The Family Business

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, and Into the Darkness

The man commanding the small group stepped up to Jamison and put his irritated face inches from Jamison. “Whoever you are, I am going to make you suffer. I will not tolerate anyone coming into my territory and killing my men!”

“They’re not dead.” The man visibly startled. He studied Jamison, and Jamison studied him back. The man turned around and ordered the two lackies to check on the downed men, but as they turned to look the one across the street was trying to get up. It took several minutes for the other man to rouse, but then again he had been a lot closer to the gun.

When the leader of the group came back he was smiling, and much to Jamison’s surprise he handed him back his weapon. “So why didn’t you just identify yourself instead of playing cat and mouse with my men?”

“When I was here last, you didn’t need anyone’s permission to walk the street.”

This remark opened the door for the man to ask details of where Jamison had been since the great unveiling. Jamison also had a few questions. But all he learned was that the man was named Reilly and he commanded the streets for several blocks in each direction. Reilly didn’t understand the new order of life, but he refused to hide inside.

After the conversation hit a dead end, Reilly told Jamison he was welcome in his district anytime. But his father’s shop was a ways out. It was in an area fiercely controlled by the Dibolocos. With this news, Jamison headed off in the direction of trouble.

When he left Reilly’s district the streets became noticeably worse. Every building had a hole or two in it, at least half were gutted, burned out or maybe just missing. But no one or no thing tried to stop him in the streets.  As he got closer he found more and more of the shady businesses he had seen from the train.

As he approached his father’s old shop he was anxious. When he realized he had one more corner to go he stopped to steady his thoughts. He waited for his nerves to calm. They didn’t. So finally he just went ahead and looked.

The store had windows all along the front. They were covered with plywood. A nonsensical fact because they were about the only part of the building that appeared to be standing from this angle. He approached the building, walked right up to the front doors and found them standing wide.

The front wall was standing, one side wall, and the back wall. The other side, and everything from the second floor up was missing. He looked around the sales floor he had been so determined to avoid and waves of emotion threatened his composure. This visit might not have been a good idea.

There was evidence of explosions here and there, bullet holes in walls, but an awful lot of the damage was done with more primitive weapons. As he walked back he found the room which had been his father’s office was mostly intact.

As he entered the room the first thing to draw his attention was the little desk his mother had used. It was basically broken in half, splintered into two pieces and each half laid neatly over on its side. He could imagine his mother sitting there when an energy weapon did that damage. He could imagine her dying in the little wooden chair that use to be there. He tried to stop imagining it, but the image was hard to turn off.

He turned to his father’s desk. It was turned all the way upside down a few feet forward of where it had always stood. His father’s chair was sitting right where it belonged. It was a big dark red leather executive model. The back of the chair was sliced downward at an angle. It started to right of center and moved down toward the left and on the floor was the slice which had been taken off the chair.

He pictured the Dibolocos from the ship slicing its axe through his father. He closed his eyes trying to make the image stop. He grabbed his head and squeezed hard. Nothing stopped the image playing out in his mind. Tears fell to the carpet debris.

He was taking a few minutes to regain his composure when behind him a door opened but he did not notice in time. When he did, he tried to draw his weapon. Strong hands secured him before he could accomplish it. They half walked, half carried him to a wall. When they got there the wall opened up and they pulled him into a hidden elevator.

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Departure Orders

When I first started writing this series I was expecting one or two episodes.  Now though I am much more drawn into the idea and have a plan for how to carry it forward through several dozen episodes.  If you have not seen any of Jamison’s other adventures you should probably go back to last week, where I linked each of the previous chapters.  Last weeks episode was Dibolocos Attack.  Follow that link back if you need to read the story from the beginning.  This week, chapter five called Departure Orders, begins below

The next morning the men were fed in their quarters. Then they were ordered to wear their dress uniforms and were marched out to the parade deck. Standing at full attention in ceremonial order they were given departure orders.

The officer in charge was a commander he had seen in the dining hall prior to the attack, but Jamison didn’t know his name. Apparently he didn’t care for the formalities of introducing himself. He launched right into giving the commands. They were pretty standard for the Colonial Defense Forces.

Each man would be given one month of paid shore leave as well as full pay for their time off world. They would be rich, although probably not for long.

Within the first twenty four hours they would have to be interviewed by a Med/Psych Officer. The MPO might require more appointments during the month. By the end of leave they would have to make a decision as to whether to join the civilian workforce or to continue serving in the CDF. But, the MPO could override their decision if they felt necessity required it.

When the commander was done, he did not give the customary dismissal order. Instead he ordered them to wait for additional informations from Captain Colofer.

Jamison’s knees unconsciously lost tension and bent forward, but he caught it and snapped them back straight before falling. He became aware his hands were trembling and pressed them into his legs for a minute to steady them. This left a damp handprint on each of his legs.

Two enlisted men opened the doors and in walked Captain Colofer. He felt anger, abundant amounts of it. She was his scapegoat. Jamison blamed her for everything related to this war they did not choose.

Her speech was not long. She spoke aloud rather than speaking into their minds. She was encouraging the men to align themselves with the Kilkians. Each person would make a personal choice. They would not be under orders to align, nor would government instruct them how to choose.

Jamison wasn’t really listening. He considered it the details of a battle he did not wish to be a part of. He had parents and siblings waiting back home, He had time to make a new life. He could be a farmer, or maybe he would join the mines. Only thing he was sure of was he would not join the family business and become a retailer.

Colofer’s tone sounded as if she was about done. “The choice is yours, but understand this, if you fail to choose, if you try to remain neutral you will, in fact, be aligning with the Dibolocos. If any of you wish to make the choice to align with us now, you may indicate your choice by taking a step forward.”

Not a single man among the seven survivors stepped forward. Jamison wasn’t surprised. In his mind aligning with the Kilkians would be like accepting a suicide mission.

Colofer seemed to slump a little, she turned and looked at the commander and he gave the order to be dismissed. The men immediately turned to gather their few belongings and head to the shuttle.

On the way down into the atmosphere the men began to talk casually among themselves. For the first time since being picked up there was humor, bravado, even laughter. Jamison didn’t laugh, he didn’t even talk, but the sound made by the others returning to normal behaviors made him feel good.

He was coming home.