Andreas, page of the Most High, a young man with dark brown hair and ice-blue eyes, stands just outside the doorway to the throne room. His eyes are clamped shut and his hands are balled tightly into fists. Emperor Jack, seated on the throne, awaits news from the Great Lakes region about the Water War, of which Andreas is the bearer. The news is not good, The People are losing motivation as the war drags on. It would seem that The People will not capture the City of Chicago, that the Great Lakes will continue to stand free, holding the worlds most precious resource.

Peeking one eye around the corner, looking through the doorway into the throne room, Andreas sees the Emperor and his guards. The throne room is mostly dark, the only light comes in through stained glass windows. Looking at the windows, he tries to think of a time when this building was a church, a time long before his own birth. He tries to imagine the building as it was, before it had the icons of the Empire plastered to its walls, before it had a fools throne placed upon the dais.

Jack is the second emperor since the point of no return. He and his men mounted a successful coup against his predecessor, Emperor Michael Jean, by means of a cult of personality. The People support Jack blindly, his power as an orator is impossible to deny. His words have the power to move the souls of men, his virility and machismo is his might. The man never fought on the front lines, he never commanded any fighting forces, he is the man with the words, the man with ideas, the man whose words could move a mountain.

Taking a deep breath and looking upward, Andreas says a quick prayer then rounds the corner. Walking into the room causes the guards to come to attention, all of them staring daggers at him. They recognize him, yet still stand at attention, weapons poised. “At ease,” Jack says, minor annoyance on his lips. “Andreas, do you bring good news?”

“Forgive me, sir, I bring bad news,” Andreas says, his voice trembling noticeably, “from Chicago.”

“There has been nothing but bad news out of Chicago, Andreas, why do you tremble?” Jack’s words, though said with an air of kindness, bring no comfort to Andreas.

“General Dymissus sent a direct message, should I read it to you?”

“Yes, please do. Andreas, son of my dear sister, do not be afraid. Read the message.”

“Emperor Jack, Most High leader of The Faith, there has been a complication in the battle for Chicago. The People’s Army, in its advance from the south, have been thwarted at the wall. We have seen a tremendous amount of casualties, and thus have retreated. We await reinforcements and further instructions. – Your ever-faithful servant, Harold Dymissus.”

Andreas continues holding his phone, even after reading the message, awaiting a response. He and the guards stand there for several beats, the silence in the room descending upon them like a woolen blanket, uncomfortable and hot. Suddenly, a crooked smile dawns on the Emperor’s face that spreads across his face. “Looks like we’re headed to Indianapolis,” he says and then lets out a belly laugh that fills the room with the echoed screams of lives yet to end.