Chapter 18: Drunk and Crazy
"So guys," Church stood in the middle of all. "Doc and I finally figured out how they knew of our location."
As if they heard the magic words, their ears perked up like a rabbit's and their eyes turned almost instantly. They all waited for him to continue, and hated how he drew out the suspense. Church pointed towards Tucker who looked confused and did his best to defend himself against the questioning glares. "Calm down guys, I'm not finished yet."
"Yeah, calm the fuck down," Tucker reiterated as he pushed Sister away from his left side. Church walked close to the small, almost miniscule device on his host's armor. "See this neat little piece of tech? It was used by the enemy to track our location. They probably are doing it right now as we speak."
"So, what are we waiting for?" Tucker asked as he moved towards the general area of the device. "Let's destroy this thing already!"
"No?" Tucker almost tilted his head all the way around. Church summoned the other fragments who studied the device. They all agreed in a silent nod. Church looked to the rest and proposed. "I was thinking of rigging their own device to help us get the upper hand on them."
"What did you have in mind?" asked Doc as O'Malley then appeared. "Did you wish to turn this small device into a couple megaton nuke to create our most memorable fireworks with?"
"Something better," said the powdery blue fragment who asked for Delta to begin. "We will rig it so that our position is faked to them, but we can deduce where the transmitter is sending the information so we can intercept and fulfill our mission."
Our mission, pondered Simmons as he closed his eyes in weariness. That's right, our mission was to try and capture the leaders of this extremist squad for information. I let that chance slip by once in my rage. But that mission is the last thing on my mind as yet another chance presents itself to complete what I had started. Church looked to Gamma. "Once Delta is done processing the algorithm behind the device, can you deceive the enemy with false coordinates? Be sure to keep us moving and resting from time to time to make it seem real."
"Of course brother," answered Grif's fragment as he waited patiently behind Delta. Church looked to the one in flames. "Yo Sigs, can you work on manipulating the enemy by ensuring that the data we send is realistic and that you are able to track the data back to the enemy?"
"Yes," Sigma answered as he stood beside Gamma. "I can do that."
"Good to hear that," Church replied, but was dumbstruck when he met Omega's gaze who waited for his task. "Um…how about you be our back up?"
"In other words, you have nothing for me to do."
"Maybe…I mean you know I could always mean the backup thing…," Church noticed the blank stare his violent brother displayed. "And you are totally not believing me, sorry."
"I'll choke you in your sleep," Omega last spoke before disappearing. Church looked dumbfounded at the spot his brother had occupied and crossed his arms with a slight nod. "Okay then, good talk."
In the backup hospital the Pelicans retreated to, the BGC finally landed and thanked their stars for some solid ground. For in these times, soldiers felt safer on ground than risk the chance of surprise enemy attacks while in the air and dying a most painful death. With little words exchanged, everyone seemingly went their own way. Mike shook his head at the current state of affairs within the group and held out his communicator. He established a safe line to the commander in space and reported every detailed event his memory could recall. The commander looked at the stream of constant updates on the monitor to his side, and a real-time map display of their controlled territory versus the enemy's. He shook his head in disappointment as he heard his subordinate's plea. "Sir, we need more people down here. Not just for our mission, but for the fight in general."
"The UNSC has dedicated whatever resources it could, but there is expected to be a surge in reinforcements soon."
"How many can we expect?"
"A couple Pelicans, Warthogs and weapon shipments."
"That's it?" Mike looked at the screen in bewilderment. "Sir, we need an army at this point."
"There is also an expectation of a few heavy and one super heavy cruiser to show up," the commander replied. "But don't hold your hopes out for that. We are lucky enough to be getting by with what we have."
"For now sir, for now," Mike added as he looked at his squad mates now completely out of his sight. The commander caught his attention once more, though with a graver tone. "Make sure that the sim troopers don't screw this up for any of us soldier. We need that second leader of their group alive."
"Yes sir," Mike saluted before turning the device off. He looked in the general direction Simmons had left in and crossed his arms with a slight headache. How is it that these guys managed to survive this long is beyond my comprehension. Quickly having retreated from the glare of the sun, he caught up to the aqua soldier. "Dude, don't appear like that all of a sudden."
Mike ignored the remark as he continued to walk alongside Tucker. The aqua soldier walked into one of the general rest areas, where he finally found some solace from the busy happening around them recently. Mike sat opposite to Tucker in a row of chairs. "You know that this isn't going to end well for your friends or you right?"
"When does it ever?" Tucker smirked underneath the mouth piece. Mike crossed his arms and tapped one finger on an arm. "Well, I have been doing some research. Based on your past heroics, I would say it ended pretty damn well for you guys."
"But not this time," Tucker replied holding out a UNSC issued communicator. Using its visual capabilities, he brought up a picture of Junior. I hope you are doing well kiddo. You're probably off impressing the women seeing as how you no doubt got those mad skills from me. His mind turned away from the memories to the reality that stared him straight into the face. "We can't always be so lucky."
"No, we can't," Mike agreed recalling his two most recent ODST comrades. "I imagine in the next encounter, you guys are looking to end this?"
"Hopefully, yeah," Tucker however lowered his gaze as he saw the crimson colored pomegranate juice being served to one of the patients. "Simmons and Grif no doubt want blood."
"Then we need to stop them," the ODST leaned forward and pointed down to the floor in confidence. "Our orders are to apprehend them while we have the opportunity, not kill."
"Tell that to those two," Tucker scoffed with the wave of his head. "They are the ones with a vendetta. Although I'm not going to lie, I want to see them bleed just as much. Those bastards have already taken away enough from us as it is."
"I know," Tucker interrupted while making motions of talking with his right hand. "Mission comes first as the space douche commander dictates. Honestly, the only reason we came to this dirt ball was because Sarge told us we were ordered to. Sarge encouraged us to come here, but we have no more reason to stay here after we deal with our mission."
"So what, you plan on going AWOL?"
"If we need to," Tucker sniffed at his own words with slight doubt. He too wondered himself if he would have the courage to defy all of the UNSC. They already saw what became of Muffins, he was a man who routinely went against the UNSC, and now he is reduced to a mere pilot. If they were to run away on them, no doubt it wouldn't be a simple demotion, but a full on hunt for them marked as traitors. But Tucker, while doubtful was confident as long as they all did it together. "Once we are done here, the next evacuation ship that drops by, I'm hopping on board."
"Heh, that would suit you," Mike joked as he smirked while undoing his helmet. "I was a huge jerk before, wasn't I?"
"The biggest," Tucker motioned with his arms stretched out. "About time you realized it."
Mike felt a nerve pop out in his forehead. I'm trying to cry my heart out and apologize for my mistakes here man. His eyebrow twitched in a comical fashion for Tucker who held back a laugh. Mike almost slammed his fist on his thigh while trying to keep composure. "Look, I'm sorry. Fighting alongside you guys, seeing you all laugh, cry, and suffer together has also helped me to realize that you are like me. I was wrong all along. As for that insult against your kid before, sorry, it's good that he steered clear of the fanatics and grew up to be sensible."
"Well you finally realized it," Tucker locked his fingers behind his head with the smug smile of a proud parent. "I kept on telling you, but he will do fine I'm sure."
"You really like stepping on my apology, don't you?"
"After all the shit you put me through, I think I deserve the break," Tucker stretched his neck with a continuously growing smirk until it reached its limit. Mike nodded his head as he lowered it in defeat. "Point taken."
Mike looked away as he felt his nervousness reach its peak. Tucker took note and as if initiating a new recruit, he leaned forward with an inviting smile and stretched out a hand. Mike looked at the hand with question induced eyes. Tucker smiled wider as he motioned for the now new man to take a hold of. "You have been able to put up with us this far, I hope you can do so some more. Welcome to the crew man."
Mike stood a little bewildered by the act. He slowly reached out for the handshake and firmly gripped it. The two shared an understanding smile as Mike found himself thanking the aqua one repeatedly, even to his own surprise. Tucker released the hand and stood up to stretch his legs. "Just remember, now you are a part of our gang, at least until we part ways. So if there is anything that bugs you, just let me know."
"Thank you," Mike answered as he stood beside Tucker. "It's strange how a simple gesture like this one can put a mind at ease. It's almost as if I have found another place and purpose to belong to."
"We already had a purpose."
"Not that one," Mike replied quickly as he held his helmet by his side. "I was always lost to some extent after losing everyone I loved on the battlefield. I guess in some ways, even if this is temporary, there is light at the end of the tunnel perhaps."
Tucker smirked and waved to his new friend as the two departed ways. Tucker looked to his blue fragment friend who inquired of his actions. "It's okay Church. He is in just as deep shit as we are, plus his words were genuine. I trust him. Although I can't see him making a very good wingman for bar nights."
In a dimly lit room, sat several electrical components in a messy fashion, and there worked the maroon soldier as he soldered a component to one of the wires. He turned his memento around, the phone, and hooked up the charging cable. The light lit up by the charging port. Good, he looked back after detaching the cable and continued his work. He eyed the components to the side and noticed the thinning supplies. I'm almost out. I will probably run out today. He picked out a small chip from one of the piles near the edge of the table and measured it up for his purposes.
"How many more are you gonna drag down with you?"
Simmons suddenly froze at the familiar normally sweet, yet now malice filled voice. Donut? He looked back to find nothing. He turned back around only to hear the voice once more. "You let me get hurt, and you let Sarge die."
"Stop it!" Simmons nearly shouted as he looked back to find himself face to face with Donut. "No, you can't be here. You are in one of the hospital rooms."
Donut stood up from the bed across from Simmons and walked with light feet. He studied the components and Simmons' progress thus far with a disapproving shake. "You sit here and tinker, yet we are resigned to our fate that we cannot change. Why is it that you only escaped out from the casualties oh dear leader?"
"You are not him!"
"What, you don't want to recognize your victims now?" Donut spoke in an irritated and furious voice. "Then what about Sarge?!"
Simmons stood in one spot, unable to move a muscle as he saw what could only be described as a red shine from the side of his eyes. He turned to see Sarge, standing by the door frame. The man trudged inside as he used the wall for support. He rested one hand on his abdomen and evidently was applying heavy pressure. "W- What are you doing here Sarge? You're dead."
"So quick to write me off as dead now?" the older man inquired as he sat with a gentle bump to the bed. "Were you looking that forward to getting rid of me?"
"What, no," Simmons stepped forward to see the gaping hole open in Sarge's chest. Blood spluttered out to the discomfort of the maroon soldier. It looked real, it seemingly felt real and his mind kept on telling him it was real, yet at the same time not so. "I could never do that. After my father left when I was a kid, I missed the feeling of having one so much. With you, you treated me sort of like a son, I was happy. You didn't deserve to die like that, no one does."
"And yet you sit here working on that phone," Sarge pointed as blood continued to pour out. Simmons was visibly distraught at the pool forming below Sarge's feet and on his bed. Sarge leaned forward and caused a massive flood to release. He looked to his right and motioned towards the pink soldier. "You kill, you murder, you let your own comrades die, and you think you still deserve to lead the team? You were never a good leader. Our deaths will always be stained on your ledger now. What can you do aside from sit here and mope about the situation, huh?!"
"No, I- I'm sorry," Simmons begged as he watched the two men stand up and get close. Simmons in a fit of panic pushed past the two and ran for the door. He looked back one last time to see nothing, no figures stood, only air. Simmons took in a few deep breaths of relief, but felt the guilt quickly return as he balled down on the floor with silent screams in his mouth aching to vocalize. "God fucking dammit!"
The lights to the recreation area lit up as Simmons stumbled into the area. He studied the whole territory, no one but him was there. He reached behind the bar counter and reached for a bottle of chilled whiskey inside the fridge. He sat by the counter, and with little regard for public decency, he began to chug the bottle down.
In a well lit area, Grif sat with an intense stare directed towards the small component in his hand. He rotated it around and studied its every detail. It was a piece of armor from Lopez. Sister jogged her way over to her brother and held out two trays of food. "Looks like I managed to get the best meal trays here just as they were about to run out. I'm like so looking forward to this."
She picked up her fork and noticed the diversion in his hand. "What is that?"
"A memento," he replied as he gently stored it away. He picked up his fork and began to poke the ribs. "I was thinking of giving it to Sheila, but then again, I might not."
"Bad reminder?" she asked and he nodded in answer. "Not just for her, but for everyone involved. So let's just keep this between us, okay Sister?"
"You can trust me on this one bro!" she exclaimed. Grif gathered a few peas in his fork and gently positioned it into his mouth. "Right, remember that one time I told you about the story of my first girlfriend, who was it that spread it amongst their friends and then I started getting weird looks as if I was the weirdest one of the family?"
She smiled recalling the times her friends crept away at the mere sight of him. "Good times."
"Not for me," he noted as he cut through one of the ribs and stuffed it down his throat. Oh thank the lord for food, my only guilty pleasure. Guilt…I just had to remind myself of that now didn't I? He put down the utensils, looked to the side and saw a man walking with an IV attached to his hand. Sister noted his gaze and drank some of her chilled orange juice through a straw. She felt a shiver go down her back. There is something different about drinking chilled juice through a straw on a hot day like this. It feels…great. She rested her hand on his visor much to his surprise as he jolted back in response. "What's gotten into you?"
"What's gotten into you?" she asked in response. She leaned forward and gently tapped his visor with her finger. "You need to keep your head in the moment mister."
Grif quickly swiped one rib off her tray with a smug look and chewed with pleasure. "How's that for being in the moment?"
"Why you…," Sister felt her cheeks puff up from the annoyance and reached for one of his ribs only to be swiftly denied. Grif held the tray high up in the air with a smirk as Sister tried reaching for it. "You think that just because you are bigger than me, you have the advantage?"
"Damn right I do," Grif motioned with his hand the difference in their height. Sister crossed her arms, puffed up her cheeks even more and sat down with a scoff. "You big meanie."
Grif looked up at the tray with a sympathetic smile. "Okay, okay, my bad. You can have one of mine and we call it even, deal?"
"Deal," and she instantly took one with her bright and vibrant smile returning to her features. Grif looked up at the ceiling after feeling a little relieved, but wondered equally, did I just get duped by her acting? As he pondered that, he could find himself leaning more towards painting her as a devious character upon noticing that mischievous grin on her face. She wiped her lips clean with her tongue and chugged down a soothing cool sensation of her orange juice. "By the way, you still haven't gone to see Donut, have you?"
Grif froze up at her investigative tone. "Um, I might not have."
"Then go see him," she ordered causing him to fiddle with his fingers. He averted his gaze from hers down to his tray. "That might not be a great idea."
"Well, I wouldn't know what to say to him aside from apologize over and over again."
"That's not what you should say!" she nearly pounced on him from across the table in a sudden burst of energy like a cat. "If you say sorry, then he will just feel worse. You need to be more grown up about this big bro. Just go in there and talk about his favorite things, or maybe something you two have in common."
"We don't have much in common," Grif recalled the times he spent with Donut on their adventures and could not recall much aside from food as a hobby that was common to them. Sister gently bumped her fist on his head and gave a skeptical look. "You spent all these years with him on the same team and you can't think of anything? I don't believe that."
He stared into her eyes and saw the determination behind her actions and voice. He raised his arms in the air in defeat and stood up with his now nearly empty tray. "Okay, I'll go see him. Just stop being scary, I like my little sister when she is not such a hard ass."
"Now who was it that once said I had a brother complex?" Sister questioned with a raised eyebrow. "I don't know if that's applicable now since my brother has a sister complex."
"You just had to make it weird," Grif complained as he picked up her tray to dispose of. "But then again, being normal wouldn't suit you much."
Caboose sat on a white bench in an indoors garden underneath the comforting sunlight. The garden was coated with flowers and pathways for patients to enjoy and find some peace in. Beside him sat Iowa and a patient they had become acquainted with. The patient looked down at his legs, where he was one foot lighter and to his right where his crutch rested. "It's a blessing that you guys are all still okay, even with the crazy things you have gone through."
"Yeah," Iowa nodded his head with some pity for their new friend. "I guess you are right. What do you think Caboose?"
"I think I want a chocolate cake," the light headed blue replied as his mind did not think of much at this moment. Instead, his stomach did the thinking for him. Iowa shook his head silently apologizing to their new friend. "Caboose, I'm sure we can find something delicious to eat in the cafeteria later."
"Will it be chocolate cake or dinosaur eggs?"
"I don't know about any of those, but they might have some fruits."
"No thank you," Caboose turned away in an action of defiance. "I'm allergic to healthy stuff you see."
"Why do I get the feeling that you are trying to channel Grif?" Iowa scratched his head only for his blue friend to cross his arms and turn back. "Because Grif is not being enough of a Grif."
"Okay, then how would you do Simmons?"
"Oh golly, computer issues everywhere, I gotta turn it off and on again!" Caboose expressed in a hillbilly tone. Iowa sat a little surprised at the imitation. "That sounds nothing like him."
The patient looked at the back and forth banter with a relaxed smile. "You two are quite close, it's good that you two have such a strong friendship."
"Well, duh," Caboose answered. "Like what else could it be? We are going to be BFFs forever!"
"That was a six out of ten rating for Sister's impersonation," Iowa answered as he held up six fingers. Caboose tilted his head in slight annoyance. "Only six out of ten, I thought that was so awesome, like at least an eight."
"Okay, I will give you an eight if you can," Iowa looked around the area and held up five fingers. "Name five things that are red in here."
Caboose frantically looked around the area and pointed to the roses. Iowa nodded his head with one finger held up. Next was the small tree in the center with red leaves growing out of it. Iowa held up two fingers. He next pointed to the nurses walking by, as on the caps of their uniforms, there was a red cross. Iowa looked a little surprised at the discovery. "That's three. You are doing good so far Caboose!"
"Um, um, over there," Caboose pointed towards a red soldier. Iowa nodded his head. "I guess that can count seeing as how it's a soldier this time. Okay Caboose, final one!"
"Aw man, I don't know. I'm out of ideas."
"I guess I get to keep that eight all to myself then."
"Boo!" Caboose echoed with the patient joining in on the fun. "Yeah, boo!"
"It's okay Caboose," Iowa patted him on the back with a thumb up. "I will give you a seven, how's that?"
"So, is this what you guys do all the time?" asked the patient, while still impressed by their friendship, he found this conversation to be somewhat too simple for his liking. Both Caboose and Iowa looked at one another and nodded with a playful smile. The patient smirked at their childish gestures. "Well then, have you guys thought about whether you belong here or not then? Because I would say no."
"Why say that?" Iowa inquired, genuinely curious to hear the patient's outlook. The man reached for his crutch upon noticing the time. He pulled himself up with great force and gritted his teeth in an effort to subdue the pain in his right thigh. "I said that because you guys are too kind. Kindness can be a negative factor here. If anything, you two deserve to be out and about from this planet spreading your happiness to all."
Caboose and Iowa watched the man slowly hobble away. The blue soldier looked up with the title of his head and hummed. "We should go on a joy spreading road trip, yes, that is my best idea so far!"
Iowa looked from Caboose up to the sky as he leaned back against the back rest of the seat. "I'm sure it will be even more fun with everyone else from the canyon involved."
"Yes, that is how we will do it!"
On the recreation room bar counter, a husk rested. In a silent slumber, he slept peacefully by a gathering of bottles. As if his world shook in the midst of a furious earth quake, he awoke to the unpleasant headache of his drunkenness.
"What are you doing Simmons?"
His eyes widened at the voice. It was familiar, comforting, a voice he needed to hear most right now and a figure that filled a big part of his life. Slowly, Simmons looked around in the direction of the voice and gave an unbelieving sigh. "You are not here."
"I'm to you."
"That's impossible," the maroon soldier answered turning to reach for a bottle. The red leader walked forward and stopped the bottle from reaching for his mouth. Surprised at the sudden stop, Simmons stared at the grip as he fought to no success. No, he is dead. He can't be here. Am I doing this to myself or is he really here? Maybe I have gone insane. He again pulled to no success. Sarge gripped his arm harder making him squeal a little in pain. Simmons released the bottle as Sarge looked at it in disgust. "When I trusted you to lead, I didn't think you would end up in this position."
"Then I guess you didn't know me as well as you thought you did."
"Why are you doing this to yourself?"
Simmons looked at the older man as his vision blurred from the influence. He rubbed his eyes clear and scoffed. "It's the only way I can dull the pain now."
"I think you mean the guilt," Sarge stared at the maroon leader expectedly to concede. Simmons knew his words held weight and that there was truth to them. He looked at the design of the bar counter and nodded in deep contemplation. Sarge sat beside his protégé and rubbed his hands together. "Listen Simmons, none of what happened is your fault."
"I was the leader. I was in charge of your lives."
"But that isn't on you."
"Then who? Grif?!"
The room fell silent until Sarge managed to get his bearings. "I chose for you to lead for a reason Simmons. I believed in your abilities. You are the best one out of us all. Don't succumb to this self-destructive way of life. Otherwise, who will kick the blues' ass when they get out of line?"
"So I'm just supposed to put my big boy pants on and suck this pain up?"
"Simmons, why do we have a family?"
The question stunted the maroon soldier. He looked blankly in Sarge's direction and quickly realized the implication. Slowly he stood up from his seat, with weak legs he felt his whole body quiver and struggle to just move forward. He motioned up towards his mentor and father figure. "Can talking to them ever bring you back?"
"And, do you think revenge would?"
"No, it just makes me feel better," Simmons slowly approached the chair Sarge sat on and leaned against the bar counter. Sarge smirked under the visor and shook his head in disapproval. "But you do so while putting the others in great risk."
The ex-leader pointed to the booze and a partially filled flask. "This new comfort will also put others at risk."
Simmons backed away, almost tripping over his own feet, a little scared at the evidently caring yet strict tone in his voice. "Then what do you expect me to do, and how am I supposed to just get rid of the pain from your death, huh sir?!"
Sarge remained quiet as Simmons finally tripped over his own feet. He cursed silently under his breath as he watched the red ex-leader stand up and walk over. Sarge bent down as he looked his once student straight into the eyes. "That's for you to figure out. We all deal with pain differently Simmons. I don't take pleasure in telling others how to deal with theirs. But what you need to do is once again become the leader I left seeing you grow into."
"I can't, I don't want to," Simmons mumbled as the image of his rifle flashed past his mind. "If this is what I should expect in the future, then I don't want any part of it."
"That's a shame. But if that is what you chose, then so be it," replied Sarge. With a quick blink, the red ex-leader was gone. He was nowhere to be seen. Simmons looked frantically at the emptiness of the room echoing his feelings like he was staring into a mirror. He lied back down and rested an arm over his forehead. Two words silently slipped out before his headache returned with massive force to propel him into a slumber. "Fuck me."
A/N: So, how was that chapter?
What are your feelings on the development for the various characters and the story so far?
Any constructive feedback is appreciated!
Thank you for your readership and continued support.