I haven't had a chance to write much lately because events kind of...overwhelmed me. I needed time to sort it all out. But it's too important not to write down and I'll be doing a disservice to the boy if I don't write down what happened. I suppose that I'd better start from the beginning to keep the story straight. God knows we'll never have his side of it.
Today we reached the village where the reports had originated about the strange creature that was believed to be an organoid. It should have been easy to get the creature and leave, the village elders were more than co-operative. They were eager to have the thing out of their village. The Imperial army was a week away.
It should have been easy. That keeps running through my head. Things are never what they're supposed to be and this was no exception. It seemed that there was a girl who appeared with the creature, the organoid. I guess that I can believe it now that I've seen the thing. It doesn't look to be anything else.
Of course this complicated things. We didn't know what to do with her. Or with the boy for that matter. He was the only one in the village that protested giving her and the organoid up. He ran out the village when he couldn't convince anyone not to give them away. I never really gave him a second thought. And to think that a few hours before he'd been following all of us around like a damned puppy because he wanted to see zoids so badly. Claimed to have a zoid of his own but everyone just kind of laughed it off. How could a kid that young have a zoid right?
The elders pointed us to some caves above the village we hiked ourselves up there. It wasn't hard to spot which one they were in, their tracks were all over the place. The real shock came when we tried to enter the cave. Standing there was a white Helcat and it drove us back. From what the elders in the village had told us the caves went deeper and that's where we assumed the girl and organoid were hiding but the Helcat just kept blocking us. We tried sneaking past it, we tried talking to the pilot but I guessed it would be a lost cause. I knew who the pilot was and I knew that the boy wouldn't let anyone past. I left my men there, trying to get the boy to move, to get out his zoid, and hiked back down the mountain. We'd all laughed it off. A kid that young couldn't have a zoid, right?
I didn't even speak to the villagers when I walked through on the way back to our camp. I already knew how this was going to end. Hamford, my commanding officer, only had one opinion of someone who stood in the way of a Republican military operation. Especially when piloting an Imperial zoid. When I reported what was happening in the cave to him he reacted the way I knew he would.
"He's resisting a lawful order from the military during a military operation. He knew what that would mean. So I'm ordering you Captain to get that organoid any way you can but we are going to be leaving the village tomorrow evening. I want to have a headstart on the Imperial forces. Do you understand Captain Flyheit?"
Of course I understood. There really wasn't a way not to. When I asked about the girl he wanted her too, of course, but the organoid was the most imperative thing in Hamford's mind. We tried the rest of the night to get past him, to disable the Helcat, anything, but the kid stayed awake, stayed alert. He would've made a great soldier.
Early in the morning, just after dawn Hamford finally, explicitly, ordered me to force our way past the Helcat. I'd be damned if I was going to attack a boy without a direct order. I was stalling at that point, hoping that he'd fall asleep. Hamford was getting jumpy though and he ordered the attack.
Zeke and I climbed the mountain with the whole damn village watching, knowing what was coming. They could've held onto the boy and avoided this but they didn't. As much as I'd like to blame it on them I couldn't. I couldn't blame the kid for what he was doing He was sticking with what he thought was right and every soldier had to respect it. Hell, I couldn't even blame Hamford because he was doing what he thought was right. And I couldn't blame myself either. We gave him too many chances to count and he was still there attacking anyone who tried to get into the caves. He'd given a pretty good accounting of himself too, five soldiers dead and four more wounded. Infantry attacks against zoid don't work very well. Leon had his work cut out for him that's for sure but all of the four were expected to pull through. I couldn't even hate the kid even though a couple of the dead soldiers had been friends of mine. It's hard to hate somebody who'd tried to sneak a look at Zeke and I ended up showing the old Wolf to him.
When I got to the cave he was still there. He didn't back down even though Zeke was twice his size and armed to boot. And I tried to talk to him one last time. I don't really remember what we said, but he told me "I won't move. Not for you or anything or anybody. She's my friend and if no one else will stay with her then I will!"
And that was the last thing he ever said. I made it as qucik as I could with a shot to the Helcat's head. The cannon shells blew most of it away. I doubt the boy even realized what happened before he died though I think he realized what would happen when he told me "No."I didn't even remember his name from the day before when I talked to him.
While I watched the Helcat fall the troops rushed past, deeper into the caves. It was almost noon and Hamford wanted to be gone by six that evening. It only took a couple of hours to track the girl and the organoid down. We never found the organoid to tell the truth. We found the girl huddled in a cave festooned with drawings of zoids. When he got her the organoid found us. The troops made short work of it and it was subdued and bound easily enough. We had to bring her out past the Helcat and when she saw what had happened she shot me one look. I swear that in that one second I felt the Devil's hand on me. But she broke down and cried into Leon's shoulder. He was carrying her at the time. To be sure she looked strange with mesy, short blue hair and wide green eyes. A pale red circle on her forehead made me think of a third eye. She looked, well, fragile. Frail really. Just small and worn out with life already and it was clear that she and the boy really did like each other by the way she cried.
She ran away a few days ago, somehow getting the organoid free too. I don't know how and I'm glad that Hamford decided getting annihilated by Imperial Panzers would not be conductive to the mission. I'm just as glad really. I don't know if I could go after the girl. I did my duty and I'm proud of that but I don't think I could ever look her in the eye. And I don't think that she'd ever forgive me.
Leon found me that night and we talked about it. He's always been a good friend but he's not cut out for this. The military I mean. He's too good a person. But his commission is up in a year and I don't think he's going to re-enlist. Just as well really. He can do more for people when he's out of the army. We talked about the boy that night naturally enough. Leon had gotten his name from the girl, her name as well. Nicalo and Reese he told me. I told him what I thought of the boy, that I was proud of him. Proud that he did what he saw as his duty even as I did mine. I told Leon that someday I hoped my son, little Van, would have the strength to make that kind of choice. And I think that's what made me upset. Nicalo was just a little older than Van is. It could just as easily be Van in a few years. And I pray that never happens.
I told Leon that night that I couldn't hate Nicalo or the villagers. Or Hamford or myself. We all did what we saw as right. We all did what we thought we had to. And even though I couldn't hate myself, the villagers, or even Hamford who gave the order, I couldn't forgive any of us either. Nicalo though, for him I just offered a prayer and an apology. And I think he understood what I was trying to say.
This is based on episode 51 "Boy from the Ruins"
The dates correspond to no actual day, month, or year.
Thanks to The Sh33p for beta reading.
Read it and leave a review if you please. Thank you much.