Buffet Before the End of the World

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The convention center parking lot was partly full of cars. Rashida didn’t expect anyone but other Guardians to be here but maybe part of the center was being used as emergency shelter. She was late because still had trouble navigating from the sky. The comets streaking across the red sky had not helped her sense of direction at all. A sign on an easel just inside the main doors pointed her toward one of the side halls. A murmur of voices carried through the doors. Ok, you’re a guardian just like the rest of them. They invited you to this meeting. She pushed through the doors.

Ok, you’re a guardian just like the rest of them. They invited you to this meeting. She pushed through the doors.
Inside was not the meeting she expected. There were other Guardians in the room but they weren’t all gathered around one table talking about strategy or pouring over maps or listening to a briefing about what they would be facing tomorrow. Instead, they were scattered around the room, some sitting at tables others standing talking with civilians. Most of the room was civilians.

Another Guardian entered the room behind her nearly bumping into her. He skirted past her and beelined to the side of the room where she now saw a buffet had been set up. Large aluminum catering pans were interspersed with smaller casserole dishes, pots, and bowls. A Guardian walked along the buffet hand outstretched over the dishes. As her hand passed over a pan or dish, steam could be seen rising from them.

Maybe this was just a preliminary meet-and-greet and afterwards they would gather in another room for the real meeting. In the meantime, it had been several hours since she had eaten so she headed to the buffet to get a plate.

After getting her plate, she looked around the room for an open table. Flashing back to high school, she spotted a table at the edge of the room with no one on it. As she walked toward it, a woman separated from the group she was talking with and stepped in front of her.

“Hail, Rashida of Winters, be well met,” the woman said with a smile. Antonia, one of the oldest Guardians, was speaking to her and apparently knew who she was.

“Hail, Antonia of Atlantis, I am well met,” Rashida said returning the greeting.

“Most fumble that old greeting,” she said with a smile.

“I’ve read up on you.”

“As have I. You have been a credit to the uniform. It has been about a year since you became a Guardian, is that right?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry I haven’t made time before now to speak with you. Are you free next Thursday?”

“I… I don’t think I have any plans.”

“Good, we can spend the day patrolling together and getting to know each other better. I’ll call Ruby and we’ll make it a threesome.”

“Ruby Daniels?”

“Yes, have you met her?”

“No, but I’ve heard of her.” Every Guardian knew Ruby. She was one of the most decorated Guardian still serving. She held the line against the Grattak, stopped the nuclear exchange of ’94, saved countless more lives, and now Rashida was going on patrol with her Thursday. If they made it to Thursday.

“How are you holding up?” Antonia asked placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Fine, just fine,” she said hiding the fear and uncertainty she had been feeling since the sky turned red.

“What is wrong?” she persisted.

“I’m worried about tomorrow.”

“Understandable.”

“Are we having a meeting later?” Rashida asked.

“A meeting?”

“To talk about tomorrow?”

“All the information we have has already been sent out.”

“Then what is all of this?” she asked waving her hand at the room of Guardians and civilians.

“It’s a tradition we have before an apocalyptic event. We are the protectors of this world’s people. We have been given such immense power that we can feel like gods among them. For this reason, it is important to remind ourselves that we are human as well. These people are our neighbors, our friends, and our families. Talk with them, listen to their stories, tell them your stories, and tomorrow keep them in your heart. Remember we fight for them. Now I see another apple pie has been brought out so you will have to excuse me.”

Rashida turned to watch her beeline to the end of the buffet tables where the desserts were laid out. She turned from the empty table she had been heading toward and walked over to one with another Guardian and a few civilians around it.

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