DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Just playing "what if…?"

DEDICATION: bourbon, merryann, bmfejk. I "blame" them. All their fault for saying I should write fanfic for "Jericho."

SUMMARY: What went through Jake's mind during the thirty seconds the A.S.A. pilots gave him to comply with their orders or risk being shot down.

CATEGORY: in-ep for "Patriots and Tyrants."

SPOILERS: whole series to date, esp. season 2 finale

FEEDBACK: Oh, sure. It's always great.

Thirty Seconds

A high pitched whistle. That's the most I'll hear. I'll feel one of their missiles slice into the fuselage before I hear the shrieking tear of metal and the deafening clap of ordnance exploding. I'll close my eyes so I don't see the fireball race its way through the cabin, engulfing Hawkins, ready to swallow me whole, but I'll feel it. I don't know for how long. And then it won't matter. This plane will come apart at the seams and places where seams were never intended. Even as the pieces char, curl and blacken, the air where we once flew will explode as Hawkins' nuke fulfills its malicious purpose.

And none of it will matter.

Everything we did, everything we've been through won't count for anything.

I have thirty seconds to live and then it will be over for Hawkins and for me. Two more pointless deaths, two more drops of blood in Cheyenne's wounded ocean.

Oh, God… Mom, Em… Eric. Stanley. People I had a lifetime to love and I wonder if I did it well enough. I made so many mistakes on the way to this place, to this expanse of sky. Have I done enough to even out the balance sheet? Will they know I wanted to say goodbye? Will they know I didn't want it to end like this?

I hear the echo of my grandfather's words, "You turned out real nice," and the strained whisper as my father told me he was proud of me.

I stare hard into the sky ahead of me, my peripheral vision registering our location on the map and I realize I hadn't felt like doing any of this, but I knew I should. So I had.

All of this counts for something. No matter what happens next, it counts. And they know. Mom. Em. Eric. Stanley. They all know.

All of this counts for something. No matter what.