|The Meaning of Life
Author: Hawki PM
Oneshot: It was once said in the 20th that the meaning of life was 42. Whether that remained true in the 26th century was up for debate.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Friendship - J. Forge & Douglas-042 - Words: 1,076 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 4 - Published: 06-25-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6082981
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Meaning of Life
"So Doug...you found the meaning of life yet?"
Petty Officer Second Class Douglas-042 remained silent, continuing to stare at what was supposedly mashed potato in the MRE before him and not sparing Sergeant John Forge a glance. Four days since their original mess hall scuffle and the marine had yet to stop asking the question. And, as the Spartan-II heard the sound of a seat being pulled up to the same table that he was at, it appeared that actually sitting together wasn't about to end either.
"Mashed potatoes this time eh?" the sergeant continued. "Guess your stomach got trained along with the rest of your body."
Suddenly not feeling so hungry anymore, Douglas glanced at his fr...no, comrade across the table, his MRE containing what looked like cardboard pasta. Different from the cardboard steak that had been present yesterday, but other than that, Forge's routine had remained identical. A pleasant break from their earlier scuffle, but even so, the monotony was beginning to get on the super soldier's nerves.
"It seems your stomach is in top shape as well, sergeant," Doug murmured, watching Forge scoff down the cardboard with more gutso than he thought possible.
"Nah, just hungry."
Doug blinked. Hungry? How could anyone be hungry in these circumstances, simply travelling the slipstream to an unknown destination for the sake of a single individual? The crew of the Spirit of Fire was effectively doing nothing, Red Team included. And without any challenges facing him, it was difficult to build up an appetite.
Or maybe there is a challenge. A diplomatic one...
In an instant, Douglas-042 realized three things. The first was that, for whatever reason, John Forge seemed to want their lunch meetings to continue, not only mending fences but building them. The second was that it was likely he'd keep asking his 'meaning of life' question every time he sat down. The third was that the only real challenge facing him right now was what the marine meant by it.
"The meaning of life..." the NCO began slowly, pushing his MRE to one side and leaving it to the mercy of Spock. "You keep asking me about that."
"And?" Forge asked, not taking his eyes off the rapidly diminishing supply of cardboard. "You got an answer?"
"No, a question. One that involves why you keep asking me in the first place."
Having started to put his helmet back on, Douglas didn't notice the sergeant's bemused look or the pasta fall off his fork, nor Hershey scooping up Spock before the cat could make herself sick. However, as his polarized gaze met the sergeant's bemused one, at least one of those events hadn't changed.
"Um, the meaning of life?" Forge asked slowly, placing his fork amongst its intended victims. "Forty-two...your name being Doug..."
"Exactly. You know...the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?"
"...I did not think it possible to hike through space."
An odd feeling rushed down the Spartan-II's spine, and it wasn't due to a faulty neural connection with his MJOLNIR armour. It was becoming increasingly apparent that while Forge wasn't about to break a chair in the same way he did four days ago, his impression of the Spartan had shifted further towards an airlock. And while Douglas had endured quizzical stares ever since arriving on the Phoenix-class colony ship, he found this one harder to ignore.
"I take it you're not a big fan of books..." began the sergeant slowly. "Or you just missed out on the classics."
"Course I read," the super soldier protested. "The Art of War for starters."
Forge snorted. "Figures. After all, why raise children on fiction?"
Douglas remained silent. The marine was casually insulting him, he knew that much, but it didn't seem like the kind of insult that demanded a response. Indeed, with the jarhead suddenly looking remiss, almost guilty, it was as if the sergeant was insulting himself.
"Truth be told, I didn't read that much either..." began Forge slowly, sliding his MRE away from a returned Spock. "Still, my daughter asked me for a copy of A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy a few years back and...well, I picked up a few things. Namely that the author was a guy named Douglas and the meaning of life is apparently forty-two."
"I see..." said the Douglas of the 26th century. "And that is the reasoning behind your quibs?"
An awkward silence fell between the two NCOs, one that not even Spock was able to break. It reminded the Red Team member of the silence that had fallen over the Spartan-IIs six years back, when Admiral Stanforth had briefed them on the existence of the Covenant. Just as hard as it was to believe that aliens existed and he was about to fight them, it was just as hard to believe that Forge actually had a daughter residing light years away. Douglas had no idea what kind of life that entailed past a brief memory of his own experiences, but Forge hardly seemed like father material.
And maybe that's why his guilty...Maybe that's why...
Deflection...that was it. Guilt over family, guilt over the scientist he had failed to protect and for all he knew, guilt for making a fool of himself by attacking the petty officer four days ago. And what better way to do it than put Douglas on the defensive at the start of their every meeting. It was hard enough to converse with a seven foot tall cyborg even in the best of circumstances.
To his surprise, the Spartan-II felt pity rather than resentment. He wouldn't go as far to say that he knew what the meaning of life was, but having known what the meaning of his own life was since the age of six, he didn't feel compelled to ask the question. Forge on the other hand...
"I should be going," said Doug, rising to his feet and even giving Spock a quick pat. "Jerome and Alice will be expecting me."
"Yeah...sure..." Forge murmured, returning to his meal.
"One more thing though..." continued the marine's fellow NCO. "That query you raised? About the meaning of life?"
"What about it?"
"...maybe you should ask yourself that question."