Prologue

There was not a single best solution to run the world, Stephanie thought. Where there were humans, there were problems.

Previously, when it was still split into hundreds of countries headed by sovereign leaders, they were more or less in competition with one another, reaching their claws to the weaker states for their resources.

Now, with only a quarter of humanity roaming the vast earth after three years into the catastrophic pandemic, they still hadn’t learnt. 

inside every person lies an ethereal illuminating soul

gossamer-like that you may touch but fragile

The logistic hub she queued in suddenly had a blackout half an hour before curfew.

“It’s the Lawless,” people hushed around her in ripples. She didn’t mingle with them this time, gauging from the sneers they flared at the sight of her white badge hanging on the lanyard around her neck.

“Ransacking depots again . . . I hate them for ruining the sliver of peace we have. Life’s hard enough, why don’t they obey the Council, tsk!”

She captured similar sentiments. Lawless bad, Council less bad. Nothing was good, happiness not found.

inside every person hides a blessing from the universe

beams traversing in millennia, mortal body as resting place

While keeping her mouth silent, she observed the New Police stationed around the hub made their move already, the pattering of their military boots killed the clamouring mass. 

The Lawless were notorious to strike at random, robbing rations for their underground operations since their mission was to topple the Council running across the world. It was only their second attack in the Jakarta hub these past three years, but they were not short of other upheaval tactics.

In a minute, fighting noises engulfed the civilians stuck to the root inside the hub. Stephanie, just like the others, was just waiting for the order to clear up the area once the uprising had been neutralised.

But the order never came.

Instead, once a band of Lawless breached the perimeter, everyone in the hall ran for their lives like headless chickens. 

shouldn’t then we all dance in expansive magic and not be

shackled by divisive rating, stereotypes, and prejudice?

For the Lawless, these bystanders were in the Council’s faction, or simply potential collateral damage for their objective.

Amidst the shelves, hemp sacks of rice, cardboard boxes, and countless household items, her steps rushed towards the exit doorway indicated by an LED board that functioned on batteries. Its luminous green gave a sense of hope, a thing that should not be named in this era.

Bruises, wounds, and the past are all the same:

They’re gonna get darker before getting lighter, better

She shouldered the emergency door, the heavy plank flung outwards. Descending a flight of stairs to the ground level where she could blend in the street crowd to walk home, her breath finally caught on.

A burly man in an NP uniform suddenly pinched her wrist and yanked her away to the sidewalk. But she quickly shoved her badge to this man’s face, which was then acknowledged with a disdainful nod.

The man left her alone, so did the tension her body. Fatigue took over, her body slid down against a fence. Another twenty minutes walking home was needed. But she needed to rest her pounding heart first.

But no one knows for how long

it stays ugly and purple

Her grip on the badge loosened. Her ID photo and full name stared back at her. Below the name, the company name was there. Prattle. A word was printed below the company name. Companion.

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