Former Locust Slave Camp;
Ty looked down from the open port of the Raven as they came in for a landing, holding tight to one of the hand holds in the crew bay. Green smoke surrounded by what looked like a blast site billowed into the sky, indicating the LZ. The pilot expertly went in for a landing, only slightly jostling the passengers inside. Ty smelled imulsion on the wind as flurries of snow reached out for a kiss.
“I could have made a better landing than that,” Jonesy said behind him, irritable as ever. Ty couldn’t help but smile at the attitude in the man’s voice. He looked back at the pilot, seeing a delightful combination of insanity and mischief in the man’s eyes. Shaking his head, Ty stepped out of the Raven and went to meet the other two members of his squad. His smile faded as he realized Jason and Akun weren’t there.
“Where’s Jason and-,” Ty started, worried.
“They’re fine,” Nyvar replied, coughing as he helped Marov stand up. The other man winced, half of his glorious mustache singed off. Ty thought it best not to point that fact out to him yet. Instead, he went and put his own shoulder under Marov on the other side. The man tried not to put so much weight on his friends, instead deigning to limp along as best he could.
“I could get used to this kind of service,” Marov grumbled, coughing and then wincing more as he tried to make light of the situation. “Though I definitely don’t want to go through this kind of injury again. Oh, no, you get that thing away from me. Sparks! No!”
Sparks picked that moment to appear out of thin air with a needle in its manipulating arm, prepared to stab it into Marov’s arm. Ty grinned as he held the man still along with Nyvar. Marov howled and complained as the needle pierced his skin, struggling against their combined strength. Once the needle was out, the man gave Ty a black look.
“You traitor. I’ll remember this,” Marov scowled.
“I’d be surprised if you’d want to, Sy’. This adventure has been a little too exciting for me,” Nyvar said, looking old and tired for a moment. Ty frowned at that, wondering if the man was really as tired as he looked. Fear gnawed at his belly at the thought of Nyvar having to retire to behind the line duty. That meant Marov would be in charge if he didn’t shift out, too, and if he did, Ty would have to learn how to lead.
“You’re not that old, Sarge!”
“Not that old, my ass! I’ve been fighting since I was eighteen. That ages a man beyond his years, you know,” Nyvar grumbled as they finally boarded the Raven. They sat down Marov in one of the vacant seats beside Jonesy. Ty sat on the opposite side next to Naleena, who was looking better, if not perfect. She stared at Marov for a second before asking a question.
“Where’s my Longshot?”
“Uh. Akun has it. I think.”
“Yes. I think. Why don’t you ask Nyvar about it. He’s the one who gave it to the man,” Marov groused, closing his eyes as they lifted off. Naleena shifted her attention to Nyvar, who looked at her innocently and waved his hands in front of him.
“Look, I’m injured people. Talk to Ty. He told me to give it to Akun.”
“I was unconscious!” Ty replied skeptically. Naleena raised an eyebrow at the man, who managed to look sheepish.
“I’ll get you a new one. In fact, I’ll get you ten new ones. You get to pick the one you want. Being a Gear has its advantages,” Nyvar said quickly, smiling as he leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Marov was already snoring next to him. Ty smirked at the two as the Raven scanned the area one more time and flew off to the factory to rendezvous with Jason and the others.
“You think they’ll let me fly this thing on the way back? I mean, it’s not like they have the best pilot on this bird or something, right?” Jonesy asked aloud acidly, his perpetual smirk returned.
“Keep that up, and you’ll be walking home, you slimy asshole. You know how many Ravens you’ve crashed in the past six months? I’m not about to let you lay a hand on my bird,” a female voice replied over the loudspeakers.
“Gettner?” Jonesy asked, suddenly uneasy.
“The one and only, kid. Don’t think I didn’t hear that crack during the landing earlier, either. We’ll be talking privately after we get back to base.”
“I look forward to it,” Jonesy replied, rolling his eyes and leaning back in his seat.
“I saw that,” Gettner’s voice came again.
Jacinto Hospital, Jacinto;
“What do you mean, they left?” Marov said from the stretcher back in the Jacinto Hospital. Nyvar walked with him, looking over at Jason and sighing. A doctor came up and ushered them into a waiting room as they took Naleena’s stretcher toward the back of the building. Nyvar hoped the girl would be okay, with both her injuries and her claims to being barren. The thought of her wasting away on a breeding farm wasn't one with which he thought of fondly. Bad enough Marov's girl was there as it was. Other Gears more badly wounded then Echo were being shuffled into the emergency rooms. More empty lockers
, Nyvar thought bitterly.
The room they were put in was comfortably furnished, with a couple of chairs against the wall, and a clean counter with only a hint of blood on it. Nyvar almost felt like everything was back the way it was before E-Day as he sniffed in the sterile smell of the hospital. A rumble in the earth dispelled that, another tremor rocking the building. Even though he knew the grubs couldn’t tunnel through the granite under Jacinto, he hated the thought of not having his gun on his person.
“They told me they were going to find their own way home,” Jason replied stoically. “Akun told me to let you know what an honor it was to fight with you one last time, but that he had a job to do. People to protect. The Stranded went with him, both the slaves and the ones from the factory.”
“And none of them wanted to stay and, say, get medical treatment?”
“Not from the COG,” Jason said, looking to the side with an unreadable expression. Nyvar felt for the kid. It was disillusioning when people disagreed with ideas you grew up with. Marov turned that anger right back at them, usually. Lately, though, the tough and gruff fašade had been cracking.
“Better for us then. Less waste of resources,” Marov grumbled, stretching out on the mobile bed as if in response to Nyvar’s thoughts. The man’s left hand was covered in new bandages, replacing the dirty, soiled ones he’d put on in the field. Nyvar was surprised it hadn’t got infected through everything.
“Is that so? I wonder how you’d feel about one of the Stranded being your doctor?” a familiar voice called from the doorway. Nyvar looked back and saw Dr. Hanson standing there in a fresh set of scrubs, a pristine white coat and stethoscope hanging around her neck, looking intimidating as ever. He heard a sharp intake of breath from Marov and patted the man’s hand.
"Tell my wife I love her, because I'm pretty sure I'm about to die," Marov hissed through clenched teeth as Nyvar stood up and moved out of Doc Hanson's way to stand next to his son.
“C’mon, Jason. Miss Hanson’s got some words to say to Sy’, I imagine. Best not to be within earshot. Preferably outside the building,” Nyvar whispered to his kid, smiling as that gained him a smirk. They left the room to Marov’s objections, walking side by side down the corridor. Blood was being mopped up by a tired looking janitor on the tile floor, moans of pain coming from various rooms.
Nyvar pulled a pair of COG tags out of his shirt, taking them off from around his neck. Ven Salora was the name stenciled on the silver disks in precise, neat letters. He sighed, rubbing a finger across a blackened corner. The man’s shotgun was in the barracks leaning against his bed, as clean and taken care of as if Ven himself were still the owner of it. Do not be sad that something is over, but be happy you shared the journey
, Ven would say, but it didn't make the knowledge he'd never hear another nugget of supposed wisdom from the man's mouth again any easier to bear.
Invisible Wretches were out of production now that the facility was in COG hands again, the Stranded were saved if not captured, but so many people had died, from the massacre at the convoy to the big Southern Islander himself. Nyvar closed his eyes and sighed again, thinking of how hard his report was going to be to write with all those horrific events splashed over the page. The paper wouldn't do Ven's heroics justice, he was sure.
“You alright, dad?”
“Yeah,” Nyvar replied, clenching the tags in his fist. "Just thinking about empty lockers."