Chapter 16: Not a Life worth Living
The lifeless reflection of the purple medic stared him in the face through the water stained glass window. The white walls surrounding the window acted as a strong contrast to the weeping and dark skies outside. From the side of his eyes he witnessed the doctors approach the two reds and deliver what was evidently bad news. The men went their own way, Grif ran away, and Simmons slowly trudged through the clean halls towards the overflowing morgue. Doc followed after their new leader as implicitly agreed upon by the others with their only potential opposition being Mike. Simmons stopped at the security doors and scanned the hospital pass he had been granted, but Doc could enter freely as an employee thanks to his UNSC medical licence clearance. The maroon soldier noticed the hurried footsteps approach his pathetic stumble from body to body until they finally reached him. Before the two men, on the other side of a metal bed, there stood Lopez as he stared down without breaking his gaze. Simmons removed his helmet and lowered his head in a solemn silence. By the body rested a set of UNSC issued dog tags in a small tray. Simmons reached down with extreme attention so as not to disturb the body and held them up the chain. He wrapped the dog tags around his hand until the contents faced against his palm. Doc looked at the pained expression on Simmons that begged for a false reality to come to life, one in which he would still be alive. Simmons wiped the top of the dog tags until it was clean of the dust.
"Sarge Driscoll," Simmons read with a nearly broken and dry voice as he gripped the tags close to his chest. The tears slowly welled like a dam just waiting to burst. I'm sorry sir. You died and nothing can ever change that. God dammit! He looked up from the tags to the stripped down body. Simmons looked at the other belongings near him and secured the rest. "Where would they keep his shotgun?"
"In the weapons holding area," replied Doc before O'Malley burst out onto the scene in laughter. "Now then let us go and bring down savage fun time onto our enemies, mwhahaha!"
"What is her condition like?" asked Ful as he noticed the various medical apparatuses on her body. The doctor walked and pointed to the various spots on her skin. "There are major injury points here. Internal bleeding did occur, but we have already stopped that. However, there are burns that will take time to recover even with our equipment. Her rib cage is also broken and some of her organs had ruptured. Barring the organs, we can fix the rib cage. Thankfully however, the organs destroyed were the ones we have doubles of in our bodies. I recommend that she be kept under observation."
"But without those organs, what will happen to her?"
The doctor looked at the patient and gave his best attempt at a smile. "Her quality of life will decrease as the amount of freedom her body allowed for before simply will not be there. There will be restrictions on what she can eat, how much she can drink and if her other organs start failing from any residual damage that surfaces later, life support will become necessary."
Ful gently leaned against the grey walls of the human base now turned into their own personal haven, one that was meant to free them from the physical pains inflicted. Ful rubbed his mouth clean whilst staring outside at their various believers moving supplies from building to building. "We have a mission, is there no way to make her mobile?"
"Not anytime soon."
"Nonsense," and the men looked over in surprise to see her eyes peeled open. She stared at her brother with a concrete stare and assured him. "You are not leaving without me Ful, we have a mission to complete. We will complete it. I will not let you go there alone."
Ful looked at her in surprise, but slowly the surprise turned to relief. So there are still little hints of the old you in there somewhere. He turned to the good doctor who had already begun making preparations to try and make her mobile. "I will be assigning some medication for the burns. I can only allow you to leave once the rib cage has been repaired, that should take approximately two hours. Please take care out there."
"Thank you doctor," said Ful with a gentle yet respectful handshake. With a gentle nudge to his armor, she gathered his utmost attention and patted the seat to her bedside. Making as little noise as possible, he sat down and watched her face slowly turn to his. "What is the situation with our troops?"
Ful sat upright, a little disappointed. "Even now, all you can think about is the mission?"
"The mission is all that matters."
"Do you really believe that?"
She went silent. As he inched closer, almost to the point where their noses could touch she averted her face. Ful held up her hand in his and locked their fingers together. "Your actions tell a different story sister."
Shexa looked back with a most stern gaze, but he knew the meaning behind such an action. When they were children, everytime he did something she believed in to be true, her reaction would be to mask it. This was one of those moments much to his amusement and happiness. "Sister, please do not let this belief system of ours rule your life completely. Be yourself a lot more, trust me, the troops will appreciate you a whole lot more that way as well."
She tilted her head in question at the mention of their troops. Ful raised his left hand and showed a ring signifying power on one of his fingers. Shexa nearly raised herself with unwarranted force much to the displeasure of her rib cage. However, Ful held her down knowing full well of this reaction. Her eyes opened even wider as she brought his hand close. "W- Where did you get this ring?!"
She looked down to study her hand and much to her relief, hers was still there. Ful looked out the window where he saw the sickness amidst his kind spread much to his grief. "I spoke with father after some concerns raised by our troops. He granted me the same powers as you to ensure that those concerns may perhaps be put to rest for good."
"Concerns such as?"
"I am not at liberty to discuss that," replied the newly promoted squad leader. "But as of now, we share an equal responsibility in leading this squad. I hope we are able to work well together."
Ful stared at his sister pondering why she would take so long to reply. Finally, after a good five minutes spent in silence, she answered. "I will retain the power over this squad, no matter what father has chosen. I cannot let you lead for we both know what will happen."
"This attitude is exactly why this happened Sister," Ful explained as he stood up and took out the receiver. "Soon, a squad of soldiers and I will be leaving to handle our problem. Please, stay here and let me take care of it. There has been enough ill will created from the soldiers as it is."
"What ill will?"
"There were talks of creating a coup against you at one point," Ful revealed much to her shock. But she quickly recovered with a shake of her head. "Then I would have simply crushed the opposition."
"Always with the forceful methods," Ful smirked as he located them on the world map on the receiver screen. The transmitter signal was still so very strong. They are close. He shoved the device away in a pocket and walked towards the door. "Rest, you will need it. Use this time to think about why your soldiers may have thought about creating a coup against you and then try to improve. Even God would know that no being is perfect, and that everyone can improve."
Tucker sat in one corner of a room as he observed the various probes attached to Donut's body, all for regulating various aspects of his health. One measured his heart rate, the other was to do blood transfusions to make up for the blood he previously lost and the most evident one of all were the ones extending from his crotch area. Two machines were hooked to absorb his waste. Tucker watched one of the nurses enter and take various readings from the machines. She quickly made her scribbles on the recorder tablet and left to move on to the next patient. She wasn't bad looking, he thought as Church popped up by his side. "Yeah, I would say a solid eight."
"Now you're learning from the pro Church," Tucker gave a thumb up much to the chuckle of the fragment. Tucker raised an eyebrow in question as Epsilon crossed his arms. "If you mean the master of blue balls, sure, I guess I'm learning from him."
"You really know how to grate a man's mood Church," Tucker sighed as he gazed towards the awakening pink soldier. With cautionary steps, Tucker approached their friend so as to avoid startling him. "Hey Donut, hanging in there?"
Donut looked from the bottom of his eyes as Tucker stood by his foot side. With the best smile he could manage, he nodded his head. "But being confined to this bed all day long sucks."
"Yeah," Tucker slowly approached near Donut's head along the bed outline. "I would hate it to. But at least you get to see some sexy nurses all day long. I mean there is that silver lining."
The two shared a smile together as Donut nodded his head in agreement. Tucker patted Donut gently on the shoulder and said. "It's nice to see that you are doing good Donut."
"I don't know about good," he promptly answered. "But I'm still alive, and sometimes I question even that."
"Wow, wow, wow," Church popped up in front of the pink soldier. "Are you sure you are our Donut? Because I know for a fact that ours would never say anything like that."
"Yours was never paralyzed before was he?"
Church quietly moved to Tucker's side as he found his tongue held in place by those confounding words. A knock on the door quickly broke up the rather awkward atmosphere as the three noticed a purple medic. Donut's face almost immediately lit up. "Hey Doc, I would get up but…"
"Don't," the medic answered as he dragged a seat over. "Patients should be resting, not trying to show off."
"Now then Donut, tell me all of your suffering," O'Malley suddenly took the driving wheel. "So that I may inflict it in equal measures on their hard skinned asses, mwhahahha!"
"Wait, how would you even know that they are hard skinned?" asked Tucker. Church looked up and asked a more immediate question. "And how would you know that about the particular spot that you mentioned?"
"I'm a medic you fools. To defeat the enemy, I must first know how to exploit their biology to cause a painful and deadly death through biological agents."
"That sounds more like a very deranged executioner," Tucker responded with quiet steps back towards the door. But within the sparkly clean walls of the room, Tucker's reflection gave him up and O'Malley grinned at his victory. "Perhaps you would like to volunteer for human trials of the newest version of the deadly agent?"
"And I be out!" with those words, in a matter of seconds Tucker had skedaddled. The room fell silent again. Doc looked at the two tubes exiting Donut's general crotch area and the pink one looked away in shame. Doc did his best to reassure his friend. "Donut, your life is worth more than the shame or embarrassment you may feel right now."
"But having to rely on all these machines to clean my waste, not being able to eat my own food by my own hands, or even wash myself, is this really worth it? I can't even cook my own food now, and my vegetable garden alongside all the other things I had planned to do with you guys…what is there left now aside from me being a cripple in a bed?"
"We are here for you," Doc replied as he leaned forward on the bed. He held out a pinkie finger and intertwined it with Donut's. "See that? That's a promise that we will never abandon you and do our best to keep you comfortable."
"Keep me comfortable?"
Doc nodded. Donut then felt a pathetic sense of anger at what he had become. "Then please, can you end my life?"
"I can't do that as a medic," Doc answered at the shocking prospect, but O'Malley burst through his voice unwilling to pass up the opportunity. "But I can!"
Doc took a moment to once again control the steering wheel as he looked at his best friend. "Ignore him. Look, there is hope Donut. There are medical professionals out there who can fix your spine. You just have to be patient and be strong, please. When the next evacuation happens from the planet, you will be in there and be most likely taken care of by the UNSC's highly trained surgeons."
"What if the procedure fails?"
Doc looked away in a whisper. "You already know the answer, don't you?"
"Then it's better to ask you for this right?"
"I can't," Doc looked back to his friend with an apologetic gaze. "I'm sorry."
"Doc, how do you guys expect for people like us to live like this?" Donut's heart rate spiked as seen by the sharp rise in the heart rate monitor. Doc closed shut his eyes, as if trying to censor the questions and the world that posed them to him. "Donut, what happened, where did all that enthusiasm go?"
"I left it behind on Muffins' plane when I really realized my situation."
"We need you Donut," Doc begged as he held his two hands together as if praying. "Please, be strong at least for us. We can't lose anymore family to this war."
"Anymore, what do you mean?" asked the pink one, now highly suspicious and demanding for an answer. Doc almost stood up to leave at the onslaught of questions. He felt the panic stare him deep into his eyes as he could tell his legs switched to retreat mode. "Don't run away Doc, please!"
That one last cry from his best friend left the medic standing still, lost in a limbo. He looked to Donut who gave a look of a lost child, abandoned in the rain and only looking for a way to rationalize the situation. Doc slowly approached his chair once more, but scooted a little further. An invisible wall erected between the two, a zone of comfort for the medic, but worry for the patient. "Please Doc, answer, what happened?"
"It will hurt to hear the news," Doc claimed as he sat up straight with a careful look at his friend. Donut closed shut his eyes and breathed deep. "I'm already crippled, and it feels like I have hit the bottom of the deepest hole on this planet, what more can hurt me now? Just, tell me the news."
Doc rubbed his hands together and nodded in understanding. He studied the heart rate monitor, and could tell even with the façade kept up by Donut, his body honestly spoke of the nervousness that coursed through his heart. "Donut, its Sarge. He's…he's dead, killed in action."
Doc noticed the instant spike in heart rate, and could tell Donut's breathing got harder as he was trying to process the news. Doc slowly leaned closer and rested his hands on both shoulders. "Breathe Donut, take in calm breaths."
He eyed the heart rate monitor, it wasn't settling any. "Donut, you need to calm down. This type of stress is not good for you right now, and that's why I didn't want to have to tell you."
"How do you expect me-," he took in another deep breath as if he was suffering an asthma attack. "-to react?"
"Sorry," the purple medic sat back down once he noticed the heart rate stabilize. "I don't know. But please, fight the negative thoughts to stay alive. We can't lose you Donut, all of us need you."
Outside the room, through a see through window, the orange soldier stood and observed the two friends interact. Sister stood by his side as she gently held his arm to act as his support. To her, this was the weakest she had ever seen her brother be in front of others. No matter the circumstance, she could recall him putting on the tough guy act everytime, but not this time. She leaned in close to turn his face towards hers. "Come on big bro, let's go to the cafeteria, I'm sure they have something there that will help cheer you up. They may even have pudding!"
He turned back. Like a hollow and fragile statue she cracked at the sudden rejection. He never rejected pudding before, this is really bad. She held him tightly by his hand and with all her might she began to walk away. Her cheeks puffed at the sudden usage of her muscles to move her steel pillar of a brother. But before she could even move him one centimeter, her arms grew numb, grip loosened and fell face first against the shiny floor only to hit her nose against the inside of her helmet. "Owie, come on, work with me here bro."
"How am I going to face the others now?"
"Face the others?" Sister stood a little surprised at the sudden question from the once stone silent warrior. Grif took a slow turn towards her, his weak posture, and shaky legs begged for rescue. He looked into the visor of his sister and leaned against her shoulder. "Just like Donut, if I hadn't been having that fucking argument with Sarge, if I had listened, then he would be alive! It's my god damn fault!"
"Shh," Sister gently stroked the back of his helmet, as if reaching through his armor to touch his vulnerable self and envelope him in her caring warmth. He felt his grip only tighten on her. Sister almost squealed in surprise as her brother brought her in closer. But she let her role model have his moment. "You know big bro, I always wondered why mom wasn't around so much when we were young. I mean, I know she was always working and what not, but like it would have been nice if she spent more time with us."
The orange one silently listened as she continued in a soft, gentle voice. "But as we grew up, I didn't care about that. I knew mom loved us and that she worked so hard for our sake, even if we were all a family of idiots. Heh, we still probably are. But with her absence, we came to rely on one another to live our lives when we were young. If any of us was in trouble, we would be there to back each other up. No matter what the trouble, if it was a bully, a rowdy adult, or a shady guy making passes at me, you would protect me. I would do my best to protect you to. Still, when we could be together like that as children, I was having fun, and I was happy."
He felt his heart rate increase at her confession. She gently moved her hand from his head to his back. "But we somehow became distant when we grew up and you joined the army. I'm glad I followed you all the way here. While we are not kids anymore, it still does feel kind of like we are back like how we used to be. Mom was always happy to see us stand up for one another, and she always gushed over us when we would cook together, or do the cleaning of the house, especially on Mother's day to surprise her with. I liked being together with you, and I still do. I love seeing you happy, I want for all of us to be happy."
"But if your big brother keeps on fucking up so badly, how can we be happy?" he asked. She shook her head and said. "We all make mistakes. And I know now that some mistakes will stick with us for life. Like for example, all those morphine raids I made before against the army supplies, while they were fun, they are on my record for good. But I will live with that. I know that my example and what happened with you isn't the same. What I'm trying to say is that sometimes we have to accept our mistakes and find the strength to move on."
"Are you really my sister?" Grif inquired as he stared up at her. "Because that does not sound like her."
"We all have our grown up moments," she mused as he nodded his head. "Yup, now you are my sister."
He slowly loosened his grip on her and spoke. "What about the anger self-blame, and the guilt, do you ever experience it?"
"Use it against the enemy," the two siblings looked at the new voice. Grif's eyes grew wide in surprise as he took a quick peek inside of Donut's room. Sister looked from the room and asked. "How long have you been there?"
"Since your brother here started saying it was his fault," spoke Doc as he walked closer to the two. "Grif, if you feel those emotions, use it against the enemy."
"How will that fix my mistake, or my guilt?"
"It won't," Doc answered. "But it can help prevent more misery, don't quote me on that though. I didn't know Sarge as well as you or Simmons, but I know what he would say to you at a time like this."
The two looked in his direction as he cleared his throat, and deepened his voice. "Grif, stop your whining, get off your ass before I come over there and slap you with the upside end of my shotgun. Rather than crying like a little girl, get revenge on the enemy! Once you get it, go eat a Monte Cristo sandwich at a job well done!"
"I guess that sounds kind of like him," answered Sister as the two looked at a baffled Grif. "Yeah, that does sound like something he would say to me."
"As for your feelings on this matter regarding the guilt," Doc looked to the psychiatrist ward and then back to the siblings. "It might suck, but it may be better to talk with someone about it to get some guidance on it, someone certified."
Tucker walked the white hallways, always impressed by the cleanliness, and the many eye candies spread around. Church looked at one to their right they just passed. A solid nine.
Tucker suddenly stopped and asked. "Aren't those the crazy flag loving reds and blues?"
"I'm talking about women, and you are talking about more fanatics?" Church inquired as he materialized in front of Tucker. He turned around and took a closer look. "Yup, those are them, best we fuck off now before they notic-"
"Hey isn't that the legendary sword wielding warrior who recruited us for his quest on Earth before?" asked one of the blues in their high pitched voice. The reds sat on the opposite side of the room and agreed, but with some annoyance in his voice for he wished not to agree with a blue. In the middle of the room was a black line established by a tape. Tucker walked in causing Church to go into a silent tantrum. "What are you guys doing here?"
"We were told that we could find the legendariest flag of all over here."
"You were told this by whom?"
"The nice UNSC man who came to our bases and was willing to convert to our belief system," answered another red. He pointed up to the sky with his palm facing up. "We shall go throughout these lands and show these aliens the errors of their beliefs and convert them to the superior religion of them all, the flag religion!"
"Oh great," Tucker's sarcasm came in full force. "So you want to kill one fanatic faction in favor of giving birth to another. So what's next? The aliens will come invade our bases for the flags thinking they are divine or some shit?"
"No," a blue answered. "We shall instruct them in the ways of proper etiquette in regards to the flag. They shall not invade your base. First they shall make the demands for the flag."
"Of course, because thinking they would just go make one of their own was too much of a stretch," Church snickered as he heard a chuckle from his best friend. Tucker pointed down to the separator. "What's with this line?"
"The nurses did not like our glorious battles for the flag," answered a red as a blue agreed. "Yes, she spoke ill of the flag and then confined us to our beds. Our feet are restrained under the covers. Please call for help so that we can spread our loving beliefs to all!"
"And sue the hospital to, that will help fund our mission!" added one of the reds as the others nodded, clearly impressed by his thinking. Tucker nearly broke out into a body numbing laughter and Church couldn't help but feel his snark build like a volcano until it burst. "Yeah, I don't think that's going to happen. Well, have fun being tied to your beds. I will put in a good word with the nurses to get you guys some strait jackets as well."
As the duo continued walking, they witnessed Mike staring out into the rain. Tucker carefully approached the ODST and followed his gaze. In the heavy downpour, a visor was met with several drops of clear water drops. He looked up into the sky like a lifeless husk. Tucker asked of the ODST. "How long has he been there?"
"I don't know," Mike pointed out towards the thunderous grey skies. "I tried asking him, but all he did was look my way and went back to looking up. It's almost as if he is waiting for something or someone."
Church materialized near the man in question. "Yo, Simmons, why are you out here?"
The maroon soldier remained quiet as he had long since fallen into a trance. Tucker activated the speaker in his mouthpiece and walked out into the downpour only until his toes were gently hit by the splashing water. "Hey Simmons, Earth to Simmons!"
Slowly, Simmons looked down to the two men. "Oh, it's just you two."
"Yup, it's us," said Tucker motioning to all present here. "But why are you out here?"
The maroon soldier turned back towards the sky as he took in a deep, yet broken breath. Church looked suspiciously in their leader's direction. Is he crying? Tucker stared at the side of the helmet, more precisely, the point at which it meets the neck. He could not tell for sure as he answered his fragment friend. It could be that he is crying. Tucker clapped his hands together to get the attention of the grieving man, but he was quickly ignored again. The aqua space warrior stared at the ODST and Church, both of whom raised their shoulders in cluelessness. That helps a lot, thanks guys. How do I deal with this? Dammit. Out of ideas, he called upon his flaming fragment. "Sigs, keep in contact with Simmons' fragment will you? If anything happens to Simmons, I want for you to let everyone else know."
"I understand, establishing contact."
Simmons' and Tucker's fragments stood close together and shook hands as a means of creating a private network of communication. Tucker quickly left the cold surroundings of the rain in favor of the warm, bustling hospital halls. As he walked further examining the nurses, he came across a most surprising scene, though not for reasons others may think. In one of the hospital wards, Caboose and Iowa were busy playing a card game, but around them were the hospital occupants who found much amusement in the excitement of what the opponent to the other side may play. This happiness also amplified at seeing the childish, yet good spirited reactions from the two. Tucker smirked underneath the helmet as Church popped up beside him. "Brings the warm fuzzies out, don't it?"
"Yup, I'm surprised the nurses let them do this."
"As am I," remarked Mike following close behind as he studied the cards in Caboose's hands. Tucker walked behind Iowa and looked up to the ODST. "I'm surprised you wanted to tag along with me to this thing."
"I don't really have anything else to do until we figure out our next clue."
"Fair enough," Church answered, but pointed to the pocket that held his communicator. "Don't you need to talk to the ego commander up in space though?"
"I will, all in good time."
Within the morgue, a UNSC soldier dressed in a Private's uniform entered the area in which Sarge's body was kept. Just as quickly as he entered, he left at the imposing atmosphere created by Sarge's creation. The young man approached the guard and inquired. "Excuse me, I'm here to pick up the body of Sarge Driscoll, but I'm having some difficulties."
"Let me guess, the robot?"
"Yes," the Private replied quickly aware of the situation. "Is there any way you guys know of to try and get it to leave?"
"Seeing as how it speaks Spanish, and is built like a tank, no clue," the guard looked inside the morgue and felt his eyes soften. "But I can't really blame it. The deceased was the one who built it, I guess this is like a missing your master sort of thing."
"How long has it been there?"
"Ever since the body was brought here, that was like three hours ago."
"It has been standing there for all that time?!"
"It's a robot, it doesn't need to rest," replied the guard a little surprised at the exaggeration in the Private's voice. "And I guess it thinks that it is protecting its master even in his death. Who knows, but all I can say is good luck getting that thing to leave on its own."
"Are we allowed to use force?"
"If you have no other options left, I guess you could zap it from one of its weak points," the guard raised a lone finger though. "But be careful not to cause too much havoc in there, we can't have any bodies experiencing damage."
"Yes sir," said the Private with a most enthusiastic tone. Inside, Lopez could over hear all and was ready with tightly formed fists to defend this spot to his last active energy cell.
"Sir, we are ready," a young Sangheili warrior bowed before their new leader. Ful dismissed the soldier as he turned to his sister. "It seems that you have not recovered enough. This time I will conduct the operation on my own."
"No," Shexa exclaimed as she pushed herself up from the bed and detached the various cords from her skin. With a slight struggle for breath, she stared up in determination. "I am ready. I want to kill them with my own two hands for how they shamed me."
Ful saw no point in arguing for he knew of his sister's persistence. Instead, he offered a shoulder for her to lean on. Together the two walked out to meet the hardened gazes of their soldiers. Shexa pushed off of her brother and stumbled forward. "This time, we not only aim for their life, but what is precious to them, their own kind. Remember this well, follow our beliefs down to the letter and smite those who dare to oppose us. We are the gifts and inheritors as intended by god, now it is time we show those infidels exactly that. No mercy!"
The soldiers all cheered in unison and Ful looked out at the distant rainy clouds. He balled his fist and closed his eyes. Maybe once this is over mother, I may search for a way out from this life. But for now, I need to fight this battle, and take more lives as necessary.
A/N: Okay, let me ask again, who thought I would let Donut off easy considering his mental state right now?
Also, what do you think about the development for Simmons and Grif in this chapter and where do you think it can go from here?
Did you like that little bit between Grif and Sister?
How many of you think this will end in the typical RvB fashion in which we get a happy ending for the protagonists?
If you take note of all my other stories, it never really has ended in a happy ending necessarily, it has always been in the more or less grey area since someone of importance has always died in them. Anyways, feedback is much appreciated as it can help improve future works.
Thank you readers for your support as always and I hope you look forward to the next chapter!
Note: The story will see much less updates now. My next two months or so will be very busy, hence less time to write. So you won't see the update you normally saw on the weekends. I will try to update the story whenever I can, but will be much less frequently now. (Ignore if story has been marked as "Completed")