Kije opened her eyes when the light became unavoidable. Creeping through window curtains, the morning rays carried the tidings of a new day into the empty room. Kije turned her head, gazing for a moment at the vacant side of the large bed. She considered the possibility of spending the whole day in that bed, but more responsible thoughts prevailed. After dragging herself out of bed, the groggy women dressed herself and walked downstairs.
When Kije reached her dining room, she saw her fifteen-year-old daughter Logue already up and seated at the table. Wordlessly, Kije fixed them both a breakfast of beans and toast. She hadn't been able to find much in the way of meat since the rationing began, but she hoped that might change in the upcoming days. The silence that frequented the family's meals made Kije ever more aware of the empty third chair that sat at the table. The rational part of her knew it would be best to sell the unused chair or turn it into firewood. However, the sentimental side always won that argument. Kije's thoughts were interrupted by her daughter's voice.
"Do I really have to go to school today?"
"Yes, Logue. The school is fixed and it's safe to go back to normal."
Sensing that this answer did not satisfy the girl, Kije added, "Just two days ago you told me how much you hated being cooped up here. Now you get to see your friends again."
At this, Logue perked up, if only slightly. After the pair had finished their breakfast, the mother and daughter duo prepared to leave to their respective tasks.
"I'll probably get home after school gets out. Remember what I told you about watching the house while I'm gone."
"I know, Mom. Don't answer a knock at the door because you have the keys. If someone tries to break in, hide in the cellar."
"Yes, and make sure the rug is covering the cellar's trap door."
"I know, Mom."
Kije kissed her daughter on the forehead one last time, and headed out.
As Kije walked down the sidewalk, she took notice of how quiet and empty the streets were. The few people she came across clung to the far side of the street and avoided eye contact, not that she blamed them. Not that she wasn't doing the same. Soon enough, Kije arrived at her destination. She got in a line with the other female workers. After being given a pick, she began working on clearing the rubble from the city's streets. The Capital had been hit hard during the civil war, and the new government was eager to rebuild. With half the country's male population dead, injured, or otherwise unavailable, the city's women made an effective emergency workforce. Many of the rubble women were not used to manual labor, as the Capital had never seen this level of devastation. A few complained about the work being beneath them, but not Kije. For her, the job let her feed her daughter, and distracted her from the less tangible ruins in her life. Focus on the rubble. Take her ration card. Take her salary. Simple as. Kije was so focused on her work, that she didn't realize that by the lunch break, the workforce had progressed to another part of the city. Kije took the sandwich provided for the workforce and sat down to rest. As she ate, she noticed something in the corner of her eye. Turning her head, Kije saw a group of men in green coats putting up posters and handing out pamphlets. Once the men had moved on, Kije walked over to one of the posters. It depicted an Imperial soldier shielding a maiden from three arrows. On the maiden's dress was written "Empire," and the arrows were labeled "Traitors," "Invaders," and "Injustice." Beneath the illustration was the message, "Vote for the National Legion in the upcoming election!" Subtle, Kije thought, before putting the wannabe counterrevolutionaries out of mind and going back to lunch.
Logue found that school was not how she remembered it. For one, the street signs and landmarks she was used to seeing on the way to school had been replaced with craters and bullet holes. Then she discovered that most of her teachers had been replaced by the new administration for "lacking commitment to the revolution." Along with the new educators came a new curriculum. The subjects he had studied before the war had been replaced by new fields that focused on new social theory and ideology. Logue hoped talking with her friends at lunch would return some feelings of normality.
Taking her usual seat next to some familiar faces, Logue tried to strike up a conversation. "The new homeroom teacher's got a stick up his ass, am I right? "The new material feels like reading another language. What kinda person assigns a paper the first day back?" To Logue's frustration, her old classmates responded with one word answers or not at all. Trying to include herself in her old friend group's discussion, the girl tried again. "The food's pretty stale, isn't it." This got a reaction. One of the older boys at the table turned to her and said, "Maybe we would have better food if Minister Honest didn't hog all the city's produce." The boy practically spat at Logue, making the younger student wonder what she had done wrong. Reading the room's atmosphere, Logue ended her attempts at conversation and turned towards her food. As Logue went to turn in her tray as the bell rang, an old friend quickly approached her. "Listen, Logue, a lot of guys here know your dad was in the Incineration Squad. Now that the revolutionaries are in charge, that sort of thing could cause some tension." Before Logue could respond, her friend left as quickly as he approached her.
Logue left at the end of the school day confused. Her dad was always a loving and gentle man. The fact that he worked for the Empire didn't change that. Then her confusion was replaced by indignation. Who were they to judge her dad? Those guys didn't even know him. Logue was so deep in her seething that she didn't hear three sets of footsteps behind her. Logue was pulled from her thoughts as several pairs of hands grabbed her and pulled her into an alley. The girl struggled, but the others were stronger and had numbers. The ringleader of the group let go and walked in front of Logue. Logue vaguely recognized him as one of the upperclassmen at her school.
The ringleader made a toothy grin. "So this is the baby killer's kid. Teacher says your dad burned a lot of innocent people to death for the Emperor. I think that warrants some revolutionary justice."
"What are you. . ." Logue started, but was interrupted by a fist colliding with her abdomen. The girl gasped as several more punches made their mark on her body, before she was thrown to the ground and the other two boys joined in. Curling up into a ball while covering her head, Logue gritted her teeth and prayed the beating would end soon.
Kije arrived home with the groceries, tired but satisfied. As expected, she saw her daughter seated at the table, working on homework. For some reason, she was wearing her dad's old mask. Kije's heart ached, assuming it was another expression of her daughter's grief. As she approached her daughter to comfort her, Logue turned her face away. A little put off by the rude gesture, Kije asked, "Is that any way to welcome your mother home?" as she lifted the mask up. Kije then gasped as she saw the bruises that dotted her daughter's face.
"Who did this to you?"
"No one Mom, I fell down some stairs."
"Like hell you did. Come with me."
Kije sat her daughter by the ice box and applied ice to the bruises. She ignored her daughter's insistence that she could apply the ice by herself and held her close. After a few minutes of silence had passed, the swelling went down. Wordlessly, the two returned to the dinner table.
"Were they from school? The stairs, I mean?" asked Kije.
After a moment, Logue nodded in confirmation.
"Is there someone I need to talk to?"
Logue shook her head.
"It's fine, Mom. I'll be more careful."
Kije wasn't reassured, but knew she couldn't force Logue to accept help she didn't want. She just prayed that this would be the last time it would happen.
Despite not seeing those upperclassmen, Logue thought it safest to take a different route home. It was on this unfamiliar road that something unusual caught her eye. On a busy street corner, college aged men in green military coats set up a box for one of their members to stand on. The head Greenshirt, a tall, lanky man, addressed the townspeople by saying, "Good evening, fellow patriots. That is, if there are any real patriots here today?" A few voices called out in affirmation. "It's nice to see they haven't driven us all out yet. Some days you wake up and think you're in another world. The revolutionaries destroyed our city. Now they sack us, giving our jobs to their yes men. They spit on your fathers' graves, call them evil for defending their homes and families. They want you to hate yourself as much as they hate you. Because shame is how they keep you down!" Then, a group of men in red armbands arrived, glaring daggers at the speaker. "I see we have a few of the revolutionary government's lapdogs in the audience! Are you here to lick your master's hand, or fetch their slippers?" Picking up a stone, the Redguard replied, "Fetch this!" before throwing the stone into the speaker's shoulder. At that moment, the corner erupted into violence. Brass knuckles, clubs, and razors were drawn as the two paramilitaries tore into each other. Logue hid behind a wall and watched as the Greens eventually drove off the Reds. As the brawl was clearing up, a police whistle signalled the arrival of the authorities. As the Greenshirts fled the scene, Logue felt something compel her to run after them. After passing a few blocks, Logue and the Greenshirts stopped to catch their breath. The tall one turned to her.
"You like the show, kid? Your face tells me you've been in a scrap."
Logue nodded. "I liked what you said, about them using shame. My dad died in the war."
This caught the men's attention. "You should come with us. Our leader, a great man, understands how you feel."
Logue followed the men to an abandoned club. All around, there were young men drinking, smoking, and laughing together. All wore the same green uniform. In the center was a makeshift boxing ring where two boys were fighting. None of them looked past their twenties, but Logue could tell she was the youngest one in the room. The tall one, who had introduced himself as Mel, led Logue to a bearded man in his thirties. "Allow me to introduce you to the man who should be the next prime minister, Konstantin Carpathia." Carpathia looked at Logue with intense, captivating blue eyes. "So, young lady, what brings you to our hall today." Logue couldn't explain it, but a reassuring presence filled her when this man spoke. It felt like talking to her father again. "My name is Logue. My dad, he was in the Jaegers." Carpathia's eyes widened. "I didn't realize we were talking to a celebrity's daughter! Come, there's something you should see." Logue followed the man downstairs, where there stood a large shrine. Displayed were a rapier, a pair of dark wings, a suit of armor, and the fragments of a shattered katana. "Esdeath's sword, Run's Mastema, Seryu's Imperial Police uniform, and what remains of Kurome's Yatsufusa. The arms of the last heroes of the Empire. Well, some of them," Carpathia explained. "It was difficult to assemble this collection, but honoring the dead is worth the efforts. Here we lay offerings to the fallen, and pray that their spirits guide us in battle. Sadly, we are missing artifacts from Dr. Stylish, whose Perfector was stolen by the Revolutionary Army, and from Wave, whose Grand Chariot seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. Despite this, we still reserve a place for them."
"And my father?" Logue asked.
"His offering place is right here. While his imperial arms were destroyed, it would be nice to have something to honor him with."
"Why do you do this?" Logue asked.
"Because, I remember what the Empire's heroes died for, and I don't want their sacrifices to have been in vain."
Logue felt herself warming up to the Legion. They saw her father the same way she did: as a hero. Not the monster the Revolutionaries made him out to be. "I want the same thing."
Carpathia's smile widened. "Good, then come to our next rally tomorrow."
"Tomorrow? But I have school."
"What would do you better? Sitting in a classroom, being taught by people who hated what your father stood for? Or being out here with us, defending his legacy? Just think about it, will you?"