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Here Lies Sarah Eaton: Part 1
Posted By: Arthur Wellesley<arthur_wellesly@hotmail.com>
Date: 17 August 2006, 1:03 pm

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       I regret to inform you of an alteration to your initial plans for your Spartan II program. Your requested quota of one hundred subjects has been reduced to seventy-five as per the requisition of Colonel Burke, Section Three. A parallel program codenamed Project Areani will be conducted under his directorship using your proposed methods on the remaining twenty-five potentials you have selected. I apologize for the lateness of this message informing you of the loss, though your ideas have recently garnered much attention in Special Branch.

       You will keep Colonel Burke informed of your progress as he will you. He has made several modifications to the augmentations which you have set out for your subjects due to the unique intention of Project Areani. I will leave it to him to divulge the specifics of his plans.

       I expect to hear from both of you as your respective projects unfold.

       - Letter from Admiral Ysionris Jeromi to Doctor Catherine Halsey, September 10th, 2517.

       They were getting worse. She vaguely recalled being medicated by her handlers, though memories of that place seemed so long ago and very far away. Remembering her experiences back at the camp, what they did to her, was akin to trying to studying one's surroundings through a gauze curtain. She very often wondered if any of it had been real; certainly people had treated her thus far as she were terribly deluded. Had that dead and broken world truly been her home, or had that memory been of a life that never was? At once she would pray that insanity had not overcome her and yet also that it might have.

       For now, though, she simply prayed that the pain would end, that she would be released from the paralysis that gripped her. Almost as bad as the agony that racked her body was the feeling of utter helplessness. She could feel the vibrations in the wooden floor, the heavy padding of booted feet up the distant stairwell; someone was coming. She willed the episode to end, but it only got worse.

       Her eyes began to role to the back of her head, robbing her of what sight she had. Her back arched to an impossible degree, and she was quite certain this time her spine could not withstand the strain. The worst of her infirmities, however, came with the constricting of her throat and the pressure of an invisible weight on her chest. The wrenching convulsions ceased as she became completely stiff, merely vibrating with the pent up tension barely contained in her limbs.

       Just as she thought she would finally succumb to the pain or suffocation, her body released her from her torment. She let out a breathless gasp that doubled her over on the floor and reached out instinctually for the bedside table, bringing it down in a startling crash. Grabbing the drawer which had fallen from the table, she tried to prop herself against the bed and prepare for the footsteps which came ever closer.

       There was a sharp knock at the door. "What the fuck is all that noise in there?" a male voice asked angrily.

       Summoning all her strength, she hurled the drawer at the door, splintering it against the hard surface. "Leave at once!" she screamed.

       Silence was the man's response. The man's heart had spiked at the shattering of the drawer, but presently it had slowed to a steady rhythm, his breathing following suit. He would not press the issue, she knew; he would leave, at least for now.

       The footsteps could soon be heard retreating and heading back downstairs. When they became too faint to clearly discern, she got unsteadily to her feet and limped towards the meager bathroom. Her right leg was uncomfortably stiff and the vision in her left eye was so blurry she was almost half-blind. Reaching to the walls for balance, she was able to stumble before the mirror in front of the filthy sink.

       And she looked into the face of Sarah-027. That was what they had called her, at least—but that was not her real name.

       Eaton. That was her name: Sarah Eaton.

       Her face was not as it had been. Her left eye was almost entirely red, filled with blood from the capillaries burst by the exertions of her seizure; a common enough occurrence that always seemed to correct itself. Her skin, pale from years without sunlight, seemed now close to bloodless. Her black hair, being at shoulder length the longest she had ever remembered it, was matted against her face. She tried to push some of it from her forehead, but the cold sweat which coated her body made it cling persistently to her. Against her hand, her skin felt like ice.

       Sarah tore her gaze from the ghastly image of her face, making her way slowly to the mangy bed which had cost her so much. From beneath the pillow she retrieved her pistol and slumped down on the worn surface. She was freezing, every inch of her trembling from the cold, yet she could not summon the energy to pull up the covers. Instead she cradled the pistol gently to her chest, its unnatural weight lending her some small comfort, assuring her of its presence. She would be safe here, as long as she did not let go of that weapon.

       Michael Eaton took what small comfort he could in the drink. Any regrets for what he had done or any bitterness at the life he was forced to lead was all washed away by the cheap booze of Lansing's Saloon. Looking around him, he saw many people holding their drinks with the same covetous grasp in which he held his. Corsini was a world that offered a life well worth forgetting; carnal vices were always good business here.

       He felt a tap on his shoulder. It was light and in his state easily ignored. Yet the person was insistent, and grabbed his shoulder to give him a firm shake. "You know I don't like it when you drink yourself to death here," a voice said to him. "You're just playing his game."

       A voice he recognized all too well. Turning slowly around, he eyed the speaker warily. "Well Mr. Lansing thinks even less of your presence here than you do of mine."

       Elisa Russo grabbed the drink from his hands and glared at him. "You can throw away what money we have indulging yourself or you can tell me the reason you seek refuge in drinking for free."

       Michael seized back his drink, causing some of the amber liquid to drip down his front. "Spending time with you wasn't always free, though, was it?"

       Elisa's eyes flashed in anger. "Had I but known you would seize every opportunity to throw the nature of my previous line of work in my face I might not have left."

       He sighed in response, and took another swig of his drink. He often said things he later regretted when he was drunk. More often than not, in fact, he felt little better intoxicated than he did when sober; he spent most of his time brooding over the past in a lonely corner of the saloon. Yet it took the edge off, it dulled the aching pain of remorse, of self-pity. Anything to keep the crushing weight of reality from driving him to madness.

       Very slowly, he turned back around to face the bar. "Leave me be, Elisa," he said tiredly.

       He was going to lose her. In that moment he realized it quite clearly. The solace he had felt with her at first had long since evaporated, replaced by the pain of what she embodied: a failed life, one with no prospects and no future. He could barely bring himself to go home anymore. His heart ached when he realized he took more comfort from his despicable work than he did from his wife.

       To his very great surprise, a hand was once again placed on his shoulder, beckoning him to turn around. As he faced who wanted his attention once more, he quickly registered the person was not Elisa. Looking into the blazing green eyes of the young woman, he realized it was someone very much different.

       Michael Eaton let out a startled cry and stumbled backwards, though in his haste he tripped on his stool and fell flat on his back. He tried to crawl backwards but the great crowd of people in the saloon impeded his progress. Eventually, he was forced to look once more into the woman's eyes, and very nearly he wept. Elisa had come to him to help him up, but upon seeing the figure she, too, was stunned by surprise.

       Some of the people near the bar had turned to see the spectacle. To one Michael appealed in a hoarse voice, "Tell me, please, is the girl that stands before me now of flesh and blood or an apparition of my drunken mind?"

       "There is a girl that stands there, sir, of dark hair and pale skin," the man confirmed in a voice slurred by alcohol.

       "And why shouldn't you see me, sir, whom I believe to be Michael Eaton?" the girl asked curiously.

       Michael cringed at the sound of her voice and was seemingly paralyzed by the sight of her, still lying on the wooden floor. "Because you're dead," he gasped.