A/N: If you liked this story please be sure to read my other Killzone fiction titled "Six Months"!
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She always told me the proudest moment of her life was the day I was born.
The occasion had begun like any other: roused from her sleep by ghastly pain. The contractions opening wide the cave from which I would burst forth. Her gasps and whimpers as my father telephoned the doctor. Sweat trickled down his smooth forehead, she had once told me. The looks he gave her were of remorse, trepidation, and caution. He tried to coo her with promises of safety and succored her by extending his hand out to her. She told me she took his hand and wrenched it tight as she could, his gasps rivaling her own. Her accusations of his sole involvement in inflicting her with this most grievous of pains did not know cessation; they continued until the door to the master bedroom opened and three other souls entered.
My brothers and sister. They were so full of fear, she said. The eldest, a handsome boy of eight who would soon attend the Academy, took charge of the younger siblings and ordered them to stay calm and be strong for their mother. Her screams did much to unnerve him, the light from the crude street lamp outside revealing the glistening in his eyes. His upper lip curled whilst his bottom wrinkled. It pained to see his mother in so much agony, but there was no helping it; I had to be born, she said, and she would endure the pain again if she had to. Such pride sustained her throughout the cursing and striking of my father. The child watched as his father, my father, was battered and berated. He urged her to keep calm. She told me, with much remorse, that she stared daggers at the child and watched him reel in horror.
The youngest child, my darling sister, began to weep. My other brother held her close and allowed his world to fog with tears. "Be strong," he had whispered. "Mother will be fine. She is Helghast, as are we. We must all be strong."
My elder brother had looked to the child for support. He repeated the creed of the first Helghan settlers, invoking their sacred memory to provide our mother with the necessary strength to overcome the obstacle.
Dýnami̱ méso̱ ti̱s Timí̱s. Force via the Price. Through sufferings and hardships we gain new strength. It was what the Helghan settlers before me endured and it would be what the Helghast after me would hold dear to their hearts. Our life was not an easy one: outcast from our lush Eden by the corrupted degeneracy of humanity, we chose this empty shell of a planet as our haven and evolved. At the price of physical beauty we gained newfound vigor: stronger than humanity, taller than them, and more resistant to the radiation our rock of a home world bathed us in copious amounts with. My parents had been part of the Inheritor Generation, having become the third generation of Helghast born with a greater resistance to radiation. Bald and pale, my father wore a mask whilst his lovely bride had evolved enough to breath the natural Helghan air. How they managed to conceive in lust with that mask covering my father's lips I do not know; what I do know is that the end results brought my siblings into this harsh world. The same rock stretched out its arms to welcome me into the fold amidst the shouts of my mother.
The poor woman was a wreck. The silver-white tresses that cascaded luxuriously over her shoulders stood out in many different directions. Sweat added a glistening sheen to her face as several drops stained her nightgown. She clutched her swollen abdomen, cursing my memory even before I had a chance to defend myself. She raised her hand in a fist. She came so close to killing me to end her pain, she had confessed. Were my father not there to hold back the hand powered with temporary superhuman strength, I surely would not have seen all that I have seen in this cold world. She had slammed her fist into my father's arms trying to tear herself free from his grasp.
My courageous father, an employee at the local weapons factory, held out as long as he could before the doctor slipped through the door. The gaunt man drifted into the room like a masked specter. His breathing apparatus was of a special design, Mother once told me, and bore a striking resemblance to the combat masks of the Light Infantry troops. His blackened eyes stared daggers at the patient and her husband as the maroon rings underneath his eyes served to further strengthen the glare. His heels of his boots pounded against the concrete floor as he march like a soldier into combat. He had been trained in the old army as a field medic, Mother informed me, and even reached the rank of surgeon before he received an honorable discharge and carried his medical knowledge into the civilian realm. He never lost his discipline and further augmented his austerity upon the rise of Visari. He emulated his idol by rebuking my father for allowing a woman to manhandle her, after which he harangued my mother for her lack of control.
"Lack of control? Why don't you get pregnant and tell me how you can keep control when it's time to pop the bastard out?" Ah, Mother.
The doctor checked her heart beat, sticking the frigid stethoscope between her breasts and sliding it to her stomach. He licked his lips, as he was prone to according to her, and moved the nub to several points along the bulge before stating that the child's heartbeat seemed normal.
"Good. Now get this cursed little shit out of me!" His ears rang and his collar was torn. With my father's assistance he placed my mother's legs up onto portable stirrups. He tore off my mother's underwear with the deft hand of a rapist and slid her nightgown further up. My father's eyes widened. The children peeked over to see their mother's lack of a member.
"Out! Out! Out!" The urgency in my father's voice was enough to drive my siblings out, but he sped the process along with rough shoves. My sister had tripped, scraping her knee on the concrete floor. The first screech of pain became a muffled sob as my eldest brother cupped his hand over her mouth, picked her up with one arm, and carried her through the door. My father shoved them back into their room, pointing a finger at each of them and warning them in a severe tone not to enter the master bedroom under any circumstances. Once he had received their silent agreements, he rushed back into the room, afraid to leave my mother alone with the austere doctor.
"The sky piss lightning on you! I told you to GET THIS LITTLE SHIT OUT OF ME!" Hands wrung the sheets, head burrowed into the pillow, neck and back arched in agony. Screams filled the room and corridors of the humble structure. The children in the other room covered their ears, weeping as they had never done before. I could only imagine the only time they ever wailed as much was on the days they were brought forth from the abyss of the womb. My father had heard the blubbering down the hall but refused to do anything about it. Dýnami̱ méso̱ ti̱s Timí̱s. Force via the Price.
"I see the head." The doctor betrayed no emotion other than the sterility he shared with his instruments. A cold pawn of the Helghast Party, the man often ignored the Hippocratic Oath when the situation did not agree with his views. A fervent supporter of the Autarch. A man that could have refused to birth me. A man that could strangle me if I were born the least bit deformed. A man that, with gloves as pallid as his skin, reached for the small bulb bursting forth slowly, ever so slowly, from the infinitesimal cleft between my mother's legs. "Push harder." His voice was still as Death.
"Fuck! It hurts!" Her screams gave way to anguished eruptions that filled young ears with language they had not expected to learn at such an age. "Get it out! Get the little turd out of me NOW!"
"Be still, Eulalia. The doctor is doing what he can to-"
"Piss off! To HELL WITH YOU!" She threw the pillow at my stunned father.
"Best to keep your woman under control. Her child will suffer in the Academy if he inherits his mother's brashness." The doctor went silent after his input, his hands playing with the crowning ball of flesh that tore at the walls of the woman's labia. The man could only watch as the doctor's hands molded the cone-shaped cranium into the regular sphere of a humanoid. No matter how many times he witnessed it, my father could never stomach the sight. He held back vomit as the doctor reached beyond the lips of the cave. He probed the interior before his bloodstained fingers returned to the hellish heat of the bedroom. "Fetch me a pail. Cold water. Now."
My father did as he was told, bringing the dripping tin pail up the flight of stairs and into the bedroom and nearly twisting his ankle in the process. Not wanting to suffer the presence of the doctor any longer than the birthing, my father concealed his pain. He dropped the pail at the doctor's side. Without looking the physician kicked the bucket between his legs as he pulled more of the new life out of the woman. Her screams and fists pounding the bed did nothing to hurry the process. "Silence, woman. Think of the pain the old Helghans had to endure in their births." He pulled a pistol strapped to the belt beneath his medical scrub. With one hand on the child, the other handed the firearm to my father. It was the first time the man had ever held such a thing of beauty. He ogled it before the doctor interrupted his fantasies. "If she becomes too much, silence her."
"What? But I -"
"You question the will of the Autarch. I say again: if she becomes too much, put her out of her misery. The child will live at this stage. Are we clear?" His tone reminded my father that he had no choice. The man complied, his finger on the trigger and the pistol down at his side. The screams of his beloved did not help matters along. The pressure in his finger flirted with the opportunity to fire the weapon. The doctor was the easiest target for he was the only object of contempt in the room. But the Autarch… In the end my father decided he would turn the gun on himself before he would turn it on his wife.
"The torso is free." With one quick pull he tore the babe from its mother. I went from the moist cavern that constricted my ability to move about to a hot and dark expanse. Propelled by icy hands stained in maternal blood I was plunged into glacial water. The shock sent an excruciating pain as the liquid cleansed me of amniotic fluid. Unfamiliar words reached me; my mother would later translate their meaning to me. "You were brought to this world through agony to suffer the tribulations that would cripple lesser men. You are not human; your humanity died in the cold depths of the water. You are reborn as Helghast, and in the name of the Autarch I welcome you to undertake these sufferings with pride. Know that without Duty, Obedience, and Loyalty you are lost." He lifted me out of the bloody water, the boiling room suddenly becoming very cold. Taking a combat knife sheathed in his boot, he tore the first link to my mother, signaling my independence from her. The serpentine organ plopped into the bucket as he rose from the chair, his scrubs bloodied and a stern look on his face. He thrust me towards my father, who received me with such tenderness that the physician scoffed. "Let us hope you do not instill civilian weakness into this soldier of Visari. He will be whipped, scourged, and flogged until he becomes the perfect killing machine. He will wield the weapons you forge and will speak with a voice greater than your own. Know that he will never know labor beyond that of proving his worth to the Emperor, and the only reward for his failure is death." He snatched the pistol from my father's grasp, thrusting it back in its holster. "Remember: on his seventh year he shall receive a name. You may chose whichever you like, but ultimately the fate of his identity rests with the Prefect. I shall be back on the morrow with the necessary paperwork. Make sure he doesn't die until then." With those words he left my panting mother and bewildered father behind, tossing his bloodied gloves in their trash bin as he exited the room.
"Look, Eulalia." My father hovered over her with me. My mother's punitive demeanor had all but vanished, replaced with a weary smile and warmer conduct. Her eyes brightened when she saw her milky white child. She took him in her arms, feeling the iciness of his snowy skin. She lifted her nightgown up to her breasts to shield me from the cold wave she perceived loomed overhead in the sauna of a room. She wiped sweat she had dripped on my visage as she stared into the dark eyes of her newborn child. I looked back, whimpering and fussing as a new life would. She ran a finger down my chest, allowing one of my flailing arms to grab hold. I held on tight, both fascinated and terrified of the flesh different from my own. I closed my eyes, shutting out the new world in a desperate attempt to resurrect the old. It was too late; a strange sensation on my forehead brought my eyes back to behold one of the strange wonders of this new world. My mother's lips were pressed against my head as her arms rocked me gently. Such motions reminded me of my swimming in the womb, and at once I found peace.
"Look at him, Phogos. He looks so much like us: his father's strong jawline, his mother's nose and brow, and our eyes. He will make a fine soldier, will he not?"
"Y-yes." My father had been disturbed, she told me. The words were not easy for him to hear; soldiers rarely treated civilians with courtesy, something he let my mother know. "His loyalty to the Emperor will be far above his loyalty to us; if need be he'd execute us without so much as flinching." He sighed, sitting on the bed next to Mother. "Sevan goes to the Academy next year, and then Temir a year after him. All I am waiting for is the Autarch to decree that women may fight as well, and there goes Halyna. I know it is not very Helghast of me to think this way but you must see, Eulalia, that our children will know no other future than to serve Helghan and the ambitions of its people."
Mother was the voice of reason. Ever she was wise and ever she understood more than my father. "So you would rather they have the bleak futures you and I scraped our whole lives to create, never mind hold together? You may not agree with our Leader's message, but his intentions are thus: a future free from the stain of humanity. When you become human, you allow weakness to consume you. To struggle is human; to overcome is Helghan. We created these children with one purpose in mind: the survival of our own kind. Whether that survival is ensured on the field of battle or simply with their births, one thing is certain: the 'future' you speak of has been forfeit. It was replaced by one more meaningful than personal happiness or achieving selfish goals. Remember your days in secondary school: even a race as degenerate as humanity valued sacrifice above all else. Our children are a result of thousands of years of this, and their descendants will still hold these values dearly." She looked at me, she confessed, with pride that renewed her vitality. "I for one take pleasure in knowing that by being born our children have given us a reason to live and an opportunity to mend the wounds inflicted on our people. Autarch or not their existence is defiance and we must be defiant with them lest they fall into the same hell our parents had to endure. And is that not what every parent wishes for: a little pain to avoid greater torment?"
Ahh, Mother. You made a believer in the Emperor's message out of Father if only for that day. To the end of his day he forged the blades with which we strike back at the foe. You showed me how to overcome any obstacle the Helghan way: through perseverance and sheer force of will. You taught me to be Helghan before the Academy trained me to be Helghast. For your support, and your pain, I am grateful. They say a Helghast has many fathers throughout his life yet he calls only one woman "Mother."
I hope I have made you proud, Mother. My first steps and first utterance of speech no doubt brought this to you. My inability to weep whenever I scraped a knee or stubbed a toe perplexed you but filled you with hubris.
I hope you look upon me with pride and do not forget me. The tears in your eyes as I left for the Academy, to march in step with the other youth of my age, to drill endlessly and to receive my stripes with due humility, betrayed this.
I apologize for taking your life, Mother.
I apologize for obeying the Autarch's orders and executing Father. I do not blame you for stepping in the way and taking the bullets intended for him. The man was a dissident, and the State cannot tolerate those who do not tolerate the State in turn.
I apologize for not being strong enough to take those same bullets with you.
Forgive me, Mother, for taking the life of the one who gave it so freely to me.
Although I shall never forget you, I have only one Mother now.