Early Christmas present anyone? ;)
Like last chapter, I ask that you forgive my complete and utter lack of Geographical knowledge. I have tried, but my main research source was google. Also, any vagueness in this chapter is very much on purpose!
Chapter 4 – There and Back to Hell
The world was a wasteland. There were days where Jason felt like the last man left alive on the planet. Step by step, week by week, the hills, the valleys, and the snow-covered mountains all blurred to nothing as he travelled to nowhere. Jason was unaware of himself for months, wandering a wilderness that was foreign to him, surviving on instinct alone. He awoke to himself the day he saw a Reach infested town. From the writing on the signs around, he knew he was still in Russia, and the town undoubtedly had been a large one in its prime. Jason dared not get too close, but from what he could see it was barely habitable. For several minutes he sat frozen, his mind almost encouraging him to run in and attempt a suicide mission, until a hand touched his shoulder. Internally he jumped out of his skin, but externally he simply turned slowly. It was an old man with a kind face who beckoned for Jason to follow.
Tucked away in the side of a hill stood an old wooden hut that look as though it had been abandoned many years before. Inside the old man gave Jason warm soup and blankets, and spoke to him harshly in what Jason believed to be Russian, but the accent was too thick and Jason was too out of practice in the language. They sat in each other's company until night, and slept comfortably in the old shack. In the morning the old man watched with a smile as Jason continued on his way, being sure to give the Reach infested town a wide berth. He travelled west, and only hoped he didn't become even more lost - both in himself and the harsh Russian landscape.
Around the Black Sea, 2022-2024
By his best calculation, Jason believed that he had spent a good part of a year wandering Russia, putting every survival skill he'd learnt on the streets of Gotham and from Batman to the ultimate test. A short while after he passed over what was once the border into the Ukraine, he by chance found a map of Europe buried beneath the rubble of what had been a convenience store. It took a fair amount of time, and a little bit of guessing, but he was able to figure out where exactly in the world he had ended up. After nearly a whole year spent wandering aimlessly with almost no sense of direction thanks to the forever grey skies, Jason didn't want to be without a map ever again.
Continuing on his way west, Jason began to trek around the Black Sea, thinking about possibly heading down into Turkey. When he was about half way through Bulgaria, he ran into a group travelling the same way, a family of five. They'd come all the way from Finland, and were simply seeking warmer weather. To Jason's surprise, they didn't seem too phased by the possibility of being found by the Reach; their priority was to stay together no matter where that may be. In Turkey Jason went his separate way; the group continuing east, and he heading south away from the Black Sea, thinking that maybe his travels would eventually lead him to Africa. He spent a long time camping in the Middle East travelling from place to place. Perhaps he was hoping he'd meet other people like the family, but he didn't see another soul for years.
Once Jason grew tired of camping in Middle Eastern countries, the idea of seeing the Nile River drew him over into Egypt. Used to eternally walking and living off the land, he found the trip enjoyable, and well worth it once he reached his destination. The scenery took his breath away to say the least, but the lack of people did not. Ruins dotted his path – from ancient to those built within the last two decades. Not once did he meet another human being the good year he spent in Egypt. He returned the way he had come, and in the back of his mind he wondered why he'd bothered walking into the desert. Perhaps he thought he'd find another group to travel with, but he knew the chances of finding anyone at all were growing slimmer by the day. Jason had no doubt that the Reach were completely taking over the globe.
Jason's next bright idea was to head to the beaches of Greece. While they weren't exactly as he had imagined them, what with no sunlight peeking through the grey clouds, they were still surprisingly warm, and the shores were as beautiful as ever. He ended up setting himself up in a quaint, deserted town that was just like a post card; the local beach all to himself. Day after day, listening to the waves of the ocean, Jason found some semblance of peace – more than he'd felt in a very long time. Perhaps that's why he managed to spend over 3 years there without a care in the world. Not one other person came to the town in those years, and at times Jason thought he'd stay there until he died.
However, it wasn't to last.
On a peaceful day just like the one before, and the one before that, for some unfounded reason the Reach attacked the town. Jason couldn't fathom what possibly could have tipped them off, because he would swear up and down he was the only one there and he hadn't even used any technology. He would ponder later whether the rest of the world was completely controlled by the Reach now that they were able to spare resources to track down little old him. He survived the blasts relatively unharmed, just a few scrapes and bruises, but he knew he couldn't stay. He was packed up and on his way within an hour of the dust settling, wishing beyond anything for just one more day in his lonely paradise.
Jason arrived in the French countryside in 2028. He'd passed through Paris on the way and was stunned by the brutal scene. The city was dead. Not even the Reach cared to keep an eye on it anymore. The Eiffel Tower looked as though a giant had come along, picked it up, snapped it in half, and stabbed the top half into the river. It looked like something out of a cartoon.*
For weeks Jason roamed across France in his 'eternal quest for purpose' as he'd taken to calling it – a joke at first, but also his harsh reality. He found something quite unexpected. Hidden away in a dense forest, there was a community. A city of tents in and around the trees that somehow was thriving. The sight left Jason dumb struck at first – the idea that there was a place left untouched by the aliens had never occurred to him. Jason lived amongst them for nearly 2 years.
The best thing about those years was the Woman. Her eyes were crystal pools of water that spoke of calmness; her hair was a roaring fire. Their love was as doomed as it was strong. A thing of beauty when Jason thought all beautiful things dead. But if life had tried to teach him anything, it was that all good things must come to a terrible end.
The worst thing about those years was how welcoming the people were. Jason had never put much thought into how easily he had assimilated in the community. From the moment he arrived he was trusted. Every poor soul who stumbled in the village, despite being few and far between, were offered the same kindness – even the depraved man that destroyed it all. Jason never knew where he came from, what his life was like before, but that wouldn't change what he did. The man was not satisfied with the simple life. He tried to stir up the people into leaving their sanctuary and attacking the Reach. Jason was certain he had a few screws loose, but he didn't see the threat the man could be until it was all too late. No less than an hour from when his preposterous proposal was refused, the tents were ablaze, and the forest not far behind.
Jason grabbed the woman he'd come to love and tried to run. There was a lake all too far from the camp.
Jason made it in time.
The Woman did not.
A year passed, and then another, which saw Jason vaguely retrace his steps back through Russia. Every day when he woke, he swore to himself that he would not let the weight of grief set in and affect his life. He'd lost too much, seen too much, and had far too little left. Somewhat spontaneously, his feet lead him downwards into Asia, simply wondering if anything different might be there. There were no groups travelling, big or small; no individuals like himself endlessly walking nowhere, and no other communities living in secret as far as he could tell. There was however, a very flimsily guarded Reach camp in northern China. Knowing he might live to regret it, Jason snuck into the compound, looking for information or maybe some poor souls to save. However, there was no important information and only hopeless faces that barely even acknowledge his odd presence. It was almost like the higher Reach authorities had forgotten the place, and life had stopped for the people there. The worst part was that it didn't tear Jason up inside. After all the deserted cities and towns he'd seen over the last several years, a lifeless Reach camp wasn't that much different. Jason left the camp behind without so much as a second thought or glance, heading back north into Russia.
Eastern Russia, 2031-2032
The one thing in all the world that made Jason open the floodgates, and allow himself to sob out all the tears he'd accumulated for years, was the day he by chance rediscovered Tim's tomb. It happened much the same as the first time he'd discovered the cave – the sun was setting and he'd been looking for a good camp spot. When he approached the blocked-up cave he froze – it couldn't be. But as his eyes tracked to the side he saw the small hole his bullet had made, marking the grave. In a trance, he approached the mountain side and traced the edges of the hole. He allowed himself to sink to his knees and let out everything he'd tried to stuff down inside in a loud, howling cry. Jason cried and cried through his sorrow until he was completely without energy. He slept that night curled up outside his brother's tomb, and dreamt of a happier world, one where his family was still alive protecting Gotham from itself every night. One where Bruce had been there to welcome him home. One where Dick was his overbearing and protective brotherly self. One where Tim grew up to accomplish grand feats with his genius mind. One where he had a place to call home.
It was less than a year later that Jason tried to settle down in an old, abandoned cottage by a lake in Canada. After a few months, he honestly thought he could spend the rest of his days there in relative happiness. But before long, strange things started happening. Noises that didn't seem to belong to humans or animals rang in the evenings, and during the day a sense of being watched would often over take Jason. His relative peace and happiness quickly evaporated and he moved on south.
North America, 2033
Jason was approaching the ripe old age of 34 when he crossed the border back into America. 12 years he'd spent wandering the Earth, only to come back 'home'. Regardless, his plan was to merely pass through. He tracked a course straight south, wanting to head down into South America to see if there was anything worth living for there.
He never even made it to Mexico.
The Reach picked him up in a quaint farm house in Texas. Jason blames the fact he'd finally found a comfortable bed in the world for why he managed to sleep through the Reach agents sneaking up on him. How they even knew he was there he couldn't guess. The only positive was that they didn't seem to realise he was one of Earth's long lost heroes.
For sixteen long, gruelling years, Jason worked tirelessly in the Reach's camps, wondering when his last day would come. That was until he reached his fifth and final camp, where he found something completely unexpected.
Next chapter will be called "Familiar Faces" and is actually the last chapter (but then there will also be an epilogue!)
And holey moley apologies for the delay, so much to do, so little time these last 2 months (and also some killer writer's block). But officially graduated university and start work full time in January! I'm going to try my hardest to finish this fic by the end of the year that's the goal I'm setting myself and by writing that here hopefully I'll stick to it! Already 500 words into the next chapter so I'm hopeful.
Also, Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are all having a blessed holiday season x
Please review if you've got the time (or if you want to scream about season 3 actually happening!)
*Miraculous Ladybug anyone?