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On the Brink
Posted By: grantix<grantixtechno@gmail.com>
Date: 21 January 2010, 7:46 pm

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      The damned hoof on my face was wet with mud, sliding slightly along my cheek. Dirty, sweaty, muddy water followed the lines in my face, like a river, into my mouth. Instinctively, reflexively, I spat out the foul water. Only my right eye could look up, unhindered by the hoof, at the hellish creature standing above me, triumphantly, no, viciously, staring at the fear, or the resolve, my adrenaline was too high for me to tell which, in my eyes. The four fingered hand, clad in a reflective blue gauntlet, grasped a blue, oddly shaped rifle. Fingers tightened, mandibles twitched, and I could have sworn he pulled the trigger.

      Instead, I awoke from that nightmare on the cold metal floor, face in the same position. Blood rushed from my nose, a torrent my crimson life. The sticky red liquid pooled under my head, congealing against my ear. But, there still was something on my cheek, just this time it was a human boot. The pattern, designed for traction, dug into my skin, and I stared up with my available eye.
      The lieutenant. The damned lieutenant. He stood above me, laughing aloud. I remembered then, what exactly was happening. My hand shot upwards, grabbing the lieutenant's ankle, as the other hand flew for his knee. My fingertips dug into the back of his knee, striking the pressure points, and the man fell without a further chuckle.
      I twisted around, wrapping my legs around his, and flipping our bodies over, so that I was on my back again and he was on his belly. And I pulled, forcing him into submission. He tapped out, as I had hoped.
      "Well, shit, Captain," he cried out, sitting up, nursing his knee. "What if I hadn't a' tapped out?"
      I wiped away the blood from my nose and rose an eyebrow at him. He was a large man, a bit too muscular for the confined spaces, too full of himself. "You'd a' had a broken leg, and I wouldn't a' given a shit, Johnson."
      Beside the pool of blood, I noticed that it wasn't his punch which procured my blood, but rather the collision of my nose with the floor.
      "Rocked me hard, didn't ya?" I asked, heading for the door.
      "Thought I'd had you. Took you a full five seconds to come back," Lieutenant Johnson replied, smiling.
      I glanced at the weight lifting machines and the other workout equipment before giving him one last look.
      "I was a bit off today. Mind's floating through the past," I explained, before stepping out through the automatic doors.

      A cramped bridge was the first on my list of things to fix. Too many screens, enough to make any hacker happy, filled nearly every available space along the walls. Straight forward, from the door, a bank of windows stared out into space, Io beginning to float into view, and Jupiter behind it.
      "Captain on deck!" the lieutenant announced. The entire crew rose, saluting me from where they stood.
      "As you were," I announced, adjusting my uniform slightly. "Novell, update."
      Ensign Novell was, by all standards, too shy and too retracted. He stuttered too much, and he didn't ask enough questions. Promotions were unlikely in his future. He turned to me, his brown eyes slightly fearful.
      "The UNSC Frigate All's Well is finishing the loop around Io. It'll be ready to dock within three minutes," he called out.
      "Good. Now, ensign... go comb your hair," I commanded. The boy must have woke up in a rush. Today was probably the most action we'd get on this station.
      Novell shot off a salute and left the bridge. Everyone else continued busily monitoring the station's systems. Thank God the All's Well is coming. We'll finally have an AI aboard the ship. All these men and women can go protect Earth.
      But not everyone on the monitoring station would get that chance. Lieutenant Johnson was placed here due to some undesirable actions in his past, and would unlikely be relieved. Mitasho, a lieutenant from Earth's Japan, would also be stuck on this station. I would also stay here, on this slow floating monitoring station on the edge of the system. No, on the brink. On the brink of the system.

      Muddy water seeped into my mouth, and that cold hoof was pushing into my face again. My skull sunk ever deeper into the wet ground, an impression slowly forming. The beast's eyes were full of burning hate, and his fingers tightened around the handle of his rifle once more. I knew where I was, knew I was dreaming this again. But I could not break free, could not prevent myself from reliving the horror. His hoof dug in deeper as his strange rifle began to glow, and I could feel the life exhaust from my body.

      Again, it was just a nightmare. A nightmare which would never leave me, no matter how hard I tried to leave it.
      "Captain, is everything alright?" Johnson asked, a hand on my shoulder.
      I shook my head, peered out the bay of windows, and gave him a sideways glance. "Yes Lieutenant. Everything's fine. Just memories." I pulled myself up straight in the captain's seat, and coughed. "Status report!"
      "All's Well has begun the docking sequence, computer's taking over from here," Ensign Haan answered.
      I stood up, wiping away the sweat on my brow. "I leave the rest to you, Lieutenant," I said, heading for the exit.
      "Aye Sir!" Johnson said with a quick salute.
      I left the bridge, and headed for my quarters. I came here to get away from these memories... The memories of a one Captain J. Ritcher.