2223: Until Fear No Longer Defines Us

Posted: September 4, 2011 by Kelly in stories, the war, the world

Feel its weight, lay your head down
Oh burden, how did we come so far?
Stay with me, until fear no longer defines us

– Ghost Brigade, “Until fear no longer defines us”

Until Fear No Longer Defines Us

As soon as the Olympic Flame ignited, the fireworks erupted above the stadium.

“I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who hates fireworks,” Brian said to his girlfriend, applauding along together with the rest of the enraptured spectators. He craned his head further back and drank in the spectacle. Bright colours and shapes twirled above the stadium, drowning out the artificial lighting around them. For now, everything was now golden, now red, now white… it was beautiful.

Sharon laughed next to him. “As long as it’s far above us, I’m fine with it. You and I know exactly what kinds of chemicals are used in fireworks, and really, we don’t want that stuff to rain down on our heads.”

“Always the pragmatist,” he muttered, not taking his eyes off from the skies. “I think we’ll be fine here. We share a stadium with many politicians and royal families. They wouldn’t give us such a display if it wasn’t completely safe.”

“I know, I know,” his girlfriend said. She took his hand and squeezed it gently. “God knows that we paid enough money to attend the opening ceremonies. The fireworks should be completely safe. We should not worry, but enjoy it.”

Around them, thousands upon thousands of people were doing the same. Their ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’ were mingling with the loud music that accompanied the show. Their faces were illuminated by the lights from above. When Brian looked around, he saw everybody around him – even on the other side of the immense stadium – look up in awe.

Watching the fireworks, it was almost easy to forget that nagging feeling of fear that was eating away at every single person in the stadium. Being here was an act of bravery in itself. An act of defiance, even.

Like the rest of the spectators, Sharon and Brian had paid dear money for their tickets a long time ago. Besides all the heads of states, politicians and royal families, they had been among the chosen people who got through the lottery to purchase the insanely expensive tickets. They had gone for it because they had promised themselves that they would be there when the Olympics came to the US. It was such an iconic event, that it was a chance of a lifetime to see it with their own eyes. They had tickets to some competitions as well, but only one final – swimming. That was fine though: the opening ceremony was their life long dream anyway. That was what they had paid the dearest money for. And to them, it would be something they could tell their hypothetical children about later.

However, when it became clear a month ago that the Eastern Confederation was giving the West its collective fuck you by not letting their athletes compete, Sharon and Brian had to reconsider very hard whether they still wanted to go. Were they still Olympic Games if there were only athletes from the Western Confederation? Or was it just some sports event? Did they /really/ want to pay this much money for the real thing?

Sharon had been doubting, but Brian had pleaded with her that there was an Olympics game in the 20th century that had suffered the same problem, when all the Eastern European athletes refused to compete. Still, the results counted even now, and it was nowhere recorded that those Games specifically sucked. Even if half the world put a boycott on the one thing that promoted unity throughout the world, it didn’t mean that the rest of it couldn’t enjoy themselves. And the games would still be real, the results were still going to be interesting. The only people that had a real problem were the ones that had put in early bets in the betting stations. They were not those people, so why couldn’t they go? They had paid the money already, it had been written off their account months ago. Eventually Sharon had agreed.

Watching the beautiful fireworks above them and listening to the pompous fanfare music below, Brian was glad that they’d come. Opening Ceremonies were always a wonderful thing, and the lighting of the Olympic Fire had been nigh-magical to him, even though the circumstances. The athletes and the announcers did their very best to ignore that fact, and the audience cheered like it was nobody’s business. Almost as if they wanted to send a message to the East that they didn’t need them to have a good time. They didn’t need the east to light the Olympic fire that would burn in their hearts for the next few weeks, while athletes set down glorious results, had epic struggles to achieve those golden medals, and while they would be cheered on.

/Seriously, fuck them,/ Brian thought vehemently. /It will be glorious anyway./

Not in the least because of the little box that was sitting in his pocket. It hosted a ring with a diamond that nearly bankrupted him, but it would look so beautiful around Sharon’s finger. Tonight, after the ceremony, he had planned to take her as close to the Olympic Fire as he could. He would take a picture of the two of them with the Flame, and then he would go down on one knee and offer her the ring. He had it planned like this ever since Sharon agreed to come after all. If this was such a once in a lifetime opportunity, he felt that he should grab it with both hands and not ever let go.

Brian knew for a while now that Sharon was quietly waiting for him to ask her. She had not been very blatant in her hints, but he had seen her longing looks at TV programmes about weddings, and she had been saying things lately that indicated that she wanted a future with him. They had been together for over three years now, they had lived together for a year… maybe it was time, indeed. Brian couldn’t imagine a life with anyone else than Sharon, either. First she had been only a lab partner, then a close colleague and friend, and one day he had been laughing with her at some joke and he realized that he loved her, that he wanted her. Sharon and Brian, sitting in a tree.

She hadn’t even said no when he mustered up the courage to ask her out one night. Before they knew it, they were an item. Her toothbrush ended up in his bathroom that night, and it just never went away anymore. He didn’t want her to take it away, either. His hand clenched around the box in the pocket of his coat while I smiled.

He saw Sharon look at him and smiled at her, as well. Let her think that he was just happy with the pretty colours. Let her think that he was just glad to be here. Tonight was much more important than that. Tonight would be /their/ night, and it would be glorious, despite the fact that the Olympics were crippled by the arrogance of the Eastern Confederation.

His would-be-fiancé was leaning back in her plastic chair and was happily looking at the Olympic Flame that was merrily burning away on its intricately spiraled pole, high above the crowd. “I cannot imagine that any Eastern athlete would want to miss out on this,” Sharon mused. “The Olympics are the most important games in the world. The highest honour in the world to even be able to compete. Some of them must have had training schedules that worked towards these weeks for years. And now because of their arrogance and their hatred they would miss out on it. Isn’t it stupid?”

He squeezed her hand back. “They’re stupid for not wanting to be in the same stadium as you are. You’re the prettiest sight here.” He was only half joking.

She laughed and told him he was silly, and then they kissed underneath the brightly lit sky.

After the fireworks, there were some more announcements, some dancers that were hanging on wires that danced and jumped around the standard that held the Flame in an intricate choreography, and then it was all over. Some people were getting up to leave, others were leaning back in their chairs and discussed the wonders that they had seen on this night. The US had really pulled out all the stops with their acrobats, dancers, their fireworks and lasershows… It had been more than worth the money, Brian thought. And yes, it would be perfect to ask Sharon tonight.

It was quite the hassle to squeeze their way through the crowds to get close enough to the Flame so they could take our picture with it. They weren’t the only people who were planning to do so, and then there was the throng of people that were trying to actually leave the stadium. Eventually he found a way to climb upwards, out of the mass of people, to the highest seats in the stadium, directly underneath the VIP rooms. They had a great view on the Flame from there, just over the slightly bluish-tinged forcefield that was supposed to keep the audience away from the athletes below. The Flame looked even deeper golden when they saw it from above the forcefield. It seemed to make Sharon’s auburn hair glow a deep red.

“Cheese,” he said, holding his phone up so he could take a picture. “This one’s just you, then one for me, then one for the both of us, okay?”

“Okay!” She stood in front of him, smiling an easy smile that showed the dimples in her cheeks. “Cheese!”

She had never looked any more beautiful to him as she did at that moment. Illuminated by the forcefield, the Flame, and the lights of the stadium, smiling without a care in the world – there was not a doubt in the world anymore. His mind was clear. Had he ever /had/ any doubts, anyway? Yes, he would marry this woman. Of course he would!

He lifted his phone and tried to frame his shot. Because of this, he was looking at what was happening in the skies overhead. There had been no air traffic around Kansas all day, since all air traffic had been re-routed to protect the safety of the Olympics. Besides the six red-white-blue ceremonial planes that had flown over in formation earlier this evening, they had not seen any air traffic at all. So when he saw the jets approach in the distance, he was puzzled for a moment. Especially when he noticed others coming up behind, seemingly in pursuit.

Puzzled, he lowered the phone. Sharon half-turned to see what was happening above them, and that’s when everything happened at once. There was shooting. The plane that was approaching them was being shot at. Sharon screamed in shock and he pulled her against him, but up here there was really nothing they could do. Before they could react, the plane came right at them.

And then the bomb dropped above the stadium, and it all ended in fire.

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