Chapter 7: Retrospect

Myers never usually faced the window whilst in the mess hall, but at that moment she found the cold stare of the planetoid more comforting than the company of her own kind. From behind her came the usual bland hum of numerous conversations. The monotonous vocalisations of her fellows blurred into a single, colourless dirge of which Myers was only vaguely aware. Even her peripheral vision had become a grey haze, framing that which she had thought of almost constantly since she had first set eyes upon it. Myers clasped a cold cup of coffee between her hands as she stared out the large, rectangular window that sprawled out across much of the cool, grey wall. The tepid, brown fluid was whipped into a small tempest by the shuddering of the sergeant's body. The auburn waves crashed against the shear plastic cliffs of the coffee mug, sending a spray of liquid over the edge and down onto Myers' tensed fingers. She did pay the surf any heed. Her thoughts lay elsewhere.

It was dormant now. Whatever spectre had been using the foreboding crystalline surface of the moon as a fa├žade was at rest. This is what Myers believed, that the entity that had haunted her since her arrival had dispatched the unfortunate corporal Leopold in order to assure her presence on the surface of Purgatory. The demise of her replacement had disturbed her greatly, and the fact that she was warned of this only seconds before it had occurred. But still, through the shock, and through the fear, one desire still overshadowed all other feelings. She had to reach Purgatory, now more than ever. The spirit of this world had reached out and struck down one who might have stood in her way, and though she was appalled by it, this was what drove Myers on. It longed for her presence as much as she yearned to be with it. It had awoken a dark part of her soul, a part of herself that she had feared. Through the flaw that she had despised, it had spoken. Myers now knew that it was not her ailing sanity that was to blame for her episodes, but link to the moon below.

There was a sudden shift in the attitude of the ship. A little of Myers' coffee leapt from its container and sprawled itself across the lustrous metal surface of the table. Myers looked away from the window, her attention caught by the groaning of the centuries old hull of the spacecraft, sounding almost reluctant to approach the imposing satellite. The ship's position was being altered in preparation for landing. Myers turned back to the window, and looked down upon Purgatory one last time. The next time she beheld its faceted surface, they would be together.

Jeffers stood at his console, studiously examining the stream of data that was being delivered to him by the ship's sensors. As he watched the columns of white numbers dribbling down the screen, his mind began to wander from his assigned task. The grotesque sight of Leopold's lifeless body, grasping for the light from the darkness of his quarters, had been playing on his mind. As a warrior of the Arm, Private Jeffers was no stranger to death. The grim spectre had hung ominously over every mission he had been on. But there was something about the way Leopold had met his fate, alone and without purpose, struggling desperately for air as the blood boiled within his veins. A far cry from the quick, clean death of a unit explosion. Jeffers cringed. He couldn't bare to imagine it. He wondered whether the corporal's next incarnation would be allowed to remember that torturous experience.

His console emitted a shrill beep. The equipments piercing voice was alerting him to the slight attitude adjusted that would need to be made before the ship's descent into the moons sparse atmosphere. With little thought, Jeffers' spider like fingers crawled quickly across the touch sensitive screen, making the slightest of changes to the ships position. Looking up once more from his task, he glanced discretely over his shoulder. There he saw the Commander. She was sat back in her chair, not studying the crew roster, or a sensor readout, but simply staring. Not at anything in particular. This unsettled Jeffers. He had never seen Commander Clarke like this. He turned back to the trickle of numbers that he had been manipulating earlier, and attempted to set back about his duties. As he did, he thought to himself; What I wouldn't give to know what she's thinking.

Clarke stared into space. She had spent the last hour trying to numb herself to what had transpired in the last day, but she was finding it difficult to maintain her usual unbreakable resolve. The mission had not yet begun, and already, she had one dead soldier, and one mentally unstable. Her pleas to the High Command to abort the mission had been turned down. A Core convoy had entered the sector, and the priority of the mission had been doubled. A few 'minor set backs' like those suffered were hardly worth the loss of a world to the Core in the Command's estimation. It seemed to Clarke that the one great advantage of this cloned army was, for her crew, becoming its greatest weakness. Everyone's so damned expendable. As far as the Commander was concerned, her sixth sense about the foul nature of this place had been all but proven. And through all the turmoil, the chaos and suffering, Clarke could feel it watching, and mocking, rolling in silent hysterics through the vacuum of space. She hated it.