Captain Josh Vance huddled for warmth before the gentle warmth of an old television set that he’d found during patrol. Looking at the dead boob tube brought back memories for him of a past that had been much different, a time when he could remember being happy and safe. Now though the one constant in everyone’s lives was that no one was ever safe. There was always something out there watching and waiting with fangs ready to plunge into your neck. Every time he looked down at the older model television all he could think of were his parents. When the fires subsided he ran home as fast as he could from his hiding place in the fallout shelter of his school. It took an eternity but when he finally made it home eternity seemed all the longer. Vance found his home burned beyond recognition and his parents among the wreckage of his old life.
Repeated performances seemed to be the norm for him. Somehow or another he’d always managed to survive with others paid the ultimate price. What started with his parents blossomed outward. His girlfriend, Lorraine, was killed in the Century City Slaughterhouse (ironic because she had loved that place back when it was a mall) while he was rescued only minutes prior. His entire squad was killed by an HK attack when he was in hiding taking a leak after holding it in for far too long. One thing after another the failures of his life just kept expanding outward. Even his friends thought of him as some sort of death clock. Being assigned to serve with him, joked all of them, was like swallowing your gun. It wasn’t very funny. Josh wanted nothing more than to die, but death didn’t come for him. It stood there mocking him as everyone around him got their wishes. It tormented him with his seemingly continued existence on the hellhole that was Earth.
Not too long ago though death nearly came for him. The Machines had found Kansas Bunker and were raiding it in order to capture and kill General Connor. 47 good Resistance soldiers were being rounded up and were being loaded onto the Monkey Wagons for transport to Century for ‘processing’. Vance was looking forward to it. If he went up against those wagons there would be no way to survive. They had a full squad of Trip Eights guarding them, two HK tanks escorting, and an Ogre Tank watching for any offensive actions. It was his time. He, Corporal Kyle Reese, and Specialist Tompkins were going to go create a diversion. Then Bedell screwed everything up. General Bedell was the Commanding Officer of Hammerhead back then and knew that John Connor was important – apparently they knew each other at some dumbass school when they were kids. Bedell ran out and blew the tank with a homemade bomb so that Vance and his team could rescue the hostages. That should have been his sacrifice to make, not the Resistance’s second in command. Death got to laugh again. You’d think though that Connor would have learned his lesson and moved the Resistance and its Command and Control away from Kansas, but they were still here. Somehow too Vance was promoted and given command of Hammerhead because of Bedell’s sacrifice. It didn’t make sense; then again a lot of things didn’t make sense anymore.
Except for one thing that was perfectly clear. Though Josh understood why he wasn’t able to die. Unlike General Connor it wasn’t because of some misbegotten destiny to save humanity, it wasn’t even anything as noble as he was lucky. Vance survived because he was already in hell. Something he’d done, some great sin, had caused him to be condemned to this hell for all of eternity. Everlasting life among the damned because that was what he and everyone in the Resistance were. They were the damned and this was hell. There was no escape, only more torture.
So he tortured himself to the fullest extent possible. While he let his own people sleep, Josh was sitting in the upper observational tower (made from what used to be a restaurant that collapsed on J-Day) with Private Fahey. Fahey was a kid, born in these ruins, who had been drafted into the Resistance essentially by birth. The kid was impulsive though. During training runs he snuck off into a storm drain and went to sleep not telling anyone where he was going. Vance and the team looked for him for an hour and when they found him Vance contemplated putting a hot one in between the kid’s eyes. They needed the manpower though. Josh settled for standing on his back as he did pushups.
“They ain’t paying me enough for this Cap’n,” protested the grunt.
Vance peered out through the binoculars that he carried, “I wasn’t aware we paid you at all. Do we give you overtime?”
“I wish you did,” Fahey rubbed his hands together quickly. “It’s too goddamn cold to be out here watching for the Tin Cans. They don’t even like it when it’s this cold.”
“Machines don’t care about such things as hot or cold, Private. They only care about them when it’s a threat to their survival.” He found Decker up in the remains of a building about ten stories up. That man had to be a monkey in a past life. “Not that it ever really is.”
He checked the chamber of the AP50 that he was holding, “I just wish for a change that the machines would give us a day off. Don’t they believe in holidays like Christmas or something? Can’t they celebrate Judgment Day to give us 24 miserable hours?”
“They've already given us 18 miserable years and if you don’t shut up I’ll be celebrating your death and you'll get all the rest you could want.” The memories of finding his parents charred corpses flashed before his eyes. “Now just be quiet and keep your eyes peeled. I have to go use the men’s room.”
The noncom nodded as the Captain got up and went through a side door out into the Elephant’s Graveyard. Fahey sat on the floor playing with Rex – their Golden Retriever that they’d found scavenging for food while they were doing the same. Rex was in many ways a hero of the Resistance. Skin jobs could walk right by a human without setting off any red flags; a dog was a different story. No one knew for sure how they did it – was it smell, hearing, or some combination of the two – but dogs could just tell the tin cans apart from people. Rex had proven that to him before. He’d sniffed out an older T-800 that had snuck through the lines pretending to be a bodybuilder who’d survived JD. That got him a battlefield commission to Hammerhead.
“Pretty soon you’ll outrank me even,” mumbled the Resistance Private to the dog. “I wonder how they pick ranks anyway. Do they pull a tag out of a hat? If that’s how they do it I think I should declare a mulligan and get a second chance.” The dog looked at him like he had grown a second head to which Fahey could only laugh. He ran his hand along the dog’s head and waited for the Captain to get back. This place was dead and he wanted to see if he could end his shift a little early.
Fahey rested his head against the wall and let his eyes rest. Just then the dog began to bark.