Brightly Colored Soldiers
Posted By: SeverianofUrth
Date: 17 April 2009, 4:26 am
Brightly Colored Soldiers
or, Brightly Colored Monsters
Matt dragged the rookie's corpse past the burning wreckage of the Banshee, cursing all the while. His shield was down and from the trail left by the sniper's shot, it looked to have come from the northern wall of Blood Gulch, too far away to fire back with his carbine. He hoped that the sniper had terrible aim, but judging by the state of the newbie's head--the top half sheared off in that unfortunate moment when he had climbed out of the ruined Banshee--that didn't seem an likely possibility.
He heard the crack only after the shot hit him in the leg. With a grunt, Matt toppled down to the ground, his left leg taken off at the knee by the bullet. Trying desperately to ignore the pain screaming up through his body, he began crawling, expecting at any moment that second shot, one more to put him away for the day. He looked back and saw lying on the ground the remains of his left leg, and thought about how it would grow back during the night, the flesh knitting itself, cell by cell growing and fitting themselves together like microscopic puzzle pieces.
That killing shot never came. Instead, he heard the roar of a Warthog rolling over the hills, and laughter.
"Oh, fuck," he said, under the shadow of the vehicle, temporarily airborne. Then it crashed down upon him.
"We lost, man."
Matt woke to the sound of bagpipes in the air. Blinking against the sharp white light, he tried to sit up, but the pain in his chest sent him straight back down to the floor. Then the full import of those words hit him.
"Yeah. Fucking sniper glitched himself onto the cliff wall, and took half of us out while we were trying to flank them." The man lit a cigarette, took a deep puff. His face, lined and wrinkled and dirty with grime and dried blood, looked to have the texture of grainy leather. "Couldn't get any of their bodies back after sunset... you and about three others were the only bodies we could retrive."
"Oh, fuck. You have to be shitting me." The news was breaking his heart. Matt knew that in this hell of theirs, where there was no respite from the constant resurrection that occurred every night, that 'miracle' which healed all wounds and sent them back to the Gulch fit for battle, the only way to truly punish the foe was to make that re-awakening one filled with agony.
"What happened out there, by the way?" The man asked him. "Saw the
"The Banshee got taken out by a rocket, I think. The kid made it out, but he got wasted by the sniper afterwards."
The man grunted, frowning. "Deserved it, that little fool. He was supposed to stay back, but he flew in and got himself fucked. We didn't have any air support for the rest of the day."
"I was wondering why he was all the way out there," Matt said. "Now I know why."
His leg had finished growing back while he was unconscious, and he tried moving it. It felt good, asides from the ghost-pain that still clung to his knee.
"Did I thank you, by the way?"
"For, you know," Matt pointed at himself, "getting my corpse back." He held out his hand.
The man shook it, hard. It seemed to amuse him. "Still got your manners, huh?" He finished his cigarette and ground the remains into the concrete floor.
"Heh, yeah, guess so."
"Name's Sam... think your name is Matthew?"
"How did you know?"
"You still had that fucking nametag on your armor." Sam stood, and said, "going to try to get some sleep. You too, man. And don't look outside."
Matt thanked him, but after Sam left, he stood--his chest felt fine now, having healed in the short time that had passed during the conversation--and limped over to the exit. He knew what would be outside, but that was fine. Some things needed to be witnessed.
In the horizon, against the sunset, were six men impaled on makeshift spikes. The bagpipes wailed, mockingly so.
"You know, this shit isn't exactly kosher."
Matt looked back at the gunner. They were driving on the eastern edge of the Gulch, on the high road. "What are you talking about?"
"Those pipes, man. In the morning and shit. The music that they play for us should, like, get us pumped up to mess things up, you know? But we get fucking bagpipes."
"I don't exactly mind, to tell you the truth." Matt kept his eyes on the road, wary of improvised frag mines. Some bright asshole had thought up a way to rig three frags together with tripwire a week ago, and he remembered seeing, in the distance, the fiery spectacle of three men and a Warthog tumbling over the cliff, blown up by the mine. He didn't want to do the same deadly acrobatics over the air. "I mean, it's a fucking bagpipe," he continued. "It's supposed to be like music for a funeral or something."
"I'd like something with a good bass or something, man. Thump thump, you know, something with a beat."
The two of them listened to the bagpipe music still wailing from somewhere high up in the sky. "You know," Matt said, "wonder if that fucker up there is--hey, who plays those bagpipe things?"
"Uh, people who learned how to? The fuck you talking about?"
"I mean, like the French or something."
"I thought it was a Spanish thing, man."
"So whoever it is that's up there is Spanish?"
"Is God Spanish?"
"Don't know, I thought he was a Jew?"
The gunner said, only, "hey, you see that shit up there?"
That shit was a small blue figure at the end of the road. Matt saw the rocket launcher on the Blue's shoulder, aimed right at them. There was no cover--just a smooth empty road on the cliff.
"Out!" the gunner shouted. The two of them were barely out of the 'hog when the rocket hit its side. They were thrown to the ground, and the concussion from the second rocket hitting the wreck kept them down for a moment.
"We have to find cover!" Matt screamed, as they struggled to get back up.
The gunner screamed back, "fuck that!" He began racing towards the enemy, who had taken cover in the cave behind him, most likely to reload the rocket launcher. .
"Aw, fuck," Matt muttered to himself, as he began running as well. It was still about fifty yards away. They ran. It would all depend on how fast their enemy reloaded. Too fast and they'd be blown to bits; too slow and they'd reach him and gut him.
They were about halfway there when the Blue came in sight, launcher in hand. Matt wondered just how he would die this time. Burn to death? Feel the air on his back as he fell down to the ground below?
The rocket. It hit the ground right beneath the gunner's feet. Matt saw him pulp, be consumed by the blast. The explosion sent him tumbling back as well. On the earth now, on his back, staring at the sun than at the Blue, calmly aiming for him. Not taking his time. Perhaps savoring the moment.
Matt fumbled for the pistol on his side, and drew it out. He tried to set the iron sights on the Blue's head. His hand was shaking. The sights wavered. Now.
He pulled the trigger. Matt never knew if the Blue fired first. He only saw the explosion, the rocket blowing up within the launcher, the little fireball blossoming on the Blue's right shoulder and then consuming him, sending that corpse flailing against the rocks like a rag doll.
"Mother," he muttered, "fucking, Mary. Jesus, oh shit." Then he began to laugh. What fucking luck.
He limped back into the bunker at night. It had taken him all day to hike back, and quite truthfully, Matt hadn't been in too much of a hurry to get back.
There was a Blue on the ground. Matt limped towards him, examining the figure on the ground with clinical interest. Looked... normal, disappointingly so. At first, his enemies had seemed human, but now, weeks of fighting later, they seemed like... bugs, somehow. The Blue was human, yet, he wasn't; and this contradiction worked in his mind, because Blues were his enemies and his enemies, obviously weren't men but rather beasts.
A hand patted his back, and Matt turned and saw Sam.
"Just got back?"
"Yup. Hey, he's waking up," Matt said. He looked around and saw a little crowd gathering. Some had what Matt thought of as a veteran stare, seemingly focused on nothing but the empty air. Those were the ones who had gotten a first-hand taste of Blue hospitality. Although their wounds had healed, like the phantom pain that still lingered in Matt's knee, their brains did not--could not--forget.
"I got that pole ready," Sam said to him. "Pulled it out of Victor's ass while he was still dead. Didn't remember a thing, that lucky fuck."
"I've never done this before," he replied, knowing what they were going to do. He looked back down at the Blue, noting the ball gag they had placed in his mouth. Matt wondered if the Blue would scream, then realized that he was, indeed, trying to scream into it. Drool eased their way past the sides of the gag and dripped down his face. "So, uh, do I hold him down or something?"
"Yeah," Sam said. "Just sit on his wrists or something. Hey," he said to a soldier passing by, "grab this fucker's legs, will you?"
Grabbing the prisoner's wrist, Matt wondered if he should sit on them like Sam suggested, then opted to just pin the Blue down with his arms instead. He watched as the other soldier agreeably held down the prisoner's legs.
"All ready, guys? We have two more waiting, gotta hurry up." And Sam said, "Okay, guys, up we go--"
He woke to the sound of bagpipes. They were playing some kind of a dirge, and he remembered erecting three poles with men squished on them on top the hills, smelling all the blood and shit that had dribbled down their metal shafts. They'd trudged out with the impaled men on sticks, carrying them one at a time between two men like hogtied calves, and it had been a relief to get out of the bunker. They'd set the poles down on one of the hills, in clear sight of Blue base. One of the men had joked that this was their Iwo Jima, but no one else had gotten the joke and he had shut his mouth, sullen in his silence.
Matt wondered, idly, if he would ever suffer such a fate. How he would recover, and how, the day after the ordeal, would he perform on the field? Keep up the heroics that no longer had any importance?
Someone kicked his cot. "Wake up, bro."
"I'm already awake," Matt said. He got up and noticed that it was the gunner, from the day before. Resurrection hadn't been too kind to him; getting blown to bits didn't exactly help things. His skin looked like they'd been patched together with super glue, all melted seams and flaps of skin fused against one another.
"Yeah," the gunner said, "I look like shit."
"Wasn't going to say that."
"Don't worry." He shrugged. "I'll manage, you know? Maybe I'll eat another fucking rocket and this time I'll get patched up right."
"Anyways, I want you to drive, man."
"Like I said, maybe I'll eat another fucking rocket and they'll fix me up, all brand new." He grinned, and Matt smiled back.
"I could probably arrange an accident," Matt suggested as they walked out of the bunker. "A frag to the face, maybe."
The gunner laughed, but shook his head. "Think I'm all right with that, man."
The sniper was up there again.
This was proof, Matt decided, that the hell he was in wasn't some literal, physical place. The fact that someone could 'glitch' his way up a cliff was proof enough. Unless, of course, that particular Blue was some Indian yogi who had mastered levitation, but his skill with arms argued against that possibility.
He was pinned down behind a boulder, west of Blue base. To his right, two men lay dead; one had bled out, shot in the gut, while the other had suffered bullet-induced head trauma. The sun was high up in the Gulch, and already he felt like he was slowly cooking to death in his armor.
Wondering just what he could do, Matt scanned the surrounding landscape, looking out for any potential attempts to flank him. He knew that it would only be a matter of time before someone had the bright idea of rushing him, or chucking a frag in his general direction. Whatever he did, he would have to do it quickly.
Matt gauged the distance between himself and the corpses. It looked like he could stretch out a arm and grab the dead man's ankle, without risking the rest of his body. He tried to gulp, but his mouth was too dry. He counted to three--and at three, he reached out.
His hand grabbed the ankle and Matt pulled the corpse behind the cover of the rock. The bullet hit the ground where his arm had been, moments earlier, a sharp crack cutting through the otherwise silent air. The Blues were camping out in their bunker, the result of having an earlier advance broken up by an errant Banshee crashing into their ranks, shot down but still deadly as falling debris.
The corpse was that of the gunner; Matt noticed this when he stripped the corpse of its helmet. Hey, it's patchface, he thought to himself. Looks like he didn't get his wish after all.
Unless, of course, something permanently destroyed his face. Matt took up the body, and jerked it out, head-first, out of cover. Almost instantly, another sharp crack and the head burst like a water balloon. You better thank me for this, bro. Matt checked to see if his shield was still intact and operating; it was.
He planned to use the body as a shield of sorts. Matt knew that the rifle would cut through the corpse as if it was butter, but it would soften the impact on his shields and hopefully, keep him alive until he could make it to cover. Not away from the sniper, but rather, towards him. It would be--twenty paces, he estimated, to the charred ruins of a Scorpion tank.
Matt knew he didn't have much of a chance. But it was better than roasting in the sun, waiting for the inevitable.
The corpse on his back, he immediately dashed out of the cover, then three steps in, dived towards the ground. The shot that had been aimed for his face hit him in the small of the back instead; it felt like a hammer blow, yet, although his shield had dissipated, it had failed to cut through armor as well. He scrambled back up and began running forward, again.
Not fast enough; the next shot took him in the neck.
Matt woke to the sound of bagpipes, mocking, wailing in the night air. There was a dull pain in his throat.
"Hey, the fucker's awake."
"Got the pole ready."
Oh, damn. He felt something heavy weighing him down on his airs. They had stripped him of his armor; naked, he lay on the ground, spread-eagled. It was cold.
Matt realized what they were going to do. His side were still new at this, they'd done it inside in their hurry to pay the Blues back, but the Blues, they were experienced and here they were, outside right after curfew, doing it right at the site. What goes around comes around, he thought. It was a remarkably calm thought, that contrasted sharply with the rest of his mind, screaming in terror, flinching but unable to ignore the present situation.
"Alright, we ready?"
"Just fucking do it already."
"Hey, guys?" he croaked, his throat still sore. "How about that bullet to the head?"
"Hey, guys, the fucker's talking."
"The fuck is he talking about?"
The bagpipes. Matt heard them wail so in the dark. Panic rising, along with terror. "The bullet," he said desperately. "I'll move too much. Impractical."
"He's saying something, chums."
"Well, tell the fucker that we'll be kind enough to shoot him if he screams too much."
"Let's go, guys. Up we go--"