Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Dark Winter: Epilogue

“No!  What the fuck do you think you are doing?” Jennifer Kent screamed in rage as the soldiers holding her by her arms dragged her to the doors of the National Guard Armory.  Chelle Vasquez opened them for her.  A third Guardsman was pushing a trolley with boxes of her personal effects on them.  “Do you know who I am?” Kent screamed pointlessly at them.

Chelle decided at that moment to indulge herself.  She didn’t do it all that often but this time... “Yes, Jennifer Kent, we do know who you are but you apparently don’t.”  

The tone arrested Kent, she carefully parsed the phrase for something she could use.  Some bit of leverage as if she was conducting a cross examination.  “Who am I then?” Kent asked cautiously.

“An aristocrat,” Chelle answered.

Jennifer Kent was reflexively pleased by that and it showed.  She was a good equalitarian of course but somewhere deep inside it was nice to recognized for what you truly were.

“In a world that cannot support aristocrats,”  Chelle finished.

Kent scanned the words for any kind of sense she could make of them.  Finally she accepted them for what they were and her face turned white.  “You can’t do this to me!”

“Mam, General Ciotti can and is doing this to you,” Chelle tried to muster some sympathy for the woman but she really just couldn’t.  Cold professionalism would have to do.  “You probably do still have friends in Washington D.C...”

“Damn right I do!” She snarled with menace at Chelle.

“...So maybe one of them will take you in if you can get that far.”  Chelle pushed on.  She handed Kent a long brown envelope.  “Letters of Transit, signed by Governor-General Ciotti himself.  They won’t be questioned anywhere that...” This civil war was so new nobody had figured out what to call themselves yet.  ”...our side is in charge of.  You can requisition fuel if it’s available and electricity.”  Chelle glanced over at Kent’s Chevy Volt.  Maybe the damn thing wasn’t that ridiculous in an apocalypse after all.  Would electric be more useful then gas or diesel for the immediate future?  Modern engines were kind of fragile when it came to the quality of the fuel they were meant to use.

Kent snatched the envelope out of Chelle’s hands, her eyes narrow slits.  “Air travel as well, right?”

“No, Mam.  That fuel is now restricted to critical military missions,”  Chelle said with quiet detachment.

Jennifer Kent was looking frantically from side to side, trying to find a kind face anywhere.  A trip across country, through the Cumberland Gap to an uncertain future in Washington.  How well were her friends there doing?  Could they afford to take her in.  What value did she bring? How good were those distant friends of hers that she had never once met in the first place?

“Captain Vasquez,” Kent tried formally at first, then she broke and the tears gushed, “Chelle please!”

Chelle summoned what little empathy she could.  “You still have Major Wagoner, that might...only might be better then nothing.  I’ll tell you the truth, the Governor-General doesn't like Wagoner but he is low on Field Grade Officers so he can’t get rid of him...yet.  I honestly don’t know which is safer bet.  Cross country to Washington is doable as of right this instant but I am positive that that will change within hours and I can’t tell you when that hour will be.  Those are your choices.  Pick one and go with it.”

Jennifer Kent struggled with her pride for a moment and then dropped to her knees.  “Please!  Please, you have to take care of me!”

Chelle looked at Kent deeply and thoughtfully for a moment,  “Do you want me to send you the case files on Kenzie Styles?”  She finally asked.

“What?  She replied utterly confused.  “Who?”

“Nevermind,” Chelle said.  “She was never really important.”  And with that Chelle sharply about-faced in disgust and started walking back through the doors of the Guard Headquarters.  And ran right smack into the small, sad form of Gregory Medina.  He was carrying his own much smaller 8.5 x 11 paper box containing his own more modest collection of office possessions.  

“Greg,” Chelle said hesitantly.  “I can probably find you something to do around HQ.  I have that much pull.”

Gregory Medina was clearly thinking hard for a few moments.  Then he broke eye contact with Chelle and ran around her following after Jennifer Kent.

Chelle nodded and walked back to her office.  She pulled out her cell phone.  Two bars left.  The towers were failing fast.  She typed out one message and hit send.  She sat down and indulged herself in a few selfish tears.

The tracks were now beating out a high speed staccato clack-clack rhythm beneath his feet. The air about them had a the faint acrid scent of the coal that was burning in Loren’s belly.   The body of his middle son was being tended to.  Colonel John Castillo’s phone came to life, the ring tone was Queen’s Who Wants to Live Forever.  

He knew who the text was from.  He pulled the phone out of pocket but he couldn’t get any farther.  He didn’t want to look at Chelle’s words.

There’s no time for us.  There’s no place for us.

John felt the phone snap in his hands, killing the song.  

It was the tactically sound thing to do. Cell phones could be traced after all.  

He opened the door to his bedroom suite.  Charlotte was already waiting for him, beneath the covers of his bed. Her bare shoulders shining in the reflected   “Come inside, John,” she said.

He was the Old Man.  The Honcho.  The Skipper.  What he wanted for himself always came last.  Colonel John Castillo closed the door behind him.

A few hours later. General Ciotti was sitting in Wagoner’s hospital room, inspecting the results of Wagoner's disaster via live video feed.  And wondering if his shiny new emergency powers would allow him to shoot the weasel who was sitting right next to him, pouring out a constant stream of assurances that this was in no possible way his fault.

The Marines had done a magnificent job of stripping the university to its bones.  Perhaps the most impressive example was the empty plinth on Spartan Square.  For whatever reason, they had decided to take Sparty with them. That statue weighed better than a ton and a half, but there it wasn’t.

Wagoner stopped short when he saw the plinth.  His face turning purple with fury, as brainlessly enraged as any Zombie.
On the round base, with bits of broken rubble atop it and in bright, bold, freshly painted letters were the words; WAGONER LOVES THE COCK

Ciotti started bellowing with laughter, “You’re that Wagoner!?!?”


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