There Is (Still) Something Here by Shurmanator
There Is (Still) Something Here - 1
Date: 12 December 2010, 3:57 am
"You still reading that thing?"
I look up from the battered, withered pages, and into the voice.
"I'm surprised it hasn't fallen apart yet."
I nod, absently, and look back down at the yellowed parchment.
Last sentence on the page. Read. Flip. First sentence on the next page. Read. Gloved finger blocks word.
"Lemme' see that."
The gloved hand is connected to a wrist. The wrist is part of an arm. The arm is attached to a torso. The torso is part of a person.
The person is Private First Class Anthony B. Melhuse. He is twenty-one years of age, with brown hair, brown eyes, fair skin, and an average body composition. He is a White Anglo-Saxon Male. One of the few remaining human beings who can boast that title.
Boasting is such a poor word choice. There are no "master race" sentiments among humans anymore.
All you need are two jaws instead of four, and you are my brother and sister.
All you need are five fingers instead of two claws, and you are my comrade.
All you need are forward facing eyes, hair on your head, and two feet, and you are not the enemy.
Private First Class Anthony B. Melhuse is not my enemy. But he is not my friend.
He flips through the battered pages carelessly. Each crinkle of the ancient paper makes me wince.
So help me God, if you rip a page.
"The first rule of Fight Club is, you don't talk about Fight Club," he jeers, in a deep, husky, official-sounding voice.
That's not what Tyler Durden sounds like. Tyler Durden is not a politician or a businessman sitting at a conference table. Tyler Durden is a champion of anarchy who pisses in the food of the rich and arrogant. Tyler Durden is a figment of the imagination of a tortured human being. Tyler Durden is not that voice.
"You do realize this thing is over five hundred years old, right? Not just the story, the actual book itself. Don't you think it's a little risky to be bringing this 'priceless possession' all the way out here?"
"It's risky for me to allow that 'priceless possession' to be fucked with by you," I respond, bitingly.
Melhuse holds his hands up in mock surrender. Only one pale, filthy appendage holds the book. The cover falls open, and the book hangs from its back flap. I can see the binding. It strains under the pressure of 1.2 gees gravity.
"Give me the goddamned book, Melhuse!" I yell, childishly.
Melhuse laughs and tosses the book at me. I catch it with two hands, attempting to absorb the impact, as to not damage it further. One page is folded in on itself. The impact of the catch folds it down permanently.
There will always be a crease.
I look up at Private First Class Anthony B. Melhuse, and say, "What did the book ever do to you?"
Private First Class Anthony B. Melhuse returns the look, and says, "Nothing, man, I just like messing with you."
"But seriously", he says, sitting down, "why do you even have that thing? Why not just get it on holotape?"
The way his ass hits the dirt next to me is infuriating.
"Because this is how literature started. Not with holotapes and VR readings
with paper and ink."
He laughs. His laugh makes me want to kill something.
"So? When books were invented, people probably said the same thing about oral storytelling."
He snickers at the word "oral."
His immaturity makes me want to hurl the nearest superheated ball of gas in the cosmos down the throat of a small puppy.
"Just because it's old doesn't mean it's venerable. Buy yourself a damn holo and stop treating a piece of paper like a god."
Private First Class Anthony B. Melhuse stands up, climbs out of my foxhole, and walks out of sight.
I look back down at my book.
It hangs open to a certain page. My eyes find a certain word. My eyes absorb the light reflected off the certain word. The reflection is transmitted through my retina and into my brain. My brain interprets the word as an English word. My brain analyzes the word and determines its meaning.
Human evolution is remarkable.
The word is "the."
The planet is Retratan IV, in the Retratan system. The system is named after the company that built the slipspace probe that discovered it. Retratan Co. had long since disbanded.
It is difficult to maintain a business when the headquarters of said business is on a world that has been glassed by a race of xenophobic, hostile aliens.
Retratan Co is glass. The desks inside of it are glass. The people that sit at the desks everyday are glass. Their glass skeletons gently touch the glass screens that house their glass files, which in turn lead to the electronic payment of their salary, the mainframes which deliver such payment turned to glass.
Glass, glass, glass, plasma-burned concrete, steel, wood, and flesh.
So much glass.
Retratan IV is located approximately 1000 miles closer to its sun than Earth is to its sun.
Apparently 1000 miles makes a difference.
The entire planet is a tropical wasteland.
Contradictory statement is intentional.
East tree houses the hives of sixteen species of insect. Fifty percent of those sixteen species sting.
Twenty-five percent of those sixteen species sting with deadly venom.
Standard issue UNSC Marine Corps uniforms are designed to resist glancing blows from plasma bolts.
Standard issue UNSC Marine Corps uniforms are not designed to resist insect stings.
I didn't sign up to die from a bug bite.
I signed up to die
just in a less shitty way.
The 79th Marine Infantry Battalion has been stationed on Retratan IV for approximately one month. The Covenant have not been seen within several thousand light years of the system in approximately one decade.
The UNSC does not station battalions anywhere. They redirect battalions, repurpose battalions, and ship battalions from world to world in a matter of weeks.
We go where the Covenant go. Always on the defensive, but the last minute defensive.
There is something here.
But there must be an explanation. There must be an ulterior motive. There must be a catch.
Staff Sergeant assures us there is no ulterior motive. We are here to attempt to be on a planet before the Covenant start attacking it, for once.
But there is nothing here.
There is something here.
We just don't see it.
Cynicism is a virtue. Modern Machiavelli, that's what I am. Modern Tyler Durden.
Tyler Durden didn't die from bug bites.