Author's Note – Just a one-shot inspired by well, a favorite boardgame and an afternoon of thunderstorms. Takes place sometime after "The Hunting Party" but spoilers for that episode are only mild. I do not own LOST or any of its characters. They are the sole property of Damon Lindelof, JJ Abrams, Bad Robot and ABC. As always, please read and review!
Lost - The Game of Risk
July 11th 2006
There was an unwritten theory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa that whoever controlled South America won the game. The attack strategy was simple and logical. Trade your countries for at least one in the aqua blue territory. Pile all your wooden reserves on that property. Pick up the dice and attack. Once in control of that continent, springboard over to Africa or push northward into the United States. Proceed to conquer the world. It was fool-proof and practically unbeatable.
But it was also flawed and so Kate had traded away her stronghold in Venezuela and Brazil for New Guinea and Western Australia. Jimmy and Beth had stared at her with blatant confusion. Tom had raised his eyebrows and incredulously whispered, "Katie?" She had smiled innocently and spouted off some half-baked truth about always liking Down Under better.
As she watched the dice pass from person to person, seemingly in tandem with domination of South America, she heard the words of her father running through her head. On a rainy and miserable afternoon, she had asked him to spare a moment to teach her how to play Risk. He had laughed when she told him that he was making a mistake, trading her territories in the East for his in the West.
"Australia is just as good as South America, Katie. In fact, it's even better."
She had fixed him with a curious stare, her eyes narrowed with slight suspicion. "Why?"
"Look." He pointed to Indonesia and then to the purple number two at the edge of the board. "Australia can only be attacked from Siam, yet it's worth two extra armies, the same as South America. So you tell me, Major, why I would want to defend my continent with twice the effort when I get the same reward over here."
From then on, she had changed her strategy, a strategy she then employed later when the game of Risk had become more than just a map of the world, a few plastic dice, and a box of wooden cubes. While Tom, Beth, and Jimmy battled it out in the western hemisphere, Kate had slowly expanded from Australia to Asia and from Asia to Europe. As she moved her troops in a steady march northward, Kate noticed Tom's looks of confusion gradually transitioning to looks of startled understanding. It had taken Tom only one game to realize her new plan and then to calculate how to correct his own strategy for hers.
By sheer force, Tom overpowered Jimmy's feeble last stand in North America, reinforced his defensive perimeters, taking careful consideration in stocking Alaska heavily enough to keep Kate pressing westward, and then it became too easy. Like perfectly matched hands in cards, Kate and Tom pressured Beth from east and west, shrinking her from a wide yellow band until their powerful forces met somewhere between Europe and Africa. Then he had put down his dice and said, "You win, Katie."
She glanced up at him, bewildered that'd he'd surrender now. This was a game of survival and domination, why not fight it to the end? He wasn't cornered, if anything he had the advantage. Blue cubes spread across the Americas, Africa, and most of Europe; within a few turns, they'd outnumber the green spread across Asia and Australia. She could almost see the next few plays unfold in ghostly shimmers before her. He'd weaken her in Ukraine, attack her in Kamchatka, divide her forces into a two-front war, swallowing her one country at a time. Why give it up now? She voiced that much to him.
"I don't wanna fight you, Katie." His easy grin told her, he'd be ready for her next time.
She was seeing that same look again, although the face staring at her now was slightly more rugged than Tom's. It was probably because of the dark stubble growing along his jaw and the close-cropped hair that needed a trim. She almost laughed at the thought, realizing that in reality two months on an island were to blame. Not that she was looking for something to blame.
Kate felt her cheeks flush scarlet and immediately steeled herself for confrontation, pushing back that weakness. Tom had gotten away with it. He wasn't going to get away with it too.
"I don't want to fight with you, Kate," he said, his voice low and gentle. It had an almost husky quality to it and she had to set her jaw against the involuntary shiver working its way up her spine. She was not going to let him drop the dice and give it up. That was a dangerous precedent to set with her.
"Well, maybe I want you to." She winced, hearing the flirtatiousness creeping its unwelcome way into her retort. She had wanted it to sound more threatening than that. She was supposed to be angry with him for shutting her out. She was trying to give him a taste of his own medicine. If he wanted Asia, he was going to have to earn it.
Jack glanced off to his left as he always did when amused, failing to hide the grin from her eyes. His hands found their way to his hips and he cocked his head at her. The smile she was trying to ignore danced from his eyes.
"No, you don't," he said, shaking his head slightly.
She stared at him, her anger at him for trying to work his way back in her good graces melting into unguarded perplexity. This was not in any playbook she was familiar with. You either attacked or were attacked. No one, for any reason, negotiated or reasoned their way out of a battle.
"You stiffed me Jack. All I wanted to do was help but you left me in the dark. I'm not going to stand here and let you plead your way back into good graces with me. You started this fight, so you're going to be the one to finish it!"
Kate crossed her arms high across her chest, fixing him with what she hoped was a defiant glare. She had just reinforced Siam.
He stared at her unconvinced as if mocking her attempts to keep him out. That made her furious. So she rolled first.
"I'm not just gonna forgive you this time!" Double sixes. You lose two, Jack.
The wounded look in his eyes told her maybe she could pull this off. Maybe she had just enough troops and determination left to not let him win this country.
"What?" She had heard him clearly enough, she just couldn't believe it and was looking for affirmation.
"You've convinced yourself that's what you want, Kate," he smiled, taking a step towards her. It wasn't meant to be threatening, but Kate felt as if he was pushing her farther back into Asia. "But you don't want this."
She refused to yield to him. Even though he was inches away from her, she stood her ground, hoping he couldn't see her resolve faltering. She knew he could, it was easier to ignore it and let him take Ural and Afghanistan and China and India. He was pressing in from Kamchatka, marching through Yakutsk and Irkutsk, melting her forces in Siberia and Mongolia until she was backed into a wall, literally.
She stared up at him, but the fury her green eyes spat at him wasn't because of what he had done. It was because of what he was doing.
Kate had always prided herself on her patient strategy. She had always been careful never to let one country slip in defenses and preferred to take one territory at a time, rather than try to muscle her way to power as fast as possible. Somehow he had found a weak spot and was demonstrating that he knew it was there. Somehow, he had reduced her to the continent of Australia.
Her heart pounded loudly and Kate wished it would quiet down. She felt as if she were betrayed by its uncontrollable rate, like he could see the tangible effect he was having on her.
She was seeing that look again, and she knew the words that came next would disarm her more effectively than the additional box of wooden cubes he'd earned by beating her out of Asia.
"I'm sorry, Kate."
As Jack walked away, setting down his attack dice as he went, Kate felt strangely disoriented, the same way she had felt when Sam had shown her the flaw in her strategy so many years ago. She stared unblinking at his back, unsure of what to do next, only aware of her father's distant words, but now as they repeated in her head, she had the feeling he was no longer talking about the boardgame.
"Australia is just as good as South America, Katie. In fact, it's even better."