Good men chased bravery or wished they did, and when stakes were exceptionally high, the best man had to be ready to surrender his life for the vacuous promise of glory. That’s why every boy had plastic guns and a green plastic helmet, and that’s why he and his friends played brave war games in their backyards. And every boy, particularly the stupid ones, believed they understood the world’s simple politics. Maimuns ruled Asia and lesser places, and Maimuns were treacherous, vicious heretics. Every neighborhood war was fought against the hated enemies of Christianity. This was the century’s great war being replayed, complete with fump-fump-fump sounds coming out of every happy mouth. Thirteen hundred years of religious strife had culminated in one extraordinary decade: The World’s War was a wildfire rich with tanks and battleships, millions of men mobilized and many of them killed. Yet nobody won the War. In the end, Queensland’s bombers and Mongolian rockets delivered a few dozen uranium bombs, and the fighting was finished. Important smart and very sober people assumed the Second World’s War would come tomorrow, and every nation remained armed, alert. Twenty years had passed quietly, the Armistice proving to be exceptionally stubborn. But what wasn’t peace looked like peace, and that’s why a twelve-year-old boy could huddle behind last year’s Christmas tree, playing the game but feeling hopeful. At twelve, he was old enough to appreciate how Armistices didn’t have to end. Another twenty years of calm, and boys like him--those who didn’t have a Hero father--would have to do nothing but play soldier along some quiet border. Then they would come home and fill girls with the best of themselves, and the next crop of boys would play-fight too. But not as fiercely. And if the Armistice would last another ten generations, or twenty, or fifty, the borders would grow thin and weak, and nobody would notice the change, and nobody would notice hundreds of years of hatred slipping off into Nothingness.