Even the night before the ceasefire expired, the Commandant put the community on high alert. The Guardians were informed to prepare to man their stations at any moment, and the civilians were sent down to the lower levels for their safety. The alert went into full defense mode once the expiration passed.
And here we are filing into the command center, which makes me feel awfully exposed right now considering that we're at the top of a massive tower instead of a bunker. Besides the Commandant and other officials, including Beetee, from Central, Haymitch and Boggs are here as well. Projected on the screens are Paylor and, to my surprise, Lyme, who's a District Two victor. It must mean that there is some discontent in the district.
As we take our places around the tables, Beetee's greeted with slap on the back that almost knocks him over and sends his glasses flying. The middle aged — by now, his closely-cropped red hair is evenly mixed with gray — man who initiated the slap is imposing enough to make Brutus look like a starving kid from the Seam. The funny thing is that he's not in a uniform or suit, like the rest of the individuals from Central.
Putting his glasses back on, the old victor decides to introduce us. "Peeta, this is Leonidas MacLeod. He was here as a Peacekeeper in the very beginning of Central's revival and helped Porus form the Guardian Corps. Now, he makes the best drinks in town. Leon, you're probably familiar with Peeta Mellark."
Leonidas gives me a crushing handshake as he appraises me with gunmetal eyes. "Good to meet you, my boy. Say, what do you think of our humble abode?"
Besides the mutts and psychos? "Well… there's definitely no place like it; I can tell you that for sure."
My answer earns a booming laugh. "Benny, you weren't kidding when you said he was a diplomatic one! Keep that up, kid, and there will likely be great things in your future."
"Thanks." I give him a grin that's probably on the sheepish side. "So brings a retired guy like you up here?"
"Perceptive as well. I have a son around your age; probably a couple years older. He's on his first field-op and I'm hoping to see him perform."
Talk about standards… "Well, I wish him the best of luck and safety."
"Appreciated," he states with a nod. "Now let's find our seats before Commander Small-n-Scrappy throws a fit." I almost choke on the water I'm drinking. Something tells me that, if one doesn't know the Commandant well, referring to her in that manner would be a very bad idea.
Once everybody has gathered around, the room darkens and a map is projected on the table. Several enemy hoverplanes can be coming their way from the north; ETA is around five minutes. Projectors soon turn on the walls and give us a 360-degree view to the outside while additional projectors keep the commanders online and show detailed footage. Porus orders everyone to hold their fire as we are likely just in the negotiation phase right now. Sure enough, once they arrive, the bombers just hover in sight of us.
During which, we get an incoming transmission from the District Three Peacekeeper headquarters.
When we open the line, what greets us is the image of a Head Peacekeeper sitting behind a desk in a richly-furnished room. Despite the situation at hand, my initial focus lands not on the man who called us, but rather the elaborate mural behind him. It doesn't take me long to figure out that the scenes displayed must be a history of Three; hell they might be a history of the land that came before Three. Between families settling along a riverbank, trappers trading wares, merchants plying goods, and people gathering as towns are built, everything seems quite optimistic. There's even a cheerful scene of a boy and man fishing as a large riverboat billows smoke in the background. However, the optimism diminishes significantly when I realize that a man on a stage is displayed in a manner not unlike livestock. And then I take in the images at the bottom: on one side, a man being tortured as a house burns in the background, and on the other, a worker being whipped in a setting that appears disturbingly similar to Eleven.
That last scene reminds me of the world we live in and the type of person we're talking to. While this Head Peacekeeper may have been high-performing at one point, the sight before me gives no indication of that. Sure he keeps that uniform clean and well-kept — enough that its owner likely doesn't leave the indoors unless he really has to — but that doesn't hide how he's practically flowing out of his collar… or how twitchy he is despite attempts at hiding it with an arrogant demeanor. I also have a strong suspicion that a good chunk of those medals weighing down his uniform are ones that he awarded to himself; hell, most of them are probably not even standard Peacekeeper-issue.
"Head Peacekeeper Slate. What can I do for you this morning?" The Commandant speaks in the same tone as one would when asking whether you want cream or sugar in your tea.
"You know very well what I, and the Capitol, wish for: for you to stop this silly nonsense about joining those traitors. Do so, and we can forget all of this ever happened. If you hand over Peeta Mellark and the rest of those rebels in your care, we'll even throw in some added bonuses."
"So you wish for me to turn over these guests of mine?"
"I don't care what you call them; they are valuable enemies of the state. Giving them up will be more than enough to earn our gratitude." Idiot should have stopped while he was behind. "So what answer do you give?"
While the other commanders look concerned, Beetee and the other Central officials all have knowing smirks on their faces.
"Jon," Porus asks, "are we ready to broadcast?"
"Whenever you are," the mayor responds.
The Commandant looks straight into the camera floating in front of her. "People of Panem; Citizens of the Capitol: I am Commander Porus, Commandant of the Guardian Corps and security officer for the Central Triumvirate. Many of you may know Central by its simple name: the Capitol Laboratories. Well, I am here to inform you that we are not in the Capitol, and as of now, we have no affiliation whatsoever to the place. So now, we are likely going to demonstrate as to what happens when Capitol lackeys go against us. You in the Capitol, since you all love to see a good show, I hope to not disappoint."
Upon finishing that speech on a sardonic note, she simply looks at Slate and asks, "How is that for an answer? Oh, and I am giving your forces one chance to leave and never come back."
The Head Peacekeeper looks furious. "I was the one giving you the chance, and you blew it completely! Just as well; I don't know why the Capitol has tolerated constant your insubordination." No doubt talking to the bombers, he orders, "Commence the attack."
Aaand… nothing happens.
The planes just hover in place, no matter how much they are yelled at to get a move on. Some of the officials chuckle at the bemused expression on Slate's face while I try to figure out what's going on. Then I remember how our hovercraft was remotely overridden when we first arrived. The Commandant was just biding her time.
"You forget one thing, Slate. Central doesn't just refer to this citadel; all of the Ozark Plateau is Central and thus, under our domain." Porus lets the bombers hang there a bit before coldly ordering, "Drop them."
With that order, the repulsors on the planes shut off, causing them to drop like rocks.
"Well… that was anti-climactic," Haymich snarks.
The Commandant calmly looks at the mortified Head Peacekeeper and states, "Thank you for the extra scrap metal. We appreciate the raw material."
Slate seems to be at a loss for words before he yells out, "Where's the attack force? They are supposed to be there any moment now!"
Barely has he spoken when we see enemy units approaching from… approaching from… oh, crap.
The entire periphery is practically solid red as an uncountable number of units come in from all directions. They are not only arriving from the bases in Three, but the neighboring districts of Two, Eleven, and Ten. It's clear that we're outnumbered at least twenty-to-one.
"H-holy shit…" I hear a Guardian stuttering over the comm system in what seems to be a state of fear.
"Something the matter?" Porus asks.
"It's just… There are so many targets!"
Nevermind… That's not fear I'm hearing; it's glee.
I have this feeling that I really don't want to watch what happens next, but I'm going to do so anyways.
"Just over five hundred years ago," the Commandant muses, "there was a great commander who hailed from the United States of America. His contingent of troops was outnumbered significantly by the enemy in winter conditions. Do you know what he said when faced with adversity?"
I shrug a shoulder with a shake of my head. "I really don't know. What did he say?"
"'We've been looking for the enemy for some time now. We've finally found him. We're surrounded…'" A rare, and frankly frightening, smile appears on her face. "'That simplifies things.'
"Guardians: Fire at will!"
"YES MA'AM!" The simultaneous and enthusiastic response from everybody is almost deafening. And immediately, the sky around us is set ablaze.
Many times the vehicles would literally be sheared in half by the barrage they absorb. Hovercrafts that are lucky enough to avoid the artillery pieces are either slammed into the ground by remote overrides or intercepted via attacks from above. A Piasa uncloaks in front of a troop transport hovercraft to fire its cannons into the cockpit; the projectiles go all the way through the aircraft, leaving behind a cloud of red mist in their wake.
Somehow, despite the chaos it is sowing, Central's counterattack is so well-coordinated that none of the Guardian's aircraft get hit in the crossfire nor do multiple artillery pieces waste ammo on a single target. Seemingly for kicks, they allow one Peacekeeper bomber to "slip" past the defenses just to see if it would hit the force field; some of the fragments that fly out actually hit and damage other Peacekeeper aircraft.
Some of the Peacekeeper transports decide to land a ways away from the citadel to avoid the AA emplacements. There they unload Peacekeepers, armored vehicles, and artillery pieces of their own; it doesn't do them any good. Even without being attacked, the rocky and hilly terrain compounded with the thick forests prevents the vehicles from going anywhere; one armored personnel carrier actually tips over and rolls down a hill, crushing an entire squad at the base. Also, the fact that we are watching footage of the ground units means a very simple fact that Central knows their coordinates; mortar fire takes out much of the heavy vehicles and artillery pieces. Then there are the mutts…
The presence of infantry units in the forest might as well be a banquet table in the eyes of those creatures. Sure, several here and there may be taken down by defensive fire from the Peacekeepers, but in the end, that just riles them up. Not even being in a vehicle guarantees safety; exemplified by a panther mutt getting into a tank via the machine gunner's hatch, turning protective armor into a death trap.
"Commander, troop trains inbound."
With the announcement, several armed trains filled with Peacekeepers can be seen on the map rapidly converging towards the citadel from various locations.
Porus is unperturbed. "So they are planning to go through the front door. Gutsy of them. Well there's only one problem with that plan: maglev transportation is also remotely controlled."
Sure enough, all trains stop where they are, and the doors on them are flung open. The Peacekeepers have barely enough time to look around in a confused manner when the slaughter begins. Several trains immediately have an onset of mutts upon them, turning the transports into oversized feeding troughs. One train is on a section of rail that is lined with heavy machinegun turrets, which make quick work of the exposed occupants and perforate the carriages while creating a sound similar to a mixture of ripping cloth and the shearing of metal. Another train has only several doors on one side open as flamethrower turrets expel liquid fire into the improvised blast furnaces.
Worse of all, Central is somehow hacking into the security cameras and microphones inside the trains and hovercrafts to incorporate the footage into their broadcasts. So we get to see and hear, in detail, what happens to the occupants of those vehicles: when at least sixty Peacekeepers are trapped in a train car with four large armored mutts approaching from both sides; when a crowded windowless compartment gets riddled with 25mm-caliber projectiles until the interior is fully lit with sunlight; when an incendiary round hits an armored personnel carrier and cooks its occupants alive; when a overridden hovercraft is sent into a rapid spin while the passengers are unsecured…
I really hope the kids aren't watching this.
After the last mutt has departed and the turrets fall silent, all of the trains begin moving westward.
"What are you doing?" Lyme asks in a slightly perturbed tone.
"Packaged deliveries for the officials in your district," Porus replies nonchalantly.
During the entire time, Slate looks like he is about to have a complete horror-and-frustration-induced breakdown. All he does is alternate between staring at shock at the television footage and screaming orders all over the place towards the Peacekeepers around him; most of the abuse seems to hurled towards an especially-skittish yet sycophantic youth — probably his assistant — who looks like he's ready to burst into tears.
Within two hours, the attack has reaches its end. Smoke darkens the sky as metallic pyres dot the landscape. A casualty and damage assessment is made: the number of projected fatalities or critical injuries are in the lower-double-digits, and damage is relegated to easily-fixed scuffing on the wall with no loss of structural integrity. The other side isn't so lucky; let's just say that the Central's defensive counterattack has been very thorough. With the crash of a bomber, there is only one unit left: a troop transport hovercraft. For some reason, Porus is ordering everybody to hold their fire, yet definitely has the aircraft locked in place via an override.
"Now what are you doing?" I ask her nervously. Something bad is about to happen.
"Sending a message." That where I notice a set of draconic creatures flying towards the hovercraft along with several small video cameras getting close-up footage.
"What the hell kind of message are you trying to send?" I admit that my query comes out angry yet a bit panicky than I expected. By now the mutts have reached the hovercraft and are crawling around it to look for a way to get inside.
"What kind of message do you think I'm sending? If they go against us, they suffer the ultimate level of pain. Killing is not enough; you have to strike your enemy right in their memory. Open the loading doors." The attention of the mutts is obtained as main ramp-door to the hovercraft begins to lower. It opens just a bit before it stalls. One of the cameras slips inside to show that the Peacekeepers are desperately trying to keep the thing shut manually, though it looks like it's inevitable as to what's going to happen since the mutts are already attempting clawing at the narrow opening.
Shitshitshit… "You did that with the trains already. But now the battle's over. This right now isn't eliminating enemies in the battlefield or even through an execution; it's a sadistic act of murder." The door finally gives out and begins to lower gradually, which causes the occupants to rush as far as they can towards the front as the mutts begin to squeeze their way inside.
"What do you care what happens to a few Peacekeepers? It's clear that the districts won't miss them. And this is par for the course in terms of things they would normally cheer for during the Games." Now that the door is all the way open, the mutts are free to have a good look towards the huddled mass cowering in their presence.
"I know that. But right now, I don't see Peacekeepers; I see a bunch of scared human beings. And this may be a Central affair, but bear in mind that since I got you into the fight in the first place. So this is just as much my responsibility as it is yours. So I'm saying this for me: please don't do this." Those mutts seem to be taking their sweet time in approaching their intended victims, revealing rows upon rows of long wicked fangs with ropes of saliva dangling from them.
Porus appears to scrutinize me a bit longer than I would like considering the circumstances, but finally relents. "Very well. Halt the attack."
The order comes right on time as it looks like the mutts are crouching in preparation for a pounce. Suddenly their ears perk up and they relax their stance. Though before they leave, they still snap their jaws just inches away from the nearest individuals. I wouldn't be surprised if some bladders and bowels have been loosened. As the Peacekeepers get their bearing back, one of the camera's still stays behind as Porus speaks over their comm system.
"Congratulations. All of you get to live to fight another day. Though I would say that it be in your best interest to forgo the 'fighting' part. Because if I see this hovercraft back in Central, I will offer no leniency. Thus, I would highly suggest landing somewhere that is not Peacekeeper-affiliated and shedding away your current occupation. This isn't just to avoid repercussions from either me or the rebels. I simply know that they way you conducted yourselves looked fairly cowardly, and we all know your superiors' views on cowardice.
"Lastly, know that it was not me who decided to spare you. Mellark here is convinced that you all deserve a second chance. It goes without saying that you owe the boy your life. I suggest not only thanking him, but taking that into account when you consider what your next course of action will be." The people are practically groveling towards the camera as they thank me, which frankly is fairly discomforting. "Now go."
Once the override is released and the camera flies out, the hovercraft hightails it out of there as fast as possible. Paylor and Lyme are looking at me with approval, while the Central officials seem to be neutral about what I did. As long as nobody hates my guts here, that doesn't bother me.
Slate seems to just be recovering from his crippling loss. "You do know that you can't keep this up. Even if we have to sacrifice tens of thousands of troops at a time, your defenses will gradually be worn down to rubble."
"I'm aware of that. And in the end, that's what sets me apart from you: I actually value my people, and I'll do anything in my power to ensure their safety." Looking at Santos, she asks, "Are we clear?"
"We are indeed. No enemies inbound."
"Then bring out the Remingtons and set Peacekeeper base camps 03-01 and 03-02 as targets. Initiate a double-tap protocol and set the order to fire whenever ready."
On the map, the bases right outside of West City and East City are highlighted. Then I notice some movement to the north; two items flanking the hanger are being uncovered. When I get a clearer look, my jaw drops; everybody who is not from Central is just in shock. The items are a twin set of artillery guns, which in itself wouldn't be that remarkable if it weren't for the fact that the barrels of each of the guns look to be at least a hundred feet long. Once uncovered, they being slowly pivoting until they are facing away from each other at a ninety-degree angle.
"Shield is going to drop in 3… 2… 1… Power has been redirected." Santos announces as the slight shimmering dissipates.
"Why did you remove the force field?" I ask the Commandant.
"These railguns are extremely energy-intensive. This is why I waited until we were clear before deploying them. That and I still wish to keep the presence of these guns secret except for these observers." I do notice that the guns themselves are not broadcasted. She proceeds to tell the other commanders, "Also, I hope for your sakes that none of your soldiers are near the targets."
After the guns tilt up and point into the sky at an appropriate angle, they each fire twice. They don't make the similar explosive noise that a gunpowder-based artillery piece makes; instead, the sound is similar to two thin and wobbly sheets of metal make when they strike each other after enough tension has been built. Except that the sound is magnified enough that I actually see shockwaves appear around the guns.
"Let's see how they do, shall we?"
Porus brings up the live security footage of both bases. The footage must be broadcasted as the Peacekeepers that are watching TV in the West City base begin waving their arms then looking towards the camera with expressions of trepidation. It would be comical if not for the coming event; because even as the alarms sound, the projectiles have reached their destination. Instead of one shell landing, a hail of shrapnel rains down on the entire area. The sturdiest of buildings are torn to shreds and, even as they attempt to run to shelter, any individual caught in the open is reduced to a pink mist. The footage has to keep changing as the cameras are getting obliterated with the structures they're installed in. Then comes the second round…
To say that we observers are aghast would be a very strong understatement. I'm not even on the receiving end, and yet I feel like curling up in a ball and crying like a ninny.
Slate is practically gaping like a fish on dry land as his Peacekeepers watch the footage in horror; his mouth is opening but no sound is coming out.
"You probably are wondering why I haven't decided to level your base," Porus casually states. "Well, for one thing, I really like the building you're in; it would be a shame to lose such a valuable piece of pre-Cataclysm architecture. Secondly, I already have a plan for you, and it's time we ended this."
At the end of the Commandant's statement, Slate's assistant suddenly doesn't look so nervous anymore. Actually, he's positively placid as he fiddles with his wristwatch. That's when muffled explosions intermixed with gunfire can be heard from the Peacekeeper end.
"What the hell is happening?" the Head Peacekeeper all but shouts into a communicator. Even from here, I can hear the panicky responses get cut off and replaced by shrill screams.
Then for some reason, music begins blaring out over the loudspeakers; it's a slow dirge played on the fiddle.
"And what the hell is this music and why is it playing?"
"It's a common District Three funeral song," the assistant calmly states with that unmistakable twang in place of his tremulous Two-accented voice, which causes everybody to freeze as he looks the Head Peacekeeper right in the eye and continues, "and it's for you."
Horrified comprehension dawns on Slate's face, and he is just in the process of demanding that the "infiltrator" be apprehended when the sound of a door being busted down can be heard. The youth takes advantage of the commotion to launch himself at the nearest Peacekeeper, who is just in the process of aiming her handgun at him. He closes the distance and grabs the Peacekeeper's gun arm, aims it away from him which causes the gun to fire into another Peacekeeper, keeps on moving so that the arm snaps backwards at the elbow and the gun falls from the hand, catches said gun and fires off at several unseen targets while holding the now-screaming human shield, and uses the last round to finish off his "gun donor" before he dives for cover.
Around the same time, the noise of heavy footfalls and machinegun fire intermingles with the panicked screams of Peacekeepers trying to fight back at some enemy that I can't see; occasionally I can hear a continuous whir of machinery and the now unmistakably wet sound of rending flesh. Slate is about to pull a gun of his own on the young infiltrator when something wraps what looks like a metallic tentacle around him and yanks him back, taking out the camera in the process; however the broadcast feed immediately switches views to show the Head Peacekeeper being restrained.
All of this occurs in less than a minute. The result is a charnel house with only Slate and the youth left alive.
"Remember, Slate," Porus comments: "I did tell you last reaping that there would be a reckoning for your actions."
Slate, to his credit, seems to have some defiance left as he shakily screams out, "You… you people have no honor!"
That causes an uproarious amount of laughter to abound in the command center. Even the Commandant smirks a bit when she coolly remarks, "Honor, hmm? Why don't I let my operative enlighten you with our slogan?"
"Gladly, Commander," the not-Peacekeeper replies as he strides towards his captive. When he gets there, everything above his upper chest is cut off by the frame of the camera, though there is no move from him to correct the angle. He reaches past the camera to pull out a very unpleasant-looking hook-like knife before stating proudly:
"'Not for honor or glory: only the mission.'
"Though for the sake of dignity, I will grant you the chance to look me in the eye and give a final statement."
For some reason, when the Peacekeeper looks up, he visibly pales. "Y-you're a monster…"
"And your point is?" As he grabs a fistful of Slate's to pull his head back, the youth adds with a growl, "Oh yeah, Wiress and the people of West City send their regards."
And in one swift motion, he plunges the blade into the side of the neck and slashes outward to create a wide and grotesque second-smile that issues a wet gurgling noise as the older man crumples to the ground.
With that impromptu execution, the Commandant addresses the Capitol with a cold glare and concludes the broadcast with a final statement: "I hope you all were sufficiently entertained."
The whole room is silent for what feels like an agonizingly long period of time. While the expressions on the Central officials are either impassive or satisfied, most of us "outsiders" are looking on with varying levels of bemusement, if not abject horror, mixed with resignation.
Porus ignores this and quickly turns back to the operative, who's standing by as if waiting for further instruction and still has his face blocked. "Is the area secure?"
"Affirmative, Commander. Arezzo assures me that all hostiles have been eliminated and assets seized. Rebel forces are predicted to arrive within the next four hours." Even in the formal tone, his voice sounds even younger now, with a softer yet still pronounced accent.
"Well good work, MacLeod, though you laid on the theatrics a bit thickly." Ah, so this is Leonidas' son. From the look on his face, the elder gentleman definitely seems to be proud of his boy's accomplishment. My version of making my dad proud was frosting a cake properly; different strokes I guess.
The younger MacLeod noticeably relaxes and chuckles. "Sorry, Ma'am; just thought it'd be something that Three would appreciate. And thank you."
"Understood. Just be aware that I allowed this not just for the broadcast value but because of the controlled nature of this operation. You usually won't have a luxury for such risky behavior.
"Now that we get that out of the way, how about you allow me to introduce you?"
"Oh, of course!" MacLeod proceeds to cheerfully coo to whatever is behind the camera: "Arezzo, look up a bit so everybody can see daddy's face."
When the camera shifts up, several of the non-Central observers make noises of surprise, and I can now see what freaked out the Head Peacekeeper. In the place of the squirrely brown-eyed and tawny-haired Peacekeeper we saw at the beginning of the transmission, stands a smirking youth with dark chestnut hair and denim-blue eyes; even his complexion looks slightly different than from before. If I didn't watch the whole event, I'd think that the two likenesses belong to two separate individuals.
As MacLeod salutes the military officials and gives a friendly wave to the rest of us — especially Beetee and his father — the Commandant states, "Fellow Commanders… Mellark: allow me to introduce Brutus MacLeod, a member of our recon division."
The familiar first name elicits an amused response from Haymitch and Lyme, which causes Brutus to send an exasperated scowl — something tells me he gets this a lot — towards the elder MacLeod.
Leonidas sighs, "Hey, don't look at me. Besides, there's more to the name than that arrogant tool of a victor."
The off-tangent conversation is broken up by the Commandant before it goes completely off the rails when she addresses the youth, "In any case, and with that out of the way, I suggest you get back as soon as possible. There will likely be a welcoming committee awaiting your arrival."
Brutus barks out a laugh. "I don't doubt it. Alright, I just need to take care of a few things here and I'll be on my way."
"Safe travels, MacLeod."
"Will do, Commander," Brutus affirms as he shuts off his transmission.
Porus proceeds to tell the other commanders, "The fact that I allowed you three to see both the Remingtons and MacLeod means that I am placing some level of trust in you. I sincerely hope I am not mistaken. And I especially trust you all not to relay this information towards President Coin."
The speed at which all three commanders concur would be amusing if it didn't have a troubling connotation about the leadership situation in the Rebellion.
After that business has concluded, Santos asks, "Commander, what's our next move?"
The Commandant doesn't even hesitate when she orders, "Show all Capitol-affiliated facilities within a 400-klick radius."
The map expands out until it includes not only all of Three, but portions of Districts Nine, Six, Eleven, Ten, and Two. Symbols light up in red — most are in Two and the disputed districts, but a couple actually appear in Six and Nine; the rebels must have missed a spot — pinpointing various Peacekeeper assets: forward operating bases, airstrips, communications stations, supply depots, AA emplacements, housing units…
"Begin preparations for 'Operation: May Flowers', and wait for my signal."
Immediately, every red symbol is highlighted in yellow, and circles appear around the Peacekeeper bases at the eastern edge of Two and the northwestern boundary of Eleven, respectively. That's when I notice the Remingtons beginning their ponderous pivot, and a chill runs down my spine as it all clicks into place: Central's going to level every single enemy asset within reach and kill as many Peacekeepers as possible in the process. No battles; no objectives to be seized; no negotiations or grand proclamations; no prisoners; just simply wiping the enemy off the map.
Porus must note my unease at this new course of action as gives a sidelong glance towards me and remarks, "As I've said before, Mellark, my purpose is to ensure the security of Central and its inhabitants; not to fight for any lofty cause. Therefore, all adversaries, and those who back them, are to be treated as threats to be eliminated by any means necessary with any survivor left too beaten and demoralized to retaliate. It is especially important to act now while our adversaries are unable to communicate with each other." She then looks away to address the other commanders: "Is there anybody here who objects with this course of action? I am open to all thoughts and possible alternatives."
Boggs, Paylor, and Lyme all look just as uneasy as I feel, but none of them object. The closest to an objection is Paylor suggesting that the Rebellion could use the supplies in the Peacekeeper depots.
"Are you prepared to potentially incur casualties in taking the depots, as well as assuming the responsibility of interning prisoners?"
Paylor nods and the other commanders follow suit. "We are, and the elimination of the other targets would allow us to concentrate our efforts there more effectively."
"Fair enough." All of the supply depots become un-highlighted. The only other facilities left untouched are the field hospitals and aid stations. "Is there anything else? What about you Mellark? Do you have anything to say?"
To my surprise, Porus seems to be sincere. Don't get me wrong; there is no sympathy to be had in her expression. However, it's also clear that she isn't mocking me for my opinion, which is more than I can say for a others whom I've had… disagreements with.
It doesn't make this woman any less scary; reasonable, but still utterly coldblooded.
An eternity seems to pass before I finally heave a long resigned sigh. "You already have a good idea of what my opinion is on the subject. But as for any practical reasons to object… I got nothing. Do what you have to do."
As I plop back down on my chair and clutch Julian's picture tightly in my hands — even in casual wear, I still carry the picture with me as a reminder; Haymitch, for whatever reason, tells me that it's starting to be an unhealthy habit — I can feel the eyes trained on me from the other commanders and victors, all of whom are giving me varying looks of pity. For some irrational reason, it causes me to just to lean back and mutter, "No regrets…"
The Commandant simply gives me an understanding nod before issuing, with palatable frigidity, the following order:
"Bring it all down."
A/N: Thanks to 'sohypothetically' for allowing me to adapt her OCs, the MacLeods.