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Filing his last report, Damian quickly looks over tomorrow’s work schedule. He checks the duties being required, the staff that will be working with him, and the recent reports from other companion Groupings about any warnings or areas of concern. Clearing the screen, he signs off and prepares to return to the housing unit where his family awaits him. Damian rises slowly, and looking about the room, sees his reflection in the glass of the front door. Peering back at him, he sees a man in his late forties with tousled black hair and a moustache and with a countenance of complacency and acceptance. And that bothered him, having that countenance of constant complacency.

Damian had always prided himself on his initiative, on his drive, and on his own inventiveness. They had always burned brightly within him, creating dreams and giving direction to his life. The last few years, though, has seen a flickering, a withering and dimming of those dreams and hopes. It has been replaced by that damned acceptance of things the way they are. His greatest fear now is not that he may be turned out or may succumb to the inevitable as so many others are doing. His greatest fear is that the light will go out of his life, that the fading flame will finally lose all heat. Damian worries that he may truly cease living as his life continues in front of him.

But for now, he looks forward to returning to the family’s apartment where his wife, Sarah, and their fifteen year old son, Christopher, are waiting for him. Damian turns out the light, locks the door, and hurries home. Their apartment is in the lower section of housing that has been constructed for the employees and for their families. Each worker is allotted rations for three people, no matter how many are in the family. It’s not that one isn’t allowed a larger family or other members, it’s simply that no more food is given to them beyond their rations for three people. And with such a provision, careful thought is given to family size, hard decisions in hard times.

Rounding the corner of the building, Damian walks past the first two apartments before he reaches his living unit. He enters through the front door and sees his wife sitting at the kitchen table, working on one of her projects. Sarah, looking up at him as he enters, says, “Hi, honey, I’m so glad you’re finally home. I’ve just been waiting for you to get back to eat dinner. Christopher went ahead and ate just a little while ago.”

“I’m sorry,” says Damian. “We had to do some extra patrols today so something must be up and I was told to expect an even longer day tomorrow.” He then walks into their bedroom and places his pack on a chair before continuing on to his son’s room. Damian pokes his head in at the door. “Hey, how are things?” he asks his son, sitting at his desk. Pushing the door with his foot, Christopher just closes it without giving an answer. Turning around, Damian simply walks back to the kitchen.

“So, what’s up with him?” he asks his wife. “He slammed the door right in my face.”

“You know,” she sighs.