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Inside


Allen didn't know that war had come to the peninsula.

At the moment that Ichabod was assassinated while bathing -- precipitating a series of events that ultimately necessitated the invasion -- he, Allen, was waiting in the west portico of his estate, looking out over the wine-dark sea, thinking about his mother making chicken cutlets. She used to double-bread them and then fry them in corn oil. The way he remembered it, she used more than half a bottle for just a few cutlets. They came off the pan soaking wet and glistening.

He missed them. He missed her. At least, he thought he did. In that moment, he knew he did. He missed this small piece of the life that he lived as a child before coming inside. He missed staring up at his mother and watching the small lines in her face as she concentrated. Sometimes, out of nowhere, she would cross her eyes at him, and Allen would cover his face with two hands and shout, "No!" Because it meant that she knew he was waiting for her to do it, and seemed to prove that she could in fact read his thoughts.

He sighed and picked a grape off of the plate of vf-Food. It was, as each grape previous to it had been, another boring, perfect grape: sweet and slightly acidic, with the right amount of juice and texture. Out to the west, the sea looked a little pixellated, which was a little annoying, since the last update from Operations had included a promise to work on pixellation during later afternoon hours. He contemplated submitting another comment to Operations. Other than that, things looked familiarly boring and perfect.

He walked across the portico and into the marble room where the servants prepared the perfect food. They were cutting meat for the evening.

"I'm going to go for a walk," he said to them, though they didn't ever respond. "Argos needs some exercise."

He went to the front of the well-appointed home and whistled for Argos, who after a moment came bounding up the wide swath of tall grasses lined with cyprus trees. Argos jumped into Allen's arms and licked his face, perfectly.

"Come on, old man," he said to Argos, "let's hoof it down to Piraeus."

They stepped off the wide marble porch and back down the hill in front of the house toward town. Allen adjusted his silk tunic as they walked, sweating as the sun arced toward the middle of the day. About a mile into the walk, he paused in the shadow cast by a graying oak tree. Argos hopped around him.

"Argos, chill," Allen said. And Argos, being Argos, chilled.

The breeze felt cooler in the shade, and Allen started to drift. HIs father crept into his thoughts. Pounding the plastic into the modules. Coming home and sitting in his big chair. Asking Allen how his day at school had gone. And quietly eating his glistening chicken cutlets when they came to the table.

He fell asleep and dreamed something fuzzy about them. Again.

When he woke, Aubrey was in his face, shaking him.

"Allen," he said. "Allen, it's coming. The war is coming."