Posted By: GLADIATRRR3000<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 23 October 2005, 10:03 pm
Everything was blurry. Roberts had not been surrounded by this much light in a lifetime. Even after several minutes, his eyes had not yet adjusted; pupils extremely dilated, lights blended together. He was being dragged by two medical personnel, held up by his elbows. The cold metal of the handcuffs secured tightly around his wrists numbed his forearms. His legs were weak, dragging behind him. Every few feet, he would try to stand up and walk on his own accord, but would stumble and cause his escorts to strain under his weight.
Roberts looked around, taking in everything. He had not seen anything other than the damp, green padding of his cell in ages. Simple things, such as peeling paint and stains on the walls captured his attention. As he was dragged through several halls and around a number of corners, he stared at everything. After several minutes, they reached an open door, leading to a large, white room. There was a plain steel chair in the middle of the room, leather straps on the armrests and legs. Hanging over the chair was a florescent light, bleeding painfully bright light into Roberts' eyes. The medical staff holding him up brought him to the chair and roughly dropped him into the seat, tying down the straps around his arms and legs. The straps weren't too tight, but tight enough to keep him immobile. The light flickered, sending the shadows in the room into a wild dance.
Roberts felt his heartbeat wildly increase.
Everything was dark. Not any dark; a deep, engulfing dark. The kind of darkness that could put out a candle, the kind of dark that makes you feel as if you were swimming. Only a handful of small beams of light could squeeze their way through the thick foliage above. Within those beams of light, he could see the nightmares running past, horribly silent save for the squishing noise of their decaying flesh. With them came the smell. He could smell something familiar over the death
Someone familiar in the shadows of death
"Wake up, marine." Mason's harsh voice barked into the silence
Without moving, Roberts woke. No muscle moving, except for the ones controlling his eyelids, his eyes opened. Roberts could feel several things pasted onto his scalp and chest. He moved his head and saw cords leading into them, the other end attached to a computer. In the glow of the computer, he saw a doctor bathed in an olive green lighting.
"Oh, don't worry." The doctor said, noticing Roberts staring at him. "These don't hurt. I'm just reading your brainwaves and vitals. We're making sure you're
"Doctor." Mason said, not harshly, yet the doctor stopped talking as if it were a death threat. "That is enough."
He turned towards Roberts, who stiffed in his seat, desperately trying to work his way into a more dignified position. "Now, Roberts. We are going to inject you with something that will help you relax. It won't hurt, but it will help you remember what happened at Ceti. You see, the doctor here has suggested that you may have blocked the event out of your mind. This right here," He said, waving a needle filled with a clear liquid. "Will help us find out what actually happened."
Mason handed it towards the doctor, who tapped it against his wrist and squeezed out the air bubbles. A small stream of the liquid flew into the air, and landed on the ground with an almost inaudible splash. He moved towards Roberts, pushed the large needle into his forearm, and forced the liquid into Roberts' bloodstream.
For what seemed like several minutes, nothing happened. Then, Roberts began to feel dizzy. His head weighed tons; it fell backwards and rolled to its side. The lights began to flicker again, shadows dancing once more. "Now." Mason said, voice deeper than normal and echoing through Roberts' thoughts. "Tell me exactly what happened."
"Goddamn swamps. Sign up to protect humanity and all it stands for, humanity sends me to a backwater planet to get muddy. I could be doing the same shit at home." Johnson ranted. "Fucking mud. Fucking swamp. Fucking planet."
Roberts laughed, kicking past a particularly large bush and stepping down into ankle deep mud. "Well, back home you wouldn't be paid for it. Back home you didn't get a gun. Back home you had to deal with your wife and three kids."
Johnson snorted. "Damn straight. Thank god for the Marines."
Johnson took one hand off his BR55, pushing a large branch out of his way. Johnson had a medium build. He had applied for the position of sharpshooter, but dropped out of the training. He couldn't shoot a house if he was standing in one. With his free arm, he unbuttoned a pouch on his chest, opened it up, and pulled out a cigarette. He reached into another pocket and pulled out a lighter, flicked it open, and lit the cigarette. He put the lighter back, took a deep puff, and exhaled.
"Know what I miss most about Earth?" Johnson asked in a breathy voice. Not bothering to wait for Roberts to answer, he continued. "The deserts."
100 yards ahead, blurred by the fog, they could see a red light. "Finally. We walk this same damn path every damn day. Shit, I could walk it in the dark. You and I probably know every branch and every leaf on that path." Johnson raved.
Roberts smiled, mouthing the words along with Johnson. Johnson gave this speech at least twice a week. "Do we ever find anything? No. Will there ever be anything? No. All it does is piss me off. Doesn't anyone here realize it's not good to piss someone off if they're carrying a gun?"
"Well, everyone else has a gun, too. You couldn't do much." Roberts said, stepping up onto the concrete and shaking the mud off his boots. "Maybe take one guy down. Just don't make it me." He added.
"Yeah, yeah." Johnson added, stepping up as well. "Don't kill you. Got it."
The door opened automatically, and the heat washed over them. The guard was leaning far back in his recliner, feet on his desk, reading the weekly notices. When he noticed them, he chuckled. "See anything unusual?" He asked.
"Yeah, I saw you taking a shower this morning. About time too, you filthy shit-stain." Johnson muttered under his breath. Roberts smiled. Johnson never stopped talking, but he knew who to make sure didn't hear him.
They passed through another door leading into a covered walkway. The walls rounded ceiling were all transparent, so if no one here was sick of the swamps, they could gaze at them without going outside. The lights on the sides of the floor led straight ahead, to the other door 100 feet ahead. The woman over the PA system was giving the usual announcements. "All personnel are required to go to the medical facility and receive their annual vaccines. Remember that if you do not get vaccinated by the end of the week, you will have to wait another year to receive them, by which time you will most likely have died."
"I love their sense of humor." Johnson said, sarcasm filling his voice.
"Also, we have received our bi-annual supplies from Earth. This means that for the next month, the first 100 marines to be in line at the mess hall at meal times get a full ration of ham and potatoes."
"About damn time, too. I'm sick of this artificial shit. 'Just like the real thing' my ass."
"That is all for today. On behalf of the UNSC, thank you for defending Earth."
Roberts was getting tired. Walking several miles through the plants and mud after a 16 hour day, he was ready to get his sleep. "You know I'm usually up for cards, Johnson, but I have to get some sleep." He said, walking towards the barracks.
"Yeah, yeah." Johnson said, walking towards the mess hall, waving at a pair of engineers, who smiled and waved their greasy hands at Johnson.
Roberts walked into the large room. He was the first person there, and thanked God that the leading officers weren't strict on regulations. Ceti was more like a sleep away camp than a military base, except most camps don't arm their campers with automatic weapons. He walked to his bed, 3 bunks from the far end of the room, and propped his antiqued MA5B against the wall. He slowly undressed, stretched his back, and lay down on his bed. Pulling the sheets over his chest, he turned on his side and looked at the wall.
He lay awake for several minutes before he fell asleep, his subconscious engulfing his mind.