Command and Conquer: Beneath the Eagle's Wing
Chapter 4: Setting Sun
Personal journal of Cassandra Blair (excerpts)
Profession: In-field reporter, W3N
Status: On assignment, southern Egypt, yellow zone Y-2
January 15, 2048
This morning, a six year old girl stole a machete from the camp. This morning, that girl walked up to the wire. This morning, the girl, acting in good fun with the troopers stationed at it, stabbed one of them in the chest and almost did the same to the other guard before he peppered her with blanks.
We soon learned through her own confession that she was Nod. Born Nod, raised Nod, would gladly die Nod (and for Kane). Knew that she was suffering from tiberium poisoning and didn't have long to live. Knew that before she died, she was obligated to slay as many infidels as possible, those who would ignore the divinity that is tiberium.
I interviewed her. Asked her questions-why did she think this? Why should those men have to suffer when she'd never met them before? Why…well, why a lot of things. Report is logged. It'll air tonight. W3N is expecting excellent ratings.
Yet lying here in my bunk (I do that a lot, don't I?), I have to wonder. Wonder why I don't hate her. Wonder why I pity her. Wonder whether if she'd grown up as a "normal" girl, whether she'd by happy and healthy.
How low have we become when even children are being used as weapons of war? There's a historical precedent for it, but…well, it's just something I never expected to see. But hey, I'm staying here longer as a result, even with the weather getting increasingly ominous. Maybe W3N wants more child soldier stories.
January 17, 2048
The girl died today. Asher Kokmali. Born May 3, 2041. Never knew her parents. Grew up at a Nod training centre near Alexandria.
I didn't run this story. As far as the world was concerned, her story was told two days ago.
And still I can't hate her.
January 28, 2048
Times have been slow. Little to say. But it's official. I'm being extracted. I'm heading out first, the base is going to be abandoned and GDI's going to make its best guess as to who can come with its soldiers and who gets to be left behind in what tiberium experts is going to be part of a red zone stretching all across North Africa.
I'll be leaving on the 30th, flying out on the 31st. Already packed my things. Already said my general goodbyes. There hasn't been much talking. Not even at the card games. But hey, at least I'll be getting a ride in a Pitbull this time-Major Reeb will be taking me personally.
Combelle seemed a bit aggravated. They all do. I can only guess their reasons, and won't, because the reasons are the same reasons I feel aggravated as well. Did we do anything here? Are we the 'good guys,' or just animals fighting to survive in a world that seems to be on its last legs. Maybe Nod was right. Maybe tiberium is the future. Maybe we've just been buying time ever since 1995.
I don't know. I'm going to turn in.
January 29, 2048
Audio log-left on…battery low
Sound of door knocking.
Blair: Huh? What?
Sound of door knocking.
Sound of door opening.
Blair: Combelle? What time is it?
Combelle: Two-ten. Just finished night shift.
Blair: And…you thought that you'd wake me up.
Combelle: Surprised you can even sleep.
Combelle: Well, anyway, I should-…
Blair: Come on. I won't be able to sleep now anyway.
Sound of door closing. Sound of what is likely two people sitting on a bunk bed.
Combelle: So…you're leaving.
Blair: Yeah. On the thirtieth. What about you?
Combelle: I've got one last patrol to make early next month. After that, back to some blue zone for reassignment.
Combelle: Go on. Say it.
Blair: Going to mention about visiting family, but…you know…
Combelle: Yeah, you let loose things when you're playing cards. But…
Combelle: Look, I'll lay this out. Tomorrow and the day after, I'm on camp duty. Final sorting out of the r-gees. And since Reeb wants you on the firebase side until you move out-…
Blair: What? He can't-…
Combelle: Probably not going to see you after tonight. So anyway, just came to say…well, thank you.
Blair: Huh? For what?
Combelle: For…hell, I don't know, being here? For not judging us, for being honest, for being a decent reporter? I don't know…
Blair: I'm touched.
Combelle: Look, I'll just say it. I'll miss you. Even if you leaving the card game means I'll stand a chance of increasing my bank account. Sometimes, it's nice to talk to someone who doesn't run the risk of dying every single day.
Blair: Never thought I'd say this, but…well, think I'm going to miss you too.
Combelle: You know…you don't look too bad without your hazard suit on.
Warning…going into hibernation mode
Combelle: What was that for?
Blair: Just shut up and kiss me back.
January 29, 2048
Audio log-left on…power recharging thanks to outlet insertion
Combelle: Morning sunshine.
Blair: Huh? I…oh, son of-…
Combelle: Relax sunshine, it isn't anything I haven't seen before.
Blair: I…oh, shit…shit!
Combelle: Gotta be off myself. Patrol starts in fifteen minutes.
Blair: Off…what? Wait? What are these?
Combelle: Contraceptives mostly. Think there's a few anti-viral things in there as well.
Combelle: Oh, come on, GDI isn't blind. Stuck out in the middle of nowhere, you've got to have these things handy.
Blair: You…you planned this!
Combelle: Not really. Swiped these from the medical stores a few hours ago.
Combelle: Stay off it sunshine, you weren't intoxicated or anything. And you kissed me first.
Blair: You…you're a pig!
Combelle: Whatever. I'm heading out.
Blair: Cut and run, is it?
Combelle: What you're doing, is what it is. Just waltz in here, file your fucking stories, then waltz out. Go to hell sunshine.
Blair: Fuck off! You can die out there for all I care!
Blair: Shit, I left this on…
January 31, 2048
Flying out. I feel ill. I can only assume that…doing stuff in these kind of temperatures isn't good for you.
First thing at home, I'm going to have a shower. After that, see what the world brings me. No more surprises I hope.
February 9, 2048
Letter delivered to Cassandra Blair
From: Major Edward Reeb, Firebase Uniform, Y-2
Dear Ms. Blair.
You know me from Egypt, and I hope that despite the days that have passed, you have not forgotten. I wish I could write with better news. But it is my duty to inform you that Corporal Alec Combelle was killed in action on February 3rd, 2048. I do not know how well you knew the man bar your general interactions with him during your stay with us, but he requested that I address a letter of condolence to you. While you are not a family member or relative, I have acquiesced to his request. In part because he had no surviving relatives, in part because I am grateful for the services you rendered during your time with us. I respect people who ask the hard questions, and in turn, I will respect his wishes.
Corporal Combelle was making a patrol in the area north of here when his convoy came under attack. Not too dissimilar to the one that you experienced in December of last year. However, the Forgotten were well equipped and well trained. I believe this to have been an attack of spite almost, knowing that the red zone was closing in on them. Corporal Combelle performed with all the qualities I would expect of a GDI soldier, and members of his squad expressed gratitude for his actions. Unfortunately, he was struck by a tiberium based weapon that breached his armour. We got him back to base as soon as circumstances permitted, but we knew by that time he was doomed.
I won't lie to you Ms. Blair. We both know what tiberium does to people, and while we administered painkillers to Corporal Combelle, he wanted to remain conscious. I'm afraid he did feel pain during the last hours of his life. He made one request of me in particular however, to write this letter, and to let him include some words of his own (please see overleaf). Out of respect, I have not looked at them. Out of respect, I did not press the question of why he had asked that I send this letter. I can only assume that the two of you left on good terms.
Yours faithfully, and with heartfelt condolences,
Edward Reeb, Global Defence Initiative
Note from Alec Combelle:
Can't say much. Don't have much time. Just writing is painful. But I want to say these words…
I'm sorry if I hurt you.
I'm not sorry that I met you.
If the world's coming to an end…please…enjoy what time you have left.
Thank you for being my sunshine.
Well, that didn't go well in terms of responses. Meh. I can take it. Hopefully Generals 2 can revive the Command and Conquer section.
Anyway, for what it's worth, don't have any other Command and Conquer stories on my 'to write' list right now. Currently working on a StarFront story titled Transit of Venus.