Aftermath Episode 31
You can see the full series of this fictional story here.
“Jason wake up! Jason. Jason!” it was Patty. The world was still spinning around him when he realized this. Patty, his wife. Calling his name. That’s good, she’s okay. She sounds afraid. His thoughts came slowly, like dripping molasses, through the fog of the wreck. He slowly turned his head and saw his wife, she was bleeding from her head, but she seemed otherwise in tact. Cathy was still in her lap, both were still strapped into their seat. Nancy had been knocked unconscious, or maybe she was dead. Patricia was shaking his shoulder. Wake up now, came the thought. Wake up buddy. Soon his thoughts were in sync with Patricia’s cries and the world came snapping back into perspective.
He shook his head and spoke slowly.
“Are you okay?”
“Jason, look!” Patricia was frantically pointing out the shattered windshield at the three figures who stood before them. All three were pointing rifles at the car and one of them was shouting for those inside to exit with their hands up.
“Stay here,” Jason ordered.
He slowly reached for the door handle and pulled it. He lifted his legs to exit the truck and a surge of pain shot through his entire body. He must have hit his head hard, he thought, definitely a concussion, and everything was sore. He stifled his groan and put his boots to the ground. His hands were high above his head and he shuffled from behind the door.
“Don’t shoot!” he shouted, “Don’t shoot, it’s me!” his head was still swimming, but his vision had returned. There before him was Delmar and two of his soldiers. They kept their weapons trained on him.
“Don’t shoot!” Jason repeated, and went to remove his helmet. To his surprise, it was already off. Delmar could see him. They all could see him, and they knew who they were pointing their weapons at. Goddamnit, Jason thought. It was his first clear thought since climbing out of the truck. After everything, this is how it turns out? Jason could feel his blood boiling.
“Easy now Jason,” Delmar spoke, “Where’s the rest of my men?”
Jason glared at his former friend.
“They’re dead,” he said, “and they nearly got us killed in the process.”
“Now how is it,” Delmar started, “That out of all the men on that mission, only you and your son survived?”
Jason knew there was nothing to say, that Delmar had made up his mind about the answer no matter what.
“Seems a bit suspicious to me,” Delmar said, “seems like maybe you aren’t the kind of man I thought you were.”
“Lot of that goin around,” Jason spat.
Guns were still going off at the main gate far behind them, but the exchanges were fewer and farther between. Things were winding down, the twin .30 cals were still barking. At least one soldier remained. Then a familiar sound came into ear shot, from over the town and heading their way, the chopper tore a path across the sky.
Delmar’s face lost it’s look of snide confidence, and he turned to the man on his left who had the rpg strapped around his shoulder. He barked orders and the two men on his flanks directed their attention to the incoming chopper. Delmar held his gun on Jason. The three of them were in the headlights of the truck. The explosion must have caught their attention, Jason thought. Thank God I’m still in this uniform, he thought. The helicopter bore down on them, the man to Delmar’s right opened fire with his assault rifle while the other aimed the RPG. Before he could fire the rocket, a string of machinegun bullets tore across the field. Delmar and Jason both ducked and dove for cover. The two men on Delmar’s flanks shook violently as the bullets ripped through them and collapsed them to the ground.
The chopper, seemingly satisfied with it’s kill, banked hard and headed back towards the gate where the fighting continued. Jason reached inside the truck for his gun but before he could turn around again, he heard the bolt of Delmar’s rifle behind him.
“Stand up,” he said. Jason did so, and stared at his wife.
“You’d shoot a man in the back?” he asked with disgust.
The gun fired! Jason winced, his entire body seized up at once. To his surprise he didn’t feel anything. Is this death? Am I in shock? He slowly opened his eyes and looked down expecting to see blood, a whole in his gut, his body below him, something. He looked up at his wife who wore the same look of shock and confusion as he did. Jason turned around just in time to see Delmar’s body crumple to the ground. Jason checked his own body again, nothing. To his right he noticed movement. Someone was standing just outside the beam of the truck’s headlights. Jason squinted as the figure moved closer and into the light, and he nearly collapsed as he saw his son Jim walking towards the truck.
Patricia screamed and jumped out of the truck, still carrying their daughter. The four of them embraced in the headlights of the truck, holding each other, crying and laughing and thanking God.
Jim had heard Delmar’s men planting the explosives, shortly after arriving at the church. He’d overhead them talking about how Delmar had planned on killing He and Jason, and possibly keeping the women for things that nearly made Jim kill them on the spot. It had been Delmar’s plan ever since Jason had begun to question his authority. With Brunt and the rest of Delmar’s people gone, it had become a personal vendetta as well. Jim had made his way out of the church and decided to try and sneak in to the command center through the back gate. The battle had begun shortly after he made it out of the church, and it took everything he had to make it to the neighborhood, and then the gate undetected. Luckily, the lion’s share of the fighting had taken place near the front, and in the downtown area. It was pure luck that Jim had arrived there when he did, he watched the rocket nearly destroy the truck, and when he saw his father emerge, he knew he had to take action.
“What do we do now?” Patty asked.
Jason hopped into the front seat of the truck and tried to start it, but to his demise the truck refused to start. Nancy stirred in the back seat, and Jason and Jim pulled her out and laid her on the ground.
“Patricia, see if she’s alright, Jason told her, “There should be an aid kit in the truck somewhere. Jim and I are going back for the second vehicle.”
Just as he finished his sentence a violent explosion echoed across the sky. They all looked towards the camp to see the fireball that once was the helicopter light up the night sky. From the looks of it, the thing went down near the front gate.
“There’s no time to lose,” Jason said to his son, “Let’s go.”
They hustled across the dark service road, across the fields, past the empty tents and up to the edge of the command center. The roaring inferno from the burning helicopter fuel gave the night an eerie glow. People were shouting, screams of the injured cold be heard, but one thing became evident to Jason, the firing had stopped. When was the last time they’d heard shots? He asked himself. There were only a few shots after the helicopter went down, and after that, it all appeared to die out. Jason wondered who was left from Delmar’s crew, who would take the leadership role now that the battle seemed to be over, or if they had even won at all. Certainly the loss of the chopper indicated that at least some of them were still around, and with the weakened state of things at the command center, Jason wouldn’t be surprised at all if the DDTF had finally been wiped out, at least in their little corner of the world anyway.
It didn’t matter, Jason told himself. They weren’t sticking around to find out either way.
“Quietly,” Jason whispered to Jim. They raised their weapons and snuck around the corner to the open garage where the second truck sat waiting. Jason made for the key box immediately and Jim covered him. He got the keys and the two of them bolted for the Hummer. Jason reached the door when he heard it.
“Freeze, hold it right there!” several feet shuffled into the garage behind him. He and Jim put there hands up, side by side, letting their rifles fall to the floor.
“Turn around!” came the order.
As he did so, a wave of relief swept over him.
“Christ am I happy to see you!” Jason exclaimed and dropped his hands.
The rebels from the camp who had helped Jason make it to the interrogation room dropped their weapons and walked over to the father and son with relief.
“What’s happened?” Jason asked, “is the fighting over?”
“We think so.”
“So the rebels are here now?” Jason asked, looking nervously around for Delmar’s soldiers.
“Not any that we’ve seen,” came the reply, “there haven’t been any shots from outside the camp for nearly a half hour.”
“Then… who the hell has been doing all the shooting? Who took out the helicopter.”
The ragtag group of civilian rebels beamed.
“I’ll be darned,” Jason said, shaking his head. “So the DDTF is,”
“And the invading rebels are gone too, or at least retreated…” Jason said absently, lost in his own thoughts.
“Have you seen Nancy?” the man asked.
Jason turned to Jim, and told him to take the truck and pick up his mother, sister, and Nancy and bring them back.
“Aren’t we leaving?” Jim asked surprised.
“Go now!” Jason said.
When Jim returned, he found two men waiting to take Nancy to the first aid station. Several of the women from the camp were tending to injuries and some of the camp rebels had been posted on guard atop the center’s roof. As near as Jim could tell, everyone that was left was gathered in the command center, most of them in the mess hall where the kitchen workers had begun preparing large vats of soup. He found his father giving directions to a group of people in the mess hall; from his gestures it looked like a scavenging party, sent to gather weapons, ammo, and supplies. Patricia had placed Cathy with a group of the other kids who were being watched by a group of women in the corner. Several blankets had been used to make a place for them to lie, and water was being passed out to everyone.
Jim joined his dad.
“What’s going on dad, why aren’t we heading out of here?”
He turned to his son, and marveled with sadness at how much older he looked. So much had happened in such a short amount of time. He was a man now, no doubt about it. He knew death, he’d caused it, he’d been tried and tested and stood before him now a completely new person, a person Jason looked forward to having the chance to get to know again. Patricia joined them as well, wrapping her arms around her husband and resting her head on his shoulder.
“Look around son,” Jason said, “what do you see?”
Jim surveyed the mess hall, but wasn’t sure what answer his dad was looking for.
“The Dark Dawn Operation failed,” Jason began again. “At least it’s started to fail, and in time all the other command centers like this one are going to fall. It’s not because of a lack of weaponry, or not enough soldiers, or bad commanders. It’s not because of men like Delmar and Brunt either.”
Patricia lifter her head to look at her husband.
“It failed because the government underestimated human beings. We are animals, all of us, and the powers that put this operation into action wanted to cage us in. And it worked for a little while, because as animals we have an instinct to survive, to stay safe, and they offered us a cage of safety over the dangers of the wild. But they underestimated man’s need for autonomy, a need, an instinct that goes beyond even out desire for safety and survival. Men have been dying for freedom since the beginning of time. Man is an animal, but he is a predator, not prey. When you back a predator into a corner, into a cage, the animal that is man will ultimately fight back. If he is to die, it will be with a roar, not a whimper. It will be with a fight, not a retreat. Most of all, it will be with his fellow man. The lone wolves like Delmar will always fail, the cage makers like the DDTF will too, because man is a pack hunter. It is together that we survive, not apart, and through support of each other, not by trying to control or divide. The best preparation any man can make is to build a strong community, to learn how to rely and trust those around him, so that when the world goes to hell, he will not be alone.”
Jason wrapped his arm around his wife, and pulled his son tight into him.
“We will stay here, with these people, who found their courage, who fought back against the odds. This will be where we begin to rebuild the world, one community at a time.”
————Message From The Author————
You have officially completed the Aftermath series. It has been an absolute pleasure writing it, and your continuous comments, support, and critique have made the experience that much better. It’s rare that an author gets to pen fiction with such immediate feedback from his fans and readers, and I’ll admit that more than once, it has been reading your comments that has helped me break through the inevitable episodes of writer’s block.
I have a second season planned, which will be a sequel to this series. It will take place in the aftermath of the aftermath so to speak. My goal with the second season will be to focus more on prepper techniques, products, and strategies. There will be a host of new characters, challenges and conflicts, combined with the useful kinds of information that Theprepperproject.com is filled with.
I love and value your input, and as I prepare to write the second season, I could really use your help! In the comments to this thread, tell me what kind of products, techniques and strategies you’re most interested in, personal prepper anecdotes and experiences you’ve had and things you want to know more about. There’s a good chance your submissions will make their way into the plot of the second season!
I plan to begin publishing the first episodes of season 2 starting in September. In the mean time, I’ll be re-editing the first season, and looking to release it as an e-book as many of you have recommended. The details are being worked out, but I’m hoping to include illustrations and possibly audio narration, as well as possible extensions to the chapters and maybe even a few new twists.
Thanks again for all of your love, support, comments and critique! I look forward to reading what you have to say in the comments and prepping season 2!