Avery often found it strange that they lived in a compound, sequestered away from the rest of the world. It was never made explicitly clear to the children in the area why it was they were locked in this confined space, why it was that they were never to go outside it's stone walls topped with barbed wire.
As a child, Avery often wanted to go outside the heavy steel gates, to see the planet beyond the bland grey-white walls surrounding them. They wondered why only a select few could step beyond those gates, and why they could only do so surrounded by men dressed in camouflage with guns in their hands. They wondered where it was they went, and why it was they came back battered and bruised, limbs missing or broken, with spirits in worse condition.
Their father was one of them at one point. Jason and five others were whisked away when Avery had seen ten summers on this planet. The others came back four months later, but Jason was not among them. It was a just shy of a year since he was taken away did he return. Unfortunately, he didn't return in the same fashion that he left in. Avery can still remember the day that he returned with complete clarity.
They had turned eleven only a month before, and had been staying with one of Jason's squad mate's family since his departure. Upon her return, the house became a bit crowded. Two adults and four children. It was obvious that the house had trouble holding three people, let alone six, but the family refused to let Avery live all by themselves without anybody to look after them while their father was away. As a result of the extended amount of time Avery was left waiting on him, any time the sirens sounded, signaling the opening of the gates, Avery ran all the way across the compound to see if it was him. Most of the time it was not.
Finally, one hot, muggy day, he came back. As the sirens blared in Avery's ears, their blood began to pound furiously. They felt a looming sense of apprehension as they dropped everything to run barefoot across the hot pavement. Over the hill to the gate, they saw a familiar flash of red hair, and Avery's heart lept into their throat. They picked their knees up higher and ran faster. But what they found that day at the gate would change their lives forever.
By standards put into place by his own people, Jason was once considered a "Super Soldier." By no means was he massive man, he was actually more on the lithe and slender side than he was muscular. That being said, he was quite tall and quick, and he was one of the best at what he did. So when they caught wind of his reputation, Jason - the man with kind eyes and fast feet - was taken away.
He was brought back in a wheelchair. A whole eight months of trying to stabilize his condition had done little more than keep him alive. Two experimental surgeries and four experimental medicines did nothing to fix his fractured spinal cord. He still felt frequent stabs of pain in his lower back from where the doctors were unfamiliar with his anatomy and nicked an artery. He nearly died on that operation table three times thanks to that mistake. Finally, the doctors and surgeons gave up on fixing him and held him for another two months before releasing him back to the compound.
Their father would never walk again, and Avery's heart splintered. But when Jason looked up and caught his child's gaze, he grinned, opened his arms, and fought hard to keep back tears of joy. Avery ran up to him and fell into his loving arms. Arms that were still so strong and loving. Here in their father's arms, Avery would always be safe.
Seven more years passed without incident. Everything was normal, until, one day, it wasn't.
Jason was beginning to worry. Avery had begun to come into their birthright, and, unable to use his legs, Jason was unsure of what he could do to help them. He would be unable to train Avery, unable to teach them control and discipline and everything else needed for them to become who they were meant to be. Every day he lived in slight fear that Avery would come into their power, and Jason would be unable to stop it.
But one day, the guards with guns and camouflage outfits began to thin around the gates. Whispers of uncertainty gathered at the corners of the compound and people looked upon the walls and steel apprehensively. Rumors spread of leaving, of rising up while the guard was weak. They had been in these walls for almost seventeen years now, they would be confined no longer.
All plans, real or not, were shattered soon enough. Not long after the guard began to recede, the sound of machine guns and bombs and grenades filled the air. The scent of gunpowder and burning flesh filled the air. Bullets wizzed passed the gates and the people were quick to retreat into their houses in fear.
Positioned in the farthest corner of the house they could manage, Avery and their father waited. Hours, it seemed like, until they heard the gunfire and explosions and screams of war die off. They were allowed only a few sparse minutes of silence, less than one hundred and twenty seconds of peace, before the shrill sound of the heavy gates being pushed open was all the inhabitants could hear.
Avery could hear shouting, could hear doors being kicked down and the sound of heavy boots stamping on the hard packed dirt. Their shoulders tensed up, they balled their fists and twisted their features into an angry snarl. The footsteps were closing in on their house. Avery's determination began to burn brighter. So much had been taken from them at the hands of these humans, they would allow nothing else.
Avery stood, hands at their side, glowing bright and flickering with fire,
"No, Avery," Jason reached for them, trying to pull them back, but the flames growing on their arms were too hot, and Jason couldn't reach them. His head whipped around, looking for something, anything, to use to stop Avery. Spotting what he needed, he wheeled himself off as quickly as he could.
Meanwhile, Avery was halfway to the door. A series of staccato beats on the door followed by a string of words in a language not understood were yelled, and Avery stood in front of the door, bathed in flames. They remained silent as the people outside yelled yet again, and was unfazed as the door was kicked open.
Guns immediately trained on them, harsh words spat that were not understood and threatening steps taken into the house. Avery stood their ground, flames licking at their shoulders, Their heartbeat pounded in their ears, droning, constant, helping to block out the sound of the soldiers yelling at them and cocking their guns.
Suddenly a blast of cold water pulled Avery out of their daze. Turning, they found their father pulling water from the bucket they had drawn that morning.
"Get down." Jason said to them, motioning to the floor. "Now, Avery!" he shouted, a command in his voice that Avery had never heard before.
Finally, Avery did as the soldiers were trying to do the whole time. The soldiers rushed into the room, two on either side of Avery while one jogged briskly beyond them. Avery's eyes followed him, watching in horror as he pushed his gun to the side of their father's head. The soldier began to pull at Jason's arm, tugging him to the ground, barrel still pressed to his head. Avery screamed, "Dad!"
The soldier next to them whacked them in the head with the stock of his gun. Avery fell to the ground, head tilted just so to look out of the open door. A soldier pulled a woman out of the house next to theirs. They were awake just long enough to watch as the woman fell to the ground, and the solder pulled the trigger.