Episode 73 - To die and part is a less evil; but to part and live, there, there is the torment

The sun had begun to rise and the forest turned alive once again. For the creatures inhabiting the Mulberry Ridge it was just another day. But for us renegade soldiers; the morning seemed like an extension of the night before. We had been walking for hours since we left Beacon Hill State Park the previously evening. It was supposed to be a simple trip to scavenge fuel, but having Redman injured made things a lot harder and certainly slower. I should’ve left him guarding the vehicle. It was 800 hours when we arrived at the deserted Base Camp. Malloy and Roy scouted the camp while the rest of us hid in the woods. After sometime, Malloy gave us the signal to approach. Base Camp looked just like I remember, but abandoned. Sgt. Palmer, Rodriguez and the Professor were long gone, hopefully getting the help we desperately needed. I was hungry. All I could think about was a nice can of ration peaches. For Redman, it was his first chance to rest in hours. He sat down by a bunch of wooden crates and let go of his make-shift crutch. On the other side of Base Camp, I organized a search for fuel and supplies with Malloy. We had gone through some rough times in the last few days, so being at Base Camp motivated us a bit. It was like a little oasis in the middle of the woods: food, water and fuel. Dr. Walker tended Redman while Jill went through some gas cans. Roy kept an attentive watch. But things were about to change for the worst. While rummaging through the pantry for a quick bite, I heard a gun shot. I looked over Malloy who was just as startled. I ducked for cover and dreaded what I saw: Jill tumble over the gas cans, unable to brace herself. Redman hit the ground and fired aimless at the trees. - Jill!? Are you ok? - I shouted from the barracks. Nothing. Our helicopter pilot laid motionless by the empty fuel containers. More shots echoed through the encampment. This time we fired back, but it was hard to spot the enemy deep inside the forest: our efforts were pointless. Taking advantage of our counterattack, Dr. Walker put her pistol away and rushed to Jill’s aid. - She’s alive! - yelled the doctor while trying to access the severity of Jill’s wound. Running across the clearing, I reached the others. Malloy broke out her binoculars. - I knew it! That son of a gun! - said Malloy while passing me the binoculars. - At 3 o’clock, by the creek…- said Malloy. I adjusted the lenses and spotted our opponents: Dr. Johnson and Private Brian! I yelled out the men’s coordinates to Roy, who immediately opened fired at them. Still watching the enemy through the binoculars, I saw that Roy was missing them completely. I decided not to let them get away. - I’m going after them! Take care of my lady would you? - I told the female doctor. - Be careful! There could be more of them out there - the doctor replied worried. I joined Roy in the forest and we headed for Dr. Johnson’s last position. We hurried through the woods towards the creek for several minutes on a steady pace. Brian and the Doctor were long gone, obviously. - Drop your weapon, John! - said Roy pointing his machine gun at me. - What is this? Some sick sense of humor you have…- I replied, not realizing that Roy wasn’t joking at all. - I’m sorry, Harris. I had no choice. Ivanov promised me to take care of my mom’s illness. I just want the camera. Please, don’t make this difficult. Just give me the damned camera…- finished Roy impatiently. He was shaky, nervous. He had intentionally fired away from Dr. Johnson back at the camp; now I knew why. I dropped my rifle and offered him the camera. - Rats! Roy! What makes you think Ivanov is going to keep his promise? The man is evil! This is preposterous! - I yelled at him. Roy reached for the camera without saying a word. Purposely, I let it slide off my hands, letting the camera hit the ground. Roy nervously looked at it and I made my move. I quickly grabbed his neck and leaped over his body, forcing him to the forest floor. - You selfish prick! How about Jill, out there bleeding? How about Ben and Willis? How about Dan and all the others? You’re willing to save your mom at what price? How many lives is she worth? Ten, twenty? - I kept yelling while we wrestled. Roy either realized he had lost his mind or just gave up fighting: he stopped struggling. - Sorry, man. You’re gonna have to teach me how to trust you again. - and with those last words I knocked him cold with a left jab flush on his chin. I had two choices: pursue Dr. Johnson alone or go back to Base Camp and check on Jill. I chose the latter. While checking Roy’s vest for other weapons I came across a radio. It was just like the one I had stolen from a guard back at the Lab. He probably had been reporting all our moves. - Ivanov must be still around… - I thought out loud. I grabbed Roy and dragged him back to Base Camp. - Hold your fire! It’s me! John! - I yelled right before reaching the camp’s boundaries. I dropped Roy by the wooden crates. - What happened is he ok? Was he shot, too? - asked Redman fearfully. - I’ll tell you later. Get some rope, tie him up! - I ordered Redman. He looked confused, but didn’t disagree. By the fuel cans Malloy held Jill in her arms, while Dr. Walker tried to stop the bleeding with a Chitoson infused rag. - How is she? - I asked. Dr. Walker stepped out and I got closer to Jill. - How bad is it? Let me see it, sweetie…- Jill lifted the bloody piece of cloth revealing a great amount of tissue disruption on her chest. I got chills across my spine. I quickly applied the cloth back to her torso. She tried to smile but couldn’t. -She lost too much blood, I hate to say this, but there’s nothing else we can do for her - said Dr. Walker sadly. I clenched my eyes shut trying to contain the tears. Jill took a long breath; I could hear the blood filling her lungs. She shivered for a second or two and took a last look at me. And just like that she was gone. Sweet Jillian Schneider is dead. I don’t know if I can keep playing this game much longer. It’s just not fair, it’s tearing me apart.

by Corporal John Harris, April 05, 2007