Aftermath Episode 27
The Battle Begins
You can see the full series of this fictional story here.
Men rushed by him, taking positions along the road. The .30 caliber machineguns continued to rake the empty buildings along the street. What the hell are they firing at? It was Jason’s first coherent thought. If not for his years of combat experience, the loss of his son would have ended him there. Instead, he pushed it from his mind and forced himself to move forward. The rapport of the machineguns and the roar of the chopper overhead as it swooped low over the streets were almost comforting. They were tangible, familiar sounds that represented a familiar world, in which he thrived, combat.
Still standing just inside the gate, Jason took in his surroundings. Squads of soldiers filed out and maneuvered forward towards the smoldering rubble of the church, and others moved to the left and right flanks. To Jason’s knowledge no one had fired back yet, but he knew that something horrible was waiting for them. Out there on the dark streets, in the glow of the church fire, Delmar and his crew were waiting. This attack was Delmar’s Magnum Opus, his Cysteine Chapel, his chance to use all the skills and equipment and hatred he’d been gathering all his life.
Right on cue a second explosion erupted. Claymores. Set along the road. The soldiers moving towards the church collapsed under the barrage of shrapnel. That’s when the first shots were fired back. From the roof of the hardware store two blocks away, a sniper’s bullet smashed into the machine gunner to Jason’s right. He fell and the other swung his weapon and opened up on the spot. He only got a few rounds away before another sniper’s bullet pounded him into the ground. This time from the opposite side, from a roof on the other block. That’s when Jason realized the danger he was in, wearing the uniform, exposed at the front gate.
They won’t know I’m not one of them, he thought. I’m not sure if it would matter anyway at this point. After Brunt and the Sniper’s carelessness in their mission Jason wasn’t entirely sure that killing he and Jim wasn’t part of Delmar’s plan, afterall, they were just more mouths to feed. Only Jason and Jim offered usefulness in Delmar’s eyes, Patricia and Cathy were dead weight to him, and Delmar knew he couldn’t get one without the other. Small arms fire erupted from various windows along the street and the soldiers were taking cover and returning fire. Men rushed to take up the machinegun positions and strafed the rooftops and windows where the snipers last fired from. Jason knew they’d have displaced by now, but he didn’t have time to worry about that anyway, he needed to find his wife and daughter.
The camp was in utter chaos. Combat hadn’t reached the tent city yet, but people were screaming and running about, making it impossible for the small guard detail left behind to keep order. They shouted and gestured for people to return to their tents, but it was all in vain. Families huddled together or shuffled through the rows with their heads tucked low, the women and children all seemed to be flowing in one direction, towards the community center. I guess they think they’ll be safer inside, Jason thought. Jason had his doubts about that. Knowing Delmar, he didn’t put it past him to demolish the whole damn building.
“Patty!” Jason yelled over the screaming chaos of the fleeing people and the barking of small arms fire in the distance.
“Cathy!” He tried again. He pushed against the flow, eyes scanning the maddened crowds. He had no idea what tent they were in, and no way of finding out. It was impossible to see everyone as they ran for cover under the artificial lights beaming down on them from the makeshift poles and guard tower. Maybe somebody knows her. Maybe somebody has heard of her or at least knows where the newest people were assigned. He grabbed a middle-aged woman and she scurried past. She screamed and began to plead with Jason. There was fear in her eyes. Deep, uncontrolled fear and she kept screaming, “Please don’t hurt me, please!”
Jason was taken back and instantly released her. What could have caused such fear of him, he wondered, and then remembered that he was in uniform still. The way that woman looked at me, he thought. The fear she had, and the pleading. Jason’s blood began to boil as he wondered what these guards had been doing to the people, the women, here in this camp to earn such a response. He decided to try his luck with one of the other guards who was desperately trying to direct traffic away from the command center.
“Hey!” he shouted.
“These fuckin’people!” He shouted back, then out to the crowds, “Go back to your tents now! The doors of the center have been sealed! Go back now!” He might as well have been whistling Dixie, Jason thought. The helicopter swooped in low over head with a deafening woosh! Everyone dropped low to the ground as it happened, and Jason took advantage of the brief drop in the screaming.
“Hey!” Jason shouted again, “I’m normally on patrol, but they said I gotta come help you, said something about the new arrivals, where they at?”
Without looking the guard pointed to an area about 50 yards from where they stood.
“Get back to your fuckin tents!” the guard shouted. Another explosion went off, and everyone turned in the direction of the sound. It came from deep in town, several blocks away. Jason understood at once what Delmar was doing. He was luring the soldiers out farther and farther from the camp, and making them fight on his terms, in the urban setting, where he had been busy setting traps and setting up positions. It was the only way his small force would be able to stand a chance against the garrison at the camp. Still, why would they pursue so heavily, and leave this place so scant on soldiers? He thought. Then he remembered the story he sold to gain entry, about the invading force. Your welcome, you bastard, He said to Delmar under his breath. These guys think an entire rebel army is attacking and they’re sending everything they have out to meet it.
Jason turned back to where the soldier had pointed out the new arrivals area. If anything, that’s a place to start, he thought. Patty wouldn’t be running toward the center, she knew we were coming. He set off in that direction, when something caught his attention in the corner of his eye. A meaty fist flew towards his head, with barely enough time to dodge it. He squared and blocked the second punch, but to his surprise it wasn’t a soldier. He looked to his right in time to see three other men jump on the soldier he’d just talked to. Someone tackled Jason to the ground, and in an instant two men were on top of him.
“Wait!” Jason shouted, covering his face and arms, “I’m not a guard!”
The hits kept coming to his ribs, the side of his head, his arms covering his face. With no other choice, Jason slid the blade he’d stashed in his sleeve and jammed it into the leg of the man straddling his chest. The weight lifted as the man screamed in agony and fell to the side. Jason jumped up, threw off his helmet and drew his side arm.
“I’m not a guard goddamn it!” He shouted. The attackers eyed him viciously, inching forward as Jason swung the gun between the approaching men.
“I’m with the rebels, and I’m looking for my wife!”
The words had no effect on the men and Jason wasn’t sure he had enough ammo to save himself. He pulled the action back on the pistol and tried again.
“Goddamn it, listen to me! I’m not a guard, I’m with the rebels, this is a disguise, and I’m here to find my wife!”
“Hold it!” someone shouted, and the approaching wolves held for a moment.
“What’s your name?” It was a woman, to Jason’s surprise. She pushed through the circle of men and came up to him. “Your name!” she demanded.
“Jason,” he said, half bewildered, “Jason Jones, I’m looking for my wife Pa-“
“Patricia,” she finished for him, “I’m Nancy, I’m friends with your wife. She told me this was coming, that you were coming. We’ve been waiting eagerly.” She gestured towards the men as she spoke.
“Do you know where my wife and child are?”
Nancy’s face fell.
“I do not know about your daughter,” she said solemnly, “But they took your wife.”
“Took her? Took her where?”
“In there.” Nancy pointed at the command center where the masses were gathering and banging on the doors. The place had been sealed and no one was being let in.
“The commander’s inside?” Jason asked.
“He and about a dozen of his best soldiers.” Nancy said, “But we’ll help you.”
Jason looked at her, and then the men. They had gathered now, three of them armed with the weapons they took from the guards they’d overpowered. He nodded to them and set his mind in motion. He’d need these men if he were ever going to see his wife again.