Life is hard. I grew up away from the world, in a series of rooms and corridors for almost 10 years, but I've caught up everything that I missed in the past 7. All of the pain, the hardship, the suffering... and death. My brother. My one and only brother. Gone. I can feel the tears welling up, prickling along the backs of my tortured eyes just thinking about him. My brother. Defending his father. The war. Disjointed and blurry thoughts drift through my mind, confusing and consuming me.

"Hey, Ry!" The words, cheery and upbeat as they may be, cut through the air like a knife. I realise for the first time that there is someone next to me. I'm not really in the mood for conversation, or even people. I go days on end in seclusion, despite being in the middle of bustling people, as I suffer in silence, mourn losses from years gone by, rueing the day I left. "Ry!" The voice is getting impatient, but still I have no desire to break from my thoughts. Even if I did, I couldn't. I can't tell who my partner is and frankly I don't care. I feel the brush of air, but don't react. Then, suddenly – SMACK! My head whips to the side, my entire body swinging sideways at the impact to my cheek. I slowly rise back to my chair and look up to see Freda looking down at me sternly.

"Ana wants yer." He simply says, glove in hand, and retreats out of the room, his heavy boots causing thumping footsteps on the wooden floor, sending shockwaves up his dirty white uniform. My neck cranes around the room until I see Ana stood there, knees knocking together and fingers fidgeting on the wrist straps of her pristinely clean Law Enforcement uniform. She smiles shyly at me, and I can tell that she called me originally but never expected – or wanted – Freda to get involved. A strand of her chestnut hair glistens down on the pale skin of her forehead, her bright blue eyes illuminating the cold room.

"Hey Ry!" The words are quiet and filled with nerves, almost as if she had to fight to get them out. I smile, manage a greeting, and she smiles back. A reassuring smile of friendship and care, but there's something else. "Look, about Freda-" But I cut her off, stopping her shy apologies with words of dismissal, and before I know it I'm standing next to her, our hands tightly wrapped together, our noses almost touching. We're smiling despite our sadness. My condition, her problems. But we have each other. We support each other, and this is an embrace of togetherness. It cannot be broken.

I slip my hand away from hers and reach out to the strand of hair hanging down, and gently replace it on top of her head, my fingertips feeling her soft, silky locks for the first time since, well, so long ago that I can barely remember the texture, the personality, the emotion radiated by her hair. Our eyes meet, and for the first time recently I feel that everything is okay in the world, as long as I am here, with Ana, in this moment, this embrace, this second. Then the siren goes off.

Ana jumps about a foot into the air, and I have to suppress a fit of laughter as we scan the screens to find out what's happening in the usually sleepy Sonera. Technically, I'm from Region S, but in Sonera we've made up names for the 26 regions of the New World, with the Region's letter starting the name. We're in Region S, which we call Sonera.

We don't get much work as crime is incredibly low here, so the sudden disturbance shocks us both. But we're shocked further when we see what is on the screen. Ana's brother is fighting three masked men outside his home. We turn as one, and run for the door.