Coins clicked onto the countertop beside a knot of red balloons. Nena and Carlo watched anxiously as the storekeeper counted out the change before sending them on their way with a smile. The two children ran with joy in their hearts through the streets, leaving an air of bliss that cut through the tension taut over their heads.
Ninety-nine red balloons held by rocks waited in the field just on the edge of town; the fruit of their day's labor. Giggling, they ran to and fro, releasing the balloons all at once into the sunny summer sky. As the last drifted into the bright abyss, the two danced together beneath the red cloud. Faces appeared in windows, hearts eased ever so slightly by the sight of childhood innocence.
Within concrete confines, a green blip appeared on a scope. Pulled from his nervous boredom, the soldier sat up and watched as the radar swept around once more. The blip grew. Heart leaping into his throat, the man called for his superior. A stern face hurried over, its eyes