I woke up this morning thinking things were going to go as they usually did, but that changed during breakfast. Much like when I started therapy for my post-traumatic stress disorder, my life was turned upside-down, again, but unlike when I started therapy, it didn't look like it was going to turn for the better.
As a Marine with no home, I should be used to and not mind being moved to a faraway location for months, but I was bothered by Apone's announcement that we were going to be moving away from Australia. I guess I've gotten used to this place, even though I don't consider it home. I really wasn't keen on leaving.
"Where're we going, Sarge?" Hudson asked. "Some barren fucking wasteland?"
Apone glared at him. "Watch your shit, Hudson. And, no. We're being transferred to the west coast of Spain, near a town called Hueco."
"'Hollow,'" Vasquez whispered. "What a cheerful name."
"The base is a bit aged, but still usable. We'll be up for missions all across the European and Mediterranean sector. You'll meet a lot of new people, see a lot of new places. For some of you, this may be your first and only chance to go places you'd never go as civilians, so, take advantage of it."
We all had to start packing for a long flight. I hoped the base had similar conditions to this one: we all had our own rooms, with our own showers, with plenty of space for our stuff. Not only did I want that because I like my privacy, but I also like being able to spend alone-time with Vasquez.
As I was packing, Hudson strolled into my room, saying, "Hey, man, I need help closing my bag."
"You realize you're supposed to fold everything and not shove it all in," I replied.
"I've done it before, man. I just need someone to sit on the bag and let me close it."
"And you realize I've lost a lot of weight, right? You sit on the bag, and I'll close it."
"You just hurt me, man. I haven't been gaining weight."
"You keep sneaking Lorna Doone cookies from the lounge and you will start gaining weight, bud. It's not gonna take long to figure out the connection between the shortage of snacks and the five pounds you put on."
"That's not funny, man." Hudson led me to his room, where his bag was on his bed and spilling clothes everywhere. He didn't hesitate to sit on it, and I heard a snap. "I think that was my fucking toothbrush."
"You know how to raid the lounge, but you didn't figure out that you can go buy better toothbrushes from a civilian store?"
Hudson shook his head.
"Get your priorities straight." I yanked the zipper all the way around his bag. "There. You owe me something now."
"Whaddaya want, man?" Hudson opened a drawer on his nightstand. "I got Hershey's almond bars. I got barbeque-flavored chips. I got bubble gum. I got big-ass cookies and cream bars. I got peanut butter cups. I got M&Ms, Kit Kats, chocolate balls full of hazelnut stuff-"
"You're not taking that all on the plane, are you?"
"I'm not throwing it away, man. I worked for this shit."
"Apone's gonna be pissed when he finds it all."
"He's not gonna find out, though." Hudson opened a secret compartment on his backpack. "No one ever looks in these things."
"It's not all gonna fit."
"I know." Hudson handed me an almond bar. "Help me make it fit, man. Eat what you want, put the rest in the bag."
"I'm not eating all this."
"I can't do it by myself, man."
It didn't take me long to realize that I haven't had candy in awhile. A little bit here and there, but not like a full-size bar of chocolate. Besides, chocolate makes you produce dopamine, which I need right now.
A voice over the PA system let us know that we needed to be done packing in twenty minutes, so Hudson started shoving his candy stash into his bag, and tossing me things that he didn't think would fit.
"I gotta finish packing, too, you know," I said.
"Eat and pack, man, eat and pack."
I went back to my room while dumping a bag of M&Ms in my mouth. My clothes were messily folded before being put in my duffel bag, and my journals were neatly placed alongside them. I occasionally paused to pour more candy into my mouth, and I didn't realize Vasquez was watching me.
"That's not attractive, and you know it, right?" she asked.
"I know," I replied with my mouth full. "Helping out Hudson with his candy stash, that's all."
"What'd you guys do? Hide the evidence in your stomachs?"
"Not all of it. He's putting some of it in his backpack."
Vasquez smirked, and shook her head. "How the fuck did you get roped into helping him do that? You both will get in trouble for contraband."
"Not me. They'll never pin anything on me."
"Oh, yeah? What'd you do with the wrappers?"
"Flushed them down the toilet."
Vasquez was clearly unimpressed with my ingenuity. "I love you, Drake, but you have your moments."
"Thanks. Now, what do you need, because I need to finish packing."
"I came to see if you were finished packing."
"Well, I'm not done packing. If you could help me, that'd be wonderful."
Although she was a little reluctant, Vasquez went ahead and helped me finish packing. I told her about how I'm worried that we won't be able to have any time to ourselves at our new base, and she told me not to worry about it.
"So, you're not concerned that we'll never have a chance to sleep together over the next few months?" I asked.
"No. We shouldn't even be sleeping together here."
"Then why did we?"
"I don't know. We could? It was easier for us to do it without being noticed?"
"But, you're not worried about what could happen to . . . us as a couple?"
"Wow, Drake, you think this is all about whether or not we'll be able to sleep together? Seriously? Is that the most important thing in our relationship to you?"
"No, but it does mean something, right?"
"Of course it does, but it's not the main aspect of it!"
"I'm not saying it's the main aspect of it!"
"The fact that you're worried about it says that you think it is!"
"That is a horrible assumption to make, honey! Never have I ever thought that sleeping together was the central part of our relationship!"
"Stop trying to cover your ass, Drake!"
"I'm not trying to cover my ass!"
Standing in the doorway, Hudson cleared his throat. "Hey, people could hear you guys out there, man. Just letting you know."
We both glared at him, and I said, "Hudson, tell Vasquez that I don't believe sleeping together is the most important part of a relationship?"
"Hey, man, I don't wanna get in the middle of your argument."
"Well, she clearly won't listen to me!"
"Drake, we're fucking leaving soon. There's no time for this."
"Do I look like I give a rat's ass?"
Without much of a warning, Hudson slapped me. "I don't care if you don't give a rat's ass, man! I really don't! And I really don't wanna hear you two argue! It's bad enough we're moving halfway 'cross the globe! Don't make this fucking harder than it needs to be, OK?"
Vasquez looked at me, somewhat confused. I shrugged, then looked at Hudson. "Is there a reason this is bothering you so much?"
"Are you feeling OK? You did eat a shit-ton of candy a few minutes ago."
"I feel fine, man! You know what? You two can fight all you want! I don't fucking care!" Hudson stormed out of the room. A few minutes later, we saw him dragging his backpack and duffel bag out into the hall, cursing to himself.
Again, Vasquez looked at me. "What the hell just happened?"
"He pulled a Drake," I said.
"He pulled a Drake. He exploded for a reason that only he knows, and it's gonna take us a few days before we find out why."
"It only takes us a few hours to find out why you explode."
"No. It takes you a few days to actually get it and feel bad in the process."
I'll spare you all the boring details of our excruciating long flight to Europe. In short, Hudson didn't speak to a soul that whole time, and I was feeling bad because I didn't get to say goodbye to Delhoun. I know Delhoun and I haven't spoken in awhile because I was busy with therapy and he was busy with a magazine photoshoot.
I know we can write letters and video chat, but that doesn't beat talking to him in person, and I wish I could've said something before leaving.
This all happened so fast . . . I'm having a hard time putting my thoughts in the correct order.
I'll give it another shot.
When we landed in Spain, we found out rather quickly why the nearby city is called Hueco. It looks like it's been abandoned for quite some time. There were stone buildings covered in patches of moss, and the windows of various apartment and business buildings were dirty and grimy. The roads were covered in potholes and bumps.
I prayed that our base didn't look like this.
I was partially wrong. The base was indeed older than the one in Australia, and a whole lot less nice. Some lights in the hallway were flickering, and the walls were starting to yellow. The floors, in contrast, appeared to be freshly waxed. I feel sorry for the poor souls that had to do that before they left.
What made me really upset were the bedrooms. There were just two bunk beds per room, and no bathrooms. The bathrooms were communal. One for the guys, and one for the girls. At least sick bay was nice; Doctor Ranelli, my therapist, had decent quarters, but not nearly as nice as back in Australia.
"Drake, Hudson, Spunkmeyer, Hicks, you're in room two," Apone said. "Frost, Wierzbowski, Crowe, you're in room three with me. Vasquez, Dietrich, Ferro, you're in room four. Everybody drop your stuff in your assigned rooms and get back out in the hall."
"Just like fucking boot camp," I muttered. "Bunk beds, shitty mattresses, shitty blankets, shitty pillows. I'm gonna need to see a chiropractor after a few days here."
No one was listening to me. Spunkmeyer tossed his bag on a top bunk. "Here, Hicks, you have the bottom rack."
Hicks's condition has continued to change over the last few weeks. The fact that I kinda opened some old wounds for him didn't help. He didn't say anything as he placed his bag on the bottom bunk, and gave a wet cough as he went back out into the hallway.
Apone glanced over all of us, and began his speech. "Alright, people. Welcome to Europe. I know, I know, this base is shit compared to Australia. I understand, but I got no say in where I put you, so, deal with it for the time being. I hope you all know how to behave when it comes to the showers. I don't wanna hear about dick-measuring contests, or idiots standing as far from the urinal as possible when they pee." He looked at Hudson as he said that. "Ladies, I don't want to hear about shampoo and shit getting stolen, and I definitely don't wanna hear about you sharing razors. That's disgusting, and that's how infections spread. Now, I'm well aware that the city of Hueco is abandoned. There is a bus that comes around daily to take you to the inhabited part of the city. Just remember you need passes to get on that bus. If for some reason, you left something back in Australia, let me know. If we can't get it back, I'll give you a pass to go into the city and buy a replacement. If you forgot medication, go to sick bay. If you have regular appointments, those will stay as normal. Don't forget dinner is at sixteen-thirty. Go get settled."
After emptying my duffel bag and backpack, I immediately headed to Ranelli's new office. His office was significantly smaller than the one back on our old base, but that didn't stop him from setting up his tea kettle. And toaster.
"Hello, Drake," Ranelli said, placing massive files into a drawer on his new desk. "Go ahead, have a seat." He glanced at me before taking another stack of files out of his briefcase. "Let me guess: you're not too happy about your new arrangements. I did see those bedrooms, by the way. They look awfully uncomfortable."
"No, I'm not happy about my new arrangements," I replied. "I'm just . . . I'm worried about my relationship with Vasquez and how . . . we won't be able to see each other as often. We do sleep with each other, but . . . this is obviously going to make that downright impossible."
"Is your relationship dependent on how often you sleep with each other?"
"Then it shouldn't be of any concern to you, or her. You will have other chances throughout the day to say 'I love you,' and, perhaps, you can get creative with that. I don't think losing that aspect of your relationship will result in you drifting apart." Ranelli looked at me. "Do you . . . have sex with her often?"
"Maybe once every . . . two-to-three weeks. I wear protection, so, it's all good."
"Ah. Again, something like that is not the most important part of a romantic relationship. If things start to fall apart, emotionally, for any reason, please, see me. I'll keep it between myself, and you and Vasquez. Your job is simply to establish that you are capable of adapting to any situation you two are thrown into."
I nodded. "OK . . . um . . . can I ask about something else?"
"Hudson overheard our argument-between me and Vasquez. At first, he tried to break it up, but then he exploded and said he didn't care anymore. He didn't seem happy about the fact that we were leaving, and . . . it happened out of nowhere. He was fine just ten minutes before."
Ranelli nodded as I spoke. "It sounds like Hudson may have something he's keeping to himself, and he obviously shouldn't. Clearly, it's becoming quite bothersome, to the point where he's taking his frustration out on people he normally trusts. I would suggest trying to talk to him about it, when you have the time and the privacy."
It didn't look like I was going to have time or privacy anytime soon. No one was. Everyone was a little baffled at the fact that we had basically been downgraded to a boot camp-like base, and I couldn't disagree with what Spunkmeyer said when we were all sitting in the gym.
"Definitely makes me feel like we're shit at our job."
"We got the short end of a straw, that's all," I replied.
"We got two sick men, and somebody thinks it's a good idea to put them in this hellhole," Dietrich added.
"Hey, if everyone followed through on a petty request of a private, we wouldn't have a Corps anymore," Ferro said. "Deal with it, people."
"I'd rather have explosive diarrhea, man," Hudson mumbled.
"You want explosive diarrhea? Go lick the floor in the showers," said Frost.
"Maybe I will."
"Dear God, Hudson, don't," I sighed.
"Look, we're not being told that we're going to be treated like recruits," Ferro interjected. "I'm pretty sure you'll be allowed to change out your mattresses if you start developing back and neck problems. Some of you are too young for that, though."
"Well, maybe we don't want to get a head start on back and neck problems," I said. "I already need to pop my back once or twice a day."
"If you have a pinched nerve, Drake, come see me," Dietrich replied.
"I'm not looking forward to walking across the hall at night just to fucking pee," Hudson griped.
"Oh, that's just whiny! Grow a pair!" I moaned.
"I'm not looking forward to seeing Hudson's naked ass every Goddamn night," muttered Spunkmeyer.
"Yeah, well, I'm not looking forward to seeing your naked ass, either, man," Hudson snapped.
"Both of you, knock it off!" Vasquez shouted. "Dealing with it is not difficult. We're not going to be here forever. Maybe three months, I don't know. Just stop complaining; that makes it harder to adapt to this shitty place."
"I know one thing; I refuse to spend the holidays here," Spunkmeyer continued. "I'm getting a two-week pass when December rolls around."
"At least you have a home to go back to," I said.
"Shut up, Drake."
I rolled my eyes.
Hudson sighed before standing up. "Fuck you guys. I don't wanna put up with this, man."
"Where're you going?"
"None of your business! Go away."
Question: Is Drake the right person to interrogate Hudson, or is someone else better suited for the job?
Author's Note: To answer a question from the previous book, the game I have to base the story around for my ghostwriting job is Fortnite. I'm well aware this game has been relatively polarizing, but the fact that it has virtually no lore means I can build a story from the ground up, and make it good. It is, however, challenging for me to target it for a younger audience, but I hope that it comes out as well as the Drake stories.
The empty city the crew has been transferred to is based off something I saw in a dream. I definitely feel bad for stripping Drake of his daily comforts found in the Australian base. It'll serve as a good test for his relationships with the others, as well as his mental strength.