Glass and Steel: Pt. 8
Posted By: Random 14-Year-Old<email@example.com>
Date: 16 September 2005, 12:56 am
Part 8: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
"Transmission from Special Operations navigator Pira 'Tipermee, your Nobleness."
The Low Prophet of Gaiety accepted the transmission reluctantly; no doubt 'Tipermee would be requesting to be picked up by Gaiety's fleet, which had already journeyed too far towards its destination to even consider a detour.
"Yes, eager wanderer?" Gaiety said into the transmission with disgust.
"Thank you for granting your time, Prophet," 'Tipermee replied gratefully. If Gaiety wasn't mistaken, there seemed to be screams of some sort in the background...
"What are those sounds I hear?" Gaiety asked. Static muffled the transmission, forcing the Prophet to lean in his dais to hear well.
"Those are the screams of the Infidels," 'Tipermee said. "We followed the signal of the lost artifact to this planet, but we were unable to make any judgments of the inhabitants before we landed. There was a storm."
"Rash mistake. And did you retrieve the artifact, as was your mission?"
"Yes," the Elite said. He paused for several seconds. "But one of the Infidels attacked Rigo 'Onermee and killed him."
"Pity," Gaiety said with little remorse at all. "He was a skilled communications engineer. Not evaluating the planet before landing was very costly, I hope you realize."
"I understand, your Nobleness," 'Tipermee apologized. Gaiety could imagine the Elite bowing, desperate for forgiveness. He would be lucky to have his life spared.
"Have the rest of your crew in the Seraph and at least one hundred thousand units above the planet's surface," Gaiety ordered. "My fleet will retrieve you, we will destroy the planet, and we shall continue to our planned destination. This is a very time-consuming detour, 'Tipermee."
"I am sorry for the inconvenience, Prophet. But I am also sorry that we will not be able to meet you above the planet's surface."
"As my ship entered the planet's atmosphere we experienced difficulties. A bolt of lightning struck the Seraph fighter, forcing us to make a crash-landing. The ship is fatally damaged. I and my crew would be forever grateful if you, Prophet, would be willing to send down a rescue team to retrieve us." After a moment of silence 'Tipermee also added, "We hold the artifact in perfect condition, Hierarch. It is the Magisterial Exordium of the Forerunner."
Gaiety sat upright in his dais suddenly. The Exordium had been lost for centuries, before the war with the Infidels had even begun. It contained the recorded purposes and intents of the Forerunner gods, presumably written in their earliest times. Attempts to interpret the tablet and its characters had halted when it mysteriously disappeared in space.
"Very well," Gaiety said, suddenly eager now. "My fleet will arrive, retrieve your crew and the Exordium, and destroy the Infidels. Forgiveness may grace you after all, noble Sangheili."
"Thank you, Prophet."
And with that, Gaiety cut the transmission and ordered all the assault carriers in his command to trace the signal and exact upon its position.
If Ren had ever thought that one's life could be stable and safe, he now knew that he had been wrong. In less than two days' time, his entire world had crumbled. Abandonment of his parents, destruction of his girlfriend's family, and even a close encounter of the millionth kind. The attacks replayed over and over in Ren's head—the Elite, the sword, the madman, the gun... Death hadn't managed to take hold of him yet, but insanity sure had.
It was unbelievable how the car hadn't driven into a tree or something yet. The cracks and stars that webbed across the windshield obscured most of his vision, but he was hardly paying attention to the road anyway.
The Elite, the sword, the madman, the gun.
"I'm so sorry, Ariana," Ren said gravely. He looked at her in the rearview mirror—she only stared out the window, not a single part of her body moving, except for her tear glands. Those were extremely busy.
And indeed, the situation was saddening, hopeless, depressing. Ren took a hand off the steering wheel and wiped some of his own tears away. It was pointless, though, because his hands were sweating up a storm. Wiping away tears merely spread sweat across his face, so Ren returned his hand to the steering wheel. It kept his arms from trembling.
"Ariana," Ren said, trying to get her attention. She kept her eyes trained on the environment outside, completely ignoring him. "Ariana, if there's anything I can do, anything to help you feel better, please tell me. We're—we're going to the hospital right now."
Ren saw her eyes flicker for a second. A fresh teardrop slid down her cheek.
"But I need your help to find the hospital," Ren continued. "Please help me; I have no idea where it is."
Ariana swallowed. "There's a ma—" Her voice was raspy, so she cleared her throat and went on, "There's a map in the car door..." The moment she had finished the sentence she exploded into loud sobs that filled the car with depression.
Ren's trembling, sweaty hand reached down into the pocket next to him and pulled out a map of the region—but he didn't dare look at it now; he could barely pay attention to the road without a map in his face.
The road. Buildings dotted the roadside, with houses in between and trees decorating grassy lawns here and there. Any one of those trees had great potential, or even the wall of a building. They could all destroy a car, if the car was going fast enough.
Ren pushed a little harder on the gas. Forty miles per hour. Fifty.
Ren swerved the steering wheel a little bit, getting a feel for how quickly he could spin it in a certain direction. The car was perfectly responsive.
All these aliens, and these madmen, they were only petty annoyances that could be taken care of easily. With one swift turn of the steering wheel, Ren could end all of his problems. Death meant peace. No more aliens. No more madmen. And definitely no more of Ariana's tears. That hurt Ren the most.
The crash would only take out Ren, if he did it correctly. That way Ariana could continue her life, and become a doctor or something like that. There was no reason why Ren should end her life just because he couldn't take the pressure.
"He never liked my dad," Ariana said out of nowhere. "My dad never liked him."
The madman, again. Howard. Ren couldn't stand to hear it. But he didn't interrupt Ariana.
"They had a fight once, and I told Daddy—I told him, 'He's not a nice person, Daddy. Please don't see him anymore.' But they had to see each other, for work. But I didn't care. I told him! Even Mom, too. She saw the evil in that man! I told Daddy to stop seeing that man!"
The young girl in the backseat started crying again. It drove a dagger through Ren's heart to hear it. A few more daggers butchered his heart when he looked in the mirror and saw those tears, the tears that tried to relinquish the sadness from Ariana's body. But her sadness would continue. And so would Ren's pain.
He swerved the steering wheel even more now, moving clumsily into and out of his lane. Good thing there weren't any other cars on the road; the honking would drive Ren crazy.
"And now they're gone!" Ariana sobbed. "They're both gone! Because of that man! I don't give a damn whether he killed an alien or not! He killed my parents, Ren! He killed them!"
Ren couldn't take it anymore. He would end all this grief. Sixty miles per hour. Seventy.
"And now Jeff is dead! I know he's dead! He won't breathe anymore, Ren! My whole family...my whole family..."
Eighty miles per hour. There was a turn up ahead—but Ren merely took his hands off the wheel and wiped the sweat on his jeans. The hands didn't return to the wheel.
"They're all dead. But thank God I have you, Ren. I love you so much—I would be lost right now, if it weren't for you..."
She would be lost—lost without anyone to hang onto. Realization, panic, and terror struck Ren just as the car sped past the Sharp Turn sign, and he instantly threw his sweaty palms back onto the wheel and slammed the brakes. The high-pitched squeals of the tires shattered the air, and then a series of cracks and snaps in the engine told Ren that the brakes had died.
"Goddammit!" he cursed, flying the steering wheel to the left. The tires screamed with stress as the car went into a spin, a spin that Ren only made worse when he flew the steering wheel in the opposite direction.
Ariana was screaming now. Great, Ren. Turned it from tears to screams. Real helpful.
The car went totally out of control, spinning down the street at least fifty miles an hour. Brief visions of houses, trees, and the road flew in a blur before Ren's eyes. It was a montage of chaos, with a young girl's screams as the deafening soundtrack. In a desperate move to regain control, Ren tightly gripped the steering wheel and slammed the gas as hard as he could. Maybe the sudden force would stabilize the maniacal vehicle—or maybe it wouldn't. But Ren's prayers were for survival. If he died, it was the end of everything that Ariana still had in life. All she had was him. He couldn't die. He wouldn't die.
Out of nowhere a brick wall made contact with the car on the right side—Ariana's side. Glass shattered—steel crunched. Ren's head was thrown to the right, and he felt something tear in his neck. He straightened himself and realized that the car was smaller than it had been, and he also noticed that Ariana had stopped screaming.
No—it couldn't be—
The car screeched along the brick wall, still going fast, until it spun one more time in a one-eighty-degree turn and thrust Ren's side of the car into the wall. He was lucky, though—the second crash wasn't nearly as severe, and only the window shattered, throwing shards of glass into Ren that cut through the bandages on his arm and dug into his already wounded skin. An eternity passed in those hellish seconds, but the car finally screeched to a halt against the wall of a building.
The fact that the chaos had ended took awhile to sink in. There was no sound, now, except for the faint pitter-patter of sparks flying out of the hood of the car.
"Ariana..." Ren croaked, "...you okay...?"
No answer. He turned his head to look, but a sudden shooting pain in his neck snapped his head back forward. No—pain or no pain, he had to see if Ariana was okay. Ren turned his head again, and his neck burned with agony, as if his muscles were raging with white-hot flames. But he managed to shift his position and face the back of the car.
The first thing he saw was Jeffery, lying in a crumpled position. He had only a few minor scratches, though. He'd be fine.
But there, on the left, leaning against the mangled car door, was Ariana. Blood drizzled down her face. It was in her hair, on her shirt, on her arms, everywhere. And she was unconscious—or dead.
It was all Ren's fault. Now he was just as bad as Howard Gaffer, having killed a Jiles. Goddammit... Of course, Ren couldn't be the one to die, it had to be Ariana. Now, as he looked at her as she sat peacefully in her seat, covered in blood, Ren couldn't help but notice that she was still pretty. She would always be pretty. Forever—
"Oh my god—" somebody said. Ren jumped in his seat and hit his head on the ceiling—damn, that horrible neck pain again.
"Who...the hell..." Ren muttered, rubbing his neck. He turned in his seat to see a middle-aged woman looking into the car, sheer shock filling her face.
"My—my god! Are you okay?" the woman asked. "Oh, dear, your mouth is bleeding, honey—oh, your arm! God..."
Ren felt irritated now. He pulled on the handle on the car door, and kicked the door open when the handle didn't respond. He moved past the woman, completely ignoring her, and used all his strength to pull open the back seat door. He looked at Ariana. What did he plan to do? What could he do?
"Dear, dear, dear—" the woman said to herself. Ren heard her flip open something—a cell phone, maybe—and start a conversation. "Yes—hello? Yes, emergency, yes. I need an ambulance, quickly, please! This poor boy—and, and his sister and brother, I think—they just got in a car crash, so please send an ambulance! Yes, yes, Northwest District, that's right. Thank you!"
The word "ambulance" didn't quite register with Ren. He was still thinking about what he could do to save poor Ariana—if she was still alive—when the sound of sirens came barreling down the street. Suddenly he saw an ambulance there. Somebody was asking him questions that he didn't bother to comprehend. He saw stretchers rolling on the ground. Men heaved the stretchers into the ambulance, and before he knew it Ren found himself in one of those stretchers.
Ren was relieved to know that his life was in someone else's hands now. Finally, he didn't have the burden of worrying about himself. If he managed to survive, then great. If he died, well, then so be it.
Life was chaos. Death meant peace.