Aftermath Episode 29
All Is Lost
You can see the full series of this fictional story here.
Jason slowly lowered his gun to his side. He glared at the commander. What is he waiting for? He thought. Why doesn’t he just shoot me?
“Sit,” the commander ordered, and Jason took a seat where his wife had been just minutes before. The light of the bare bulb now shown on Jason’s face and he noticed a flare of recognition in the commander’s eyes.
“I had a feeling you might be behind all this,” the commander said, he continued to press the pistol against Patty’s head. “I should have sent more men after you when I let you escape the first time.”
Jason said nothing; his eyes fixed on the commander, his pistol, looking desperately for a way to take him out and save his wife. Why doesn’t he just kill me? What is he waiting for, Jason couldn’t shake the question from his mind. Then the commander gave him his answer.
“You’re probably wondering why I don’t just kill you,” the commander began, “Believe me, I want to, but the truth is I need you.”
This made no sense to Jason, and his puzzlement must have shown on his face, because the commander chuckled.
“The truth is, we’re weaker than we appear,” said the commander, “between the men you’ve killed and the lack of support from Washington, our number’s are becoming dangerously low. We might repel this attack, but it will be our last.”
Jason was surprised to hear this, but still didn’t know what it had to do with him.
“I have to admit,” the commander said, “I underestimated you and you’re men, but from one commander to another, we know that leadership goes a long way in times like these.”
So that’s it, Jason thought, the commander thought Jason was the leader of the rebels, and now he was a bargaining chip.
“Where’s my daughter?” Jason demanded. The commander’s position was weak, at least strategically, he was going to have to negotiate a peace, and Jason wasn’t going to take step one until he saw that his daughter was safe.
“Ah yes, precious little Cathy.” The commander smiled, “What a sweet girl.”
Jason’s body tensed and the commander swung the gun towards Jason.
“Easy now,” he chided, “the girl is safe and sound, just above us in the mess hall. Of course, I don’t know how safe she’ll be once the attack reaches this place.”
“What do you want from me,” Jason snarled.
“I want you to call off your men, I want you to surrender, and then join our ranks.”
Jason laughed at the idea, and the commander returned the gun to Patricia’s head.
“What’s so funny?” he asked, “Your men are good fighters, we’ve got shelter, medical supplies, vehicles, food, everything your men and families need. We need more soldiers, you need supplies and shelter. It’s a perfect trade.”
Of course the idea was ludicrous, Jason knew it, and it was clear that the commander had no idea what kind of men he was dealing with. Delmar and his crew would die before surrendering and joining the government task force. However, Jason didn’t give a damn, he only needed to tell the commander what he wanted to hear, and figure out a way to get his wife and daughter to safety. So, he agreed.
“You have a point, commander,” Jason said, feigning disappointment. “It will be a tough sell, but my men follow my orders, if I tell them to cease fire, they will. If I get a chance to explain to them this situation you’re discussing, I believe they’ll follow me to it as well.”
The commander seemed pleased with himself. Another explosion shook the building and loosed dust from the ceiling.
“What do you need to make this happen?” The commander said, looking up and away.
“Got a radio,” Jason said.
The commander looked at him with surprise and confusion.
“You’ve got working radios?” he asked.
“Government issued,” Jason said with a sneer, “Got’em off some guys who weren’t going to need them anymore.”
The commander’s eyes narrowed at the slight against his fallen soldiers. Jason worried that maybe he shouldn’t press the commander, but the look of anger on his face soon passed. He must be really desperate if he’s this willing to compromise, Jason thought. In the back of his mind, Jason knew that Delmar’s camp wasn’t the only like it, now was the DDTF camp here the only of it’s kind. Jason had assumed that the government had prepared for resistance, but maybe they hadn’t prepped well enough, maybe they’d underestimated the spirit of men like himself, and Delmar and others who refused to give into their fear the face of a chaotic world. In any case, the commander seemed to need Jason in that moment, to call off the attack, to convince “his” men to surrender.
Jason looked Patricia in the eye, hoping to convey his move to her. She looked back, fear surprisingly absent from her stare. Jason looked back at the commander.
“I’ve got a radio right here,” he said and turned to the shelf behind him.
Jason leaned back and kicked the table as hard as he could, shooting it forward into the commander and Patricia. It caught them in the waist and they doubled over. The comander’s pisol hand played out on the table, Jason grabbed it and twisted his body from the line of fire just as the commander squeezed off a shot. Patricia, still in the commander’s grip and doubled over on the table brought her elbow back hard and connected with the commanders face. Jason twisted the commander’s arm in a way that forced the hand to drop the pistol. Patricia lurched herself from the commander’s grip and Jason sent the table toppling to the left so that he had a clear shot at the commander.
He looked up at Jason from the floor, holding his bloody nose and gasping for breath. Jason pointed the pistol down at the man who had threatened his and his family’s life repeatedly.
“What about the others?” he asked.
“What other’s?” the commander spat back.
“The other command centers, like this one.”
The commander, bloody and beaten down there on the floor sighed heavily.
“It’s all fucked,” he said without pretense or bravado, “They didn’t give us enough, they didn’t expect so much resistance…” The commander’s voice trailed off, as if none of it mattered to him anymore.
“All of them, every command center?” Jason pressed.
“I don’t know,” the commander replied absently, “ I’m sure there’s still some order in Chicago and Washington and some of the bigger cities, those guys were the priority after all. Not us, not the smaller towns. It’s been tough everywhere, and as near as I can figure, the operation was an overwhelming failure. Like I said, it’s all fucked.”
Jason tried to process everything he was hearing. It was hard to believe, but Jason didn’t think the commander had any reason to lie.
“Call them off,” Jason ordered.
“Your men, tell them to surrender.”
“Ha, the commander laughed, you think they’ll listen to me? Those men know the score, they know how things are everywhere, and they watched me send half their buddies to their deaths trying to fight you assholes. Everything is lost. You killed the last couple loyal men I had when you busted in here.”
Jason had trouble knowing what to do. He wanted to kill the commander for everything he’d done, but lying there on the ground with blood pouring from his face, dejected and beaten; the commander was too pathetic to just kill. I’m not an executioner, Jason told himself. This is a broken man, who has to face a broken world just like the rest of us, only now he has nothing. Besides, Jason thought, if he ever leaves this room, he’s got to face the armed campers, or Delmar’s men, or possibly even the remnants of his own soldiers. He’d already won; there was no need for Jason to kill this man. He looked to Patricia and could tell she felt the same. There had been enough death, enough destruction; it was time to get what was left of his family to safety somewhere far away.
Jason lowered the gun, and spoke slowly. If I ever see your face again, I will kill you. The commander didn’t even look up. He just continued to stare into the space in front of him, lost in the realization of the collapse of the world around him. Jason and patty shut the door behind them and made their way down the hall. Before they reached the stairway, they heard a single shot from the room behind them, and the sound of a body slumping lifelessly onto the ground.