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From the highway the sprawling 5-acre complex looked like any other non-descript industrial park, an odd array of a dozen rusting warehouses with steel roofs painted in a patchwork assortment of faded pastels. A sign at the installation’s main entrance described the facility generically as an “Electronics Manufacturing Center”. It was a place that Sebastian had visited countless times over the previous six months, cumulatively spending days of his life wandering its walkways, roaming the service road that snaked through the interior of the site’s 12-foot-high walled-perimeter. 


Today’s visit was the same as all the others. Go left. Then right. Then another left. At least one more right. Pass after pass after pass, Sebastian worked his way toward a specific building within the complex’s northeastern quadrant named Support 2.  


Support 2 had almost become a second home for Sebastian. He knew everything there was to know about the building and what went on there. Let’s just say electronics weren’t the only thing being manufactured inside...


As he rounded the corner to check out the latest that was happening outside Support 2’s entry control point, someone yanked Sebastian’s shoulder and pointed a Kalashnikov rifle at his forehead.


-Come with me intruder, you’re under arrest. 


-What, wait, where am I? Who am I?


-Sir please come with me, it’s time to get off. We arrived in DC 20 minutes ago.


-Jesus Christ.


It was 06:51L (11:51Z) and Sebastian awoke from his nap in complete disarray. The train car was vacant, aside from the attendant who had just shaken him to consciousness. 


Sebastian had less than an hour to get from Union Station to the western end of the Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. He had lost precious time.


He would have to run. 


Sebastian disembarked from Train 47 and scurried toward the platform exit where security awaited to check his papers. The guard looked at the photo of the man in the fake driver’s license that read ‘Amory Blaine’ and then stared intensely at Sebastian for two or three seconds.


-Date of birth?


-July 5, 1991


-You look familiar.


The pot-bellied fellow continued to study Sebastian’s face for what felt like an eternity. Growing up Sebastian too had been fat. He began to disassociate as his concern crescendoed that his cover had already been compromised before he had even stepped foot outside of the station.  


Over-eating had once served as a way for Sebastian to regulate his anxiety. As a kid all the way through his teenage years–when he performed poorly on a school assignment, or was teased on the bus ride home, or his parents fought– Sebastian would eat copious amounts of ice cream and other sugary snacks to alleviate his distress. 


For most of Sebastian’s childhood, he far exceeded the appropriate weight for his height. ‘Chunky’ is one adjective you could have used to describe his appearance. ‘Obese’ was probably a more accurate qualifier.


Sebastian’s youthful rotundity had a profound impact on his psychology later as an adult. At some point around the same time he left his childhood home, he realized how damaging this habit was to his physical and mental well-being and pursued an alternative coping mechanism.


Instead of nervously shoving himself full of bags of chips, he began compulsively shoving piles of weights at the gym. Exercise became a new release valve for Sebastian to unwind, albeit a much healthier, more effective strategy for managing his nervousness instead of eating until he could barely breathe.


For the rest of his life, Sebastian daily would spend hours lifting weights and going on jogs. 


-1, 2, 3, 4…


-Are you done?




-Dude I need this machine.


Sebastian had just sat down on the bench press and only completed his first set when the burly 6’3” muscle bro approached to kick him off. 




This happened almost once every gym visit. What was it about Sebastian that made others feel like it was ok to just push him around? He assumed it was his friendly face and small stature.


The sense of entitlement behind the demand upset Sebastian. It was emblematic of an impulse deeply rooted within the human condition, stronger in some compared to others, to take from others without consent, to dominate, to conquer, to bully.


Inklings of indignation began bubbling within Sebastian’s inner core as he glowered at the man in the red stringer towering over him. It was a sensation that he had experienced with increasing frequency and severity in the years leading up to and after the start of the war.


For months Sebastian, along with Avery and the rest of their colleagues, watched the preparations for invasions that world leaders assumed they had carried out successfully in secret, out of sight of the public’s eye. These rulers had crafted deliberate and detailed plans to create conflict where there was previously none, inventing new narratives entirely from fiction of false historical wrongdoings that needed to be righted, to take the lives and lands of others without their consent to supposedly restore the dignity of their own people, to dominate, to conquer, just like a bully at the gym, except these bros were armed with nuclear weapons instead of six packs.


Report after report, image after image, lie after lie, an alternative reality was fabricated to justify the slaughtering of entire nations of innocent people absent any real provocation.




Why did everything have to turn out this way? Why couldn’t everyone just respect the rights of others and leave one another alone? Why did there have to be conflict instead of peace, aggression instead of appreciation for the differences of others? Why did so many people suffer and die? 


Why couldn’t Sebastian just work out and be left alone? He was minding his own business.

When Sebastian was younger, he would avoid conflict at any expense. If a gym bro wanted his machine, it was his to take.  But as he grew older, and wiser, and more confident in his beliefs, he realized this wasn't a sustainable strategy.


What happens when you don’t confront a bully? What happens when you ignore a problem?


It just grows bigger.


If only we had risen together to stop this outcome before it was too late.


-This doesn’t belong to you, I just sat down, you’ll need to wait.


-Excuse me?


-Sorry I meant that bag doesn’t belong to me, I’m not sure whose it is, I just got to the gate.


Sebastian tensed his calf muscles as he readied himself to run to Avery’s rescue, regardless of whether the guard would let him pass. Years of weekly squats at the gym were about to pay off, as if Sebastian had been training his body for this moment his entire life. He would undoubtedly outpace his oversized adversary, the bully for once conquered by the bullied–-or at least, that’s what Sebastian kept imagining to reassure himself and prevent his panic from externally presenting, which would only raise further alarm.


The reality was that if the guard had realized who Sebastian really was, Sebastian wouldn’t have anywhere to run. He would have been shot on the spot.


-Have a good morning.


Sebastian headed straight for the exit. 


As Sebastian blazed through the terminal beginning to build his pace, but not yet quite at full running speed in an effort to avoid creating a scene, Union Station’s imperialist grand hall imposed from overhead like a giant sarcophagus temporarily trapping Sebastian for a moment in the afterlife of a time that had long passed, an artifact of the power of a former empire’s strength manifested in the greatness of the buildings through which its leaders traveled. 


It dawned on Sebastian fleetingly that the vanity of the station’s architecture, a deliberate design to remind posterity of the terrible consequences of division, had failed in its purpose to instill the fear of war from happening again. The union of a previously great nation was in tatters once more. History had repeated itself.  


How could this have happened again? Why did everything have to turn out this way?


Sebastian finally made it through the bronze-plated exit doors and egressed the station at 07:07L (12:07Z). Time was running out. The rain had stopped by then and a soft glow emanated from the horizon. The darkness was beginning to break. 


Without any further delay Sebastian began the last lap of his race to the LZ. He began to run as fast as he ever had before in his life, as if his life depended on it.


As if Avery’s life depended on it, which it did.


Across Columbus Circle, up to the Capitol, down to the Mall Sebastian sprinted 270 degrees due west toward the Lincoln Memorial. He was getting nearer to his end game, but he still felt so far away.  


Sebastian’s muscles began to ache, his breathing increasingly labored, every ounce of energy left in his body was dedicated solely toward the task at hand.  


Maybe he could have chosen to ignore this problem.  Maybe he could have just left Avery behind. 


No, it wasn’t a question of whether he would or he wouldn’t. A singular image burned in his mind: the moment he would finally be where Avery was, when he would finally be home.


At 7:35L (12:35Z) Sebastian scrambled up the mound at the base of the Washington Monument, the obelisk pointing straight up toward the heavens reminding him of a TEL ready for launch.


At the base, a vantage point from which he had sweeping views across all of Washington DC, Sebastian stopped dead in his tracks, his attention enraptured by movement in the skies as a series of unexpected events transpired.


To the west, Sebastian first observed Air Force One flying over the Potomac River. Since the war’s start, all air traffic in the US had been banned, the President’s distinctly marked baby blue and white 747 included. It immediately struck him as odd. 


From the right corner of his eye, Sebastian sensed additional aerial disturbances. North of his position, approximately 3000 feet directly above the White House, there was an unidentified pill-shaped object suspended in mid-air. For the first few seconds it hovered in place, and then began to leap impossibly across the Mall in every direction– up, down, left, right, diagonally– doing a series of aerobatic maneuvers that completely defied the laws of physics, spanning the entire length of the Mall in some moments instantaneously. Then the object vanished.


Finally the sky erupted in willowing tears of fire as lights across the city went dark. The power grid was down. The entire constellation was falling.


They say you hear it before you see it coming. In this case, that wasn’t true.


You had to see it to believe it with your eyes.



The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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