"Shoot them in the legs," Greg said suddenly.
"W-what?" Jennifer asked, looking over at him. "What'd you say?"
"I've been sitting here, thinking about how to deal with these things...shoot them in the legs. No legs, no running. I don't know why the hell I didn't think about it sooner," he replied.
"Oh...that makes sense," Jennifer murmured.
"A sound tactic," Keron said quietly from where he sat in the back.
They'd been driving for a little while now in silence, away from the devastated colony and the writhing, shrieking madness that now passed for a local population. Greg was still trying to digest all of the information that had been forced on him over the past hour. He felt like he was no longer playing with a full deck. It was difficult to hold onto his train of thought and, what was worse, thoughts of Campbell kept creeping back in. No matter what he was thinking of, eventually, he'd find his mind turning to his guilt.
How many had he killed?
How many had he gotten killed?
As they drove through the ashy desert, Greg glanced over at Jennifer. "Hey...I have a question," he said, getting her attention.
She'd been staring out over the wastelands again, clearly lost in thought about something, but now she looked at him. She seemed pale, behind the glass pane of her visor. "What?" she asked.
"I've been having some, uh, troubles, with guilt recently," he said, deciding not to try and mince words. "Killing people, getting people killed, survivor's guilt, I guess. And plain old murderer's guilt," he added.
"Oh...you want to know how I deal with it?" Jennifer replied.
"Yeah. I mean, if you don't want to talk about this, it's fine."
"No, I guess I don't mind talking shop. What else is there to talk about in a place like this?" She heaved a world weary sigh. "Before I met you and got this job, I didn't have to deal very much with murder. I had killed before and I spent a few years getting over it, dealing with it. I think how people handle murder is kind of like rolling dice. Either you can't handle it or you can, there's nothing you can do to augment that reality. As much as you prepare yourself before or rationalize it after, the stark reality is just that: you can handle it or you can't. And I discovered that I could handle it. I don't like it, at all, ever, but I can do it if it needs to be done.
"But, like I said, before I met Enzo and his fucking merry band, I'd only had to kill maybe half a dozen people. Working corporate security is generally boring, but sometimes it's dangerous. So I can handle having to kill people if they're trying to kill me. But getting people killed..." She hesitated again. "For the most part, I've done my job well. People have been injured under my watch, twice someone has died under my watch, but it wasn't really my fault. There was no way to prevent it. But...there was this guy, Mark, he was with me, back on the Cimmerian. I mentioned in my report that Enzo killed him when we were captured but..."
She stopped speaking once more, looking down at the dashboard, then, after a long moment, she looked over at Greg. "What I didn't mention was that I got him killed. I started pushing Enzo, I was...I was trying to test him, or to piss him off so much that he just left the room, or maybe get information out of him. Whatever, the point was that I played dice with our lives and, much to everyone's surprised, I think even Enzo himself, maybe especially him, Enzo killed Mark. Just like that. Just blew his fucking brains out because I pushed him. And I...I don't entirely know how to handle that. Other than to just keep going."
"That's all you can do," Keron said, startling them both. "Just keep going."
"I guess you're right," Greg agreed reluctantly. But still, that worry and guilt was gnawing at him, slowly grinding him down.
YOU ARE READING
The thirteenth novel in The Shadow Wars. At the edge of explored space sits a desert world known only as Ash. It supports a minuscule population of miserable soldiers, technicians, and scientists. Why are they here? A year ago, a deep space governme...