The bright morning star greeted everyone to a new day. In a condominium, still lost in sleep. Taylor Harchett dreamt about the most wonderful of times she remembered as a child. The chuckles and snickers from soldiers outside could not wake her, not now. She savored every minim, the laughter continuing outside of her closed blinds only added liveliness to her dream. She dreamt of a time when she could smile. A time where life had so many possibilities. A time when her father could make every moment worthwhile.
An elevated Caucasian man looked down on Taylor. She stood only to his knees. Her skin coated with a hint of reddish brown, a gift from her mother. She fidgeted with her cute sundress; pulling loose strings of fabric off with a huff and puff every time she found a new one.

“Daddy’s Big Dreamer?” her father knelt down.

Taylor sent an inquisitive look his way. She knew her father all too well.

“Yes, papa?” she replied.

“Daddy’s Big Dreamer?” he asked once more.

“Yes, papa?”

“How do you get so darn beautiful every time I see you in the morning?” he finally asked.

“Geez, I don’t know papa. Why do you bring me to these “wondrous’ places?” Taylor’s eyes rolled as her arms went into a supreme fold.

Donald, her father, always knew how upset she would get when she couldn’t have him all to herself. He quickly snatched Taylor off the ground, setting her carefully on his broad shoulders. Delicate giggles lead to Taylor slapping his head for entertainment. It was her favorite pastime. That and hiding his old collection of novels he received from the Eastern Seas.

Taylor’s room received no light. Everything within it had no choice but to embrace the gloomy setting. Outside of her dream, a few moans and mutters were voiced. The conversation she and her father continued within her dream crept its way to reality. Seeing the vividness of her father’s features caused her to clench on her sleep a little while longer. This would be one of the only moments where she could see her father again, outside of white roses and tombstones.

Taylor looked around the huge military facility. All the men present caused her to take notice to something in particular.

“It’s so many men papa, where’s all the woman?”

Donald smirked. “Women baby girl, wo-men. A majority of them have physical training today. All Alpines need to be physically fit, no matter what occupation”.

“Oh. Well, I want to be strong too! Like the woman with the shiny head on TV!”

“Ooh! Well, you better start taking your classes seriously then. Not to mention that I pay 300 rai for them every month” he replied.

Standing on a staircase, a few feet from the center of the room where Taylor and her father stood in, a fair tone man turned blood red.

“Joah! Where are you, Cross!?”

Within a split second, a young man, around the age of 11 years old, ran down a long hallway connecting all the many routes of the building to the center. The marbled floor clicked and clacked to his loafers picking up pace.

“Coming sir, I’m sorry that I’m lat-” he squeaked.

Losing his footing, he tripped over his own legs. In his hands, he carried an enormous stack of restricted files. Each paper slithered across many directions, escaping his reach. One file tapped Donald’s shoe. He picked up the paper, examining the boldness of the font. Taylor loved to read, she couldn’t resist the new finding. “Declassification of Cpt. Strugner, Barron, Von”, startling words, Donald’s eyes grew stern.

The young intern scrambled to pick up every last sheet. Donald gave him a hand, Taylor watched her father show another of his great attributes.

“Th-thank you, sir. I’m grateful for your help, but I will take care of the rest” the boy straightened all the papers so they all lined up perfectly in a stack.

“Joah, I’m waiting,” The impatient official, stood waiting on the steps, tapping his shoes on the floor.

“I’m coming sir!” he turned to Donald and took a glimpse at Taylor, “Thank you, both of you for your help”. He sprinted to the first step of the staircase, firmly holding the files.

“You knew I have a meeting in fifteen minutes, Cross. You keep causing more work for yourself. I can’t keep babying you! This time you’ll know what it means to slack off on responsibility” the red-faced individual said, folding his arms as he blew steam out his nose.

“Ring! Ring!”

“What? What is going on? What is he saying?”, the words coming out of the man’s mouth confused Taylor.

“Ring, Ring, Ring!”, The constant high volume noise caused distortion within her dream. The room around her twined and swirled into a whirlpool of primary colors. She urgently looked down to see if her father was still there.

“It’s alright big dreamer, you just got to wake up now” his face transfigured into a smeared abstract painting, the vibrant funnel pulled him in. Everything went pitch-dark.

“Huh!? Wha-what is going on?” Taylor sprung out her covers to discover a missed call.

“Arista? What is she doing? It’s too early in the day for this…” She redialed the number and waited for her friend to pick up.

“Hel-hello? Taylor?” uneasiness laid in her voice.

“Hey, what is going? You woke me up on my day off.” Taylor replied.

“…ummm,” Arista breathed deeply, “We’ve just got news that Hazzel and the others have been put in emergency care”.

The cordless phone slipped out of Taylors hands onto silk sheets.

“Hello? Taylor? Taylor!?” Arista called out.

She was lost in the moment. Being told that her best friends were injured or worse, dead made her heart sore. She stared at he black spaces between reality and her life. “Why? Are more people going to be taken from me?”, the force of her thoughts carried weight.

“Taylor, I’m coming over. Okay. I’ll be there in ten.” The phone clicked, Taylor still sat in her bed watching nothing but carried thoughts of everything.

“Knock! Knock!” a key jingled in the door. Arista walked inside to check on Taylor.

“Taylor? Where are you?” she then heard sheets move and pats on the carpet in her bedroom. She waited for Taylor to come out. Arista knew how hurt she had to be with what she told her over the phone. Taylor walked out, her hair long and slender with dry slobber on her right cheek.

“Hey, I wanted to tell you that you didn’t need to stop by” Taylor said.

Arista rummaged through her purse, pulled out a wet nap, and handed it over. “You sure about that? I’m sure everyone needs a friend during times likes these, Taylor. We are almost sisters; you are one of my dearest friends. I have to be here for you and I need you to be here for me.”

Taylor’s eyes gleamed with fresh tears waiting to be let out. “Okay. I’m glad you are here,” she made her way back inside her room, Arista followed. Taylor laid back on her bed, Arista took off her jacket and laid next to her.

“Hey, remember that time when you, me, Hazzel, Moe, Sol, and OG went into that strip club in Dover City?” Arista looked up at the ceiling, drawing imaginary lines as she awaited Taylor’s response. Taylor clenched her eyes shut and thought about those days. Acting out, well, somewhat acting out; her father brought her up to be a distinguished member of society.

She finally mustered up a reply. “That place was disgusting. I think one stripper had a board game prop for a rai in her-“

“Taylor! Hahaha,” Arista always found humor in Taylor’s odd observations. “No way but I do remember when you asked the bouncer if he had a girlfriend”.

“I was young. I thought he was noble. Saving those dancers everyday from scumbags and rapists.” Taylor straightened out her legs, Arista did the same. The two continuously shared stories for hours. Helpfully mending each others wounds.

“I talked to the Chairwoman and she said that Hazzel experienced heat stress when they landed. She hasn’t called so I’m having faith that he and everyone will make it through” Arista sat on the carpet, stretching out her left leg. Taylor still laid in her bed, too much action went on at this moment, she carefully watched the six blades rotate on her ceiling.

“I remember when we,” Arista stared at the unwashed uniform on Taylor’s floor, thinking of how to release her next words. “I remember when all of us met in Carocele, the summer before all the drama kicked in. We were happy then. You were happy, Taylor.”

Taylor held her eyes shut. She rode her thought train to her past. The memories she locked away long ago. Since her father died, she wanted to forget it all.

“Nothing good comes from dwelling on the past,” her awareness shifted, falling into a phantasy, reminiscing to those days that she loathed so much.

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