The Commandant

by Thomas McGlynn

Commandant Alan Bryan didn’t think much of this particular task.  It was just going to be another normal seizure of weapons and arms from extremists.  Alan felt a kind of thrilling feeling he feels before every mission, like one that you’d get on a rollercoaster.

Alan glanced back at the others in the squad van.  They were mostly rookies, with one Lieutenant.  The new recruits looked nervous, but Alan felt determined.

“It’s gonna be alright lads, just treat it like a training drill”, Alan told them confidently.

The building that they were going to was just a normal-looking, brick red  apartment block about 5 stories high in the suburbs of the City.  There was already one empty squad van parked outside, and gunfire could be heard from inside the building.  Alan hurriedly rushed everybody out of his van and they cautiously entered the premises.

The reception area on the first floor was a mess of blood and glass.  There was no sign of any civilian presence.  Moving up the stairs, the group stayed alert, still hearing the gunshots from higher floors.

The second floor was similar.  Looking around, Alan spotted a body strewn onto the floor, face down.  It was not in police uniform, and so it was either an innocent civilian or an extremist.  If he was an extremist, thought Alan, he deserved to die.

It became obvious to Alan at this point that this was not going to be a simple task of ordering somebody to quietly come into a police vehicle and to search their apartment.  The rookies were looking very unnerved and uncomfortable.  Alan thought back to when he was on his first mission.  Back then he didn’t really think that the job, the lifestyle suited him.  However, he decided to stick with it and over time and accepted it as his duty.

As the group went up the stairs to the third floor, the gunfire became louder and shouting could be heard.  Carefully poking his head up, Alan couldn’t see much of what was going on.  There was smoke swirling around and there was upturned furniture being used as shields and blockades.  A member of the police force trying to simultaneously hold a chair in a defensive position with one hand and fire a dart gun with the other turned around and shouted something at Alan and his team.  Alan felt uneasy at not having a clear field of vision.

Right after that moment a shot struck one of the other squad’s officers, and he fell to the ground with a short cry.  Alan could see that he was still alive, and only wounded.  He felt a pang of remorse.

“Lieutenant, get the recruits over to the other side there, I’ll follow.”  Alan wanted to ensure the safety of his and the other squad and get everybody out, but it was their responsibility to protect the public as well.

The Lieutenant took the recruits over to another blockade on the other side of the hallway.  Looking around to make sure he was safe,  Alan pulled the handgun out of its holster on his belt, and dashed across an area with no protection, vulnerable to gunfire.

As he was crossing, Alan nearly tripped over a body In police uniform.  He could tell that he was almost certainly dead.  It was at this moment that he came to a complete stop.

Why am I doing this? he thought.

Why am I exposing myself to all this… mess?  All this danger?  Is it because I enjoy it?  Is it because because I want society to be safe?  Is it the satisfaction of defeating the enemy?

As Alan pondered these questions, almost oblivious to what was happening, a bullet was shot aimlessly in the general direction of the police force barricade.  The bullet happened to find a target, standing right in no-man’s land.

Alan Bryan hardly noticed the bullet enter his chest.  He hardly noticed that he was falling to his knees.  For he had realized, in his moment of enlightenment, that he was not fighting an “enemy”, but rather a fellow human being.  This human being was not evil, nor sadistic; he merely disagreed with what most people agreed with.  This did not make him a bad person.  Rather, it highlighted the beauty of the individuality of the human race.

Alan Bryan’s final thoughts were those of a peaceful philosophy: there is no good or bad in the world.  There is only opinion, perspective, and prejudice.

 

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