Chapter 17: I Will Hunt You Down
The day after the incident, nothing seemed the same ever again for those involved. Carolina still showed up to work as did the rest of her uninjured co-workers. But they all still felt the trembling horrors of yesterday coursing through their veins. These horrors rooted deep into their memories forever traumatizing them. Madison however seemed to be the one with the coolest head in the group. He did his best to keep the workers together. There was no arguing that a cloud of gloom hanged over everyone's head. Rumours spread fast of the incident, causing for pity and sympathy from those who could only imagine the experience.
Carolina put down her shovel and silently gazed at the concrete mixture by her side. This became a common occurrence amongst many on the site. It was up to Madison to make sure and keep everyone in line. But he was only one man capable of doing only so much. He approached her from the behind and overshadowed her. Carolina looked back to find concern painted all over Madison's face. He sat her down by the rest area. "Are you thinking about what happened yesterday?"
"Who wouldn't be?"
"That's true," he answered with a small smirk in an attempt to lift up the atmosphere. "You know, what happened wasn't your fault nor anyone else's here. We were all just plagued with bad luck."
"Bad luck?" Carolina breathed those words under her heavy burden. Madison looked at her even more worried than before now. She gritted her teeth and closed shut her eyes. The scene kept on replaying itself like a film stuck on loop. "You can't write off all those deaths as bad luck! That child…that boy lost his mother. How can you just call it bad luck?!"
Madison lowered his head and gave her a moment to calm down. "I admit that was insensible of me. I'm sorry. I do feel sorry for that kid. I could never imagine my daughter living a life without a parent. But…we have to do all that we can within our power to move forward. I know this maybe something you don't want to hear right now, but all we can do now is move forward. You did everything you could for that boy. As a stranger helping a child, you can only do so much."
Carolina gripped the edge of her seat in anguish. He could see it painted clear as day on her face and gently patted her back. "Take the rest of the day off Carolina, you need the rest."
"But what about the others then?"
He simply smiled and helped her up. Guiding her towards the locker area he pushed her inside the women's locker room. "Leave that to me. You just worry about yourself right now."
Carolina lowered her head apologetically and nodded. "I'm sorry to cause you this trouble."
"Don't call it trouble," Madison firmly corrected her. "It's only natural and still proves that you are a compassionate person to feel such worries. As powerless as we are, we can do nothing but keep on striving to push forward. Living in the past won't help anyone I suppose, yeah it won't help anyone. Take the time to rest; because once you get back I am going to work you hard!"
"Got it boss," she replied with a smile. Madison gave her a thumb up. "Now there is a beautiful smile!"
She changed and left the site without trying to attract much attention. Carolina stopped in her tracks and looked in the general direction of the nearest hospital. I suppose I will go pay him a visit. She began to slowly and deep in thought made her way there. If it were not for him and Madison, I probably wouldn't have escaped unscathed. All I can do is throw these words of apology and gratitude. I feel so damn powerless. Carolina stopped by the nearest cards and boutique shop and picked out a get well soon card and flowers.
"Thank you and please come again!" the shop keeper said as she exited the shop with the flowers gently resting in her arm. She entered the hospital and inquired about her co-worker's room. Carolina briskly walked past the many patients up to the destined floor. She felt the anti-septic smell sting her nose. I have always hated this smell of hospitals. Even after all this time I can never get used to it. She knocked on the door of her co-worker's hospital room and quietly entered.
"Carolina!" the co-worker exclaimed surprised to see her presence. She did her best to smile, but everytime she saw his bandaged leg in a cast it would fade away. "Sorry for dropping by unannounced Jacob."
"It's alright," he rubbed the back of his head with a goofy smile. "I'm glad you came for a visit though."
She proceeded to change the flowers in his room and set up the get well soon card. "Jacob…I am sorry for getting you involved. Because of my whim from yesterday you are here lik-"
"Say no more!" he raised his voice and caused her to freeze. "I agreed to go along on that route with you and the others. It was my choice. Plus no one could have known what would happen. It was an adventure gone wrong. At the very least none of us lost their life there, although sadly I can't say the same for many others."
"Yes, sadly so," Carolina lowered her head as she sat beside his bed. But he put on a glowing smile. "The doctors say that a smile will help the patient recover faster. So the more smiles the merrier!"
"I bet," she giggled with a small smile. Jacob would have preferred to have gotten a full on smile service, but he would make do with what he could get from her. She and Jacob spent some time conversing back and forth until the nurse came by to do the daily checkup. Carolina opted to leave at this point and turned back when her name was called out. "Thanks for visiting Carolina. It means a lot to see a friend visit me here, it gives me some support and strength to get outta here faster!"
"I'm glad to hear that," Carolina replied as she opened the door and exited the room. The smile on her lips faded into a guilt ridden face. I'm sorry Jacob, I knew what would happen. I'm sorry everyone. I knew there would be danger involved and yet I still chose to involve you all in my selfish whims. Carolina exited the hospital and went home. She had no desire or any motivation to do anything else for the day. She felt like a dry well of any real joy.
Carolina locked the door to her apartment behind her. She removed her shoes and threw her bag on the sofa. The first thing she did was go to the fridge and pull out a can of beer. She opened the glass door to the balcony and rested her elbows on the edge. Carolina cracked open the can and drank one-third of it in one go. Epsilon looked at her while studying the data from yesterday. "Don't drink too much."
Worry was evident in his voice. I sure have made a lot of people worried ever since I came here. Carolina took another sip and sat down to stare up at the clouds. Epsilon shut his work windows and bent down to stare at Carolina. "Hey, did you hear me?"
"I did," she replied in an empty daze. "But I just don't care anymore. All I want is to get hammered and forget what happened. I just want to go into a deep slumber and to perhaps never wake up again."
"So you want to run away?" Church inquired rather disappointed in Carolina. He knew it took much more than this to break her. Perhaps being on Earth has indeed made her soft. Carolina remained quiet and stared at the various shaped clouds.
One was shaped like a fish. It reminded her of how simple of a life fishes lived. They swim in the wide ocean, blue like the sky, and go in an endless direction until they fulfill their lives. They live without a grand purpose, but one to help Earth function. It was a simple, but from the standpoint of a more complex being, a content life. Live. Carry out the purpose of your existence. Die. Fishes have never had any need for pride, ego, anger, hatred, sadness, or any other emotions humans carry as both a blessing and a curse.
"Maybe I do want to run away," she whispered lying down on the cold concrete floor onto her side. Epsilon shook his head and crossed his arms. "That would go against your vow to change and become stronger, don't you think?"
Carolina finished her can of beer and rested the cool can on her forehead. She closed her eyes and let out an annoyed moan. "Leave me alone. I don't want to do much thinking right now."
Later that night, Carolina awakened to the noises of her special UNSC radio communicator. After identifying herself, the CO from headquarters informed her of a very vital piece of information they just learned. "We got a tip that the individual you reported, the assassin, is going to appear at the rooftop of the building of your last target. We need you to go and investigate this Agent."
In her rather selfish behavior, she shut the radio off and rested her head in her arms. Epsilon appeared on the graphics module and peeked into her bedroom. "What are you going to do? If you go now, then you can still get some answers. Staying here will change nothing."
"I know that."
"Then take action already!"
"I know that!" Carolina burst out into a fury of anger. She caught her breath leaving a stunned Church to fear her wrath. She suited up and exited her apartment to the specified location. From a distance she could see a silhouette on the rooftop. It was a man. He matched the specifications for the assassin she described before. The man had already picked up on her presence from a set of motion sensors around the various buildings. He motioned for her to come closer. Carolina complied begrudgingly as she landed with her gun drawn. "You have some explaining to do!"
"No need to get all worked up Ms. UNSC."
"Tell me all that you know about these terrorist bombings!"
"Ah, so I presume you witnessed the terrorist attack yesterday?" He asked earning a confirmation. She then gritted her teeth at once again remembering the scene against her will. "Just what the hell did you want me to learn from that?!"
"If I had to say," the assassin looked up at the starry night sky. Under his hood was a smirk. Does he enjoy these sick games?! Carolina pondered. But the assassin continued. "I would say that I wanted for you to learn the truth behind reality. The one painted in the media and the one that is observable are two different things. On the surface the media, led by the government will paint a beautiful, peaceful and sometimes an ideal reality. But in truth it is blazing with hatred from so many sides of this world. Society here is slowly breaking apart from the terrorism."
"You could have just told me that," she tightened her grip on the gun. "You sick bastard! Because of you I can't even sleep without having that scene play in my head like a nightmare. I see that scene everytime I am awake, and I remember those cries for help."
"Then I have done what I aimed to do," the assassin locked his hands behind his head in an aloof manner. "To experience reality first hand is the best method of education for it. The reason I picked you for it was because you are obviously strong, but you also seem like the capable type."
"Yes," the assassin looked at the streets below with an ever growing determination. "You want to stop this terrorism, don't you? You want to help improve the lives of others. That makes you a capable person in my eyes."
Carolina raised the gun towards the man's head. "Just what is your affiliation? Do you belong to the terrorist group or some other faction? Just who are you?!"
"Seek answers to those mouthful questions yourself for now," the assassin turned towards her and placed his hands in his pockets. Carolina became more alert. But the assassin was not deterred even after staring down the gun barrel. "With time, things will be made clear. That time though maybe sooner than you think."
He took out his hand and motioned to throw something. But Carolina could see nothing, neither could Church. He turned around to leave, but before jumping off he smirked back her way. "I expect to see a lot more of you from now on seeing as how we always seem to have similar targets one way or another."
Carolina wasn't too keen on letting him get away so easily though. Just as she was about to fire her gun, she was taken off guard by the smoke grenade thrown near her feet. Shit, not again! Carolina rushed out of the smoke screen to an empty rooftop. The assassin was long gone. Just who are you? She again wondered putting her gun away in frustration. Carolina did her best to weed out the seeds of anger from growing any further in her. Can you be trusted, or are you really an enemy disguised as a potential ally?
Carolina looked up at the stars and sat down. Will I have to hunt you down to get these answers? Will you even help me against the terrorists if you are an ally or will you choose to indulge in your sick plays like you did with me? She punched the concrete for being so clueless. I have more questions than I do answers. What did I get myself involved in? Just…who are you?
A/N: Yet another heavy chapter (at least I think it is :P), not only to show the after effects on Carolina but move the story forward. With this we are nearing the end of this season soon to help set up the stage for the main story-line to take place.
I hope you all enjoyed that. Feedback is always appreciated. Thank you for your time and readership!
Catch you all next time!