Two years ago, I would have given anything to be so carefree like the kids I saw playing in the playground

a week ago. Two years ago, I would have given anything to be able to live without a care in the world, oblivious to everything but my own life. But that was two years ago. This was now. Now, I fought for my country, my life, and for my loyalty. I wanted to be involved. Two years ago, it would have been different. But this was now. “Tristan, we’re almost ready to go,” a man’s voice shouted at me. I looked up calmly from the cup cradled in my hands, filled almost to the brim with coffee that I vaguely remembered that I was supposed to be drinking. I stood up from the stool I was half-perched on and shoved the untouched coffee into the hands of a passing soldier and made my way over to the front of the garage where my team was assembled, ready to go. The five men on my team bristled with weapons and supplies all strapped onto them with multiple polyester straps and steel buckles and hooks. Bulky helmets sat on their heads. I almost laughed at the sight. To me, they almost looked like bulky ogres ready to go on a hunt for who knows what ogres hunt for. My name wasn’t Tristan. It was just a codename that I had been assigned with so the men didn’t know my real name. Of course, I can’t say what my real name is. It might get me captured or killed if anyone knew. But despite that, I longed shout out to the war-like world I was in that my name wasn’t Tristan. But I can’t. “All right, men. Today, we’re going on a scouting and reconnaissance mission. It’s simple and easy – we’re in and we’re out. Tristan is to lead,” the captain snapped at us in his usual way. Everyone glanced my way. I was a stranger to them, dressed in my usual black gear. They were all dressed in hues of green and grey, to blend in with their outdoor surroundings. While I had black hair and blue eyes, they had pale or brown hair and brown or green eyes. I was a stranger to them indeed. “Tristan, get your gear on.” “My gear is on, sir,” I replied. The scowling green-eyed captain turned at me. “It’s going to be cold out there, Tristan. Get a jacket on at least,” he snapped, holding out a green jacket. I scowled at him then. “You’re not my mother,” I told him before reaching behind me and hitting the red button that opened the garage door. The captain snorted in amusement and tossed the jacket in the direction of a passing soldier. “Fine, it’s your health,” he said as the garage’s door rumbled open. “Go,” I hissed and my green-clad team streamed out behind me into the snow. As I jogged with my team to the tree line through the snow, I knotted my jaws together to keep them from chattering together. Then I smiled as the thought of the snow took me back three years ago, back to when I was only about eighteen. “Snow!” I had whispered when I had seen the first few snowflakes that littered the grass of my home. Where I had grown up, there was no snow, only a bitter coldness. I reached out and touched a flake and it instantly melted with the heat of my finger. I smiled as I felt the watery coolness disperse on my warm skin. Then I went back inside to wait for more snow as the snow began to fall faster and faster.

“Quit dreaming, Mannings, and lead,” the irritable captain snapped at me, bringing me out of my thoughts. I accidentally let my jaw loosen to snap something back at him but then instead, my teeth chattered instead. He smirked. I knotted my jaw again and ran to the front, just as he had ordered. I didn’t wear a jacket because I knew I would warm up later when I had been jogging for a while. I didn’t want to be sweating like an idiot wearing too much clothing like the other men would be in a while. “Sir, there’s something up ahead,” one of the men suddenly called out. Everyone else dropped down low onto their stomachs. The captain and I crawled out to the man who had spotted something using our elbows and then we stopped beside him. “What’ve we got?” the captain asked. Then a memory struck me from several years ago, one that I hadn’t thought about for a while. “What have we got?” a child’s voice – my sister’s, I realized – asked. I remembered now. We were playing “Soldier”. “We have three enemy troops coming our way,” my younger and excitable brother shouted. “Get ready to shoot!” We all pulled up our imaginary guns. “Fire!” “BANG BANG BANG!” the three of us shouted. Then we jumped up and did a little dance of victory. We all laughed joyfully at our imaginary enemy’s defeat. I smiled grimly to myself. Oh, Crystal, Jacob, if only you could see your fellow soldier now, I thought. My brother and sister were at home, hopefully at school. “What do you think, Mannings?” the captain asked, gesturing down at the scene below us. I couldn’t see much in the glare of the sun and the fact that it was too far away so I pulled out my binoculars from its pouch at my waist and peered through them down at the scene before us. Tanks rolled by groups of tents while men that reminded me of the men on those war video games like Call of Duty walked around the camp with guns strapped over their backs or rested on their shoulders. I counted about a group of forty men on foot, three hummers, and two tanks in the camp. Suddenly, a tank’s head swung around and I scooted back off the edge and my team followed me just as quickly, without question. There was a muffled boom. “Take cover!” I shouted, winding my wrist in the binocular strap. There was no need to be quiet now. We scrambled for shelter. There was an explosion behind us and several men who had fallen behind went flying by with a scream. I swore and crawled to the nearest man and put a finger to his neck to feel for his pulse. His pulse was fluttering and barely visible. “Robert,” I said quietly into his ear. His eyes fluttered open and one of his hands weakly clutched at mine in terror. “Don’t let me die, Tristan,” the young man whisper-screamed. He struggled with himself for a moment and tried to sit up. I checked his wounds and saw that jagged pieces of rock that had exploded out of the ground when the missile launched by the tank had hit had hit him, going completely through his bullet-proof, but not rock-proof, armor. “I won’t let you die, Robert. I’ll get you home,” I told the frightened man calmly, offering a smile. He smiled back weakly at my words. I knew it was too late for him now. He was going to die.

“Don’t let me die….” were the last words he said before his eyes closed and with a sigh, he left the world. I hoisted Robert’s limp body onto my shoulder and ran after the rest of my team. We reached the garage and of the six people that had gone out today, only three of us, the captain, me, and another young man, Kyle, whose face was streaked with tears of grief for his friends, made it back. Soldiers came to us and took the bodies of our fallen comrades from us. Kyle’s tears had run out by then he sat in a stupor on a pile of crates as the medical team came to clean us up. It struck me as odd that wherever or whenever a war is, the results would be the same – grief, terror, sorrow, and defeat. Just like when my father left to fight in the skirmishes between two little countries, he was all full of pride. But after he came back, he had this haunted look in his face. That was when we found out that we had lost our uncle and our cousin, our uncle’s son, to the war. But that was ten years ago. This was now.
Short Summary of a Briefing on the Current War: Ten years ago, our country came out of a cold war into a very heated war, both civil and with an outside country known as the Cold Zone. They were two separate wars for two different purposes – the civil war was enacted by those who believed that our current Free-People’s government should be run by religious governments; the outside war was started because of the cold war. The Cold Zone had picked up radio chatter about devastating weapons that our government had control of. They had immediately went to war with us because they didn’t think it was right for us to have such power, even though no one was allowed to use it, not even the government. As a result, we were fighting a war that no one could win.

Once again, I sat in that garage, a cup of coffee in my hands. My foot was propped up on Military Registration _____________________________________________________ Registered Name: _Pellings, Tristan____ Gender: _Male_ Date of birth: N/D_ Designated Military Rank: _Undercover Specialist_ Rank Type: [x] AF [] M [] S Disabilities: _(None)_ Military-Involved Relations: Uncle and cousin (Both deceased) Graduation Location: Linden Air Force/Military Base_ Age When Registered: _16_ For Military Use Only Assigned Squad: Captain Renolds_ Squad Rank: Lead_ a pile of boxes. I was about to raise the cup to my lips when I felt that someone was watching me so I looked up and met the eyes of the commander of the regiment. He strode over as soon as I spotted him and sat down next to me without an invitation. “Tristan,” he greeted me with a nod. “Sir,” I returned. There was silence for a moment. “Listen, Tristan, I wouldn’t have sent your squad out there if I knew that half of its members were going to be killed. Our intel was wrong – they said that there was only a foot regiment of men out there, not a foot regiment plus some extra heavy backup consisting of tanks and other vehicles,” he said quietly to me, looking down at his hands.

“Don’t worry about it, sir, we’re at war – lives are lost. The men who went out there with me knew what they were doing and what they were risking,” I replied. It was the traditional answer you gave to a commander who was apologizing for the loss and death of the members of your team. The commander seemed to know it too because he looked up slightly but before he could say anything else, I set the cup of untouched coffee down and left. As I stepped outside into the blizzard that was whipping up outside, I turned on my earpiece. “Sir, when can I leave this place?” I snarled into it. I was talking to the man on the other end, my superior officer that I only knew as “Sir”. I still didn’t know why he wanted me here on this base in the first place. “Be patient, Tristan,” he said quietly and calmly. “I can’t stand here while more men die,” I told him. “Either you get me out of here on another assignment or I’m leaving.” “All right, I’ll accept the first one, though you won’t be leaving,” he said again, quietly and calmly like before. I waited for him to continue. “I would like you to gather some intelligence on several people that you may or may not know. You must not let anyone know that you are doing this or let yourself be caught.” “I understand, sir.” “Good. You will be watching

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