In the past, communities had gang and drug cultures that ruined reputation. Now, in the future, we have gangs of readers and writers, set out to educate the world.


2. 2.


A simple curse rings out through the empty hallways of the abandoned house. I turn, and I see my husband standing, clutching his hand, elevating it slightly to show the blood running down his index finger. I shake my head and toss a box of plasters from the first aid kit I have before me. Everything around me has the Guild's logo; a circle emblazoned with a phoenix. It's even on the first aid pack.

'You need to stop being so accident-prone,' I tell him, shaking my head and smiling. 'We need to rationalise our supplies. Everyone'll be back soon, and we need to expect the worst.'

'I know,' his smile lights up as he cleans up the blood from his hand. 'You're like the mother to us all.'

'Not much of a mother. My children go out and fight for what's right, and come back wounded,' I return to gathering supplies into a pile: bandages, plasters, disinfectant, stitches and morphine all lined up neatly alongside a battered medical encyclopaedia and food. I don't enjoy playing mother for a group of grown men. I'm not just the best healer the Guild has, I'm their only female field agent, and possibly one of their best shots. But I'm never treated that way.

I feel Tom come up behind me and wrap his arms around my waist, embracing me tightly before leaning round and kissing me gently on the cheek. I smile and lean into him, loving being close to him. His touch makes my heart leap, my palms sweat and my smile grow, and I don't love anything more than I love him.

'That wouldn't happen to our children,' he whispers in my ear, rocking me slightly. We sway side to side for a moment as I relish in the thought of bearing his children when this is all over. We would be able to try again, if this war ever ends.

I pull away as the memory of our son hits me in the chest like someone has kicked me, and I suddenly can't breathe. My boy. I couldn't protect him, how can I protect another child?

'I can't handle this, I need fresh air,' I state, walking shakily to the door, but Tom grabs my hand. 'Francis, you can't go outside. They'll see you. Just wait here until we hear from your brother.'

I nod, but I'm still trembling, hoping that no one is injured when they return. Tom embraces me tightly, and I bury my head in his chest, inhaling his scent deeply in an attempt to calm myself down. I feel involuntary tears roll down my cheeks, and Tom tilts my head up and kisses the tears away, before looking at me with a gentle smile. The world around us stops as we stare into each others eyes. Tom has sea green eyes with darker flecks, and I know every part of them like the back of my hand. They are the sort of eyes that you can get lost in, and suddenly I'm drowning, but I'm drowning with him, suspended in time. It's just us in the world, the people in the war outside forgotten just for a beautiful, halted moment.

But that moment ended.

Shouts came from the crooked door at the front of the house. I drew the gun from my boot a fraction of a second after Tom, and followed him to the door. I peered through one of the cracks, and saw a familiar, if not bloodied, face smiling stupidly at me. My brother, Frank, leading ten men clutching guns in black uniforms. I let them inside, stumbling as they rush in.

'Is anyone hurt?' Tom calls as I close the door. I hold my breath.

'Nope!' they all shout back, and I exhale rather violently.

'Got any food, Francis?' I hear Frank ask, and I walk into the kitchen to play mother once again.

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