop where the vehicle parks. Spat-out bubblegum is scattered on the ancient, grimy benches. An elderly black woman sits on the very edge of one, clad in a dark jacket and a long skirt.

A bun covered by a snood rests on the back of her neck, and a gleaming Star of David sits on her collarbone. She has skin bunching around the eyes, and keeps rearranging the stack of papers in her hands. When she sees the bus, she rushes forward and enters as soon as the door opens.

She looks at the only empty seat next to the young teacher, but the light-skinned bald man sitting across the aisle places his foot on it.

"Excuse me, sir. Am I doing something wrong?" she asks.

His rugged face twists into a sneer. "Wrong? Your presence plagues this place."

"But I've just arrived here. I came a long way to look for a bus to take me to the Safe Zone and right now this is the closest seat I can find."

"I'm not comfortable with you sitting next to me," the bald man grunts.

"Why does my presence bother you so much?" The lady is close to snapping.

"Shut up and find another seat, you stupid kike! You're bothering the good men around here!" the bald man yells back.

The tension already present in the air shoots up at his words. The teacher moves like a flash of lightning, grabbing his arm and twisting it hard.

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