Aftermath Episode 30
“Forward Through the Tempest”
You can see the full series of this fictional story here.
“Do you know where they put Cathy?” Jason said to his wife.
“No, but I know where the mess hall is at, it’s where the commander said she was, and the best place to start.”
“Right,” Jason said, and started for the door to the stairway. Patricia pulled him back, and before he could ask what was wrong she planted her lips onto his. She held him tightly against her face, until she felt his body relax for a slit second. Jason melted into her kiss, letting his arm fall away from the door. They broke and he stared back at her in wonder. She said everything in a single look, I love you, thank you, I’m scarred, I’m so happy you’re here, I’m ready to fight, let’s get out daughter, where’s Jim, I love you. All of it, transmitting in an instant from her eyes to his. He set his gaze on her in reply, a simple message. I know, I understand, it’s not over yet.
He opened the door to the stairway and was surprised to find only Nancy and one other man left in position.
“Where are the others?!” he demanded.
“They left, they went to go open the main doors, to let everyone inside.”
Shit, Jason thought. The last thing he needed was the chaotic scared masses pouring into the building when he was trying to find his daughter.
“We need to find my daughter,” he said.
“We’re with you,” Nancy said, then turned to Patricia and hugged her, “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
They moved up the stairs and through he dark hallways. The commander mentioned that none of the soldiers left were loyal, which meant there probably weren’t any patrol, but he wasn’t willing to take any chances.
“We need to move quickly and quietly,” Jason said to the group. Nancy had surrendered her sidearm to Patricia and took up position behind her, with the only man to stay behind bringing up the rear.
Patricia guided them towards the mess hall, which had two entrances, one on the inside that lead to the hallway they were in, and one to the outside, where the camps citizens were currently amassing. They could hear the shouts and cries of the panic-stricken people outside, and the chattering of small arms fire in the distance, but closer than it sounded before.
Delmar was putting up one hell of a fight, and from the sound of things, that fight was getting closer and closer. Just then shots rang out from inside the mess hall. Jason burst through the door to see the rebels from the camp shooting at two guards who were barricaded behind turned over tables between the outside doors and their attackers. Jason and Patricia turned over a table and took cover. Jason scanned the mess hall for signs of his daughter, but couldn’t see her. Then Patricia gasped and grabbed his shoulder tightly.
“There she is!” Patty screeched.
Cathy had crawled under a table a few rows away from the outside doors and the barricaded soldiers. She curled herself into a ball and held her ears against the loud, echoing gunshots. The camp rebels were a few rows in front and to the right of where they sat, firing away at the soldiers. Jason wanted to kill all of them, those idiot rebels who were firing over his daughter with no tactical skill, the soldiers blocking the doors, all of them.
“Hey!” he shouted over to the camp rebels, who didn’t hear over their own gunshots.
“Cease fire goddamn it! Cease Fire!”
Patricia and Nancy began yelling too, and finally, the camp rebels high on adrenaline and fear took notice and stopped shooting. They looked over confused. The barricaded soliders, who could see that they were outnumbered, took this opportunity to make their escape. They unlocked the doors and took off towards the kitchen.
The doors burst open and a tsunami of panicked people poured through them like flood waters, trampling over the tables and stepping on each other.
“Cathy!” Patricia shouted. In an instant, Jason had lept over their over turned table and was hurdling towards his daughter in a race against the growing tide of fear driven people. Jason reached the table under which his daughter hid and tossed it onto its side as a barricade, and scooped her up into his arms. The people rushing in slammed into the table, stepped on each other, and began flowing around it, crushing each other up against it. Jason ran towards the door where they’d entered. Patricia and Nancy were on their feet; the camp rebels were trying in vain to calm everyone down. They stood on table and waved their guns in the air. Jason didn’t give a damn what happened to them, or anyone at this point, he had what he came for. He and Patricia and Nancy burst into the hallway and shut the door behind them.
“The motor pool!” Jason shouted.
“What?” Nancy asked. The roar of people on the other side of the door was deafening.
“The Motor Pool, where is it?!” Jason asked again.
“This way!” nancy shouted, and took off down the hall.
Jason and Patricia followed, with Cathy still held tightly in his arms.
They entered what used to be the garage for the municipal trucks and lawn mowers. Now, two military grade hummers sat parked inside, alongside a few remaining four wheelers. Jason located the key box and smashed it open. The four of them piled into one of the hummers and Jason started it up. Only now did Patricia find the courage to ask what only her eyes had said earlier.
“Where’s Jim?” she said quietly.
Jason hesitated at the wheel. He turned to his wife in the seat beside him and searched for the words to tell her. He didn’t need them. She saw in his hesitation he truth about their son. Her lip quivered and her eyes watered, but she held back against the rush of tears that wanted out. She nodded and held Cathy tightly against her chest. Jason’s eyes watered too, but he knew there was no time to lose. They weren’t out of the clear yet.
There was an explosion that sounded as if it came from inside the camp, near the tent city. A small explosion, a grenade most likely, Jason thought. That meant the rebels had reached the camp, they were starting their assault on the complex itself. Jason was well aware that in this vehicle, Delmar and his crew wouldn’t be able to tell that they weren’t enemies. Jason doubted it mattered anyway, after everything that had transpired, Jason wouldn’t hesitate to kill Delmar himself and he guessed that Delmar felt the same at this point. It occurred to Jason that he and his family had always been expendable to Delmar, right from the beginning. They were nothing but useful tools in his crazy scheme.
He put the truck in gear and headed out of the garage. Several fires raged across town, lighting up the night and showing the path of destruction wrought by the battle between Delmar’s select group of men and the government soldiers. It seemed what was left of the command center’s soldiers were dug in at the main gates behind those twin .30 cals. Return fire came from windows and doorways sporadically and from every direction. The machineguns couldn’t keep up. There was no chance of heading out the main gate, and Jason veered to the left down the service path that lead out past the old baseball fields, between the rows of tents that had been erected on them. There was a gate that lead to the surrounding neighborhood, and that would be there escape.
It was quiet around them, and the giant lights lit the now empty tent cities with an eerie clarity as Jason gunned the engine. The fighting was all concentrated at the front gate. The gate was ahead of them now and Jason sped up to ram through the fence. From in front of them, something sparked and shot forward. Jason recognized it, but it was far too late. The rocket hit the ground a few yards in front of the truck and exploded. Jason slammed the brakes and turned the wheel but the impact of the explosion sent the truck rolling, two full times before it landed up right again.
Everything sounded far away, and Jason couldn’t see straight. The only thing he could hear was someone screaming his name over and over again.