Over this last week, I've come to the conclusion that I need to come up with a creative way to smuggle my damn journal around with me. I know the last thing I want to do is lose it, but that's where the "creative" part comes in.
I don't exactly want to remember what happened in Romania anyway, but that's not something I have control of.
I'll sum it up; we were sent in to assist the Romanian Army with clearing military insurgents out and driving them into the mountains, where they'd most likely be trapped and forced to surrender. What we (the USCM) didn't know was that this particular group had a silver flower chemical weapon, and we were informed a little late on that. Hudson and I had gotten ourselves separated from the rest of the unit, and in the meantime, Hicks received a bullet wound to the shoulder.
With Hicks down, we struggled not to panic, not to mention, we had no idea if he was going to survive, because we couldn't airlift him out. I managed to regroup with everyone, but Hudson was missing. That definitely sent everyone into a panic.
We could've easily fallen back behind the Romanian Army in order to put Hicks in a field hospital, but we refused to leave without Hudson. However, things got complicated again when we found that the insurgents were tracking all radio signals within a certain radius, which meant that sending and receiving messages would render us sitting ducks. We initiated silence, but it broke everyone's hearts when we heard Hudson trying to patch through to us. He was stuck somewhere, and he needed help.
Dietrich caved in and replied to him when the army launched a speedy tank assault near one of the insurgents' nests, distracting them. Partly. They still had a damn good idea of where Hudson was, and that was roughly around the time when we learned from Captain Silivasi, an armored division commander, that we needed to be on the lookout for guys carrying silver flower gas. Of course, they tried to flush Hudson out of this abandoned radio station by gassing the building. If we weren't all equipped with masks before the mission started, he would've been a goner.
Hudson managed to escape, and met up with us. The poor guy was dehydrated, starving, bruised up, and had breathed in a very small trace of the poison. It wasn't enough to knock him out and make him hallucinate, but it was enough to sap his energy and make him feel sick.
The hostiles had launched a surprise attack, and, sure enough, they jammed the tube of a gas pack into a vent shaft on the APC, pumping the vehicle full of the shit. Getting Hicks out was our first priority. Ferro and Spunkmeyer tried carrying his stretcher out, but Spunkmeyer didn't make it. Ferro had felt his grip go slack, and forced herself to drag Hicks out on her own. Her screaming for Spunkmeyer cut through everyone's soul.
Hudson, who had been carried out by Wierzbowski, put his mask back on so he could charge in and pull Spunkmeyer out. With no air support, we were all afraid Spunkmeyer would die on us.
Dietrich had to revive him.
And that's where I panicked.
I was so gripped by flashbacks and anxiety that I was throwing up. The voices of the doctors from when I was being revived on the orbital lab were loud and clear. I jolted with the memory of the defibrillator being slammed against my chest. I couldn't breathe.
Just like in all my nightmares. Dear God, I was living my nightmares . . .
It got to the point where Apone ordered Dietrich to sedate me so I didn't hurt myself. The next several hours were fuzzy and I have no clear memories of what happened, but I do remember I had to be removed from the combat zone, as did Hudson.
Hudson didn't leave my side. He held onto me and did his best to let me know he was there, and that he wasn't going to leave me. When we got to Bucharest, however, we were separated so we could be examined. I was still in shock, so I refused to answer anyone's questions, and I got placed on suicide watch. I didn't calm down until Hudson was allowed in my room to talk to me. Even then, I still felt rattled. I couldn't eat or drink or sleep.
Spunkmeyer was stabilized and had to be put in cryosleep in order to be transported overseas. Yes, that meant he was going to D.C. to be treated by Doctor Hornby. I demanded that I go with him, and Dietrich didn't hesitate to let me, mainly because Apone said I needed some time off for my mental health. Plus, Ferro was begging to go, as well as Hudson, but he had his own reasons.
So, we're staying at the same place I've always stayed at, and keeping ourselves updated on Spunkmeyer. The worst we've gotten is that the regular medication that both Hudson and Hicks were on is no longer on the table, because, get this, Spunkmeyer's allergic to Annexers. Injecting him with their hormone could kill him, and it almost did.
At the time of this entry, we have no idea if Delhoun and Hornby have come up with something that will help Spunkmeyer. I'm hoping they've found something and are implementing it now.
Hudson has been a little on edge ever since we got here, and I feel bad for him. He keeps feeling as though he's back in that station, trapped, alone, and without resources. At least he's open about it, and with his other problems. Last night, he was telling me how he can't remember any of his dreams and hallucinations from when he was stuck in Hornby's lab almost nine months ago.
It's normal that most people can't remember dreams once they wake up, but with silver flower poisoning, it's a little different. The dreams and hallucinations are vivid, and traumatizing. Hudson was pondering all this while trapped in Romania, and he wants to know what his dreams were in order to figure out if they had said anything about himself.
Silver flower dreams have one thing in common; they focus on the self. At least that's what I've read when I looked up articles in a cybercafé this morning. They tend to peer into parts of yourself that you don't like, or that you need to develop. With me, it was my lack of connections with my teammates. It was my fear of being a failure. I've always been afraid of being a failure, so that's what those dreams centered on. Why it happens is unknown. Perhaps it's the trauma associated with it; you're certain you're going to die, so everything you've bottled up comes to the surface of your mind and becomes the center of your dreams.
I have a vague idea of what Hudson's dreams may have been, but I don't want to assume anything. He may've had a pleasant dream about drinking lots of beer without getting drunk and eating lots of junk food without getting fat for all I know.
Anyway, I understand how he's been feeling the last few days, and I'm making it my job to keep him sane until we get back to Spain and he can talk to Doctor Ranelli.
Oh, I'm not done yet with what's happened before I managed to get my hands on a cheap journal and pen. We found out Hicks has a romantic past-sorta. Hudson ran into a corporal named Paige Carlisle, who was in a relationship with Hicks after his friend committed suicide. They kept in contact for awhile until Carlisle's unit got sent to LV-109 and had no contact with civilization for a few months. Hicks had still been writing to her, but gave up when he didn't get any responses. As far as I know, Hudson convinced Carlisle to call Hicks and talk to him, hopefully rekindle what they had.
Listen, breaking Hicks's heart and making him upset is a major offense in my book. I'll punch the lights out of anyone who hurts him, physically or emotionally. My plan for today is to call Apone and see if Hicks was available to talk.
Around noon, I grabbed a sandwich and worked my way through it while heading to a USCM call center. Once there, I pulled my information out of my wallet, and began making my call.
I breathed a sigh of relief when Apone told me that Hicks had been treated and was recovering on base, but he wouldn't be seeing action for a couple months. I was just glad he was gonna be OK.
A minute later, I heard Hicks's voice. "Hey, Drake. Everything alright?"
"So far. Almost, I guess," I said.
"I don't know. They can't give him the medication because he's allergic to Annexers."
"Jesus," Hicks sighed. "Any idea when he'll be out?"
"No. They need a flushing agent for him."
"Damn." Hicks was silent for a moment, and I could practically feel his sadness three thousand miles away. "This wouldn't have happened if I didn't get shot and they didn't have to carry me out."
"Hey, don't think like that. He's gonna be fine. Look, I've got . . . other news for you. Did you . . . Did you hear anything from a Paige Carlisle?"
Hicks sighed again. "As a matter of fact, I did. I-I still can't believe you guys happened to run into her. I just . . ." He swallowed, and I heard him sob. "I don't know what to say."
"Are you and her getting back together?"
"We're gonna try. I just want to talk to her in person right now."
My heart was aching a little listening to him. I understood how he felt, and how much I wanted to talk to my girlfriend as well. I sure as hell wasn't saying that, but it made me wonder whether or not it would be a good idea to tell Hicks that Vasquez and I are a couple. "Focus on getting better," I said. "Hopefully, we'll all be back soon. Can you . . . Can you get Wierzbowski? I wanna talk to him."
"Sure. Good luck, Drake. Let me know when you guys are coming home."
I rubbed my face, wishing we could just leave right now. No, I'm not leaving Spunkmeyer alone here. Never.
Wierzbowski's voice shook me from my thoughts. "What's going on, Drake?"
"Nothing. I just wanted to see how you were doing."
"I don't think I've caught up on sleep yet, that's for sure. You definitely sound a little tired."
"I feel drained, but I'm surprisingly not as bad as Hudson right now."
"I can't imagine he took his experience too well."
"There's just . . . a lot he needs that he doesn't have access to right now. I think Ranelli is his best bet for help. I don't think he's gonna end up like me, but we're trying to keep that from happening."
"He'll probably feel better when he comes home. We'll be with him and he has all the help he wants. Yeah, I wouldn't worry too much, Drake. Just be his friend, like you've been with me."
I weakly smiled. "Thanks. How's Vasquez doing?"
"She misses you. I'm really trying to be . . . you know, friendly to her, and she's not taking it."
"Don't expect her to take it overnight. Ever. Just be patient and don't let up. Be gentle, but don't let up."
"Geez, Drake, how much more gentle can I get?"
"I dunno." I sighed, feeling like I had run out of things to say. "I guess I'll talk to you guys later. Let everyone know I miss them, I'm doing OK, Hudson's OK, Ferro's OK. Nothing on Spunkmeyer."
"Will do. Thanks for your concern. Have a good night."
I guess you could say Ferro and I looked like a couple of old people, sitting in comfy beds in our nightclothes, at only eight PM, flipping through television channels. I'm pretty sure others would say we should be out in bars, or a nightclub, or something.
"Is Hudson next door?" I asked.
"Yeah. He was already half-asleep, which isn't like him. I think he's lonely," Ferro replied.
"He can come sit with us whenever he wants. Just not when I'm sleeping." I left the TV on a pre-season baseball game. "He's probably missing Miranda."
"I can imagine. I'll bet you're missing Vasquez."
"I am," I sighed. "I miss everyone, actually, but, yeah, I miss Vasquez most of all. I wish we had gotten her to come along."
"I just hope we get some kind of update on Spunkmeyer tomorrow."
"I do, too. And I hope he'll be able to pull through the recovery."
I'm not entirely sure if that conversation was going to continue or not, but it was stopped by the phone ringing. I picked it up, giving another sigh. "Hello?"
"Drake, I need you to come down to the hospital, now," Delhoun said.
"Just do it. I've got a job for you."
"I'm in my fucking pajamas."
I hung up the phone, and got out of bed. "I'll be back."
"What's going on?" Ferro asked.
"Delhoun's got something for me to do, I guess." I took off my shorts and grabbed a pair of uniform trousers from my bag. "Sorry."
"For . . . leaving."
"If it's Delhoun asking, I'm pretty sure it's got something to do with Spunkmeyer. Just go, and don't be such a complainer."
"I will complain all I want," I said, tucking my shirt in my pants. "Why don't you go next door and talk to Hudson?"
I had a hard time covering up my displeasure about being dragged out of bed right when I was going to fall asleep, and I didn't care that Delhoun could see it written all over my face. He made me sit in his lab, and took a chair over to face me. "Would it make you perk up if I told you that we've devised a way to help Spunkmeyer?"
"I guess it would," I said.
"Good. After doing some research, Hornby and I found that there is synthetic Annexer hormone, free of the stuff that would provoke an allergic reaction. The only catch is that . . . we don't have access to it, and formulating our own will take too much time. However, the people who do have it are the same ones who have built and sold silver flower weapons."
"You're not saying I have to go back to Romania, are you?"
"No. You have to make a short flight to the Bahamas."
"The USCM has been monitoring a group of tech terrorists that have been responsible for sabotaging Weyland-Yutani projects over the last ten years or so. Not only have they stolen computers and androids and the like, but they've also developed the silver flower bioweapon, and sold it to other terrorist organizations around the globe."
"And they're based in the Bahamas."
"That's where they make the antidote. I'm asking you to go there, and take as many antidotes as you can."
"Delhoun, I could get myself killed."
"You're not going completely alone." Delhoun stood up, and walked over to the Annexer enclosures. He pulled out a set of keys, and unlocked one of them. When he held out his arm, a Polar Annexer leapt onto his shoulders. "Drake, I'd like you to meet Anubis. He'll be your partner."
The white-clad Annexer glanced at Delhoun, and snorted, as if to say that this was a joke.
"I'm not all that surprised he doesn't like me," I said.
"Nonsense. Here, hold out your arm."
Nervously, I extended my right arm. Anubis continued to switch his masked gaze between me and Delhoun.
"Where are the bones Ursa Major gave you?"
I reached into my jacket, pulling out the bone necklace.
I'm guessing Polar Annexers are supposed to automatically respect you when they see you have the bones of the marbled hare around your neck. Anubis took a cautious step forward onto my arm, sniffing. He took his sweet time, but he was eventually perched on my shoulders.
"I think you two are a good match," Delhoun said.
"Why not Ursa Major?" I asked. "I at least semi-bonded with him."
"He's not as . . . combat-hardened as Anubis," Delhoun replied. "Where you're going, you'll need someone who isn't going to let up easily on opponents. Trust me."
"Right. So, the plan is drop me off in the Bahamas, grab some antidote vials, and get out with my ass intact."
"That's correct. Think you can handle it?"
"You're paying for my funeral, buddy."
I was given a harness so I could have some minor control over Anubis, and because most places don't allow animals to be off their leashes. I still had a sense that he didn't trust me, or like me, or whatever. That's fine; hopefully, we'll grow to like each other as time goes on.
Delhoun gave me tickets, a small map, and documents so I could take Anubis on the plane. I demanded that he tell Ferro and Hudson, and he promised that he would.
Anubis was quiet and fairly obedient. He's definitely not the cuddly type of Annexer, like Winnie, but at least he wasn't vicious, like Dakota. I felt like it had a lot to do with his breed, and maybe even things in his past. His behavior suggested he may have been a security animal at some point.
I should've asked Delhoun before leaving. Then again, a part of me doesn't care, and just wants to get this done and over with.
There was also a part of me that wondered why Delhoun wanted me to do this. Was it because I had experience? That had to be it. The only thing keeping me from calling it quits was that this supposed antidote would help Spunkmeyer. I don't want to be responsible for him not being able to recover.