- "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."
- ―General George Patton Jr.
"At ease." Paul said to soldiers and recruits at attention as he entered the barn used as a makeshift barracks.
Paul walked over to Recruit Josh, a wide smile across his face. "Josh, you've done excellent. If you keep your head in the game and don't pull no rookie shite, I think you'll be a valuable asset to the resistance. Congratulations, your now a soldier." he said, pinning a rank stripe to his uniform. "Permission to speak freely, sir?" asked Josh, his happy-go-lucky smile suddenly not their. Something didn't seem right to Paul all of a sudden.
His smile faded. "Granted."
"Did you do enough for me, sir?"
Paul blinked. "I'm sorry?"
Everything flashed white, and suddenly he was looking down at the recruits body, chest blown into two pieces, arms sprawled across the road in different pieces. His head, however, looked the same way it did that day he graduated. "I said, did you do enough for me?"
"No, you didn't, did you?" said Monty, coming up behind him. "You failed. You failed to protect him..."
Everything went white again.
He stood, an AK-47 in his hands, looking at the form of his dead wife, killed by the Zemka. Her face suddenly looked as it did when she was alive. "You failed to protect me. You failed to protect our son. You're a murderer."
Everything went white again.
He was back in the forest where Josh died. He was alone with the young boy's corpse and the corpse of the Zemka he'd sacrificed his life to kill. Suddenly, the body of the Zemka Soldier began to pull itself to its bloodied feet. "Nothing but a murderer of men." The oddly familiar voice of the alien said. He went for his Skorpion, but he found himself in his work clothes from before the Zemka came. "You don't discriminate from Brits or Aliens, you hate them equally. Do you know if they have family? Do you even care?" The Zemka, black metal gleaming darker than seemed possible, began to take off its helmet. "Do you care if you kill someone you love?"
The helmet came all the way off to reveal the blond hair and deep blue eyes of his son at six years old. He knew this wasn't possible, as his son was fourteen when he was taken two years before. The effect worked, however. It made him want to scream and cry, but he found his body numb.
Suddenly, his wife and Josh appeared beside him. They said in unison, "Did you do enough for us?" His son, Ron, raised his laser rifle, smiling as he did it. "Did you do enough to save me?" he asked, and fired.
Paul woke up, sweat dripping from his crew cut hair, screaming.
He ran his fingers through his hair, trying to catch his breath. The air around him in the barn they used as a barracks, was cold and crisp. He checked his watch to see what time it was.
2:22 in the morning. He couldn't fall back to sleep now, not after that. He got up, put on his fatigues, and walked out of the barracks. The night air was cold enough so that he could see his breath. The august air mixed with the fresh breeze off of the Atlantic ocean. He climbed up the rocky hill and stared out at the ocean. The mixture of the fresh sea breeze and the gentle waves calming him.
"Bad dreams?" said Monty. Paul turned around to see his sergeant in civilian clothes, leaning on a crutch, smiling through his thick red beard.
"Yes, sir." he said, turning his eyes back to the ocean as the veteran special operations soldier walked up to his side.
"Oh, your about that age, aren't you?"
"There comes a time in every soldiers life when everything adds up worse than before."
"Did it happen to you?"
"I said 'every man', didn't I, O'byrne?" His smile faded, and he looked out into the ocean. "War poisons the soul, Paul. Its inevitable that it will build up to a boiling point at some point."
"You think I'm at that point, sir?"
"I know your at that point, son. I've seen too many men go through it to not know it when I see it."
"What should I do?"
"Well, son, that's not fer' me to say." He turned to Paul, and stared sadly into his eyes. "Either way, it will change you for the rest of your life. You either find a place in the storm of your life where you can keep centered, where you can lean on friends and family for support, or you can denie it. Tell yourself your fine. It leaves a scare on the soul. I've seen men live with such a scar. Some become effective leaders, but most lose themselves in the act. They become the thing they've hated all their lives. They become ruthless and unfeeling, and that, Paul..." he said, turning away from him and back toward the main house of the farm. "That usually leads to a hollow death."
"How do I deal with it, sir? How do I live with myself? How do I find that center were I can live my life as if the scars never happened?"
Monty turned back to Paul. "You will never live your life as you did before the war. War changes you. The idea, son, is to cope with it."
"How do I cope?"
"That's something every man has to do themselves, because every man copes differently. I've taught you everything I know, Paul. Now its time to find out how you can use it."
Paul nodded, and Monty walked away. Paul stood and stared at the ocean until dawn, reflecting on what he should do. This was the first time he had truly been alone with his thoughts in weeks. His thought kept reflecting back to the image of his son in full Zemka armor. He knew it was quite possible that his son may be one of them, one of those Zemka, but his heart told him it wasn't possible.
By dawn, he was satisfied with himself enough that he could get a few hours of sleep. So, with that, he got into his bed and fell into the darkest sleep he had had in a long time.
Jack Taylor walked into a pub in Roundstone to meet his old friend Monty.
"Jack, me boy!" He said, as John clasped his good hand.
"Monty! How are ya?" He said, a large smile creasing his face. The two sat at the edge of the pub, and both ordered themselves a jar, or glass, of Bush Mills Whiskey.
Monty pointed his hand at the crutch he'd laid by his seat, "Not so good." he said, lowering his voice. "Got me leg shot out from under me in our last raid."
"Your lucky you didn't get go up against one of them aliens, or you'd be dead."
Monty's lips creased into one of his big, red bearded, crooked smiles John remembered from the old days. "This wounds a laser wound." he said, leaning in closer. "One of them big fella's that look kinda human faced us." Suddenly, his grin disappeared.
Suddenly Jack picked up on the sadness. "How many?"
"Twelve men. Delanny included. Josh was the last to die, throwing himself on the Zemka and blowing them both to hell."
"God, Monty." he pursed his lips. "Your not about to suggest what I think you are, are ya, Monty?"
"I don't think we have a choice anymore. We need every man who can handle a rifle, and your a former Ranger, for shites stack."
"I told you, I'm done."
"C'mon, Jack. We need you."
"I said I'm done."
"Damnit, Jack!" Monty began to say, when a racket of yelling was heard outside. Three british Zemka and an Irishmen Zemka volunteer stood in the street, barking orders to take up position at the doors. "Oh, shite."
"You need to get out of here now, Monty."
"No." he said, taking a drink from his whiskey. "Lets see how this plays out."
"Monty...." he began to say, when the old war veteran pulled the holster of a Heckler & Koch USP out of his jacket, just so he could see.
The Zemka from the street came in, followed closely by a five foot, fully armored Zemka soldier. "Fuck." Monty breathed, as they walked in, rifles bared.
"Stay come, or we will shoot you." said the alien, scanning the room. He walked over to the counter, where an old Irishmen, Bill Taylor, Jack remembered, sat drinking a beer. "Bill Taylor, your wanted for speaking out against the Zemka."
"That's a crime?" Bill asked, slurring his words. "Whats the punishment?"
"Death." The alien said, and, faster than the two old war vets could see, the Zemka extended its Execution Scythe and took off Bill's head. Monty went or his P90, but Jack grabbed his hand. He shook his head, and Monty begrudgingly put it away.
Luckily for them, the Zemka didn't notice the action, and they walked out. "Why the hell did you stop me?"
"You'de have brought your whole resistance down with you. You have to do this kind of thing covertly. Now, lets walk out of hear quite like, and set up a plan to deal with our little Zemka friend.."
"I thought you said you were done fightin'."
"Consider me enlightened. Now, lets go."
Somehow, Jack knew he had just re involved himself with Monty, and joined the Resistance.
And Somehow, he was okay with it.