Chapter 5: Connections Made

Carolina looked to her right and saw the good doctor Ben typing away at a few keys. He adjusted his glasses and studied the results of a scan from Wash's leg. Seems to be doing much better than before, thought the doc, and he placed another contraption over Wash's leg. It seemed like an attachment for the scanner that emitted a bright green light.

"What is that?" Carolina asked studying the now moving object over Wash's leg. Ben finished typing in various commands before he turned to look at here. "This here is a quick way of helping the body heal, or rather the only way with you folks as we have no way of removing your armor."

Ben removed his glasses and stuffed them away in his pocket safely inside a case. He cleared his throat and indicated towards her forearm armor. "Take that piece of armor for example. The screws that hold it together are something we don't have the resources to remove with, not here at least. They probably could do it up on the space colony, but down here we are practically working with scraps. Therefore we must use more in-direct methods of healing for you and your friends. I used the same method as you see on him on everyone else. But that is only until the patient wakes up. I prefer to let the biological healing take over after that."

"From how you describe it, it sounds like this planet has been neglected."

"Neglected isn't the word I would use," Ben replied as he saw the device finish one round and prepped it for another round. "I would say this is more like abuse."

"That's a harsh way to say it," Carolina said slowly rising herself up from the bed. He glanced at her from the side of his eyes and shook his head. "Harsh from your view maybe, but it is the truth. Trust me, once you get to spend more time here and learn more about us, you will understand where we come from."

Maybe, she thought as he walked away after making a few notes on Carolina's medical forms. She let out a heavy sigh. Her confinement in bed was not sitting well with her. She wanted to get out, be walking, running and most of all training. She looked at her ribs and gritted her teeth. I was weak. This is why we ended up this way. I was weak. This is why I was beaten to a pulp like this. I need to be stronger than I already am. I NEED to be the best.

"Don't go getting ahead of yourself there Sis," said Epsilon appearing to her left. He could feel the unease in her mind swirling around like an uncertain pattern of stormy clouds. She looked his way and held up a finger his way. "Don't call me that."

"Call you what, Sis?"

"Only Church had the right to call me that Epsilon, you are not him."

"Eh okay?" the fragment replied shrugging his shoulders. But her feelings on this issue were at least clear to him unlike almost everything else about her right now. "Um, so getting back to the original point, don't go pushing yourself so hard right now. The last thing everyone here needs is you injuring yourself again."

She remained quiet and looked down at her hands. She took in a deep breath and asked. "You were running the healing unit after we both lost, weren't you?"

"It was the only way I could keep you from flat lining."

Carolina rubbed the back of her neck and found herself blushing a bit. She looked to her left straight into his visor. "Thank you."

"Don't mention it, seriously don't. It sounds awkward hearing it from you like this. Plus the recordings never said anything about you ever acting like this, what am I supposed to do in these situations?" Epsilon wondered in sudden panic and confusion. Carolina giggled a little getting his attention and he felt himself at ease as well. At least she finally cracked a smile.

"Oh my, you are already awake dear," said the voice of an old aged woman. Carolina could tell just from the tone and strength of the voice that the owner was in their seventies. She turned to see the frail old woman who had just begun to sit down beside her bed. The woman brushed her grey hair back with some red evident in it. Her green eyes looked all around curiously at the contraption running over Wash's leg. "Sadly it seems I can't say the same for him yet."

"Excuse me, but who would you be?" asked Carolina just as Epsilon logged off. The woman turned to look with an embarrassed look on her face and bowed her head in apology. "I'm so sorry for the late introduction. My name is Elsie. I have been visiting you most of the days you have been here alongside your other friends."

"So then are you one of the residents of the planet?"

"Yes, that would be correct."

There was an awkward silence between the two as they both stared off into different directions. Elsie tried to think of topics to talk about, but no matter what she couldn't find an interesting topic that might entice someone of Carolina's age. Carolina fidgeted under her bed sheets at a complete stand still on what to do. What do I do? I have never really had to deal with seniors much before. She looked out the window and noticed the same as ever grey tint still present.

"Excuse me mam," asked Carolina getting Elsie's attention. She pointed out the window questioning. "Does it not ever get sunny around here?"

Elsie stared out the window at the thunderous clouds and an unexpected sadness overtook her eyes. She seemed suddenly distant and let her head drop. "Mam, are you okay?"

"Oh, my apologies dear. I seemed to have drifted for a short while there. About your question, ever since these manmade clouds first appeared, we never again saw the sunlight, at least not clearly."

"Manmade, but what would cause people to make such clouds in the first place?"

"It is to deprive us of hope from looking up in the sky in optimism. Instead, when we look up, we only see what they want us to see, uncertainty of our survival and despair."

"I'm not sure I understand," Carolina replied now more confused than before. Elsie nodded her head in agreement. "It would be quite confusing for an outsider such as yourself to understand all this in such a small matter of time."

Elsie reached into her bag and held out a mini-tablet with a proud grin on her face. "We don't normally have this type of technology around here so you won't see many of us carrying this unless it's for work. This one was fixed up by my grandson, so I thought to make some use out of it after all."

"Okay," Carolina replied taking the tablet as it loaded several documents. They all outlined a certain theme amongst one another, despair. The point of the documents was to explain the purpose of the manmade thunderous clouds that were composed of various pollutants and some weather manipulation technology.

Why do such clouds exist?

Our lives as we knew them ended with the assault by the UNSC. There are many who stand with us in our goals to rebuild and conquer those who so wrongly destroyed our homes, loved ones and our lives. But, there are those who choose to either stand against this decision, or remain entirely indifferent towards the choice in favor of a "peaceful" life. Such a notion is nothing but short of ridicule. For those who don't stand with us, they stand against us and as such we must take measures to ensure that they don't ever act out against us.

Over the course of a few coming months, we will be implementing a weather change. Look up to the skies one last time because in a matter of months, that will be the last time you get to see this blue sky. A message to all those who choose to remain here, you have made your choice. Whenever you look up, I will make it so that there is no sense of hope for you and that you spend the rest of your lives in the service of the New Order! You chose to stand against your own brothers and sisters in their cause.

Every choice has consequences, and yours is that of despair. Look up to the blue sky for now as that will be the last bit of hope you get to see for the rest of your lives.

~ Equal

"Equal…what is this supposed to be?" asked Carolina.

"It is a declaration of sorts I suppose. I remember first hearing about this and how the reaction broke out. It was expectedly violent, but even that was quickly pacified by the newly formed 'New Order'. It was quite inevitable that someone would step up to take control after the UNSC carried out those monstrous actions," said Elsie as she gripped her hands together. She could feel a slight shiver go down her spine still remembering the day crystal clear. It was engrained into her memory like a perfect picture. She stopped herself from trembling and looked up at the young woman sitting in front of her. She spared the best smile she could for her sake and said. "After the New Order took over, things have seemed to have gotten worse over the years."

Carolina noticed the slight glimmer on the edge of her eyes. She looked down in respect as Elsie wiped her eyes clean and took out a batch of cookies. "Enough of my yammering on and on. Since you had awoken, I figured you may be famished. It's not much but would you like some cookies?"

Carolina tasted one, she felt the dough melt in her mouth exploding with various sweet flavors. The cookie sent a relaxing sensation throughout her whole body. She could not help but smile at the feelings the cookie gave her. "It's delicious."

"I'm glad to hear that. I was worried if I added in too much sugar or if the dough baked properly for your liking or not," said Elsie as she reached in her bag to take out a napkin. She reached over to Carolina to wipe a stray piece on her cheek but before she could get to it, Carolina backed away surprised at Elsie's action. The old woman sat back down with a slightly disappointed yet understanding look. "I'm sorry, that was inconsiderate of me."

"Ah no, I'm sorry. I'm just not used to having people get so close like this," Carolina replied with her head down even if it hurt her ribs. She felt it important to pay her proper respects to her seniors. She looked up at Elsie's neck and asked. "Mam, I noticed that you don't have a collar around your neck."

"Oh that horrid thing, yes we get rid of it at a retirement age. Normally it's on for the duration of our life from the moment we are able to walk. But once we reach retirement, they take it off."

"By they, do you mean the New Order?"

"Yes," replied Elsie as she took out her black collar. "See this? This one was mine. They keep these on to ensure we behave and control us through the fear of being able to explode these at any given time. If they wanted, they could do so without a good reason and no one would still dare to question them."

"But, that just sounds wrong."

"I agree with you, but the New Order thinks differently. To them their goals are all that matter," Elsie stated closing shut her eyes. Her tone became derived of all energy. "Our lives are just an asset to them for as long as we can work for them. Once we enter retirement, we are nothing more than a liability to them. A liability they wait for slowly to die and wither away from this world or if your are unlucky, they will come and do it for you to speed up the process. But then again, for some of us death is also a positive release from this life of slavery to the New Order."

Carolina stopped from taking another bite of the cookie and looked up at Elsie with her eyes wide open in shock. She put down the cookie and couldn't help but ask. "What would make you say such things mam? Why even say all this?"

"I'm sorry for rambling on about these negative subjects. It is just the environment that has shaped us in this way. But let's leave all that behind for now," said Elsie quickly changing her mood and with it the atmosphere around her. Ben approached the two and stood by the panel attached to the machine working on Wash. He stopped the machine, removed the attachment and made a few notes.

"I see you are doing a fine job as always Ben," said Elsie with her energetic and warm smile like before. Ben rubbed the back of his neck from fatigue and smiled back. "Well I'm the only resident doctor, if I don't take care of their health problems then who else will?"

He took note of the cookies by Carolina and felt his mouth water. He leaned in close studying them and felt a blush overcome him under the stare of Elsie. "Don't hesitate to help yourself."

"Uh, well if you insist."

"Come now, just be honest about your sweet tooth," she mused giggling away. Ben could only reply with a weirdly crooked smile, like that of a teenager who just had something great happen to them. "These are great."

"I'm glad to see another one likes these," Elsie replied happily handing him a handkerchief. Ben was clearly flushed by her kindness saying. "What are you saying? Your cooking is always good."

The two elders saw the confused soldier staring back and forth between them. Ben wiped his hands clean and explained. "I have known Elsie ever since I came to this village. Nearly everyone here basically considers her their grandmother of sorts and has immense respect for her. Believe it or not but she has lost her children at the hands of the New Order under the pretense of population control. So now her only family left is her young grandson whom she takes care of by herself."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear about your family," Carolina replied with her head down yet again. Maybe that is why she was so openly reaching out for me when she wanted to wipe my cheek. Perhaps I remind her of a daughter she may have had? Carolina wondered. Elsie raised Carolina's head and asked for her to not do that again. "It is fine, after all you had nothing to do with that dear. Your sincerity is enough to touch this old woman's heart."

"On this planet filled with hate, she is one of the few people you could ever find who keeps their head up high filled with optimism," said Ben earning a light slap to the chest from Elsie. "Don't go around embarrassing your seniors like that."

"I'm only stating the truth. Anyways, you two play nice now," said Ben and departed to attend to the other patients. Elsie let out a weak but audible laughter. "That Ben, always the kidder."

Carolina gripped her chest and felt safe here. "But I think that's good. It's good to have others you can rely on, even if they aren't family by blood."

Elsie was astonished to hear such words from Carolina. "My my, it seems that even the young folks have some very wise pieces of wisdom to share form time to time. This old lady can learn a thing or two then I suppose."

Outside the small hospital building stood the rest of the crew in a predicament. Simmons looked all around the group and spoke up. "So, who wants to take care of h-"

Before he could even finish, he heard the answers. "Not it!"

"Great thanks guys. Wait a go be team players," Simmons replied clearly agitated at their responses. He looked at the young boy staring up at them all with great curiosity. He let out a heavy sigh thinking, why did it have to be me? Me the guy who's dad ran out on him as a kid in the first place. Simmons finally caved in and bent down to his level. "Uh hey kid. My name is Simmons, what's your name?"

"Oh this should be good," said Grif now quite glad that Elsie left him in their care. At least I can get some good entertainment out of this. Sis stood by Grif's side with her hands together and intensely studying the boy. "Uh are you okay?"

"Ooooh his cheeks looks so cute and stretchable!" she shrieked surprising everyone. Donut took a closer look and held up his hands close to the boy's cheek. "Yeah, they do…cheek stretching party!"

The boy quickly hid behind Simmons who tried to stop them all and keep them in line. "Hey Grif, why don't you make yourself useful and help me out here?"

"Uh sorry dude, I'm on my break."

"But we are not even on duty!"

"This is my well deserved break after all the shit we went through on the station," replied Grif only to find Simmons' hand quickly on his mouthpiece. "Dude, what gives?"


"Uh okay?" Grif replied backing away and saw how the boy clung to Simmons. I guess he took an instant liking to him. But Simmons seems to be really getting into this. The boy came out from behind him and with a shy face he introduced himself. "Hello, my name is Edward. I'm twelve years old so teach me lots please."

"Hey, call me Grif."

"My name is Donut, but secretly I'm double-O Donut, a spy to her majesty."

"Donut, we are not in England," said Simmons and saw the only one to introduce was Sister. Please let this be a normal introduction. She stood still with her hands trembling by her sides. "My name is Sister and let me stretch your cheeks!"

"Denied!" said Simmons smacking her visor with the palm of his hand. She rubbed her bum on the ground making some rather erotic sounds as Edward tugged on Simmons. "Why is she making those noises?"

"Well if you want to know kid," began Grif. "That's when women are in the heat and want to-"

"You finish that sentence and you will never have this pudding for tonight's dinner," Simmons stated at the edge of opening the pudding full way. Grif jumped in surprise and looked into every one of his pockets. My pudding! When did he get that?! The sly bastard. "Give that back you nerd!"

Simmons held the pudding high up and ran away with Grif chasing him. "Don't think so, finders keepers."

"Well I found it first!"

"But you didn't call dibs on it!"

"Simmons, if you don't get back here I'm going to include a special kind of spit in your next meal!"

The other three looked at the ongoing skit and couldn't help but laugh in unison. Edward looked at them all and laughed the loudest. "This will be fun!"