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Here we go again. I decided to tear apart my 13 rewritten chapters and start over again because who doesn't want to read the same shit over and over a million times? Anyway, this is the prologue. As always, concrit is appreciated. Rip me to shreds -- I don't mind.

Ready Or Not

"Are you positive you know what you're doing?" I brush the sweat from my brow. Summer's nearly gone, but it's still as hot as ever. Except the weather's not the reason I'm lathered like my pa's prize mare after a hard ride.

What in the sweltering suns have I gotten myself into?

"Wiring? It's so simple my brother Brendan could do it." Kalen grins up at me, his hands still hard at work. "Building it was another story, but Devin helped me." Kalen's eyes are clear and untroubled as the cloudless sky above, and they shine with admiration. "If Devin says it's going to work, it will. He gave me detailed instructions for this part, just to be safe -- a little too detailed. I must have repeated them a hundred times before he finally let me leave."

Kalen drops his eyes to the neatly bundled wires before him, his forehead scrunched in concentration. I wipe my clammy palms on my skirt and stare upward. He's told me the legends of the "gods", benevolent beings who live high in the heavens and watch over the people below them -- at least the ones who believe.

If only I believed, but there aren't any gods on my side of the fence. We've only got the government to look out for us. Its eyes are everywhere, or so we're told. It's supposed to be a comfort, but the government's not going to help us now.

"It's ready. Are you?" Kalen chews at his lip as he looks up at me -- it's the first sign of uncertainty I've seen. Then he grins mischievously, picking up the bullhorn and handing it over. "Last chance to back out."

And do what, exactly? Marry a man I despise, or refuse him at the risk of being locked away for life? My mind's made up. I reach for the bullhorn and raise it to my lips, willing my voice not to tremble. "Attention, all citizens. Please gather at the border by the gate." I repeat my words, and they echo across the empty plain.

The rusted gate's been locked as long as anyone can remember. No one ever bothers to go near it anymore. Before I can blink, faces begin to appear on either side of the fence. They've been taught all their lives to obey, and they do. Even the questions that rise up from the crowd are little more than a whisper.

"Why have you called us here, child?" one of the braver ones finally asks aloud.

"Don't call me a child. I'm of age, and so's my friend." I reach for Kalen's hand, and he squeezes it gently. The whispers give way to a dull roar. "We're old enough to question. To demand this foolish War end now."

Bodies press closer to the gate, their voices growing louder. Angrier. My stomach churns with fear, and my throat's as parched as the desert sands beneath my feet as I open my mouth to speak again.

Except I don't get the chance. The crowd parts, and even its relentless buzzing's not enough to cover the sound of boots marching absolutely in sync. A group of armed soldiers emerges, pointing their weapons at us as one. They've all got hair as blonde as Kalen's, and their blue eyes are icier than the coldest winter wind. One of them steps forward.

"You're under arrest in accordance with code 666781-2222 of martial law -- tampering with the border."

"Stand down, soldier." Kalen lets go of my hand, grabbing the bullhorn from me as he holds the detonator high. He speaks again, his voice high and squeaky. "We've got a bomb, and we're not afraid to use it."

The crowd buzzes like a swarm of enraged trooper bees.

"Everyone remain calm." The leader drops his weapon, and his men follow suit in perfect unison. "I repeat, remain calm. Let the boy say his piece." The people fall silent fast enough to make me shiver.

"Do you even know what you're fighting for?" Kalen's words ring out across the sea of faces, frozen in fear.

No one's got a chance to answer. There's an ear-splitting crash and the fence goes up in flames.

(Next chapter is here)
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