"Arms production is up 300%."
"We've got 24 hour patrols on the border and a growing reserve force."
"All of our strongholds are being fortified."
"A rationing system has been put in place."
I paused, nodding.
"I'm glad to hear we're making progress. Have we reached out to our allies for support?"
Manara looked at me awkwardly.
"Hell doesn't have allies."
I raised an eyebrow.
"What about Heaven? Haven't we been on good terms with them for the past three thousand years?"
The room went dead silent.
Eversio looked at me incredulously.
"Heaven and Hell working together?" he asked, with an edge of bitterness in his voice.
"I don't care about Hell's pride, okay? We need all of the resources we can get. I want a letter drafted up."
When the room stayed silent I slammed my fist on the table.
"Am I clear?"
"Yes, Commander." the council replied hesitantly, before I dismissed the meeting and they left the room.
Lucifer walked in soon afterwards.
"How are you holding up, Commander?"
"I've prepared Hell best I can for what faces her."
His silver eyes danced in the light of the chandelier.
"I expect no less. It is only a matter of days now."
"Most people my age would be concerned with school starting right about now. I'm worried about a war starting."
"I guess it does beat a jamming locker and homework assignments."
"That it does."
He looked absent for a second.
"I have to attend to something. Come to the Great Hall at midnight."
I watched him stride off, sighing. In the past few days I'd had hundreds of military formations drilled into my head, simulation after simulation, and more training than I could handle. I didn't look forward to whatever deathmatch Lucifer had planned.
I walked to my room and plopped down on the bed, doing my best to get some sleep. I tossed and turned for a few seconds before sitting upright and looking at the old phone on the nightstand.
The breath caught in my throat and eventually I shut my eyes and picked up the receiver, dialing my home phone number.
I heard a dial tone for a good ten minutes and was about to hang up when I heard a click.
"Hello? Who is this?"
I felt something surge inside of me as I heard Izzy's voice.
I couldn't force any words out. I felt as though I was in shock, feeling that old part of my life again, so close.
"Hello?" Izzy's voice crackled again.
"I-Izzy," I managed to stutter, "It's me. Zara."
I heard her drop the phone and then pick it up again.
"Oh my god! Are you okay? Mom and dad said you were in an accident!"
I bit my lip.
"Why haven't you come home yet?"
"They...um...they have to keep me here, in hospital, for a while."
"Why didn't I get to visit you?"
My throat tightened.
"It's...um...in Sweden. I'm being kept alone while they treat me."
"I really miss you."
I swallowed hard.
"I miss you too."
The line started crackling and I panicked.
"Tell mom and dad I love them, okay? That I'm totally fine," I pleaded, "Tell them...tell them that I'm sorry I didn't say goodbye-"
The line went dead. I stared at the phone, before putting it back in its place.
I didn't have the courage to try again. I didn't have the courage to hear her voice, and to lie any longer.
I pulled my knees up to my chest and lay in bed, shutting my eyes once more.
Hell was a lonely place.