[Earth] The Spring After

    • [Earth] The Spring After

      February 2012, eight months after war

      Eight long months since Earth had emerged from the crucible.

      What came out from the war only sparsely resembled the society of a year or two years ago. Cities had fallen—East City was still a mass grave that would require years of repairs to clear away the rubble and corpses of the fallen. Satan City’s downtown districts had been destroyed, but even with its heart gutted, the small metropolis had endured thanks to the efforts of a few valiant warriors.

      Central City, once the de facto capital of the Earth, had been torn to pieces during the climactic battle of the war. The urban warfare had claimed the lives of thousands along with the majority of the city’s military, political, and economic leadership. As one of the senior leaders left after the bloodletting, General Gauger found himself pressed into an unwelcomed role as a shepherd to a shattered flock.

      In the aftermath, the center of the planet’s power and influence had shifted to the south and west. South City and West City, both relatively untouched by the fighting, found themselves in positions of vast influence. Yet, as human beings are want to do, the bickering between the two prevented any sort of substantial collaborative effort. The difference in culture made it too difficult for either metropolis to set aside differences for a brighter tomorrow, even after a war which had claimed nearly a billion souls.

      To the far north, what had once been North City was now something entirely new. The remains of the Ragnarok rested across the region which had once been the quiet, northern town. In the aftermath of the peace, the Stallions decided to forge their new society from the relic of the one they were intent to leave behind. After the weapon, defense, and propulsion systems had been gutted and confiscated as part of the peace accords, what remained of the Ragnarok was gradually used to construct a city within the scorched shell of the massive capital ship.

      In the months since the final flight of the Ragnarok, Piper Juunanagou had settled into her own unwanted role in the new world.

      Her new position found ‘Captain’ Piper Juunanagou stationed in new North City as an adjunct of the South City military. She was one of several military aides in the city who were there to provide counsel and support to the Red Stallions and their despondent king, who had lost nearly his entire family in the war. While noble on the surface, Piper was a glorified spy—a set of eyes and ears to ensure that the Stallions honored the peace treaty and that none of the other cities tried to do anything shady. With the balance of power utterly fucked, there was no telling when something could disrupt the status quo and plunge Earth back into another intra-city war.

      One of the only solaces in her job was that Piper didn’t have to deal with the constant murder and mayhem that had dominated her life for so long. The initial armistice had been a blip mired in continued battles as the diehard Red Stallions “died with their boots on,” but after the peace treaties, the ravaged world had settled. People were just too tired and too emotionally broken to want to beat the living shit out of one another over mundane things. It also helped that the body counts were still piling in every day, even months after the cessation of hostilities.

      Earth had lost more than cities and commerce. Thousands of heroes—small-scale and the sort that used to dominate the television sets—had fallen in the fighting or vanished from sight. Some had been confirmed among the valiant dead, but there were plenty others who had just fallen off the radar.

      For their part, the Sentinels had emerged from the fighting mostly intact. Piper’s unit had survived, even the sour-faced Master Sergeant Wolfe, but the 102ndhad been devastated in the fighting in Central City. The group had rallied to defend a stadium filled with displaced citizens from an armored unit of Red Stallions. Six of the eight members had perished protecting the stadium while the people were evacuated, and of the two survivors, one had committed suicide shortly thereafter. The sole survivor, likewise suffering from PTSD and survivors guilt, had been confined to a therapy ward at Sentinels Main. Piper, who had her own share of suppressed demons, had been by to visit the man a few times while she had leave. She had been shocked by how young he was—barely twenty-four. His face was lined with wrinkles and his eyes seemed dulled by the horror he had seen firsthand. He constantly babbled about watching his sergeant be torn in half before his eyes.

      The other solace to her job?

      Piper had been able to select her staff from whoever she wanted. After initially being amused that she was important enough to have her own set of retainers, she had ruffled every single feather in South City (and the Sentinels for that matter) by selecting Vad Zulenka and his wife, Trixie. Along with the two ‘wildcards’, the woman had selected Hoffman, Cruise, Cooper, and Reckne—all for entirely biased reasons. Along with the four Sentinels and the pair of ‘rogue elements’ (a second of the many politically correct monikers used for the tandem in official reports), Piper took several of the young men and women who had served in her platoon in South City.

      While most of North City existed within the remains of the Ragnarok, the military attaches all lived in a small community outside the ship-city. Fortunately for all the men and women of the various city-states, they had separate living quarters. South City’s attachment had a little five-story hotel a few blocks from the shuttle bay that led into North City. Piper had a two-bedroom suite, and even though she often had overnight company in the form of Abigal, the other bedroom was empty the majority of the time, unless a guest had to stay.

      Adjacent to Piper’s suite was that of the Zulenkas. The trio’s living quarters comprised the entirety of the top floor, and they were even connected by a set of doors that were often left ajar. Neither Piper or the Zulenkas had much need for privacy from one-another—the three had shared one body on more than one occasion. The doors were often only shut when Piper or her neighbors had more ‘private’ matters to attend. Since their arrival in town, that had been their life.

      Try as she could to find something to complain about, Piper found it hard to do so. The most exciting thing in their lives right now was whether or not to go clubbing or see a new movie after finishing an eight-hour workday at the office.

      It was a weird little slice of heaven for a trio of soldiers with enough stories of bloodshed and violence to make a butcher feel ill.

      On a somewhat chilly day in mid February, a screech filled the captain’s suite. A haughty, terrifying wail that could be heard all the way on the other side of the floor. For nearly a minute, the warbling scream resonated through what had once been a beloved silence.

      By the time Piper’s hand smacked down on the snooze button, a frowning Vad Zulenka had already risen from his bed and started toward his closet.

      “These damn women could sleep through a fucking orbital bombardment,” the saiyan mumbled under his breath as he glanced over to his bed at the gently snoring form of his wife, tangled up in blankets she had stolen from him during the course of the midnight hours.