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A part of me believed our military would overcome the odds. There had to still be hundreds of thousands of troops out there stationed around the planet—even with the president’s worldwide recall in early 2020. Surely they could band together, swoop in, and bail us out. But then Danny explained the reality. Our counterattacks most likely had incidentally—unavoidably—taken out many of our own bases around the world. We didn’t want to believe it, didn’t want to give up hope, but it made sense. They were stationed in places we had enemies. They were stationed in places we would have blown away.

There wasn’t going to be a miracle solution to this. We were sunk. Our only hope was a helping hand. America had always been there for our allies. Surely someone would be there for us. Someone had to come help us.

But no one did. No one else attacked Qi Jia.

Sympathy and empathy clearly weren’t guaranteed. A lot of the world hated us. American survivors wouldn’t find shelter or support in those parts. Many other nations—those on the fence—had likely been turned against us by our retaliatory missile launch. But we couldn’t blame the people at the controls—what choice did they have? They couldn’t pick and choose. They didn’t know where the attack was coming from.

What a mess!

We figured at least there were places like Australia, England, France, and Brazil—our supposed allies, our friends—places we wouldn’t have attacked. In a way this all was a wager against each of them too. Survivors would likely be seeking shelter in those countries—if they could get there. But all of those places were far from Hawaii. They were far from us. China, Russia, and Japan had probably been the countries we’d hit the hardest. Provoked or preemptive—it wouldn’t matter to them. They would be watching the seas to Hawaii’s west, and Qi Jia controlled the water between us and the mainland. Help was probably not on the way… from anywhere.

Not long ago America had the strongest military in the world—the strongest army, navy, air force, and marines. Not long ago we were the superpower of superpowers. No one country could ever have taken us down. One couldn’t. But seven did. And now, all that remained of the United States was one of the smallest states—appropriately, an island—all alone… on our own. Alone sucked.

It all sucked. I thought of the parents who never saw their kids grow up, and the babies who never had the chance to speak or marvel at all the significant little things in this great big, wonderful world—flying birds, crazy squirrels, bubbles… and books. No Seuss, no Snowy Day… no Goodnight Moon!

I thought of all the people whose last words were hateful, of those who survived but lost the one—or ones—they loved the most. I thought of the people who never had time to do what they always wanted to do, who put off until later what they could have done before. I thought of those who saved all their money for a rainy day, of those who went out for a little while and never came back. I thought of all the celebrities who had become mere mortals—like the rest of us—their fame and fortune worth nothing. And I thought of the atheists, who had to feel decimation like this justified their lack of faith. Truthfully, I could almost see their point. What God would let this happen?

I wouldn’t say I was an atheist, but God and I had pretty much parted ways when my first wife—Sophie—died. I certainly didn’t feel like any of this redeemed him. I didn’t participate in religious activities—not the evening prayers or the Sunday services my dad orchestrated. It was a touchy spot between my wife—Tara—and me now, but thinking about what God had done to me over the years only made me angry. Tara was relentless though… she never let it go. I could hear Tara and our daughter—Emily—praying for me every night… praying I’d come around. It bothered me, but I didn’t object. I was a mess inside already. Their prayers couldn’t hurt—they couldn’t make me worse.

Tara always told me I should be thankful I was alive—that God still had a plan for me. I would laugh, mostly to myself. If God’s master plan involved keeping me alive, he’d messed up. He should have saved that miracle for someone else—for someone who could make a difference.

As time went on and my bitterness waned, I acknowledged that at the very least I was, in fact, pretty fortunate. Almost everyone I loved was in Hawaii with me. How many other people could say that?

So I’d sit in this chair, on the edge of Redemption and concede to God… a little. I’d ask him to watch over my newborn son, Ollie… to take care of Tara and Emily… and to keep my two oldest kids—Danny and Hayley—safe. I’d thank God for Danny’s wife—Kate—and for her best friend, Jenna… for Hayley’s boyfriend Sam, for Dad, and for our extended family on the island—Blake and his sister Kaci, our African friend, Lazzo, Reagan and her little sister Abbey.

Tara would remind me from time to time that prayer wasn’t about getting our way but accepting God’s. In my opinion that was too generous—it let the man upstairs off the hook.

I wasn’t nearly as courteous. Though I wouldn’t say it aloud, I certainly thought it… He owed me.

You owe me.

God may not work that way, but I couldn’t lie to myself. That’s how I felt. Nonetheless, I knew I was lucky… maybe even blessed… to still have all these people—to still have this life. We had it good in Hawaii—on Redemption. Despite all our losses, it wasn’t the end of the world.

Not yet.

ACT I

ONE – Redemption Island (Ryan)

---------- (Wednesday. July 20, 2022.) ----------
Twenty-one months since the attacks.
Redemption Island, Hawaii. (25 miles west of Kauai)

I had to keep telling myself this wasn’t a movie. This wasn’t a dream. This was all very, very real. I was awake now.

Or was I? Squinting out the window above our bed, I could see the flag whipping in the early morning ocean breeze, but the colors looked backward. They were backward.

I heard a baby crying now. It wouldn’t stop crying. Someone get that baby already! I felt a hand shoving me from behind, grabbing my shoulder, shaking me. Leave me alone!

“It’s your turn,” a female voice mumbled.

My turn? For… what exactly? I should have asked, but I let out an exaggerated groan instead.

“Ryan, come on, it’s your turn.”

My turn? What the heck is she talking about? Then it hit me and I bolted upright. The baby. That was my baby. Oliver. I swung out of bed. I’m coming. I was definitely awake now.

I glanced back at my wife, Tara, lying face down on top of the covers in only a white T-shirt. I was distracted by her naked lower body, and my right shoulder took the brunt of my collision with the doorframe. Son of a… man… that hurt! Tara didn’t even look up. She shouldn’t have been sleeping like that. It was unfair to me. And I had to leave that smooth curvy body behind to go get a screaming baby. The sacrifices a man makes as a dad.

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