Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Survivors - Don't know why

[The setting for The Survivors is probably best described here.]

"What are you writin'" the kid asked even though the kid's accent said the terminal g should be there.

Karen looked at the notebook she'd looted from the department store they'd hit.  What was she writing?

After a bit of thought, she said, "Confusion."

"What?" the kid asked.

"Since we're almost certainly going to die," Karen said, "I wanted to leave something behind."

"You think we're gonna die?" the kid asked in a way that was curious rather than concerned.

"Don't you?" Karen asked.

"You protect me," the kid said, "and you have a big gun.  How could anythin' kill me?"

"Your faith in me is impressive," Karen said, "and misplaced."  She sighed.  "Anyway, I've never kept a journal before, but I thought I'd give it a try."

Karen closed her eyes.  Thought a moment, and said, "But I couldn't figure out to write."

"But you were writin' somethin'" the kid said.

"Yeah," Karen said, "something."  Nothing worth writing, much less reading.  Still, the kid looked interested.  She finally asked, "Wanna see?"

The kid nodded.

* * *

Jack took the notebook and looked at Karen's scribbled writing:

I don't know what I'm doing anymore.  In a way, things have been so simple and straightforward since the trial.  Everyone believed I was guilty, even if I'd found a way out there was no one waiting for me, and nothing to return to.  So when Unisol gave me a new life in exchange for working for them, they owned me.

I lived how they wanted, did what they wanted, and just mindlessly obeyed.  I'm not even convinced it can truely be called living, but I was so afraid of prison that I was willing to persist as a mindless drone.

Then this.

Zombies, mutants, the streets running red with blood, and we're supposed to go in guns blazing and save the day.  I don't think anyone on my squad really believed that.  Saviors don't need to blackmail their minions into submission.

But the orders were straightforward enough.  Seek out civilians, get them to designated evacuation sites, and engage any hostiles.  It almost felt like we were doing something good.

Then we stumbled on something above our pay-grade.  It's difficult to say exactly what the special unit was doing or why they felt it necessary to kill those people.  I'd like to be able to say that I sprang into action.  I didn't.  I froze.

The third body hit the ground before I reacted.  I wasn't even the first.  It was Michael.  The one I never trusted because he was actually guilty of the crimes Unisol erased from his past.  He was the one who acted.  He was also the first of us to die.

We didn't save anyone.

True, we were outnumbered eight to five.  True, they had better weapons, better body armor, and better everything than us.  It was still a poor showing.  We finally tried to do the right thing and all it did was get three of us killed, separate Jacob and me --he's probably died of his wounds by now-- and draw the attention of outsiders.

And this is why I don't know what I'm doing.  Three people heard the shooting and thought they'd discovered rescue.  Police, national guard, Gun Nuts Anonymous, whatever.
I was able to save the kid only because everyone's gotten so in the habit of aiming at head level for an average adult that the initial shots passed right over him. the kid.

I changed my whole escape strategy, grabbed the kid and led dragged out of harm's way.  By the time the special unit adjusted their aim I had the kid around a corner.

It was almost like instinct, but that was one moment.  I keep on asking myself why I'm still with sticking with why I didn't

I don't know why I haven't ditched the kid.  I stand a better chance of surviving on my own.  I'm not a little girl anymore.  I don't believe in redemption.  When Unisol came to me with the offer to get me out of jail, get me a new life, I knew I was selling my soul.  If they believed I'd done the things I was accused of then they were monsters for even associating with me.  If they knew I was innocent then they certainly showed a distinct lack of interest in who was actually guilty.

For three years I've done everything they ever asked of me without a single question as to why.  It's entirely possible that one or more of the jobs I did played some role in the downfall of this city.

I'm not getting my soul back just for saving one child.

At first I thought I had it figured; when I got passed the delusional absurd idea that I had some shot at redemption here, the answer seemed obvious.  The kid reminded me of my brother.  The brother I loved.  The brother I haven't seen in years because my parents disowned me and wouldn't even let me see him while I was awaiting trial.

There was a lot of feeling there, and it made sense that I'd do a lot of stupid things to help a boy who reminded me of my brother.

That all went down in flames when we hit the department store.  I wish we'd found a place with showers, but you'd be surprised how much blood and guts the amount of cleaning what can be done with a sink, a towel, and a lot of determination.  Being mildly clean and changing into clean, freshly looted, clothes was like a dream.

And then I saw what the kid had changed into.  So much for being like my brother.  She was wearing had picked out looked pretty normal for a girl her age.

My brother does not look like a girl his age.  At all.

She still says to call her "Jack", not sure if I'll be able to ever really accept that "Jack" is a girl's name--

"My name is 'Jack'.  I'm a girl," Jack said.  "So 'Jack' is definitely a girl's name.  'Jack' is this girl's name"

"Whatever you say, kid," Karen said.

Jack returned to reading.

She still says to call her "Jack", not sure if I'll be able to ever really accept that "Jack" is a girl's name, but I'm definitely not disputing that she's a girl.

Any resemblance to my brother disappeared when she came out dressed up showed her true self.

This isn't some last minute conversion to good.  Good and I parted ways when I willingly became Unisol's slave rather than face prison.  There's no redemption.  There's no get out of Hell free card.

This isn't about the kid reminding me of someone I care about.

This isn't about This isn't anything that This is something I can't explain.  The kid's a stranger.  Someone I've known for all of twelve hours.  Why the FUCK am I risking everything to protect this kid?  I should be sprinting to an extraction point as fast as I can, instead I'm slowed down and forced to take indirect routes because the kid wouldn't make it the way I'd go on my own.

I'm going to die because of this and I don't know why.

Maybe it's How long has the kid been looking at me like that?  I'll come back to this later.

That was where the scribbles ended.

"Maybe you're helpin' me because it's the right thin' to do," Jack said.

"Yeah, because I have a history of doing the right thing," Karen said.

"I trust you," Jack said.

"That may be the stupidest thing you could do," Karen said.

Jack handed the notebook back to Karen.

"Well," Jack said, "I could be lettin' my feelin's get in the way.  You are really cute."

"You're about ten years too young," Karen said, "and way too feminine for my tastes."

"I wasn't gettin' my hopes up," Jack said.

"Why don't you pronounce your Gs?' Karen asked.  "Your accent is local, and locals pronounce eng."

"What's an 'eng'?"

"It's the NG in ING."

"Oh, I just like the sound better when it's thinkin', feelin', sayin', and stuff," Jack said.

"I'm going to die because of a weirdo," Karen said.

"I don't mind bein' a weirdo," Jack said.  "But I'd like it if you'd start callin' me by my name again instead of 'kid'."

Karen sighed.  "Ok, Jack."

"Thanks," Jack said.

"Now you sleep," Karen said, "I watch.  And you better sleep because I need you awake when it's my turn to sleep."

Jack pulled a blanket and a pillow out of her bag and curled up on the floor.  The blanket, pillow, and bag were all things they'd looted from the department store.

"Night, Karen," Jack said.

"Night, Jack," Karen said.



  1. Linked page doesn't exist.

    Unisol sends me down an interesting track but I suspect not the one you intended.

    Of course sometimes designated evacuation sites are just labelled that because they're a place people will go when they're panicking. And then you have a lot of people ready for use.

    1. Linked page doesn't exist.

      Should be fixed now.

    2. Ah, so I've said the unisol thing before. Sorry.

      The thing that's always hovering in the background is that nuking the site is awfully tempting. The problem with that is that nukes are not precision weapons; you need to make sure that every single tiny particle of virus has been incinerated rather than blasted away into the air, and that's not at all an easy thing to do.