Posted By: ShroudedCloud<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 10 June 2010, 6:45 pm
The room was dark, one small antique lamp that had been struggling for days finally burnt out some hours ago. Shadows now stretched across the room laying on the clothes and papers that lay scattered on the floor and bed. In the darkest corner, right beside the room's one source of scattered light, a window open to the night stars, a boy slouched low in a chair. His breath wreaked of the alcohol missing from the bottles sitting about haphazardly as he rhythmically breathed in and out in a near-comatose doze.
This room he was in was not his, it was his father's. In a fit the boy has broken the lock two days before and raided the liquor cabinet his father had cherished and worked so laboriously over. The man had made sure every taste from every bottle had a compliment somewhere on its shelves, vintages from all over the last century. To waste, though, as it coursed through the boy's blood, the only sustenance he had taken in. Poison pumping through his every vein now. He couldn't wake up if he wanted to now.
Footsteps were padding along the carpeted hall outside as the medical dispatch finally arrived. Someone had seen the bottles and trash through the window and had been extremely worried about whoever was there, if anyone at all. A silent rescue the boy hadn't asked for, one that he already resented, even as he still lay unconscious on the gurney, being carted out of the house as he was given some preventative treatment to keep him from dying at fifteen.
"Wake up, you ass." An ODST sharply threw a cleaning kit at another of his team who was wistfully dozing away. "Party's about to start."
Massaging the point of impact through his armor, the man groggily rolled over and out of his small niche in the wall that served as a bunk on the civilian ship where he and the rest of the team were stowing away. The plan was as straightforward as possible: Hide in this ship, catch the Insurrectionalists unaware and bust down their door. They had taken some of his brothers in arms and his squad was the clean up crew. The muscle flex. Rescue was considered by brass a secondary objective, unstated but understood.
Another of the ODSTs tossed him his helmet which he daftly snatched from the air and fitted on his bald head in one swift movement, his other hand reaching up to secure its seals for vacuum. The lights winked out and all of them moved to tall cupboards as the room's atmosphere was vented in preparation of the cargo the room held being unpacked for the station. The man, Blake, got into his appointed cupboard and shut the door just as the decompression wave hit, jolting him against its door. All he could do was wait now as the ship moved slowly into the the station's docking area; wait for the feel of the station's gravity to finally settle over him, the team's "go" signal to begin.
As soon as it did, they all efficiently broke from their cupboards and moved through the vacuous room to a hidden exit where they maneuvered to the much larger hold where the cargo they had accompanied was to be dumped and the ship would leave as quickly as possible. They slinked through shadows, falling toward the center of the station ahead of the cargo that could crush them if they didn't move fast enough. The ODSTs had no intention of letting this happen and all cleared the first hurdle with no issues.
Now, they concerned themselves with getting inside the station before their oxygen ran out on their limited fifteen minute reserves. They planted shaped charges on several doors while working on the electronic lock of another, popping it in a scant few seconds with the hardware that ONI provided them. A thumbs up from the specialist and the charges on all the other doors went off simultaneously, setting off alarms as they slipped through the door and into the station proper, taking no time to revel at their success, it was just one more in a long list of things they simply understood would happen no matter what.
They all unslung their weapons and thumbed off the safeties while the unsuspecting captain of the vessel they had been leeching a ride from was being accosted by the station's security force. The small squad began the systematic elimination of everything in their path, suffering none to pass in a silent message to the Insurrectionalists. All except Blake who hung behind a few seconds more with ONIs other treat for them: a device that would shut down all the stations myriad ports and activate the defenses, cutting off escape for everyone on the station.
The rest of what they did was nothing more than custodial work: an orderly search of every room wherein they would put one in between the eyes and one in the chest of any one they came across. They moved as one, but to no great effect, the scene was that of a massacre not a battlefield. These people must have really thought themselves hidden in the fringes of this solar system. As if ONI wouldn't suspect monthly trips by cargo freighters out to some remote location of being an Innie hideout. Even the hostage's guards were ill equipped for the assault they were shoved into. The guards only had riot control weapons to keep the room orderly.
And then, that was all. The last body hit the floor and two of the squad went about freeing the Marine captives. Two more went out to find long-range communications to call out to the UNSC for pick-up. Blake lounged in the corner and watched with one eye as spare weapons from the ODSTs equipment bag were passed around to the Marines so they could finish cleaning up the mess they'd created. They had saved those men, so their job was done as far as Blake was concerned. He leaned his head back and fell back to a peaceful sleep in anticipation of the long wait ahead for pickup.
The hospital locked the boy down on suicide watch after they managed to pump the copious amounts of alcohol from his blood. He didn't even notice their work as he spent most of his waking hours staring at the walls, refusing to eat until he was so weak his body was nearly always asleep.
The nurses would rouse him and sometimes try to force-feed him, other times give him up as heading for the grave anyway, an outlook he would never really escape. There was always someone there, however, who hadn't quite given up on him yet. Each day, the sentiment that this might be his day would be tossed around between the staff. Each day, a failure until the funeral, which some hoped might help him to dispel some of the pent up feelings of the death, a first step to a cure.
The moment that word was given that he would be allowed this respite from the intense watch, the carer of the day rushed in to tell him, hoping for a miracle to manifest itself. There was no immediate response as the boy kept his back to the door where the nurse hung, half in, half out of the room. The next few days, however, the boy began to eat bit by bit in preparation for this, washing the ward with relief.
Blake rolled over on the bluff overlooking the Covenant camp below. Command had sent the word, he and his team were to coordinate their timing and strike the camp from all sides at once. It had been thrown together after the Marines had been rounded up here with civilians. The ODSTs were sent back in to this dying world to get them back up on board before the last ship jumped system.
A fraction ahead of him, the other teams made their shots. Out of instinct, he tapped his sniper on the back, the "fire" signal. All the ODSTs jumped out from their hiding places and floated out in the low gravity, moving forward and firing. The Elites they were focusing their fire on turned on their plasma swords and cut the throats of the prisoners still being held in the camp, their way of informing the assailants that they'd walked into a trap.
Blake was furious, he had wasted his time on this hell-hole for nothing now and he was surrounded by Grunts now for it. They took his and all his squad's weapons away and pushed him around so the Elites could question them. Not being one to put up with a wait, Blake continually lashed out against their overwhelming numbers to get free, killing a few grunts each time before they finally knocked him out cold.
It didn't keep him down long and took a moment to figure out that he was closer to the main tent where they were questioning and killing his brothers. He tried to flex his arms to rise up to the task once again, but all of his movement was locked. He could only stare at corpses slowly piling up around him in a pool of death, all as blank as the only memory he had of his father.
An explosion brought him back as another ODST drop pod landed in the thick of the Covenant, smashing many of them to pulp, splashing him with viscera. Others fell from the shockwave of the pod, yet more cleared out when the door exploded forward followed by a rocket blast. The pod poured out a green suit that poured death from itself freely. Grunts went down in batches, Jackals in explosions from well-placed grenades behind their shield walls, Elites to the remaining rockets. And then it stood there, looking down on it all. Behind it, a Pelican was coming in to pick it up and whatever it had managed to save.
Blake felt disgust as it touched him and as soon as he could move, pushed away from the freak, rushing into the shuttle.
A cop car arrived to take him to the funeral, sequestering him in the segregated back seat, away from the inane chatter of the cop and her partner. He looked out the window at no one thing in particular, his eyes glazed to reflect his mind of an equal state. They were taking a long route, hoping to ease the transition some for him, to give him time to prepare for what was coming; to not shock him back into nothingness. He just stared.
The two cops moved him gently out of the car, straightening the suit that had been reclaimed from some charity bin and hardly fit him. He didn't notice their efforts, not even the weight of the two leaning on him as he stood at the front of the procession for his dead father. Everyone had eyes for him, wonder spreading through the crowd of just how long it would be before they were gathered back at this spot for the burial of the last little bit left of the man being put to ground today.
Tears streamed to eulogies as eyes focused on the boy instead of the box floating solemnly over the freshly dug grave. People flocked away slowly as the grave was lowered, some lingering to stare longer than others. The boy continued his stare in an unwitting defiance. The cops gave a gentle push to the boy's shoulder, their signal that it was time to go, but the boy finally showed some life and broke free of their soft grips.
The cops shared a surprised look before taking some steps away announcing they'd give the boy a few minutes alone. One of them broke out a couple of cigarettes and lit them, passing one to his partner as they turned away from the scene. They couldn't agree on anything to talk about and instead watched the wildlife on the fringes of the graveyard, the lively contrast of the dead fields that surrounded them. They were so caught up in it that they never even heard the boy leave, and, by the time they finished their final, soulful, drag of the cigarettes, he was no where to be found.
"He turned up a couple hours ago, sir. He's under age. Sixteen," said the recruitment officer to his superior. "But he's got shit. Nothing. Perfect candidate in a sense."
"So I see," was the reply from the officer's superior as he perused the boys records. "Suicide then running away, fuck." He ran a hand across his chin. "Let it slide. We don't need to lie about it: every other ODST out there is not better, they just plug it into other aspects. And training will teach him to do it too, or leave him dead before he can try."
"That bastard, I had the shot, fucker thinks because he has some shiny new suit, he can steal my win?" Blake paused his tirade as his body slowly relaxed as the drug took effect. "Can't... Do... Sh... Like that...."
His words became a puddle of drool on the floor of his apartment that his face fell into unceremoniously. His feverish hallucinations woke him quickly when even those were plagued by that glory hog. He punched at some illusion standing in front of him, still half-in his own convoluted mind, standing up to show he was better than whatever he was seeing look down on him.
He couldn't stand it, every where in the room, it watched him, he had to get out. Without bothering to get properly clothed, instead staying in his loose nightly wears, he left his apartment and went down to a little cafe he frequented. His favorite waitress was working tonight. She was such a great girl, always sneaking him a little something extra for his buck. She showed him what he deserved, but hung around too long. He had always debated sleeping with her, but had always refrained, not wanting to screw with a free lunch.
Tonight was different. He could feel the surges throughout the body, the drug was working its magic on him. He sat down at his normal table and she came around. She was as bright and cheerful as ever, finally getting around to asking him what he might like to order. He spent no time in beating around the bush and gave her the opportunity to be with him back at his place in fifteen. She seemed excited and took her dinner break off for it, following him back.
She had waited for so long for him to let something happen that she didn't even mind the used needle and small puddle of puke and slobber on the floor. She just allowed him to pull her through to his bedroom that was spotless, because, she guessed, there was not enough in the room to make an actual mess.
Before she knew it, she found herself laying squarely on her back, anticipation building in her, but Blake seemed to have given up. He jumped away from her and paced the room. She pulled the blanket over herself and looked at him concernedly.
"Everything okay?" she asked him as innocently as she could muster. He glanced over her and she started to feel uncomfortable. With one hand, she started searching out her scattered clothes and getting them back on as quickly as possible.
"Shit, I've got to get back, my break is almost over..." she said without glancing at a clock. She edged out of the room, but his eyes followed her as she went, a green mania hidden behind them. With her back to the door, she slowly walked backward away from him to get to safety, but she forgot about the sick in the living room and slipped.
He jumped at her like a predator, attempting to force himself on her, clawing at her clothes. Just as before, though, this came to nothing as he couldn't seem to pull it off. She struggled and aimed a kick for his crotch, missing cleanly. His hand came down in a rage and she lost consciousness, laying still in his sick after she added her own.
Blake looked down at the scene from miles above, listening to the devil on his shoulder tell him it was a time for flight. But at the door, it was waiting. He couldn't hope to get past it. And it wouldn't leave him, just stare through that god damned golden visor from that immovable mountain of armor. He turned and ran from it, still naked, to his room and locked the door, listening.
He couldn't hear them -- but he knew they were moving around, surrounding his room.
"They can't be this good... It's not possible..." he began to mutter to himself... "HAH! You think I don't see you there? You aren't even close to my level!" he shouted at the window while his hands roamed over his dresser. They felt something cold and grabbed it.
Swinging the pistol around, he fired a warning shot through the window, but that left them a way to encroach on him. He hand shook its way until he the muzzle of the pistol was firmly against the underside of his chin. His hand trembled too much and the trigger was too sensitive.