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Paradise Found: An Eternal Lifeline Prequel Short Story (1)

“Dammit, I hate bread! Don’t we have noth’n else?”

“Don’t you worry, we’ll be out of it soon enough and’ll be eating each other instead, starting with the weakest link.” Irene took a pretend bite out of her knuckle and tucked the rest of her finger behind her hand. A wicked grin swept the age off her wisened face and transferred it to the target of her words. “Here, then. Gimme yours, and I’ll make sure you’re first in line to get hacked up into little bits. That way, you can give us something good to eat, and you won’t have to eat another lick of that bread.”

Disbelief settled in the creases of Sebastian’s face as he hurried to stuff the remaining chunks of dried bread into his mouth. With a thumbs up and unsure smile, he rushed to chase his dinner down with a swig of water. “Gah…that’s gotta be the best meal I’ve had in months!” Patting his belly, Sebastian slowed himself down while training his unsure eyes on Irene.

Raising an eyebrow, the woman squinted and finished her food up. “I guess anything’ll taste better than the truth, eh?” Another chilling howl of laughter slipped between Irene’s lips. “Don’t you worry, Sebastian, I don’t reckon you’ll make a good meal anyhow.”

Sebastian draped his tired arms over a nearby chair, and he whistled to himself. Irene sure knew how to scare the hell out of him. He knew she was joking and all, but just the way she said it was enough to shake him. With a sullen pair of eyes, Sebastian murmured, “I don’t think we’ve got the luxury of time to get to that point.”

“Oh?” Said Irene, licking her fingers of the remaining crumbs as she swatted them over into her wrinkled palm. “You sure sound eager to die….”

“Who isn’t these days?” Sebastian smirked. “It’s been years locked away in this hellhole——what’s to say we won’t be in here for years to come?”

“But we’ll be alive, won’t we? Ain’t that good enough for ya?” Irene swallowed the remaining crumbs and struggled to her feet. “All that matters is that we survive——”

“Well I wanna live, dammit!” Sebastian followed suit with Irene’s movements.

“Then why’d you say you want to die, you fool? Can’t make up your mind, can ya?” Irene hobbled over to her room in her usual slow and deliberate manner.

“Well, if I can’t live, then I don’t think it’s a life worth living, if you ask me,” said Sebastian. He moved toward a section of the wall where a window used to be and rested against it. “When’s the last time we saw the Sun?”

Irene ignored Sebastian’s previous tirade, as she was used to it at this point, and faced the teenager in his entirety. “‘Bout the last time we saw your pa, I’d say. Seems just like yesterday.”

“So six years ago…” Sebastian replied. The room settled as those words lingered. Irene nearly grew impatient, her knees struggling to hold up her still frame. Before she could go about her business, Sebastian started up again. “Y’know, I read somewhere that it ain’t healthy goin’ that long without the Sun. I don’t reckon it’s possible to heed that these days, though.”

Irene went over to Sebastian and rested her ancient hand on his shoulder. “You’ll see it again. I know we’re not much count these days, but we humans do a pretty darn good job at staying alive. Life won’t be what it used to be——that’s probably a good thing——but we won’t rest in the dark for too long. As long as there’s a Sun, it’ll shine.”

“You sure have a positive outlook on things,” Sebastian cracked a smile and parted ways with the window to return to his seat. There wasn’t much to do in the Langford Bunker, other than sulk around about the past. It was the last remaining outpost for humanity in Dallas, Texas. Hosting several thousands of people, it had to employ every square foot of its space just to keep everyone alive. And, as Sebastian mentioned, the trade-off for survival was a bleak reality.

Every day was the same, including three meals a day, an evening complaint session, and a moment of rest before going straight to bed. Sebastian had every reason to doubt his aunt’s optimism, no matter how convincing she could be.

“Let’s just say I had some help,” Irene said and paced the room in her usual clunky manner.

It took a while for Sebastian to register that, but he eventually caught on and whipped himself around. “Wait, whaddaya mean by that?”

“I thought that’d bring some light to yer eyes.” The old lady raised her eyebrows and cracked a smile. She took a few deliberate measures to get Sebastian on the edge of his seat and let out a low grunt. “There’s an opening to Eden Point. I heard it from one of the infantrymen at the food station, so I ain’t sure how accurate it is——”

Sebastian leapt up from his seat with a cry of joy and seized Irene’s hand, jumping around with a flurry of questions with which his mind brimmed on a daily basis. “Eden Point is open? How do they know that? Who’s gonna go with us?”

“Cut that out, boy!” Irene cackled and tried with all her strength to get Sebastian to back off. “And let me go, dammit! Are you trying to kill me?”

Sebastian’s burst of excitement died down, and he collected himself, approaching his aunt with a suspicion-filled gaze. The stare-down between him and his aunt ensued a bit longer. Irene could tell Sebastian was brimming with years of pent-up excitement, but the boy wouldn’t let it get too out of hand. He needed to be sure.

“You sure know how to take something and go with it, you fool.” Irene grinned as she tried to make her way to her room. Sebastian, showing an obsequious level of care for the old woman, followed her until she took a seat on the foot of her bed, which was just a worn-out mattress they found in one of the abandoned apartments out in the western sector. Sebastian had quite the story to tell about that one. “Now, Sebastian, cut that out! Give this old lady some space. I gotta remember what he told me….”

“Well, remember faster,” said Sebastian, nearly tipping over from excitement.

Cutting him a sharp glance, Irene picked up her hand and pointed a shaky finger at her nephew and whispered, “Keep that up, and the only thing I’ll have to remember is you.”

Sebastian froze from that and backed down. The threat was empty, but he had to keep himself in check. He knew himself. He was a restless person in a world that commanded absolute patience. Instead, he shifted from one foot to another while waiting for the woman’s response, a trying test of resolve for him.

“Now…he said something ‘bout…what was it? A few volunteers being needed. We spoke a while, and he didn’t seem too chipper about it. Said not too many were up for the task. But, I don’t reckon too many are as excited about this as you, so if you want to——”

“Where do I go?” Sebastian spat. “C’mon, tell me! I’ve got my bags packed and ready and everything. I’ll go any day now!”

“And leave your poor old aunt in this hellhole?” Irene faked a cry. That didn’t last long, of course. Irene wasn’t the type to cry. “Don’t you worry, I got us both a spot in the team. Fought tooth and nail for it, too. And I thought we were past telling ladies they can’t go on dangerous trips…. ‘Specially when they need all the help they can get.”

“I mean…” Sebastian whispered, “In all fairness, you’re old as dirt. They’re not gonna let someone born in the 20th century——”

“Oh, hush up!” Irene swatted Sebastian. “I ain’t that old. Just shy of sixty. You know me, though——I showed ‘em real quick I can kick some ass. My papa…your granddaddy…used to say there ain’t no one who does it better than a Lindloff. We’ll fight ’til the very end for what’s right, and ain’t nobody gonna stop us.”

The reality of this conversation hadn’t hit Sebastian until now. He thought it’d been a good dream from which he didn’t want to wake up, but it was all too real. His mouth hung agape, and he widened his stressed eyes. “Wait, you’re actually telling me we’re going to Eden Point? You and me both?”

“Well…yes…but there’re more coming with us. Some infantry. They said this’s a test run. Heard it’s about ten miles to get there, but you know what that means in Langford terms. It’ll be shy of twenty hours before we get there. Rest spots, twists and turns, and other bullshit we’ve gotta deal with.” She noticed Sebastian’s unease and swatted the air. “Hey, you said you wanna live, but living ain’t easy. It’s the best we’ve got.” Irene stretched her arms and struggled to her feet.

“Well, it’s not that I’m too scared or anything. I just…well…I didn’t think this’d ever happen.” In a last-minute attempt to help her, Sebastian loosely grabbed the woman’s arm.

“Thank you,” she grinned and reached a dresser. “Me neither.” Her eyes stretched across the dresser’s surface, and she released a gentle sigh. “Now, you best get to sleep. It’s already half-past ten.”

“Huh? Kind of early, isn’t it?” Sebastian furrowed his brows and shot a sour glance at the woman. “I ain’t even tired….”

“You will be in the early morning when you gotta wake up,” Irene replied. “Oh…I forgot to tell ya, we’re leaving tomorrow.”

Sebastian nearly stumbled over, only stopping after he caught the ledge of the bed. “Wait, what? Tomorrow? But…that’s so soon!”

“I know….” Irene was quiet for a moment. “It’ll be hard leaving what we’ve called home for six years. But, that’s the kind of thing we gotta do if we wanna survive…or how you put it…live.” With a reassuring smile, Irene turned to Sebastian, “If we can make it to Eden Point, we won’t have t’worry about food no more. I heard there’re pastures as far as the eye can see and a whole new village being built for anyone and everyone who wants to go. Y’know me, I ain’t one to dream——not much use these days, anyway. But what I hear about Eden…well, I think I can give it a chance.”

A grin stretched across Sebastian’s face as he nodded and rushed out the room, barely sparing enough time to face the old lady. “Alright, then, if you don’t need me, I’m gonna get to sleep! I’ll be ready first thing in the morn’!”

Irene managed a smile as she stared at the door a bit longer. She then returned to her dresser, looking down at a wrinkled and tattered photo of her family. “Six years…. It’s been six years…Bash. I hope you’re keeping Papa and Mama company. In the best way I can say this, I hope we don’t have t’see you any time soon. I still miss you, though.” She let out a gentle exhale. Then, the woman took the photo and folded it up, placing it in the front pocket of her jacket.


Sebastian lay awake in his bed. He was usually pretty good at falling asleep within the minute, but every ounce of his body rejected any rest he could offer. He couldn’t help but strum through all the possibilities that lay ahead for him and the future it would bring.

Not even he could fathom those pastures his aunt described to him. It just did not seem possible. Next to the barren and wasted city in which he resided——something that could sustain life? A Sun that shined, despite a world of misery and downfall. It seemed like it was out of a fairytale.

Sebastian wasn’t a religious person, but even he imagined there would be a better chance at seeing the Sun again if he’d just put a bullet through his head. Even so, he had to hope. It was the only thing he had at this point. Before this war broke loose…the world was a place of unimaginable innovation, and just when someone thought something to be impossible, they were wrong. Even with all the dreariness of the withered world, Sebastian had to hold onto the hope that someone out there could engineer a better future for humanity.

Even though his worries festered a bit longer, Sebastian managed to calm himself down enough to fall asleep. There wasn’t much use worrying over something like that, anyway. Nothing else was within his control, and neither would this trip be.


Several hours had passed since Sebastian and Irene headed to the Langford Bunker’s exit. As Irene promised, infantry in the Defense Corps greeted them alongside a few other people who’d signed up for the trip. The rest were distant and disillusioned, much unlike Sebastian and his aunt, but Sebastian respected them enough for joining.

After a brief introduction to the group, they set off for their grand excursion. The last thing Sebastian saw of Langford was the concrete hallway that must have run for several hundred feet. Doors opened and closed, inviting Sebastian to the outside world while alienating him from his past in the bunker. He wondered how all those other people would fare in the trip he was about to take. A bit of comfort washed over Sebastian, reminding him that he’d be one of the people to pave the way for the rest of humanity to live. He liked that idea.

The cold air of the Langford Sector brushed past the resisting bodies as they trudged ahead. There was not much conversation going on between anyone, but that did not indicate anything to Sebastian. Just like him, they had the burning desire to live and see a brighter future. Each and every one of them moved ahead, not knowing what the city would bring to them, ready for anything to come their way.

“Look at this sorry place.” Irene squinted and traced the skyscrapers, shaking her head. “It’s really gone to hell these past few years, eh?”

Sebastian didn’t notice it at first, but as his eyes pried themselves from the rough, barricaded streets, the true damage of what the war had done to the place began to show. Many of the buildings seemed as if they’d fall down at the slightest change of the wind, still somehow standing resolutely through the hell it had endured. Life that once shone from the windows scaling the skyscrapers was now forgotten, and all that was left was an unsure memory of the past.

“We could all die right now, and five hundred years later, no one would know a single thing about this place,” Sebastian whispered, flinching as a few explosions went off in the far distance.

“That truth might come sooner.” A devilish smirk livened Irene’s sullen face.

“Don’t worry about it,” Marcus, one of the infantrymen came to a halt. With a hesitant whisper, he continued, “It’s too far off to concern ourselves with it. That’s the Azure Legion’s mess to clean up. Lucky us, huh?”

His half-hearted attempt to raise the others’ spirits fell flat as they returned to him their empty gazes. Sebastian, just like the others, wasn’t satisfied with that answer. Despite Irene’s attempt to slow him down, he picked up his speed and approached Marcus.

“What’s been going on all this time? What’s this ‘Azure Legion’, anyhow?”

“Nothing too important…” Sebastian’s attention was pulled to someone to the left of him——a man who’d seen much better days than this one. “…just the people saving our asses from extinction, is all.”

“Extinction?” Sebastian jerked his head to Marcus. “Is he serious?”

Others in the group got restless at the sound of that, and Sebastian began to notice. He was always one to stoke the flames, and this wasn’t an exception.

“Dead serious,” answered Marcus. “We haven’t been able to do this earlier because of how risky it was——carving out a path, vetting those who’d be on the envoy, and so on. Even now, it’s a gamble. But, we were given specific instructions by our higher-ups that Eden Point would be our saving grace.”

“But…why would we wanna fight each other to extinction? That don’t make sense,” Sebastian murmured.

“Hey, you’re asking the wrong guy. I’m just a regular guy,” Marcus shrugged and proceeded without any warning. A few others picked up their speed and went after him, Sebastian lagging behind as he tried to ponder Marcus’s answer.

Irene tugged at Sebastian’s shirt and snapped him out of his trance. “Hurry up, now. I don’t wanna get lost. If they don’t know what the hell’s up, I doubt we’ll do any better on our own.”

“Something’s not right here,” Sebastian trudged on.

“You’re a bright one,” Irene cackled. “And here I was thinkn’ everything was just peachy.”

“Aw hell, you know what I mean, old lady.” Sebastian cracked a smile, then trying to erase it and get to his point. “But, hey…let’s not get too close to them. I wanna stay a few steps ahead of ‘em…or behind.”

“Hmph…we’ll get lost that way,” Irene grumbled. “But, it ain’t like I’ve got much of a choice. These old bones can’t go no faster than this.”


The hours dragged on until dawn became midday. The only reason Sebastian could tell that was because of his trusty old pocket watch. The Sun wasn’t much help. In reality, the sky had more dust in it than the Earth probably had people. Just a few sprinkles of that precious resource——light——rained down on the desolate city, leaving Sebastian grasping in vain for more.

Distant explosions made sure to keep their walk interesting, but after the first few, everyone had gotten used to them.

A few people wanted to go back, but there wasn’t much use in that by now. The group must have been over halfway to Eden Point. At this point, they would either die on the way to Eden or make it there. Sebastian preferred those choices over Langford any day, if he was being honest.

“Hey, any guess on when we’re gonna get there——y’know, like an E.T.A., or something?” Sebastian yelled, but his question bounced back without an answer, sinking into the depths of the city’s silence. “Hmm?” He turned to Irene, whose eyes were elsewhere. “What’s going on here?”

“I dunno,” said Irene. “They sure are taking their sweet-ass time. Why don’t you go on and see what they’re up to….”

“Right,” Sebastian scurried off to the front of the group.

“And…ask them for a quick break while you’re at it! I need’t get some water outta my bag…. Damn, why’d I have to pack it so far down there?”

Sebastian rushed to the front, his heart pounding a bit faster than usual and stomach fluttering. “What’re y’all doing up here——?”

“Shh!” Marcus grabbed the boy’s mouth and pulled him behind a chunk of rubble. “It’ll hear you.”

“It?” The muffled word somehow slipped out of Sebastian’s mouth.

“Yes…it. God dammit…” he shot a glance over the barricade of rock and tucked his head behind it again. “I didn’t think we’d be getting a visit from one of these. They’re usually out in the Murphy Sector.”

“Hey, now, you’re not making sense!” Sebastian whispered. “What’re you talking ‘bout?”

Marcus’s eyes darkened as he fumbled with his gun’s safety, his fingers slipping and missing their target.

After a few more seconds of Marcus’s struggling, Sebastian grew tired and shook his shoulders. “Answer, dammit! What’s goin’ on here?”

“It’s one of those Hellhounds!” Marcus’s words left with little force, wavering in the air for a moment.

“Huh?” Sebastian could feel the moisture in his throat evaporate as he attempted to get a look at the alleged monster.

“No, don’t get up from here.” Marcus shook his head as the light escaped his eyes. “If it sees you——”

Sebastian shot a glance over at Irene, and worry flooded his veins. The woman was still fiddling with her water bottle and probably had no idea what was going on. “Aunt Irene——”

“Stay put!” Marcus whispered. “I’ll get her. Just…whatever you do, don’t let it see you.”

Before Sebastian could address that, Marcus, got up to his feet in a crouched manner and proceeded toward Irene.

“Hurry the hell up!” Sebastian demanded.

He took this moment to search the street, and by the looks of it, others were crouched behind varying pieces of rubble, too——even the soldiers.

He searched his pocket and backpack until he pulled out something he had been stowing away for a while. It was an old dagger his mom gave him the last time they saw each other. She told him to use it when absolutely necessary. He never saw any use for it in Langford. The place had always been too safe for that. But now…he silently thanked his mom for that decision of hers all those years ago. “Not sure how much this’ll help, but if it comes down to it——”

“Agh!” A scream erupted from the distance, pulling Sebastian’s attention to the street. He knew exactly who it was, too.

“Aunt Irene!” Sebastian bellowed. “Marcus!”

A loud grumble exploded from the center of the street, and before long, Sebastian could see a terrifying silhouette sweep through the barricades. Its size was beyond anything Sebastian had seen from an animal in-person, and its speed was even greater.

Before he knew what he was doing, he rushed to his feet and bolted toward his aunt, who was frozen from fear at the sight of what was barreling toward her. Sebastian finally caught the sight of this Hellhound. If he’d harbored any doubt about its existence or awful nature before, it was soon quelled by the monster’s appearance. Standing about six feet tall, its massive frame pulled any remaining light out of the area. The only thing darker than the city was its fur, pitch as black and matted. And, the only reason Sebastian could tell which was it was facing were two crimson orbs that pierced through the blackened cloud of smoke.

Like two spotlights, its eyes stuck to their target and readied it for its next attack.

At this point, Sebastian had no idea if he would make it to Irene. The woman was unable to move out the way, and the Hellhound was unwilling to change its direction. It was dead-set on attacking his aunt.

“Dammit! Marcus, do something!” Sebastian leapt toward them with all the strength he could muster.

“Gah…don’t tell me how to do my job!” Marcus held up his gun and began to unleash a fiery lashing of ammo into the monster’s body. On the bright side, it was clear Marcus was well-equipped to defend the people from danger, but that ‘bright side’ was about as “bright” as the midday Sun. Those sprinkles of light Sebastian saw soon washed away as the dark, demonic force of the Hellhound crashed through the flurry of bullets.

It went through Marcus and took the man down without a second thought. Sebastian was horrified. The Hellhound was unstoppable.

A ghastly sight of blood painted Sebastian’s vision. He was nearly too shocked to go on, but his adrenaline wouldn’t let that happen, and before Sebastian could react, it propelled him forward.

“Aunt Irene! Get out the way!” Sebastian maneuvered under the Hellhound and stood in between the beast and his aunt. At this point, the woman had fallen over, alerting Sebastian’s senses and pushing him to a point of pure instinct.

The monster released a deafening roar into the sky——a noise one could only describe to be a mixture of a bear’s growl and a high-pitched scream from a child.

It froze Sebastian in his tracks.

The monster took one of its paws and swept it toward Sebastian. Within a moment’s notice, Sebastian was on the ground, one of his arms mutilated by the creature’s powerful blow and the other trembling as it searched for his dagger.

Sebastian could not feel anything. All that worried him was his aunt’s wellbeing, which he had no way of confirming nor ensuring. He murmured, tears pushing their way out of his blurred eyes, “Dammit…dammit, what the hell’s happening?”

“Sebastian, get up, now!” Irene’s voice broke through, and before Sebastian could react, the Hellhound leapt toward Sebastian again, ready to strike down with a decisive blow.

That blow didn’t come, though, as Irene came to the rescue, swinging Sebastian’s lost knife at the monster’s skull with remarkable force. The creature stumbled a few feet back until it came to a halting stop, releasing a scream more powerful and chilling than the last.

Sebastian, still terrified that it would lunge toward him, finally found the strength to go on and struggled to his feet, backing up toward his aunt and holding his arm out in front of her. “Stay back!”

The two watched the creature struggle a few more seconds until its body began to degrade into a misty substance, withering away until nothing was left. The knife had done the trick…something those bullets were incapable of doing. While that stuck out as odd to Sebastian, he was unable to address it any further.

The silence ensued a bit longer until Sebastian could feel his arm pulsating with a sharp dullness that captured the rest of his body’s strength. “Gah…” he knelt over, clutching the bloody stump with his free arm Before he could address what just happened, Sebastian could feel his consciousness bleeding out of him, and his vision went black.


“Sebastian…hey, Sebastian, wake up….”

“Um, ma’am, I’m not sure if that’s a good idea. It’s best to let him wake up when he’s able——”

“Put your hand on me one more time, and you’ll be the one asleep. Now, let me talk to my nephew!” A voice cut through the air, returning to a whisper. “Sebastian…hey Sebastian. Wake up, now. No nephew of mine’s gonna sleep for five damn days straight.”

Sebastian could feel a weak tingling throughout his body. Nothing much had made him aware of his existence than that…and a few muffled noises in the recesses of his mind. He let out a long breath and tried in vain to move his fingers. Nothing. Just like before.

Suddenly, it flashed through his mind——blood, bleakness, blight——a horrible creature. The hellhound. My arm. Marcus.

He stopped, and the worry grew throughout his chest, sending pulses of life throughout his body. His body seized and he pushed himself up to an upright position. “Aunt Irene!”

Sebastian gasped for air as his blurred eyes scanned the unfamiliar room. It was warm——unlike anything he’d ever seen before. He felt for anything he could reach. Below him…the sheets. They were soft. He pinched and rolled them around between his fingers for a bit, settling as they sunk into the bed’s comfort.

Then, a clammy hand reached for his shoulder and startled him. Sebastian’s head jerked to the side. Although he was mostly out of it, he could finally the person with more and more detail with every second going by. “Aunt Irene?”

“We’ll I’ll be damned like a soul in hell,” said Irene.

“That’s certainly odd.” A voice formed from the other corner of the room as the figure it belonged to approached Sebastian. “Mr. Lindloff, can you hear us? Are you okay?”

“Cut it out, now…” Irene lifted a hand. “Just thirty seconds awake, and you’re trying to confuse him even more.”

“Right, Ms. Lindloff, my apologizes. We’ll wait a few moments for you two to talk.”

Sebastian could finally make out the full details of his aunt’s face. On her forehead was a bandage, immediately alerting the boy. “What’s goin’ on?” Sebastian murmured. “I can hardly see your face.”

“Oh? This?” Irene cackled. “Just a bandage. I hit the ground pretty hard five days ago ‘gainst that creature.” She patted her head and then reached out to her nephew. “Hey, you okay, now?”

“Where are we?” Sebastian tried to get up, but his aunt stopped him, keeping him in place.

“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you. The doctors’ll kill me…or you’ll kill yourself before they can do much about it,” she howled with laughter and shifted through a few items on the nightstand next to Sebastian. “Oh, right…here’s some food I brought ya.”

Presenting a plate of corn and fried potatoes, Irene placed it on the table next to a glass of water. Sebastian forced an eyebrow upward as he watched the unfolding events.

“Am I dead?” A smile curled up on his face, and he reached out for his food. Disappointment struck him as his right arm didn’t react. All that was left was a stump from where he was attacked by that Hellhound.

“You almost were,” Irene whispered. “I’d say you’re in a pretty good place right now, though. You’ll be all right in a couple days.”

“Where are we?”

“Oh, right, I should probably tell ya,” Irene grabbed the plate and skewered a few chunks of potato. “Open wide.”

“What, am I a kid or something?” Sebastian smirked, prying his lips open as Irene forced the food through.

“Shut up now and eat,” Irene grumbled, poking a few more potatoes before Sebastian could chew the first lot. “You’re gonna need some strength to walk this old lady home.”

“Huh? So we didn’t make it, then?” Sebastian’s eyes darted from the food to his aunt.

“Don’t talk with a full mouth, now,” Irene murmured and wiped Sebastian’s face off with a napkin. “When did I say we didn’t make it? Can’t you tell by the taters ‘n corn? Sebastian…we ain’t in Langford no more.”

“Then where are we?” Sebastian’s eyes focused a bit longer until he could see through the windows ahead of him. A gentle glow spilled through the panes and cast itself across the wooden floor.

“Well…” Irene moved to the window and pried it open, letting a calming breeze take rest in the room. “Eden Point…or Eden Village, that is.”

Sebastian’s heart stopped. He didn’t know what to think. He felt a sudden urge of peace wash over him, but what really confused him was why it was so peaceful. Only ten miles away from Langford, and for some reason, everything seemed to peaceful. Where were the explosions? What about the dust in the sky? Why was it so easy to breathe?

“Hey, now, I see that look in your eyes,” Irene waved her hand. “Don’t ask me a damn thing. I dunno nothin’ more than you do. Don’t worry ‘bout it. This place is great, Sebastian. When you get better, I’ll show you around.” She winked.

“What about the others?” Sebastian demanded. “What about the others at Langford?”

Irene cracked a smile and approached her nephew. “Oh, you. You nearly met death, and it’s like you haven’t missed a beat. I’m hearing a few rumors about the war ending. No clue what that means for everyone, but I know a bunch of people ‘re gonna be here soon. I also know you wanna analyze the hell out of this, but you oughta relax for now. There’ll be plenty of time for that later on.”

Sebastian stared past his aunt and ignored her words. He could not help but ask those questions. Sure, he was grateful he was safe, but there was a lot he wanted to know…and he was almost sure most of that would go unanswered. He could try, at least.

“Alright, Mr. Lindloff,” the doctor moved to the vacant seat and addressed Sebastian. “Let’s begin with a few questions, then, shall we?”

While Sebastian wasn’t looking, the old woman beheld her nephew with relief and a gentle smile, a tear creeping out her eye. No doubt that boy’ll be searching ’til the day he dies. He’s as stubborn as his old man…and his old man. It’s a shame I ain’t allowed to tell him….

Fumbling with a folded piece of paper in her pocket, Irene pulled out the photo of her family and beheld it with the same familiarity that she did so many years ago. That boy even has your same wicked smiles, Bash and Papa.

With a smile of her own, Irene pressed the photo to her chest and took a deep breath. We humans get another chance. Let’s not waste it….

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