A Peacekeepers Nightmare

Chapter 10:Context

It has been about ten days since Harod lost his fiancée, and he has not even begun to stop crying. We all tried to comfort him, but it was of almost no avail.

Once he got the chance to, Romulus Thread himself went to talk to Harod in private. He entered the room with a solemn expression on his face.

"I came as soon as I could. I offer my sincerest condolences."

He then looked at us in a way that suggested privacy was needed. As we left, I could hear Thread comforting his peacekeeper in mourning.

"Harod, I want you to know you can talk to me about anything. I know how you feel, I too lost someone ..."

This confirms what I suspected when I first met the war hero, but I do not stick around to learn more because my mother did not raise an eavesdropper.

Harod was slightly better after that, but not by much. For some reason Thread was one of the only three people Harod would even listen to, the others being Montgomery and I. Perhaps this is because only those who have lost someone themselves can understand what he is going through. I still do not know who Romulus Thread lost, but whoever it was must have been someone close.

Today, when we sat down for lunch on the fifteenth day, something unexpected happened: Harod arrived to the table and appears to have stopped crying. Granted, he still would not say a word and still he looked sad as all hellfire, but at least this was something. Even if he only stopped crying probably as a result of dehydration, this is still a step in the right direction. The rest of us walk on eggshells to avoid reminding him of his lost love. He says nothing, but eats his food quietly. While he eats, he looks like he is in pain as he swallows each bite like it is poison. The one time he looks up, I can see his waterlogged eyes have lost the sparkle and brightness they previously had.

When we get ready for battle, I see Harod loading his gun and packing ammunition into his belt. Commander Barca approaches him.

"You don't have to fight yet if you don't want to."

"Yes sir. Yes I do. I must."

"Be careful."

"Yes sir."

We pile into the transport truck and it takes us to a town that some of the rebels have occupied.

There is only a skeletal occupation force, so if we retake this town we will cut off a rebel supply line. Then we can fall back when the rebels try to retake the town; tying up rebel divisions with skirmishes is a good way to slow their progress and keep them off the field in important battles.

While we drive down the road, I see that Harod is staring into the reflection of his bayonet. I can not see Harod's eyes through the black visor, but I know his eyes are still the empty eyes of someone who lost their beloved.

We arrive at the town and take the fourteen rebels occupying the place completely by surprise. We kill the first six, but the rest go into hiding.

It looks like this will be a search and kill mission.

We have to comb through every house in order to be sure Johnny Reb does not give us the slip. In order to avoid falling prey to booby traps, bomb sniffing dogs are released to roam the village. The dogs go to any house that holds an explosive, and said house is set on fire and given a wide berth. All goes well, and the rattle of gunfire in the distance tells us when a hiding traitor was found.

I, along with Montgomery and Harod, am looking through one house when we hear something in the kitchen. We rush in just in time to see a rebel escape through the back door. There is an unfinished snare bomb on the kitchen floor. We climb over the wooden fence that the rebels escaped over, and give chase. When the rebels try running away across an open field, I fire two warning shots. When they keep running, I shoot one in the leg and they all stop.

"Stop right there! One wrong move and your dead!"

They stop, and I see they hold no weapons.

"Put your hands in the air where I can see them."

They comply, and we make the three Rebs walk over to a the backyard of a house that was already cleared. I type into my communicator for others to come here, and decide to get some questions answered.

All three of us have our guns pointed at them, and the rebels are kneeling on the ground.

"What were you doing here?"

One of the soldiers looks scared witless, but the other two are stone faced.

The apparent leader answers. "We are soldiers of the Mockingjay's Revolutionary Army."

I correct him. "You are cowardly traitors, and you deserve to hang."

This rebel spits on my visor, and that earns him a square kick between the legs. He reaches his hands to the afflicted area.

Montgomery shouts, "Have your hands where we can see them!"

The rebel instead lets out a pained scream, and the rebel to his right lets out an enraged one and looks like he is about to tackle me or do something possibly worse.

Before he can do this, Harod shoots him point blank in the head. Then, in a split second, he moves his arm to the left and shoots the head of the one in the middle.

We are able to hold his arm and pull the gun out of his hand before he shoots the third in the head.

"Harod, stop."

Harod steps back a moment, and is panting.

"Harod, what was that for? The other two weren't going to do anything."

Harod seems at a loss. "I ... I don't know what came over me. He just screamed and ... and ... I don't know what happened."

Montgomery places his hand on Harod's shoulder, "He let out a battlecry and you took appropriate precaution. How do we know he wasn't about to activate a suicide vest he's secretly wearing? We can't be careless."

We are about to wait for the others, when I feel like something is wrong. I do not know what, maybe just intuition, but I find myself walking to the nearby bushes. I reach in, grab someone, and drag him out by the shoulders.

In his hands is some type of object, which I am quick to rip away from him.

"Who are you? What are you doing here?"

"I'm just a noncombatant."

Montgomery points to the thing I took out of his hand "That's a video cassette camera. You're a war correspondent, aren't you?"

The man kept his mouth clamped shut.

"Don't feel like speaking. Fine, we'll take you to the commander and see if you'll speak then."

When we get back to the encampment, our little reporter has a word with Commander Barca.

"Just what do you think you're doing snooping around?"

"I'm a war correspondent, the people have a right to know-"

"The people don't need to have information taken out of context and distorted for the purpose of manipulation. Now, let's try this again; what were you doing?"

"I saw what your soldiers did; Peacekeepers are murderers and all of Panem will know."

"I don't know what you think you saw. I watched what's on your camera and all I saw was a possible suicide bomber provoking a Peacekeeper, who then took the right measure to save his comrades. Apart from that, those two dead boys were planting bombs designed to kill medical professionals and noncombatants like you."

"They were made to destroy baby killing peacekeepers-"

"The only baby killers are the rebel bastards who you try to glorify. Well, you're not distorting the truth this time. All recording or filming equipment found in the town was destroyed, and you are being sent off to the prison camp where the higher ups will decide what to do about you."

As two peacekeepers walk the coward out to some unknown fate, Commander Barca addresses the three of us.

"You made the right decision today, there is no room for hesitation. Remember, this is a war."

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