Page 8 of Warzone (The End 3)

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“Hey, man,” Stephen said to Bucky as they watched the group settle down to eat what they could find. “I just want to be alone a bit. I’ll be back in the next hour when we’d be moving.”

Bucky nodded. Sighing, he said, “These people are too slow. They tire easily. At this rate, we’ll get to New York on the tenth of January. I want them to move fast but even their men aren’t helping issues.”

Stephen laughed. “Well, up the game bit by bit. Reduce the resting time gradually and steadily so they don’t notice immediately,” he said, as he turned to leave.

“Great idea. Be back here in thirty minutes, ‘cos we’ll be leaving then,” Bucky said and Stephen laughed.

Whistling for Tanner, he strode into the nearby woods. When he was far enough, he stopped and took off his backpack. He needed to start a fire. It took a while because of how wet and windy the whole place was but he was finally able to start a small fire.

Then he began to think. The journey so far had been great. He and Bucky had spent the past few days reminiscing over the years in the army. It was just the way he liked to travel. However, he’d recently begun to feel a growing apprehension. The euphoria of being with old friends was gone and reality had begun to dawn on him again. Even if he had Bucky and Logan walking with him, for his protection, he was pawning their lives. He didn’t want to put them at risk for his sake. He pulled out his kit from the bag. There were bullet marks on it from his encounter with the kidnappers. Opening it, he brought out his map and compass. Bucky had told him that they were going to go through West Virginia and Pennsylvania to get to New York. It was a journey of approximately nine days. Looking at the map, he trailed his fingers through an alternate route leading straight to Pennsylvania. It would take him back where he came from, it would take longer but it would get him to New York anyway.

He threw a stone and watched Tanner run for it. The fire he had built had begun to smolder. Survival was his thing. He hadn’t always been a civilian. Once again, his mind drifted back to his days in the military. It had been a fun ride- till his mouth ruined it all.

And gained him some dangerous enemies.

He’d have to journey to New York alone if he hoped to get there alive and with a clear conscience. He didn’t want anyone to die because of him.

Just as Tanner returned with the stone, he heard footsteps. As if in confirmation, Tanner’s head perked up and he began to bark. Stephen got up and used his feet to scatter the fireplace, mixing the ash with soil.

“Shhhh, boy. Come on, let’s go,” he said to the dog. Tanner came to stand by his side, still barking in the direction the sound had come from. Stephen paused, staring into the woods before him. Running away was a bad idea. Whoever was there was close enough to get him.

“Who’s there?” he called out. There was no answer. He pulled out his gun and cocked it, ready for action. “What do you want? Come out now,” he said once again.

“Relax, Captain Wallace,” a dark lady said, coming out from behind a tree. Stephen pointed his gun at her.

“Trust me, Captain. You don’t want to get into a fight with me,” she said. “I’m not here to

hurt you. I know people are after you and I’m here to help you.”

“Oh, really? I don’t need your help. Tell the people who sent you that you couldn’t find me, okay?” he said as he curled his finger around the trigger.

“Everyone will hear your gun. Trust me, you don’t want to draw attention,” she said as she raised her hands. The dog was growling at her.

“My name is Suzanne. You can call me Suzu.”

“What do I care?” he asked.

"Earlier this year, you made some statements about the ambivalence of your President's character. Suddenly, there are attacks on your life. Towards the end of the same year, there's an EMP attack on your country. You're joining those people to go to New York, aren't you? What do you think you'll find when you get there?" she asked.

Stephen froze. Who was this woman? She seemed to know all about him. Did she have answers? There was only one way to find out.

“I don’t know. Do you?” he asked.

Suzanne smiled, sure of his attention.

“Answer me or I’ll shoot you. Your friend thought I was joking, and he laughed after I threatened him. I’m sure his corpse is still grinning,” Stephen said.

“Put your gun down if you want to know,” she said calmly, yet with authority. They stared at each other for a while before Stephen finally put his gun down. Satisfied, Suzanne spoke:

“As a matter of fact, I do. I know that people are on their way to New York for protection. I also know that it’s all a farce. However, before I get into the details, I want to know how much you know,” she said, pulling out a mini tab from inside the black jacket she was wearing. “You made these statements in March. What made you say them?” she asked as she walked up to him and handed the tab over to him.

Stephen was surprised that the lady had a device that still worked. He was going to ask about it but the video on the screen took all his attention. He watched himself the day he had spoken against the government back at the base.

I know that this President is up to something…

Back then, he’d felt he had been drawing all those lines together. However, after watching his grandma die because of him and barely escaping so many gunshots, he realized how stupid he had sounded that day.

“I don’t know why I said it. It came out on impulse. Looking back, I feel like putting a bullet through my brain,” he said bluntly.

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