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All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell

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“Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.”— Mitch Albom

Prologue

The attacks occurred on the most beautiful of spring afternoons in May.  The sky was a deep hue of blue, not a cloud to be seen, and the temperature was warm but not uncomfortable.  Thousands of innocent and unsuspecting citizens walked lazily about the streets; some enjoying a late lunch outdoors, others simply skipping out on work or school to start the weekend early.  Every one of them unaware that their worlds were about to be ripped apart and changed forever.  The attacks were carried out with brutal efficiency and maximum devastation, the devices crude but powerful.  None of the dozen or so alphabet agencies that claimed to combat terrorism had any foreknowledge of the attacks, left as surprised as the ordinary, uninformed citizen.  Thousands died within the first few moments of the bombs detonating; thousands more from the wounds that they had sustained from the shrapnel loaded copiously into the devices, perishing in the days and weeks that followed.  

Every person had been affected in some way by the attacks.  If they had not been directly within its blast radius themselves, they’d had a loved one who was either lost or injured as a result.  Multiple cities were attacked simultaneously, straining both the local and federal resources that were dispatched to help in the aftermath.  The death toll steadily rose for over a week, new bodies found within the rubble each day, thousands more still missing- likely to never be found.  Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Seattle, and Philadelphia were all targeted, were all devastated.  The president at the time had immediately denounced the attacks, using all the appropriate buzzwords, calling them cowardly acts carried out by a nameless and faceless organization.  It was not long after that the world was given a name and face to focus their outcry on, appearing in the neat and sadistic form of Dante Wallace, head of the previously unheard of “Mt. Weather Coalition”.  The Coalition quickly took credit for the attacks and claimed America had given up its rights to freedom and life, that it no longer belonged to the people who lived there.  American’s were told to surrender, or die.

In typical fashion when challenged, American pride skyrocketed, rivaling the pride that had been found in the wake of the last terrorist attacks on 9/11.  American flags were visible in nearly every window, at every business, in every yard- the red, white, and blue a constant reminder of what the country had been built on.  Instead of cowering in fear, as the Coalition demanded, the American people rose.  The public reacted in much the same way, calling for swift and certain action to be taken, a need for vengeance and blood driving them.  “Blood must have blood” became a commonplace phrase chanted by nearly all Americans soon after.  Now that the Coalition had been given a face and a name, able-bodied citizens flocked to the armed forces in droves and enlisted, all ready and willing to fight for their beloved country and families.  The lines outside the recruiting centers wrapped around for blocks, some people waiting hours to sign up to fight.  Many lied about their ages and ailments to gain entry and find some sense of purpose through war.

And what a war it was.  Fought in the once beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, the American’s took their anger straight to the foothills where the Mt. Weather Coalition was housed-Sugarloaf Mountain.  Reinforced in bunkers, the Coalition’s base of operations had quickly proven impossible to breach.  The American forces were helpless to do anything other than fight the soldiers who continued to attack from all sides, more familiar with the terrain than the foreign American soldiers.  Soon, having experienced attacks of their own, other countries joined America.  Yet, the Coalition grew as well, recruiting most South American countries, African, and Asian countries as well.  Before long, an all-out World War ensued, both losing soldiers left and right, neither gaining ground on the other, in a deadlock.  Soon, the number of flag-draped caskets outnumbered the men and women shipping out, the Americans suffering the highest number of casualties to date.  

And yet, the battle raged on…