A/N: I really like this piece. If all goes well, it should be about 10 chapters...

Chapter One: Memorium

The sky was on fire. An entire range of colors danced high above my head, mocking even the most diverse autumn foliage. Wisps of crimson outstretched their arms into deep pools of lavender, forming a chaotic blend, simultaneously standing out and blending in. A swirl of disarray, overlooking an endless sea of chestnut dunes.

My shift was almost over; five, maybe ten more minutes. Each second is an eternity, made of nerves and sweat. My rifle is heavy, so I tuck it into my chest. Cumbersome as it may be, this weapon is my salvation. My vision shifts back and forth; nothing exists outside my imagination. But it isn't enough. I know something's there. I won't be satisfied until I find it.

I swing around, swearing that I heard something behind me. My gun raises to eye-level, my finger hairs away from pulling the trigger. I see nothing. Only a vast expanse of desert, glowing a vibrant orange, all to be seen for the miles which lay before me. A relieved sigh escapes my throat, and I return my gun to waist-level.

My guard was down for less than a split-second, but that was all it took.

An arm latches around my throat. It's thin and bony, with a knife's blade pressed against my jawbone, behind my ear. I panic. My rifle hits the ground, sending a burst of hot lead erupting through the air.

Warm, wet breath tickles the inside of my ear. I'm deaf to the actual words, though.

"Do not move, comrade..." He waits for the ringing in my ears to stop. His voice could apply for either gender, and the fake accent didn't help much, either.

Regardless, this voice is familiar... So much so, that I hesitate.

The choke-hold tightens, my right hand grabs hold of my foe's wrist. It's slender... feminine... everything started to make sense.

I spin around, deflecting her knife downward; subduing her right arm with my own. My left knee lunges for her abdomen. She counters, clutching my limb up to her small frame. A hand reaches out, clutching at the sweat-soaked fabric of my shirt.

Despite its soft texture, the sand does not relieve much of the pain from impact. My head is reeling, and when I finally open my eyes, I'm looking down the barrel of a gun. My own gun, with my attacker behind it.

I wrap my left hand around the muzzle, deflecting a shot past my right ear. I go deaf again, but I ignore it. My right hand jumps forward, grasping the stock of the rifle.

She's surprised; I leap to my feet, trying to wrench the weapon from her grasp. It's not working. I spin around, still wrestling over the gun. She's behind me now, so I thrust my torso forward, bending at the hip, and tossing her over my back.

She recovers fast; too fast. I don't have time to line up a shot. I rush her instead, swinging the rile butt for her face. She ducks under, preparing an uppercut. My left hand catches her fist, but her entire body slams into mine.

Yet again, I found myself on my back, staring up at her. The difference is that now I can actually make out her features.

The first thing I notice are her eyes. They're pretty; one Green, and the other hazel. It matches her light caramel complexion well. A series of dark brown dreadlocks frame her lightly freckled face, as they hang loosely around her neck.

She was straddling my chest, one hand tightly gripped my throat, with the other reared back, and preparing for assault. I stop her attack, deflecting it to the side; my free hand focused on prying her talon from my throat.

My free hand lunges toward the concave side of her elbow, forcing it to buckle. She collapses on top of me, and I roll over. I was on top of her, and felt my face contort into a smile.

"Remind me how you got through basic training again..." I rose to my feet, offering her a hand to help her up.

She refused, as expected. "Tch! Why'd you stop? It was just getting-"

"You lost, and you know it." I interrupted her, not really caring what she had to say.

"What're you talking about? I got you good..."

"And I took your sorry ass down." I quickly replied. "An ol man like me... you should be ashamed of yourself."

Her head and shoulders drooped in disgrace. But I wouldn't let my guard down twice.

A cruel smirk flashed across her features, and next thing I know, her fist is rocketing toward my face.

My right hand clasped around her wrist, stopping her hand just short of its destination. I cupped her shoulder in my left palm, and gently drove her face-first into the sand.

"There's no way mydaughter is this weak..." My mouth was practically inside her ear. "Must be your mother's side shining through..."

I knew that would get to her. Ever since she was little, Marlene looked upon her mother as a symbol of weakness and frailty. Whenever she gave up, whenever she failed, her mother's genetics were at fault. Was I playing dirty? Yeah. Did I care? Not at all. Exitus acta probat; the ends justify the means.

"Shut up!" Exactly the defiance I expected from her.

"You're in no position to make demands, Private Murphy..." I wrenched her arm backward, exerting greater pressure on her shoulder joint. I couldn't help but feel powerful, she was screeching a noise that fell somewhere between an expression of pain and one of ecstasy... She definitely took after her mother in that respect; she felt as much pleasure as she did pain.

Her cries were getting louder, with less distance between them. I had to let go before I did something no father should.

She lay there on the ground, trembling and panting and swearing, all the while, trying to catch her breath. I turned away, trying my hardest not to look; things were bad enough as they were. Watching would only make things worse.

I found myself looking to the sky. A deep mauve had taken place of the kaleidoscope from before, and the entire desert fell into a silent oblivion. It was... peaceful. Funny, how even a region as turbulent as this can have moments of peace.

I had to smile at that thought, it was so absurd... Marlene had recovered, and I could feel her vicious glare piercing into my soul.

I didn't say a word, instead, returning her stare with one of my own. Her eyes were harsh, both overflowing with malicious intent. Mine were equally cruel, but lacking in any form of hostility. I wanted to win, but not at the expense of her safety.

Neither of us moved an inch. We both knew every move the other was capable of. Just the two of us, alone, with only a vast expanse of sand to separate us. Silence had become our world as though we were the last two beings on earth.

We were circling each other our gazes locked into each other. At any moment, either of us could and would strike.

She rushes forward, finally making her move. I back away, setting up an effective guard. Everything was going precisely as planned; checkmate in three moves.

But she stops short.

I drop my guard. She heard it first: a faint rumbling in the distance. It was encroaching on our world, we forgot each other, putting up our guards once more. Someone was coming, and we needed to be ready.

The sound was far away, but qt the same time, growing nearer. My eyes trained themselves on the horizon; something was wrong. Every muscle tightened, my heart raced, my vision became clearer. My hearing, clearer... I knew what the sound was, but this knowledge alleviated nothing.

It was unmistakable, this rumbling sound. It was the sound of a vehicle, making its approach. The only unknown was it's nature: Was it friend, or foe?

I bring my rifle to eye-level, using the scope to search further. I find nothing, but the sound draws steadily closer.

'There it is!' A vehicle, completely oblivious to my attention rolls over a lavender-hued dune. My aim is steady, my index finger closes over the trigger, but doesn't pull. I need it to get closer... It wasn't one of ours, but that didn't make it the enemy. I needed it to get closer before I could make a decision.

The truck lumbered on, mocking my indecision with unyielding progress. No doubt the driver could see us, but he didn't falter for even a moment. It was as though he didn't care about anything but his destination.

He pressed forward, I did nothing. Closer to our position, I still couldn't tell his motives. Even closer, and I froze. I was a deer caught in the headlights, and the driver didn't care enough to slow down. Closer still and...


My trigger finger hadn't moved. I checked myself over; no injury. 'No! It couldn't...'

The truck continued forward, and the driver was smiling. A cruel heat ran through my chest. I wouldn't allow the thought to finish itself. My gaze drifted in her direction, but she wasn't there.

My heart sank. I didn't want to look, I knew I didn't have the strength. Slowly, I allowed my gaze to drift downwards; it was just as I feared.

There she was, head split open and spilled across the chestnut sands.

I could feel my body fly forward, as my eyes snap open for the first time in what feels like forever. My pulse is pounding in my throat, and a cold sweat drips from every pore. I don't ever remember crying, but I do know that I wanted to. I don't really remember much of anything, except for that exact moment.

My fingers trace the chain around my neck, finding a pair of dog-tags. I strain to read the letters under the dim light of the security monitor. But it doesn't matter. I already know what they say: "Marlene Murphy." That's all the proof I need.

I breathed a hefty sigh. The same dream, every night for the last two years. A reminder of what went wrong, a memory of how it was all my fault. It was more than a dream, much more than that. It was why I left the army, why I became a security guard, and why my only daughter is buried six feet under, next to her mom.

It wasn't a dream, it was a memory...

A/N: Well, how was that? Chapter two's still in the works on paper, so It won't be out for, like another month (Minimum) here...