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More than our army was surrendering that night among the fires.

When the call first came in, I didn't want to believe it. It must have been a mistake. The enemy was playing a trick on us. We could continue on, all by ourselves.

We reached out to other divisions. Some were in the same boat we were in. Disarray. Others confirmed what we had heard. They were packing it in. Going home.

Would there even be homes to return to? What was going to happen to us? What was going to become of the lives we had left when the fighting began? I was tired. Tired of the fighting. Tired of everything. There would be no more running. We were going to face them. Without support. We were going to take whatever it was they wanted for us.

Our way of life was disappearing before our eyes, or so we expected. It was a march into the unknown. We had grown up with a different vision of the future. That was no longer the direction we were going in, fading with each division that dissolved before the other side.

We wanted to believe we could still build a livable future under their advancing waves, but nothing was sure anymore. Change was definitely coming, and there was more reason for dread than hope. We scrambled. Our old organizations fell apart. If any of our leaders were going to be persecuted, we didn't want to be associated with them. There was going to be a major reconfiguration of our society even before our enemies arrived.

It wasn't quite every man for himself, but we could no longer assume the past sources of power and security would be there in the coming months. Chains of command broke down. Who did I truly care about? What did I really want to protect? I had to be sure I knew the answers to those questions. But I didn't.

They were rolling over the countryside. All we really knew about them came from rumors. They did not assume control of our broadcast media as we would have done. Messages and communication came out of their territory informally, organically, often in ways that appeared contradictory. We couldn't determine what they really wanted. We feared that would make it impossible to protect ourselves. Rumors changed from place to place, week to week.

Maybe they themselves didn't know what they were truly after. But if that were the case, how did they manage to be so successful? How were they able to coordinate any of their tactics and actions? It was a mystery known perhaps only to those within the territories they spread over, but we did not look forward to being among them.

I wasn't running though. Not anymore. I didn't expect I could outrun them anyway. We had put up a good fight, but if we couldn't stop them, I didn't see how anybody else could. Would I be assimilated? I didn't know. I didn't expect to be. I didn't expect to ever see the world through their eyes. I expected only to suffer under their rule. But I couldn't know. It was a fear I would be forced to face. Any fight I had left in me drained as our divisions, one after another, told us they were putting down their arms, that they were going to accept what was coming to them.

The society we had built wasn't perfect, but it had stood for hundreds of years. That was disappearing. Maybe small parts of it might still survive, but I didn't expect much. This was an opponent like no other we had face before. Maybe the only thing that could defeat us would have to be something so different, so out of the realm of normal possibility, that our more traditional methods of answering their threats would fall flat. A disease for which no countermeasures existed, not within our dying civilization anyway.

I could only wait. Wait and watch and listen to reports of their advancing forces, as they absorbed our communities into theirs, one after another, as information that used to be distributed in formal news reports, slowly began to disappear into the haze of rumor and hearsay. How similar were the areas they controlled? Were some better off than others? Were their conditions uniform? We couldn't know from the outside. We couldn't tell if it was even knowable from the inside.

There was something about them that made them more driven than us. Where we ran out of energy, will, and morale, they were still relentless. Where did that drive come from? Maybe we would find out soon enough, but I feared we would only be thrust into a new age of ignorance and confusion, the achievements of our past civilization doomed to be forever lost among the conflicting values of a new Dark Age.

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