Translucent Prologue

There are legends. Legends of a figure in the hills, in the shadows. Savior of the oppressed, assassin of the innocent.

A figure, cloaked and golden-fleshed, their eyes glowing a piercing sapphire as they stared down into the valley below. They clasped the hand of a deathly thin young girl, five or six in appearance. One of the girl’s eyes was a glazed white, the other a brilliant blue like her companion. She looked up at the figure, pulling at their cloak and willing them forward, but they hesitated. The terrain hid the two of them for only a moment of rest, but their eyes hung over the valley as they scanned over their next obstacle.

Concrete spires and stretches of wire split the land, desert on one side, endless hills on the other. Within the safety of the gleaming fence, an army enjoyed a moment of peace. Fires dotted between spreading white tents, blue flags flying above them. The sun was just falling beneath the horizon as soldiers marched into the base, each dressed in a tan uniform with a blue armband of loyalty and a gun across their chest. They gathered around fires, laughing and eating their rations, a war post disguised as a camping trip as they remained serenely unaware of the figures above their heads.

The figure plotted in their mind, scouring through options, different routes, hidden passages…They swallowed. “We have to go through the camp.” The girl stared up at them, her blue eye wide. The figure crouched to the girl’s height, looking her in the eye. “Listen. You have to stay quiet. We just have to make it past this valley, then we can find a safe place, okay? If they catch me, or… put me to sleep, just run. Run as fast as you can away and toward the sun, like we’ve been doing. Don’t stop. Understand? Do not stop, whatever you do.” The girl nodded, and she clasped her arms around the older. The figure rubbed the girl’s shoulder, holding onto the moment. They stood, taking a deep breath. “Stay behind me.” They reached to their waist, gripping onto a dagger. They looked down one more time at the girl behind her, and the two began the descent down the hill.

At the base of the slope, a web of wire loomed high above them. The figure held up the dagger and ran her finger over the metal, and the blade glowed red with energy. They swept the blade in a circle across the links, cutting a disk straight from the metal –

“Stop!”

The figure spun on the spot and stared down the barrel of a gun. Beside them, the girl sucked in a breath, but her mouth sealed in her scream. “Stand down!” the soldier behind the weapon barked. “Hands up! Get away from the fence!” The figure’s grip tightened around the red dagger, but they held back, weighing the urge to attack against their mind. They listened behind them for the rustle of reinforcements, but their focus shifted back. The soldier had stopped barking. He stared down at the two, his eyes narrowing. “You,” he said under his breath. He turned to the side, beginning to open his mouth again –

The dagger flew at him. His eyes widened in the second as he flung himself aside. The blade skimmed his fatigues, opening an incision no bigger than a paper cut. His skin flushed an ivory white. His eyes bulged and his body stiffened. The corpse collapsed into the grass, the gun clattering after it. The girl breathed out, relaxing and looking up to her companion in relief. The figure only reached out to retrieve their dagger, gripping it tight. They turned back to their work.

The girl crawled through the wire, soon followed by the figure. Safe on the other side, they pushed the cut section back up against the fence, melting it back in place with a swipe of their blade. They clutched the dagger as the two retreated along the tent-lined edge of camp. The body stared skyward on the other side, untouched and unthought-of.

They ran along the fence line, hidden in the shadows of the tents and only stopping for the occasional passing patrol. But then the tents ended, and a long gap stood between them and the safety of the shadows. Armed soldiers strode back and forth at the clearing. The taller looked around at all angles, trying to find a way around. There was always a way, there had to be. She tensed, her breath caught like a panicked animal, but then she closed her eyes. The red glow subsided from her blade as she loosened her grip, and her eyes opened, the blue faded.

She dropped down next to the young girl again and stared straight into her mismatched eyes. “Take this,” she said, pressing the handle of the dagger into the tiny hands. “Take it, and don’t let go of it. When I’m gone, and all the men out there are gone, you do exactly what I’ve been telling you to do.” She gripped the girl by her arms, her voice terse. “You run, and don’t stop for anything. Anything. You have to. For me.” The girl shivered, her eye wide. She rested her chin on the older’s shoulder and whispered into her ear. The older smiled, and they held each other, clinging to the moment of serenity. Then she stood slowly and pulled a small handgun from her belt. She looked down one last time at the younger and gave a final, grave smile, and she raced out from behind the tent canvas to the line of soldiers, firing as she ran.

Shots rang across the valley. The battle had begun.

– N

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