Chapter Seventeen: Decoding The Family Skeleton
The snake behind me hisses
What my damage could have been.
My blood before me begs me
Open up my heart again.
And I feel this coming over like a storm again.
I am too connected to you
To slip away, fade away.
Days away I still feel you,
Touching me, changing me.
Twelve years before E-day, at an undisclosed residence in Eypheria…
The boy stood in the hallway of his parents' home, watching the whole drama occur before him. He stood there, not moving an inch as he watched in reverence, his eyes fixated on the knife in his mothers' hand, stabbing his father over, and over, and again…
The shouting, the screaming, so deafening that even the neighbors could hear the confrontation from the comforts of their living rooms, but for him, it was the family opus. His icy cold glare coming from his blue gaze was transfixed on the confrontation, even so when somebody managed to finally bust down the front door.
Police frantically entered the house after several calls to dispatch alerting them of the domestic dispute at the home, which would normally have led to assault with a deadly weapon. Running past the boy still standing in awe in the hallway, looking into his parents' bedroom where his mother dropped a lamp over his fathers' head, and then proceeded to stab him repeatedly with a kitchen knife, the police managed to restrain her, pulling the mad woman off her screaming, bleeding husband.
It was an image that was forever burned into his head; the blood that would cling to the cold stainless steel blade that was thrusted it into his fathers' flesh, and the wild look in her eyes when she finally snapped. It was only a matter of time after so many years of abuse and rape that she would just crack. It was long before this incident that the dissidence would hover over their home like a black cloud, just waiting to crack like a booming thunder within in a brief flash of lightning. It was a long time in the waiting, only for the boy to finally witness his mother retaliate.
It didn't take long for the house to be swarmed with police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances, all trying to reassess a messy situation that was anything but typical. Although it would seem like just some archetypal domestic violence, it wasn't.
A little later, it was two o'clock later that night when Major Hoffman would get a phone call from the district judge, whom was standing over slashed up, Major Quade Haley lying in a gurney in the trauma ward of a local hospital, fighting for his life at the hands of his belligerent wife.
"Major…" the Judge was careful to articulate as he always did with delicate situations such as these, "…this is Judge Veldez from Reimer district…the reason I am calling you is because you're presence at Mercy Hospital is required at once sir."
A brief pause took resonance as the judge kept the receiver to his ear with his shoulder, still wearing his raincoat he put on earlier that evening from the drizzle earlier that day and continued through the night.
"I'm afraid this cannot wait, Major. We have a mess on our hands that only you can sign off on sir…one of your fellow officers' just got stabbed with multiple lacerations by his spouse…Protective Child Services just picked up the boy, and I'm not too sure what you want us to do with the mother. According to their transcripts, they're under COG diplomatic immunity and therefore I have no jurisdiction over their welfare."
Judge Veldez paused again, turning his gaze to the hospital entrance, only to find other patrons coming and going, shaking the water from their umbrellas.
"Thank you, Major…I'll bring you up to speed upon your arrival."
The present in the officers' dressing room on Vectus Naval Base…
Feeling the texture of the scars that ran along the side of his abdomen was a ritual Major Haley had learned to execute with a distinct precision. Carefully grazing the tips of his fingers over the ridges to where the stitches melded him together from one incident or another gave him a sense of satisfaction, proof that he was more than just a survivor; he was a despicable but ornery son of a b**** with enough gray hairs littering his once black strands displaying his years of experience to back it up. The scars were merely an emblem of all that Major Haley was, and he probably wouldn't have it any way, with one exception; the one thing he had blamed Colonel Hoffman for years
He sat on the bench, holding his white tank-top over his pectorals to gaze along his back from the mirror opposite of where he was sitting. Marks and scar lines were so patchy, it was if a child scribbled a marker all over his back, but the texture alone made it real. Where the skin was once taut and firm, age has come to renovate him into another bitter old man with enough grudges for three lifetimes, much less one.
Glancing at the clock that hung on the wall above the lockers, he lowered his shirt and leaned down to pull up his old Gear rig, which too was littered in abrasions, scraped paint, and mild deformity. Glaring at the old piece of equipment, Haley couldn't help but to chuckle to himself, reminiscing the days of his youth, and all its lore entailed. He knew exactly what he was and he made no excuses for anything or anyone. To him, it was just cold and calculating, hard logic, and again, he wouldn't have it any other way.
Staring down at his rig, he grazed the palm of his hand down the chest pate to feel the armor's old but sturdy plates as he mumbled to himself,
"Well old friend, it's into hell we go…"
…and then he strapped it on.
After almost day wandering the surface, Dr. Ramses was soon humbled to the confines of the Vectus mortuary, finding solace in its brick walls once again. The cold crisp air and the after- stench of bleach and formaldehyde had once again welcomed him home. He had long figured that it was his lot in life; his calling to be the keeper of the dead, but to feel the warmth under the Bloom sun was still a treat.
Meandering around the stainless-steel embalming table, Ramses made his way to the freezer vault to roll out the only corpse that had been sitting idle for nearly three months. Opening the steel door as the cold air rushed out, Ramses reached the handle to pull out the body of the late Sergeant Morose, or at least that's what his COG tags indicated.
Truth be told, Morose had an exemplary record of military service before the COG unleashed the Hammer of Dawn, and that he and his men, along with countless civilians and COG medical personnel, were subjected to its scorching rays. It was a day Ramses could remember vividly. So many men, women, and children, he thought to himself, remembering that he had run out of body bags within the first day. After a week, he stopped counting the number of dead.
Glaring blankly at a corpse he had thoroughly inspected three times too many, Ramses followed the post-mortem scars on the late Sergeant. He knew them intimately by now, some he had long known were from his childhood, others from the war…and the patches of first, second degree, burn marks, well…
Ramses had already written a story on the man whom had spent nearly his entire life on the edge of a scandal; one that would have had the people scream in outrage. He could read Millardo's feet and hands like an open book, judging by the calluses on the palms, the pitting in the fingernails, to the calcium build up on the knuckles and the splinters on the carpal bones, and the wearing of the nerve endings. The man was built like a machine which was normally typical of any Gear, but he was conditioned purposely to take abuse, which alluded to the doctor of the late Sergeants' sadomasochistic tendencies.
Perhaps you were right to condemn the council
…but it was too late for him. Any justice Morose had hoped to deliver to those whom were responsible was either dead, or misplaced from the Locust attack. In any case, the rage that the late Sergeant had built up over the years was for nothing; save those whom lived to tell about it.
Following the stitched incisions along his neck, Ramses glared at the face of wrath. Milliardo's face was pale against the long, strands of black hair that was unevenly sheared when Ramses stitched his severed head to the rest of his body. He knew the cut was post-mortem so he didn't badger the Colonel about it.
Pulling out his recorder, he began to log his analysis once again.
"Dr. Peter Ramses, M.D, date third of Brune…I am…again,
reevaluating the body of Sergeant Milliardo Leviticus Morose. As I have listed in my previous inquiries, the man of age, mid-thirties, six foot four with blue eyes, black hair…a massive tattoo of what appears to be an "incubus" of sorts on his back, died from severe hemorrhaging due to blood loss from disembowelment. His, organs were recovered at the scene in which he was found, hung upside down with his genitals dismembered, possibly while he was still living, and found stuffed in his oral cavity."
He stood mute for a moment to recollect his thoughts, going over the same analysis he had arraigned weeks earlier, only to revisit the body once again after reassessing the STR alleles he was able to access from what little blood he was able to retrieve from Milliardo's body; a reverse paternity test at the request from Hoffman earlier that week. Although the results were not terribly surprising, another similar set of alleles was also found in what was left of the Jacinto archive. It was this information that Ramses found to be of interest, and knowing that Hoffman would be just as susceptible to shock at the doctor's findings, he destroyed the remaining hard copies with the exception of one he had given to Lieutenant Stroud, in return to give to Hoffman. It was the only for sure way to avoid any more diplomatic kinks than the COG already had after recent events; this one was sure to set a fire if it fell into suspecting hands.
Ramses resumed his analysis,
"The…the left arm has pre-mortem cuts by a sharp object, most likely a knife which indicates to me self-mutilation. If I had to guess, I would say the Sergeant had ritualistically cut himself as a means of conditioning to constantly expose his body to his endorphins, which again, as stated in his psychological file, suggests a masochistic lifestyle…this would be a tell-tale sign of such tendencies as displayed in most sado-masochists in previous psychiatric studies. However, after thoroughly examining the relation between his pituitary gland and the chemical content in his bloodstream, there is an abnormality in his natural pain inhibiters, which suggests that he may have developed a, dare I say, addiction to his own abnormal secretion of his own endorphins."
Letting out a brief sigh after pausing for a moment, the doctor resumed,
"After reviewing the results of a code search in the old Jacinto archive, I…while I was confirming the alleles of that to his late, enlisted father, I made a rather interesting discovery that I cannot disclose into record as of yet. If my hypothesis is correct, then the late Sergeant Milliardo Morose has a half sibling."
Shortly after, Ramses heard the cellar door open and then close from the stairwell just outside the freezer rooms. It was the main entrance to the mortuary, a door so heavy it made a rather obnoxious sound every time someone would open it, as if the thick metal hinges were curling, for which it would pry the insulation barrier from the doorframe. It was designed for temperature control to keep the freezers cool and functioning as it housed the remnants of the dead, keeping the rest of the "catacombs" rather cooler than the rest of the hospital.
Walking down the flight of stairs, a bustled but calm Dr. Hayman meandered around the corner with patient files in hand. Placing the recorder on the dissecting tray, Ramses then wiped his hands on his apron before taking off his black-rimmed glasses to get a better look at the Chief Medical Physician entering his "domain."
"Doctor…" Ramses greeted the ornery woman with a smug that was almost if not condescending.
"That's Chief Physician to you, Sergeant," the woman articulated before placing the pile of manila folders she had carried into the morgue onto a clear stainless steel table. Shortly after placing them on what resembled a patient tray, Hayman leaned back up to stretch her back from carrying the load down the stairs. The cold only made it worse as she pulled her bleached white lab coat close to her chest to stay warm.
"So I take it those are client files that I am to soon be embalming?"
and then some," she replied, wiping sweat from her brow before it turned into frost. Glancing at the cadaver Ramses had pulled out from the freezer, Hayman growled,
"Is Hoffman still
brooding over that son of a b****?"
she said, recalling the headaches she had to go through to keep the body on ice when they transferred it from Fort Block to Vectus Hospital. It was bad enough they struggled to transport the patients from Port Farrall to Vectus Island by ship, the most least sanitized place one could ever place a patient on, and here they were ordered to preserve and transport a corpse? Hoffman knew it would irk Hayman, but Ramses took care of it so the Chief Physician could tend to other matters other than babysit a dead person, especially a dead person that had increased the number of wounded in Hayman's ward in the first place.
Ramses shrugged, putting his recorder back into his pocket.
"I had my orders…and I kept him out of your way," he replied.
"Yes, that you did," she returned the same.
"So forgive me doctor, but I was not able to get any more Salmon for sandwiches…I've had to rely on the turkey for the past week," Ramses mentioned as he began to place his tools into the sanitation jar.
"I already ate, Peter," she replied.
Ramses began before Hayman pulled out her cheroots from her coat pocket.
I was under the understanding that it is prohibited to smoke in the mortuary…" Ramses began before Hayman interrupted him,
"In the morgue, Peter…not in your personal quarters."
It was finally clear to Ramses what the old hag came for, and he wasn't one to pass up Hayman's subtle suggestion.
Lifting herself up after leaning over the table, she put her pen on top of the files she had just placed on his table.
"Ramses could you meet me in your office please," the doctor asked, pulling the loosened, white hairs behind her ears after removing her glasses.
Shortly after her request, she walked past the plastic curtain and into the hallway that lead to Ramses' solitary office in the bowels of the mortuary. Entering into his office, Hayman caught a glimpse of the late Sergeant's collection of oddities, including several small mammals placed in specimen jars, some of which included human body parts such as the brain, heart and lungs, a human skull with the cranium severe for a better view of the sinus cavity, and a human femur, placed in a shadow box that had a bone tumor at the ball-socket joint. The man was a true artist of his profession, a rarity that Hayman had admittedly admired about the late field medic.
She began to carefully remove her lab coat and then put on the free standing coat rack nearby, making sure it hung securely to avoid it falling on the floor; she a reputation after all to keep. Ramses entered shortly wearing just his scrubs since apparently he removed his apron at the embalming room. He could see Hayman standing at the edge of his desk that in turn was surrounded by metal shelving containing files and more of his pet-projects, which in this sense was literal.
Although he had a few dogs in his lifetime, his pet of choice were cats since they were more compatible in the mortuary than any dog ever would. With each passing animal, he would preserve them to update on his taxidermy skills, which was his fathers' profession while Ramses sought such means on the human scale.
"I only have an hour left on my lunch break, doctor," Hayman informed him while she started to unstrap her shoes.
"Only an hour?" Ramses mused as he too, pulled his scrub shirt off, revealing a white undershirt underneath with his COG and medical tags hung around on a chain around his neck.
"Oh c'mon Pete, you're better than that, and it's been three weeks…" Hayman reminded him, followed with a somewhat devious smile.
Ramses lifted a brow to the senior doctor's proposition.
"With everything going on in the world, I'd figure you'd want to pop a few sleepers and take a nap," he chuckled as he removed his undershirt, revealing an icily pale slender but sculpted frame. Although he hadn't worked out on the field in over ten years that so much of his mass has since then diminished, but he still continued to go out and run almost every evening, and then finish it off with upright push-ups against the morgue walls, keeping something of a physique. But the lack of sun, the constant stench of formaldehyde, plus an overabundance of coffee was adding to his age. He constantly took vitamin supplements, including vitamin C tablets to avoid getting scurvy, and drunk green tea as much as he drunk water.
"Is that a complaint I hear, doctor?" she nagged playfully, watching Ramses fold his shirt and place it on his desk.
"No ma'am…after you," Ramses cooed, extending his arm towards his makeshift living quarters in the next small room, which was more like a prison cell, consisting of four concrete walls, a bed, and a dresser.
Hayman wasted no time, walking over to Ramses living quarters while unbuttoning her shirt to save time for the more pleasant activities the two were going to delve into. Although the woman was twelve years his senior, Ramses found Hayman's "company" intriguing and had since then followed up on their "meetings" with the same vigor as that of the Chief Medical Physician.
Hayman seldom had time for relationships, and infrequently tolerated anything that would interfere with her work, so she never married and more than often found the company of men to be tedious.
But Ramses was rare find, whom also never married and habitually always found something constructive with his time, whether it be writing memoirs or delving into his hobbies with whatever equipment he had at his disposal.
But it was Ramses who managed to convince the doctor to share a lunch with him in the mortuary when her personal desk was overflowing with paperwork and she didn't have any space to eat a lunch in peace. Although at first Hayman found the idea to be vile, eating in a space right next to the freezers where the hospital kept dead people, but it turned out to be a pleasant experience communing with the mortician and since then, she would schedule regular lunches with Ramses.
As Ramses entered his room, Hayman had already removed her blouse and started to peel the stockings from her legs.
"Are you needing the shower?" he asked while removing his pants.
"Not now…I have a surgery scheduled later and I'll wash up before then," she replied.
"Well, then I won't keep you waiting," he said with a smug before removing his underwear and placing it on the dresser. Hayman then removed the clip that held her white hair in the tight confines of her makeshift bun, and let it down before Ramses finally shut the door behind them.
Rummaging through the supply room brought back memories for Raven, recalling the countless hours she invested ransacking old COG storage houses that had somewhat been abandoned, until a Stranded came across it. It was then a battle of who gets what and depending on the Stranded, Raven was usually the victor when it came to computer components.
Baird on the other hand was stuffing his tool bag with a hand solder, several precision screwdrivers and three different types of needle-nose pliers.
"S***, I hate getting stuff from this place," Baird was ranting, annoyed that nothing was organized.
"And why's that?" Raven had to ask for the sake of breaking up continuity.
"This place is about as organized as a box of f***ing popcorn. I would spend an hour looking for a Phillips-head screwdriver…nobody puts anything back in the right place!"
"What were you expecting?" Raven said in a matter-of-fact tone while looking through the box of USB ports and wiring.
"Yea, well I guess it's too much to ask to place the screwdrivers in the cabinet by size in sequential order…and I guess everybody's just too retarded to put all the hammers in one drawer. Nah, that's just too hard of a concept for people to handle."
On and on, Damon did what he did best and Raven did what she usually does by letting it go through one ear and out the other. Although she could only tolerate Baird's excessive ranting for so long before she finally had to tell him to shut the hole in his face, and then they would have a quarrel on their hands, but today, Damon's bad habits didn't seem to peeve her at the slightest. She continued to rummage through the boxes without delay, pulling out whatever components she needed and placed them in her newly, compartmented tool bag. It was to the point that Raven appeared to be so serene, even Baird had to stop and wonder why she wasn't chewing his balls off.
The atmosphere was starting to bother him before he finally had to ask her,
"Ok, I'm going to have to ask since, technically, I'm your ward…what meds did they put you on?" he asked.
It took a few moments for the question to sink in like a delayed reaction before Raven stopped rummaging in the box to look up at him and respond.
"Uh…" she stopped to think, rerouting her focus on remembering what the doctor said he was going to put her on, "…Refilin, I think."
"Refilin?" Baird paused working for a moment, "…that's an anxiety medication, isn't it?"
"Uh, yea," she replied and then resumed working without further comment. No snooty comment or sarcastic banter, just silence.
Baird couldn't help but to notice the contortions of her sculpted biceps, working diligently as she placed one box up so she could pull out another. It was more than obvious by now that she hadn't been eating much lately, judging by the lack of fat on her body. The medicine may have also added to her lack of appetite, another cause for further concern, not to mention a radical change in her mood and personality. Damn, she was more fun when she was a nagging b****,
Baird had to admit.
After finally pulling out the last thing she needed, she slid the box back onto the shelf and loaded up her tool bag on a chair sitting next to hers.
"I got what I need, what about you?" she quickly asked.
Baird replied as he stood up with the strap to his bag already hung over his shoulder.
"Well, let's get this over with I guess," she replied softly, a contrast from her normal demeanor, which usually would involve a scathing scowl.
Without warning, the door to the supply room suddenly creaked open before an awake and ready Augustus Cole peeked past the door frame.
Hoffman sent me here to look for y'all," Cole beamed, happy to see the two alive and somewhat well, especially Raven.
"Morning Cole…" Raven replied, and then loaded the strap of her bag onto her shoulder.
"Morning baby…I take it Baird gave you the lowdown? Cole gleefully asked.
and then some," Raven replied before walking past Cole and exiting the door. Puzzled by Raven's lenient poise, Cole turned to Baird,
"Ok, how long has she been like that?" Cole subtly asked a bemused Baird.
Letting out a sigh, Baird replied,
"Since they sedated her because she was cussing like a sailor in the trauma ward…and now they got her on some anti-anxiety meds so now we have to work with doped up Feral."
"Well, I guess this day's gonna prove interesting," Cole chuckled before Baird walked over to the door and slapped Cole on the shoulder as he responded,
"Tell me about it. Let's just get this thing started before they wear off, shall we?"