Benjamin stood before two freshly dug graves. The bodies from the battle had all been taken from the city and buried some distance away in the hills, but these graves stood alone beside each other. Ben knelt beside on of the graves. He had carved a wooden headstone for each grave when he buried them. Ben looked at Bernard's gravestone for a second, and then he pulled the old journal Bernard had given him from his bag. Ben set aside the small pile of pages he had gingerly pulled from it. He opened the front cover of the book, looking at the small message written in the bottom corner of the page.
For Peter, so you can try to make sense of this crazy world when the day comes I'm not there to make sense of it for you.
Love always, Bernard
"This doesn't belong to me," Ben said, gently setting the book on the grave. He closed my eyes, listening to the quiet of the wasteland. He no longer needed the journal. He had made sense of my thoughts. Ben now understood how this world worked, at least as well as it was possible to understand. Wind tossed gravel across the vast and rolling hills. It sighed softly over the landed. He took the sheets of paper he had torn from Peter's old journal and put them, folded neatly, into his pocket. Ben opened my eyes and looked to the grave beside Bernard's.
"I miss you, Dad," he said. "I miss you and Alexander and our life together."
Nobody was there to reply. He squeezed my eyelids together to keep the tears from leaking out. Ben laughed weakly at a memory and the tears rolled down his face. No one laughed with him; he was alone on the hill. The events of the last couple of weeks raced through his mind. How much he had lost, how much had occurred. He thought of Marcus and Esmeralda. How much he had gained. His father had given Ben to Marcus, hoping Ben would be safer with Marcus than in Ikronos. How much Ben had learned. It made sense know; he knew what had to happen. His father had finally helped Ben realize that. He stopped laughing, sniffed and said. "You were right. It was better this way."
Ben stood up and looked across the empty, dead land, over the arid cracked hills. The sun cast long shadows across the ground. What was over each crest was a mystery, whether it was a new Gang, eager to spill blood, or a new community, already waiting for their blood to be spilled. It was all a matter of whether these tides could be turned. Whether the day would come when Marcus and the Righteous Armed could set down their weapons and watch a world without the Gangs or fear. The future was all this world had going for it.
Ben heard Esmeralda come up behind him and she wove her hand between his. He grasped it, enjoying the warmth of her palm against his.
"So what now?" Ben asked.
"Now things go back to the way things were," She replied. We stood on the lonely hill, holding hands tightly. "There will always be Gangs to be fought, evil to be 'eradicated'. We will travel, a few will die here and there, we will recruit a few here and there. It's not a war that can be won."
"Not with that attitude."
"You honestly think this world can be tamed? After you've seen what kind of destructive psychos it spawns?"
"Bernard believed it. My father believed it," Ben said to her, looking into her eyes. "Marcus believes it."
"But how?" Esmeralda asked.
At last Ben had an answer to give her. He thought of his father, and gave Esmeralda a small smile.
"Just keep shooting."