Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stuck In The Middle

My team and I set out from the nice, comfortable cluster of communities we've spent so much pleasant time in. Carlyle's warm atmosphere, polite people, and safe streets are now behind us. We've done a lot of good, mostly boring and complicated trade agreements. But the bad still follows each member of my team in their thoughts. 

It's early, just a bit after six in the morning. We decided to camp for a day or two, all of us spending some quiet time together to wrap our heads around the insanity of the last several weeks. Things with the marauders have calmed down, and I'm tentatively going to say that I think they've stopped the mass killings of their captives. 

We've been gone from home a month, and the changes in my team seem too drastic for such a short period of time. Rachel is more somber than I've ever seen her. She's always been so...I don't know what the word is. Carefree isn't it. Maybe it's just the relentless energy that comes with her curious nature. Whatever that bright spirit in her is, it's more tempered now. Captivity didn't treat her well, and seeing so many die as a result of our choices has made her a little darker. More contemplative. 

Will, on the other hand, gains confidence with every day. Out here he isn't treated as a criminal. He's a valuable resource to our team and he knows it. Even on his worst days back in New Haven, will was calm, collected, and controlled. He acted the part of penitent lawbreaker to the letter. He was crushed by the guilt of the choices he'd made. He's unhappy about the events of the last few weeks, but overall his attitude has brightened. 

Steve, always funny and ready with an incredibly nerdy quip, is mostly silent now. His entire personality is hidden most of the time. I talk to him pretty often, and I see glimpses of the laughing friend I've known for more than a decade. They're gone in a flash, hidden behind the armor he's pulled tight around his mind. I think someone as gentle and sweet as Steve just isn't meant for a world this harsh. It's a crime to see him hurt so badly that he has to shut out everything just to get by. 

Mason is...Mason. He deals with it. He moves on. 

Becky makes it a point to lose herself in work at every opportunity. She's a fair hand at mechanical things, so she works on our vehicle and trailer a lot. She's got a brain that runs like Ferrari's engine, and I know she can't shut off the constant replay that goes through it. Our choices, our actions, and the consequences of them. She plays over the scenarios over and over again. I've seen her wipe away tears when she thinks I'm not looking. I've felt her shiver on the bed next to me when we go to sleep. It breaks my heart. 

And me? As if you need me to tell you, right? I pour my soul out almost every day. You see it. You know. 

This morning is cool. It's a brisk fifty degrees. I'm the only one awake, safely tucked away as we are and not needing guards. I've heard words of comfort from every friend I have. I've come to the same conclusion that every person who's ever had to deal with unintended consequences has come to: I can't change the past. 

I can only choose to move forward. If there is such a thing as Karma, it may come around to bite me in the ass. I can't fight it if it does. I know I'm a more careful man for the horrible events of the last weeks, and a colder and more calculating one as well. The fire inside me that has always pushed me to act, to help, to save, is just embers now. I'll be more cautious. I'll do what I can, but never again can I let so many monstrous acts spring from my kindness. The past is over, and a new day is breaking over the land. There are a lot of other places we've got to be. 

We've got a mission. A job. Purpose. 

Better get to it. 

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