Glass and Steel: Pt. 6
Posted By: Random 14-Year-Old<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 3 September 2005, 7:51 pm
Part 6: Deliverance of Shock
"What the hell happened to him?" the man asked tensely, nodding his head towards the back seat of the car. Ren could barely hear the kid's sputtering breaths over the loud grumbling of the car as it trudged down the street.
The man had told Ren that his name was Howard Gaffer, and he had also apologized to Ren for the black eye. It was then that Ren instantly knew why he had recognized Howard.
"I thought...that I told you kids...to stop putting...your asses...on my front porch!!!"
"Basically," Ren began to explain to Howard, "he was hit by a landing Covenant aircraft—well, I think it was actually crashing, though..."
"Shit—we need to get him to a hospital. Kid, you got a cell phone?"
"No..." Ren looked out at the passing houses. They all seemed utterly tranquil, completely unaware that vicious aliens had set foot in the neighborhood. "Where are we going?"
"Well..." Howard trailed off, not knowing what to say. "We're taking that boy to his father."
Ren felt confused for a second—they had just left Ariana's house, and surely her dad wouldn't be at work on a Sunday. But then he realized that he had never seen Ariana's dad, much less heard her even mention him. Mr. Jiles was probably separated from Mrs. Jiles by divorce.
"What about the hospital?" Ren said, looking at Howard as he turned the car around a corner. The man may have punched Ren for hardly any reason at all, but that was a forgivable offense considering that Howard had saved his life from a Covenant attacker.
"Well..." he paused briefly, "I don't know where the hospital is."
Great. Ariana's brother was about to die, the phone lines were crashed and neither Ren nor Howard knew where the hospital was.
"Why don't we ask someone—"
"I'm taking the kid to his father!" Howard burst with anger. His temples throbbed and small veins became visible up and down his neck. "Shut up and let me drive, damn it!"
Ren stayed silent as they drove through a neighborhood foreign to him. In fact, every neighborhood on Luther would be foreign to him. He wondered if he would ever feel completely comfortable on Luther, since Reach was really his only real home. He would have to give his old friends a call when he got home: Johnny Aruno, who was stupid as a brick but could always give a good laugh; Wes Driefield, who made it his duty to be sport-savvy and tech-savvy at the same time; and of course, Kay "The Gent" Hunden, an absolute idiot that ironically was always there to help out his friends.
But no matter how hard he tried, Ren couldn't keep his mind off the situation at hand. The Covenant had invaded Luther. Hell, they had even landed on top of his girlfriend's brother in the process. Even more, they had specifically broken into Ariana's house. What in the world did the Covenant want with Ariana? And why had they decided to search houses instead of blowing up the planet in the first place? After all, from what Ren had heard in the news, just about every planet the aliens found with people on it was absolutely decimated within hours.
"We're here," Howard mumbled grumpily. Ren noticed the man's hands were shaking as he pulled the key from the ignition. "Get...get the kid..."
Ren got out of the car and pulled Ariana's brother from the backseat. The boy was out cold, his arms and legs dangling from Ren's arms. Ren didn't take the time check if there was a pulse, mainly because he couldn't imagine bringing Ariana a dead brother, but judging by the warmth of the boy's skin, he was still holding onto life.
The house they had arrived at must have been the ugliest house Ren had seen on Luther so far, and it rivaled some of the nasty shanties he'd seen in the slums on Reach. The one-story house was gray all over, though its original colors might have faded with age, and the front yard was a jungle of ferocious weeds that looked like they could attack. Some kind of creepy green stuff, whether moss or something else, hung from the rusty steel roof. In fact, dark green moss covered much of the house itself, and as Ren stepped up to the doorway, he saw fungus and moss growing on the front door, which emitted a wretched odor that seemed to fry Ren's nosehairs.
"Ughh...are you sure this is the house?" Ren said forcefully as the putrid fumes entered his mouth.
"Yes," Howard replied decisively. "Knock on the door."
Ren looked at the silver knocker nailed to the door. It was heavily rusted and looked like it was about to crumble. He grabbed it and knocked the door once with it—lo and behold, the knocker broke into several pieces and fell to the ground.
"Knock with your hand," Howard said.
"Thanks for the advice," Ren retorted with annoyance. He raised his fist and knocked on the door three times, feeling bits of fungus rub off on his knuckles each time.
There was silence for a few seconds before Ren heard the sound of a woman's voice, "Coming!" Almost instantaneously, the door flew open and revealed none other than Mrs. Jiles herself.
"Ma'am—" Howard began, outstretching his hand to shake, but he was completely ignored.
"Ren...?" the woman whispered. Her eyes met Ren's, and then moved downward towards the young boy in Ren's arms. "Jeffery..."
"I'm so—so sorry, Mrs. Jiles—" Ren tried to say something comforting, something nice, but the shock of the moment slaughtered his thoughts.
"Jeffery!" the woman screamed hysterically. She looked left and right as if she would find inspiration as to what to do next, but then quickly gestured Ren and Howard inside the house. "Put him down there..." She pointed to a raggedy-looking couch in the middle of the room.
Ren felt a nagging sense of guilt in the pit of his stomach as he laid the kid across the couch. Ren had slept over at Ariana's house, he had found her brother injured, and he was now about to explain the whole thing to their mom. For so much involvement in this unbelievable situation, Ren couldn't help but believe that part of this was his fault.
"What—what in the world happened to him?" Mrs. Jiles asked frantically to no one in particular. She scanned her son's body over and over again, fear and anxiety filling her worried face.
"I think that he was hit, um, by a landing aircraft..." Ren stuttered. The words came out of mouth like molasses.
"Wh—what?" She turned and faced Ren with a look of pure puzzlement. He was about to push the explanation from his mouth when a man entered the room.
"Did you scream a minute ago—" the man started, but then he saw the young boy lying on the couch. "What the hell is going on?"
Ren presumed the man was none other than Mr. Jiles, or at least the owner of this horrendous home. He was wearing a suit, but it was dirty in several places, the colors were mostly faded, and the collar and sleeves were ripped apart. He was a handsome middle-aged man, but it would have been easier to look at him if the man had shaved in the past month, and he also had a bushy unibrow just above his glazed eyes.
"These two," Mrs. Jiles pointed at Ren and Howard, "brought home Jeffery..."
"What?" Mr. Jiles blurted in confusion. "I thought he was spending the night at Kyle's! What the hell happened?"
Ren would have to explain the ordeal sooner or later, so he decided on sooner. "Mr. Jiles," Ren began. The man turned and looked at him. "I was walking down the street—" Ren made sure he didn't start his story with Ariana's house. He would leave that tale for another time—
"I'm sorry, Ren," Mrs. Jiles interrupted. "I saw you sleeping in Ariana's room, and I just assumed—well, that's why I took her down here."
Ren braced for the angry outburst from Mr. Jiles, but the man simply sat in a chair, took a deep breath, and rubbed his forehead anxiously. "Go on..." His voice was suddenly drained of energy.
"Well..." Ren continued nervously, "I was walking down the street when I saw these people looking at something in this field—"
"Oh, no," Mrs. Jiles interrupted for the second time. "Was it the playing field? The one they're always playing on?"
"Let the boy talk," Mr. Jiles said through closed eyes.
"Yes—it's that same field." Ren felt a stinging pain in his arm and was harshly remembered of the alien's assault. "I went and looked—and it was a giant alien spaceship."
Mrs. Jiles gasped. Mr. Jiles opened his eyes wide and fearful at Ren. Howard was emotionless.
"And next to the spaceship was him." Ren pointed uneasily to the boy, Jeffery, that now laid on the couch in front of him. "I picked him up, and took him back to your house." He nodded towards Mrs. Jiles. Tears began to well up in her eyes. "But when I went in the house, I saw—I saw—"
"A Covenant Elite," Howard spoke for the first time since they entered the house. "And it attacked them—am I right?" Ren nodded. "Right—and it was about to kill them both when I showed up and nailed fifteen bullets in the creep's ugly head."
Ren couldn't help but notice that Howard was completely at ease; he leaned against the wall calmly, and talked smoothly as if telling a fairytale. Ren, however, could not say the same for himself. His legs were going numb for some reason, and the stinging sensation in his arm was only getting worse. He wished he was at home with his parents.
"Okay, just hold on," Mr. Jiles said, looking up from the ground that he had been staring at. "Now, you said my son was landed on by this alien aircraft? Mind being a little more clear about that?"
"I don't know," Ren said truthfully. His arm felt like a pincushion now, as if it were being stabbed in twenty different places. His legs grew weaker...
"This is ridiculous," Mr. Jiles said, throwing his arms in the air. Ren could barely see the blurred figure...
"His lungs—are damaged—" Ren's own words seemed distant—he tried to fight it—he tried to cling to reality—but what was left of his vision went black, and the rest of his tingling legs collapsed to the ground. He lost grasp on reality and fell into unconsciousness.
How Ren had been dragged into this crisis in the first place was unknown to him...it would seem that Planet Luther had conspired against him...the whole godforsaken planet could go up in flames for all he cared.
This is not my home...Reach is my home.