"It's been two days since the UAC Ark Facility in Nevada was targeted by a viral outbreak. Little is known about the incident, however it is confirmed that an RRTS Squad was deployed to aid in the situation. However, seven of the Squad members were killed along with eighty-four of UAC's employees at the facility. UAC has had crews inside the facility inspecting and they've stated that 'the incident, though tragic as it is, was nothing more than an accident. No one person is to blame for this'. UAC hopes to repair the Facility by the years end and continue with their research. In other news..."
"Fuckers." Vera muttered. She shut off the radio and ripped the plug it from the wall. Vera lifted the radio from the floor and marched out into the barracks. She dropped the radio onto Duke's bunk and headed back into the bathroom. She picked up her knife she'd left on the sink and slipped it back into her boot. Vera took a look in the mirror. Her hair was finally free of the evidence of Olduvai, pure white. It hung against her face at odd lengths. The longest strand was her bangs, running down the left side of her face and reach to her shoulder. All other strands were cut short and uneven, not even reaching her neck.
Vera turned from the mirror and headed back into the barracks. She paused in the doorway and stared in the empty room. Her eyes slowly scanned over all of Duke's procession laid about his cot. Video games, magazines, weights, letters, his radio, all covered the surface of his cot. It was all his life at RRTS laid out for everyone to see. She drew her eyes from Duke's cot and scanned the barracks that she'd called home for the past few years. The walls were stripped of posters and belongings. The naked woman with the baseball glove had been thrown into the trash with most of Portman's belongings. Every locker, every shelf, every desk had been cleaned and the possession lay on the cots of the holders. Every cot was filled, even hers.
Vera shook her head angrily and walked into the barracks. She knew that someone had most likely been ordered for the task, but she had too much respect for her deceased teammates. No one who didn't know those men should pack up their belongings. No one. This was her job. Vera had gone through shit like this when she lost RRTS 2 four years ago. Now she was reliving the pain again. She'd snuck out of the infirmary that morning and started stripping the barracks of the former occupants. Injuries be damned. Her hand was set and put into a brace. Her cheek lacerations were sutured and on the mend, though they itched and burned. Five lacerations. Three of her left cheek, two on her right, and one on her neck. Two hundred and forty-one stitches total. A small price to survive hell.
Vera sighed and lowered her head.
"Heard you escaped the infirmary." Came a voice.
Vera turned her head. John was standing up on the catwalk, watching her. His arms propped up his body as he leaned against the railing. He stood out of uniform, just as she did. Vera hadn't seen much of him n the past two days. Between debriefings for the both of them, her own infirmary treatment, and Sam's touch and go state, she wasn't surprised. His appearance mirrored hers though; haunted, exhausted,, and guilty. The marks of survivors. He pushed himself off the railing and headed down the stairs.
"Did you expect me to stay in the infirmary and let someone else do this?" Vera asked.
John shook his head and reached the bottom. "No. I thought you'd escape last night actually."
Vera shrugged. "Didn't think that would be wise with that sedation they gave me."
John snorted lightly. "Should've thought of that before."
Vera packed away Duke's belongings into the boxes around the room. "Thanks for that. I couldn't have...made it through last night."
"You're welcome." he answered. John slowly walked down the line of empty cots to Duke's.
Silence befell them. John watched Vera pack away Duke's belongings. Vera felt his eyes on her every room. So much so, her hand started trembling.
"How's Sam doing?" she asked, trying to keep her mind distracted.
John nodded. "Better. A few more days and she'll be released."
"Is that the doctor's recommendation, or yours?" Vera asked, trying not to smirk.
"Mine." John matched Vera's knowing look.
Vera looked back down to the now full box. She took hold of the lid and tried to close it, but her brace prevented her form completely placing it. John reached out and secured the box for her. Vera snorted humorlessly. "It's sick how a person's entire life can be packed away in a few boxes."
John said nothing. He wouldn't have to. Vera was just starting her rant.
"You hear UAC plans to reopen the Olduvai facility by the end of the year?" She asked.
Vera shook her head. "Motherfuckers have the gall to claim the whole thing was an accident, caused by an unknown virus." She laughed bitterly and marched around the cot to hers. "Eighty-four employees, seven Marines, and countless children dead and those fuckers label it an 'unfortunate accident'."
John watched Vera closely. He could see her guard starting to slip. Whether it was intentional or accidental, he didn't know. But he could see Vera's unguarded side coming out as her eyes gleamed with tears. He'd only seen that side once, after her husband assaulted her three years ago.
"I keep thinking that the mission was a dream. That they're gonna come marching into the barracks back form leave." She lowered her head to wipe away a falling tear, running her fingers over her stitches. "But they're not coming back." She sat down on the railing of her cot and lowered her forehead into her palm. "They didn't deserve this, John. They served their country with pride and their employers covered up their deaths. It's in insult to the team!"
john crouched to her level.
Vera continued her rant. "And we're all bound by UAC policy not to breathe a word to the public. This is fucking insane."
John lowered his head. Seven men dead. Seven good men he'd gotten to know over the years, all lost because someone made a shit call on Olduvai. And they were bound to be silent under pain of death. Breathing a word would be considered treason. How was he not to be furious about it, especially when his hands were tied.
"If Sam's still in the infirmary, why're you here?" Vera asked, breaking John from his thoughts.
He looked up at her. "Thought I'd give you the news myself."
Vera arched her slender brow.
John reached into his back pocket and pulled out an official letter. He passed it to Vera. She quickly opened the letter and read it. For a long moment, neither one spoke or looked at each other.
"Wow, medical discharge." she whispered. She looked up at John. "Signed by Staff Sergeant John Grimm."
"No amount of time is going to fix that lung anymore." John explained. "You'll need an inhaler for the rest of your life."
"Well shit." Vera muttered.
John waited for her to snap at him, or try to suck punch him, or even slap him again. But to his surprise and relief, she didn't. "I'm surprised you're taking it so well."
Vera shrugged and folded up the letter. "Maybe I'm just tired of trying to save something that doesn't matter." She stood from her cot and slipped her letter into her pack. "I should've known my career was over back in Somalia. Every shot, stab, shock, whatever the hell I got after that, it was just a way of saying 'get the hell out before this ends you'. I just didn't want to hear it."
"Then why stay?" John asked, already knowing the answer. He stood up to match her level.
"Because this is all I know." Vera answered. "All I know is how to fight for what you want, what you need, for your life. I know how to kill and I'm good at it." Vera explained. She look up toward John. "It didn't hurt that I had a damn good unit backing me up."
John felt his lips tug with a smile.
"But now that's changed." she continued. "So why bother ignore it now?"
John nodded slowly. "Where will you go?"
Vera shrugged. "I don't know yet. And frankly I don't care. As long as its far from here."
John watched her closely. There was no changing her mind, not even if he wanted to. He'd signed her papers personally and he didn't want to revoke them. Not with this one. He'd known her for too long to know there was nothing he could say to make her change her mind. Hell, he had nothing to say to make her, much less want her to stay in this hell hole. It was best for her and they both knew it. But it wasn't enough to push away the pain of knowing he'd never see her again.
"Do me a favor John." she said.
"Get yourself out." she said quickly. "Go find yourself some small town that needs a moody doctor. Take care of yourself and Sam. Get as far from here as you can."
John said nothing. What could he say? He walked to his locker and opened it. He fished through his belongings and pulled the black case. He turned back to Vera and tossed it to her. "Here."
Vera caught the box and opened it. Inside were fully stocked syringes, two inhalers, and a key. "Is this-"
"The spare." he answered.
Vera smiled sadly and shook her head. "I can't."
"I don't care if you can or can't Vera." he answered. "At least you'll have a place until you get your baring's. Sam and I will head that way once she's cleared."
Vera stared at John for a long moment. Weakening, she nodded and slipped the case into her duffle bag. "I won't stay too long." She picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder. "Goodbye, John."
John nodded slowly. "Do svidaniya, Vera."
Vera smiled up at him sadly. She turned to walk away, but paused. Vera turned back around quickly and lightly planted a kiss on his cheek. She turned as quick as before and walked through the line of cots one last time. John watched her every step, killing him slowly. She was the reason he was alive right now. Hell, they've had an 'I'll save you, you save me' partnership since she transferred to 6. He wanted nothing more than to have her by his side, no matter what. He wanted to keep an eye on her even if it was only for her safety. More than anything, he just wanted her around. But what good could come of it? They were both fractured from years of neglected issue's and far from being permanently healed. She had temper had short as her hair and he had a tendency to push her too far , far too often for their safety. He watch her go until she was out of sight. John sighed to himself and turned to his cot. The only cot in the barracks that remained empty. He sat down in the silence and waited. He reached under his pillow and pulled his old bible out. Olduvai was more than enough cause to open it. And he had another eight reasons after that. He flicked open the bible, finding a card Vera had given him for his previous birthday. He left a smirk briefly rise before reading the passages in the book.
"When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
John stared at the passage for a moment. Had he suffered an untreated concussion that even C 24 couldn't cure? Or was this the worlds way of saying something. "I must be out of my mind." he muttered. He rose from his bed and sprinted through the barracks after Vera. Damned if he wasn't going to try.
major changes here. last chapter next...please don't kill me. Just a warning though, it's short.