I

Earth, 2036

United States

Somewhere in the Midwest

Jonathan sat in a Super 8 motel room, every muscle in his body tensed as he stared at the glowing television screen. The time was well past three AM, when most normal people were long asleep and even the bars were closed. The room's curtains were drawn tight, blocking the grungy yellow glow of the parking lot streetlights. They also hid the flickering blue glow of the television from anyone out prowling for unnatural activity.

Jonathan was watching recycled news broadcasts, listening as airbrushed anchors and field reporters relayed the stories of the day, of gods that had been hunted down and destroyed. Ever since the United States had turned a War on Terror into a War on Religion (they insisted it wasn't a government movement, but labeling the UPA as a "civic unit" was only a thin cover) with the thought process being that religion caused terror, gods, prophets, and believers had been on the run, seeking shelter in the most remote corners of the world.

Footage flashed across the screen, showing the ruins of Vatican City and Jerusalem, followed by a longer clip of the Siege at Mecca. It couldn't last forever. Soon enough, the United People's Army would send the ultimatum: submit or die. The UPA had a nuclear program unrivaled by any other, and they weren't afraid to use it.

Jonathan turned off the television as rebroadcasts of the day's kills began to play. He didn't need to see his compatriots, his friends, meet their ends at the hands of the UPA and the weapons of nothing which the heretics carried. He had barely escaped himself; he didn't want to see what his fate could have been, would have been. He didn't want to see the expressions of horror and despair. He already knew what it felt like to stare down the barrel of one of those guns and know that this was it, it was the end—

The nothing-weapons were the product of Roth Industries. Once antimatter technology had become a viable option for warfare, Roth had been the company on the front line, designing and manufacturing weapons, heralding in the new age of warfare. When the God Wars had begun, they had seen it as just another business opportunity. All they had to figure out was how to make the situation turn to their advantage.

Question: How do you kill a god?

Answer: You stop all belief in him, even by killing the believers, if necessary.

Problem: There's no way to identify believers. Not everyone openly worships. Some people may not even know they believe.

Question: How do you convince people to not believe?

Answer: You take away what they believe in.

Question: How do you take away a god?"

Answer: You make it so he never existed.

And so Roth Industries had their answer. They designed a new line of technology aimed at detecting and finding the gods the UPA so feared, and had accompanied the detection technology with new weapons, designed specifically to destroy gods. For without the deities, the religions would fall.

Someone knocked on the motel room door.

Jonathan whirled, suspicious. Morning was still far off. "Who is it?" he demanded.

"Room service, sir," came the reply.

"I didn't order room service." Jonathan grabbed his duffel bag and shoved his few personal items into it: clothing, false identification, a fistful of new currency—with the words "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" replacing the old "In God We Trust."

Muffled conversation came from behind the door. Jonathan knew what would come back: the words that were the forerunners of disaster. "Break it down."

Moments later, the room's door flew off its hinges, and a squad of armed members of the UPA burst into the room.

They found a still-warm spot on the bed and a mess of rumpled sheets, but nothing else.

Jonathan was already gone.