Chapter 41: Das Arschloch und der Widerspenstige
Hey you, out there in the cold
Getting lonely, getting old
Can you feel me?
Hey you, with you ear against the wall
Waiting for someone to call, out
Would you touch me?
Hey you, don't tell me there's no hope at all
Together we stand, divided we fall.
"Sir…sir you need to sign in before you can see any patients…"
…a nurse yelled out as a soiled, grumbling Damon Baird marched into the infirmary. He stopped in his tracks, growling before he grudgingly decided to turn around to walk back to the front desk, picking up the pen and sloppily scribbling something that resembled a signature on the sign-in sheet. The nurse stood back from him, noticing that he was covered in soot from crawling around in the vents earlier that morning, trying to locate and repair a shortage in the wiring to the main heating unit in the barracks.
"Sir…you’re going to need wash your hands before you can see any of the patients…" she said, covering her mouth and nose from potentially inhaling the dust particles that clung on his face and hair.
"Yea, yea…where's the nearest bathroom?"
"Down the hallway, on the left…before room 137."
Avoiding anymore, useless small talk, Baird started to make his way down the hall, taking off his jacket and using the arms to tie around his waist.
After everything was said and done, Baird spent majority of his time trying to isolate himself as much as possible by keeping himself busy with the usual issues that plagued Fort Block, mostly concerning the outdated, obsolete equipment that was still in usage there, starting with the central heating and air-conditioning units. At the same time, he was trying to work with a pulled hamstring in the back of his thigh, making his job somewhat miserable, especially when it involved climbing in the freezing weather, which he did practically all morning. Since then, he limped most of the day, taking some medication to help with the swelling, but he wasn't going to go to sleep without visiting Raven first, now that she awake and somewhat coherent…about time she's up!
He turned back around and marched his way down the hall that lead to her room, trying his best not to look like a gimp, but before he continued on, he stepped into the men's room to at least wash his hands and face. Turning on the sink, he waited for a moment to give time for the water to heat up before he leaned over and splashed water on his face, feeling the warm sensation against his cold, nipped skin, ****, I'm getting tired of the ****ing cold!
Rinsing off the last layer of crud from the folds in his palms, he leaned over again to remove some of the soot that was caked on his cheeks and the bridge of his nose. Rinsed his face down one more time before grabbing a paper towel and drying his face and hands, he looked up to take a glance in the mirror to make sure he didn't miss anything, not that it really mattered since it was only Raven…****, she could probably care less if I was in a suit and tie.
In this case, Baird just wore a considerably clean, gray shirt that was snug under his soiled jacket, now tied around his waist and wrapped over his utility belt that held his one-size too large, cargo pants. His goggles were off of his head for a change, placed in his ammo pack that was located on his left thigh, along with two journals. After shaking his hair a few times, trying to brush the dust out of it, he pulled his COG tags to the front of his chest while keeping Raven's necklace buried under his shirt.
Glaring at his reflection a bit longer than he cared to muse, he let out a sigh, noticing that age was catching up to him as he spotted his crowfeet becoming more prominent outside of his pale eyes. Normally, vanity was something of little relevance when it concerned his priorities, especially since he wasn't the only one showing signs of wear, but at this moment, he began to feel the weight of social acceptance that most men experienced when they hit their mid-thirties, a condition commonly known as a "midlife crisis." Agh...who in the hell am I trying to impress anyway, he squabbled with himself, before he resumed washing his hands, again.
It was then it began occur to him, wondering how Raven felt about her own age, not that her appearance showed any signs of erosion, ****, for twenty eight, she looks pretty damn good, but to what means would that be of any use to her?
He recalled a time when she mentioned to him concerning the Feral's guidelines for breeding, and one of them was the cut-off age for producing any more offspring, which was at the age of thirty-five. She never really came out and said that she would one day like to have children of her own, but as of recent, she began to feel the stress of her own biological clock just ticking away, feeling somewhat lost without experiencing the right of passage that came with motherhood.
It would seem her subliminal maternal instincts, not to mention her estrus, was becoming prominent as of late, but he couldn't tell if this was just part of her hormone state, or was her biological clock literally pressuring her to procreate before time ran out. Maybe that's why she's been moody lately…oh what the hell do I know, I've only known this woman for a week, and I 'm acting as if I've known her all her life.
If there was anything that he could relate to concerning Raven's plight, as she mentioned to him once before, was the that she had longed believed that she could prove to be a better asset to society, other than just spreading her legs to put another biscuit in the oven. He knew that she had an above normal programming capacity that had long complimented her hacking abilities, but when it all came right down to it, she had a perfectly, healthy fertile womb that the COG, or Feral for that matter, was not going to let go to waste…and that's when **** is really going to hit the fan.
He shook his head one more time in a last ditch effort to remove the dust from his hair and then exited the men's room, limping back out into the hallway to find Raven's room.
Although he'd been there before, this would be the first time he would see her awake since they were found out in the blistering snowstorm after their escape from the Plantire compound, realizing that they haven't spoken to each other since…she's probably still pissed at me.
Normally, he seldom cared how people felt about him, much less women, but for whatever reason, he couldn't wipe Raven from his memory any more than he could stop the sun from setting. Granted, they exchanged some callous words that probably did more mischief than good, but the sacrifices she made for Sigma's welfare suggested that other virtues were in place. Trying to decode Raven as a person was not as easy as he once thought, therefore Baird couldn't file her away as any classic stereotype, but one thing was for sure, she was a wealth of information and as long as she could be a somewhat, cooperative resource for intel, Baird was going to continue to pick at her brain.
Carefully peering in through the open door, he noticed Raven still lying in bed with her back facing away from the entrance into the room. He carefully slipped in while closing the door slightly, leaving just a crack before he walked over to pull out a chair that was flush to the wall nearby.
"Sigh, is there something I can do for you Corporal?" Raven could be heard saying, still facing away from the room entrance as if she knew all along that he would come.
All that he could still see was her backside, wearing the tied hospital gown that hung awkward off of her shoulder, exposing her upper back and neck while the gown covered the rest. It was not the most modest thing in the world; he would know. Following the dip in her curve along the spine, he was able to glance at the grooves in her lower back. Judging by the obvious ornate pattern embedded in her skin, it was an obvious piece of scarification, which was a typical body art found among the Feral. He tried not to stare at it too much, but his empirical skillset wasn’t one to repress.
"Well, now that you mention it…" Baird said to shake the image from his mind, slowly trying to sit down in the chair before propping his gimp leg on the lower rail of the frame on Raven's hospital bed,
"…I would like overtime pay, and occupational hazard severance for my trouble and services that involved getting shot at and nearly freezing my ass off."
Raven groaned before she turned over in her bed to finally face him,
"As I recall, you asked me earlier to fire you, so I did…and now you have the audacity to come in here and file a claim for an occupational hazard severance?"
"Ah crap, I did, didn't I…"
Damn, she's got a lucid memory.
Raven glared at him with her tired blue eyes, sunken in from either exhaustion or the meds; or both. Her face was somewhat transparent, not really leaning to one emotion or another, other than fatigue. Sitting and looking at her pull up her blanket while trying to function, despite who knows how much morphine they put in her, Baird could recall the contrast when he first saw her, loading up on the chopper. Ornery, independent, and self-reliant, she was a loaded pistol before they were deployed out into the frozen hellhole for a week. Raven played her part rather well, keeping Sigma afloat, despite everything else that could have went wrong, and ironically, it did. But now, here she laid at the mercy of the hospital staff and their crappy food, stuck with a cast on her leg, drugged and feeble, waiting for someone to come visit to help pass the time, even if it meant putting up with Baird's venting concerning the shoddy accommodations in the barracks at Fort Block. Until now, he had never seen her this vulnerable before.
Baird leaned forward in his chair, reaching into his back pocket to rummage into his pack and pull out some items to place on his lap.
"…and before I forget…" he started to say as he placed a shabby, paper-back book on her bed. Raven tilted her head slightly and reached over to pick up the tattered book to glance through it.
"Oh gee, how nice…you brought me toilet paper."
Baird snickered as he brought his hand to his mouth, trying not to laugh out loud, knowing that the book that he just gave her was from a well-known author of erotic, romance novels.
With the usual toiletries being low in supply, the Gears have had to use alternative means for taking care of business. Toothbrushes were in high demand, using baking soda and peroxide as a mouthwash while disposable razors where still a dime a dozen, not that the Gears went out of their way to waste them. Nothing went to waste at Fort Block.
"…and now you can leisurely ****, and read smut at the same time," Baird conveniently mentioned. Raven chuckled slightly, finding amusement on the cover alone while Baird continued,
"I take it you’re not a fan of cheesy porn novels…"
"Are you kidding me? Half the time I can't even get past the cover, much less the title," she said, glancing at the erotic picture on the cover,
"The Boss' Inexperienced Secretary, oh wow, yea, that's a winner right there," she condescended. Baird chuckled at Raven's sarcasm, "…I can't wait to burrow into my erotic fantasies, the next time I'm sitting on the can."
Baird mused, "Yea, that paints a lovely picture, don't it."
Raven glanced at the novel again, finding amusement at a picture of a woman in a short skirt, platform heels, and her white blouse unbuttoned to reveal a lacy red bra holding up her bolted-on bosoms. She faintly leaned to place it on the nightstand next to her cup of ice and her father's medal that Hoffman left behind. Slowly sitting back up, she leaned back into her pillow as she looked at him with a peculiar glare,
"You didn't drop whatever it was that you were doing, just to come all the way down here to give me a smut novel…"
"Um…look…" he started, somewhat hesitant while trying to find the words to prevent him from appearing sentimental, "…I have your journal if you want it back…along with your pencil. This might help to pass the time."
As he pulled it out, Raven leaned over to see if he was actually serious,
"Uh…thanks. I'm going to take a guess and say that you're done rummaging through it?"
Baird let out a slight chuckle, knowing full well that he couldn't hide that fact from her. He did rummage through it, soaking up every important piece of information that he could squeeze from it, and it was quite a bit.
"Yea, I'm done reading it."
"So I guess you’re just going to sit here, admiring yourself for finally looking through my personal and confidential research…"
"Damn right I am," he snickered, folding his arms across his chest.
Raven just let out a humph before she turned her gaze away from him, staring at the gray wall again. Looking past her weary daze, a smile is could be seen from the corner of her mouth,
"So you think you have it all figured out, huh?" said Raven. Baird snorted in return,
"Please, I know you're not stupid enough to write everything in your little diary where us grunts can sneak a peek…"
"You better believe it!"
"So I guess the question that I'm going to have to ask now…is there anything else that I should know about?"
"Nice try…but no."
"Oh come on, not even a little hint?"
"About what?" Raven scoffed in amusement.
"Oh I don't know…maybe you could tell me about what you did with some of the lost archives that are still stashed at some computer console in Hurl Dam…you have a list of numbers in some sequential order, next to several pages that you apparently scribbled some binary arithmetic equations…"
"I was breaking down the security codes, consisting of eight numeral digits…and I had to reprogram some of the older consoles, systematically, using several calculators."
"What could you possibly find in a twenty year old computer console that was most likely used just to play solitaire?"
"Like I'm going to give that little secret away!"
"Ok, maybe you can tell me how you managed to figure out the password that accesses COG database,"
"Or…maybe you can finally admit your true feelings for me…"
Raven started to laugh,
"What, that I think you're an egotistical, insensitive prick? There I said it…a mystery no longer," Raven scoffed as she chuckled slightly. Baird's expression drooped into a blank sarcastic glare,
"Oh hahaha…I guess I should have seen that one coming, especially from a cold hearted, sadistic tight-wad like you!"
"That's right…and you wouldn't have me any other way, now would you?"
Raven's remark caught him slightly off guard. She resumed to folding her arms, impressed with herself for tactically getting the last word in. Baird sat mute in his chair, coming to realize that she was right; he wouldn't have her any other way, and the concept of it worried him a little.
"Alright…I'll take your little challenge," he decided to take it to the next level; a gamble indeed, but it was one he couldn't refuse.
"Gimme time, I'll figure all of this out," said Baird as he pulled out her necklace from around his neck, allowing her to look at it, "…oh, and I believe this is yours."
He leaned over to place it in her hand just as she quickly pulled it up to inspect it.
"Wait…where's my USB memory card?"
Instead of answering, Baird just shrugged with his arms folded across his chest, flashing a lofty grin. Raven started to get annoyed,
"You have it, don't you…you nosy bastard!"
"Hey, I did what you asked, and I didn't lose it…you didn't say anything about giving it back. You should know better."
And she should've. She took a risk that he warned her not to take, but she did it anyway… but I had to so I could save them and Delilah from being killed, or worse, tortured, then killed. Feeling control slipping away from her grasp, she felt more restrained than ever.
Baird still had the audacity to continue his questioning,
"Oh, and there's one more thing…"
Raven turned her glance back to him with her brow scowled over her icy glare,
"You rummaged through my journal, and you still have my USB memory card, what else could you possibly want from me, Baird?"
Baird let out a slight snicker, knowing that she was slightly agitated, but as far as he was concerned, it was music to his ears, listening to her voice rise in agitation.
"Nothing really, I just wanted to see you get mad " he admitted, still somewhat hesitant to mention anything else, but company with Raven was still a delight in an atypical way, even if it was just for the sake of pissing her off. I guess I better tone it down a bit before she throws the table lamp at me.
"But, just so you know," he continued, this time without the usual bait of sarcasm, "…the doctor says that you will be released from care in another week."
"Yay…" Raven grumbled, not finding the news all that comforting… but at least he was nice enough to give me back my journal. Even that though was not enough to keep her from being sardonic.
As Damon was still attempting to get comfortable in the rickety, wooden chair, Raven soon noticed that he had probably been working, judging by the dust on his pants and the stench that seethed from them. She almost immediately could smell the musty soot the moment he walked through the door, which was a vast comparison to the bile-like scent of the hospital’s, slightly-less than potent disinfectant the staff used to clean the floors. But since the room was humid and musty to begin with, she didn't really mind it any more than the stench of the cleaner that reeked from down the hall. The company was all that she could manage to pass the time.
"Well, since you went out of your way to come here, I don't suppose you know what happened to my belongings…the COG confiscated everything else, including my armor and tools," she griped, realizing that she didn't have any clothes either; just the ridiculously oversized, hospital gown.
"Yea, about that…they, uh…kinda tore up your armor," Baird was careful to mention, not that it may have mattered. Almost to a cringe, he watched Raven roll her eyes before throwing her arms in the air in exasperation,
"Well what the hell am I supposed to wear now?"
"Hey, look…you were in pretty bad shape when you got here, so they had to get you out of your armor pretty quick. Besides, give me a few days and I may be able scrounge up some clothes for you."
"Where are you going to conveniently find women's clothes, Damon? Is there like an outlet mall somewhere around this Fort that I don't know about?"
"Yea, it's our little secret to keep you ladies from ransacking all the shoes…and to answer your question, we have a bunch of clothes stashed at our supply depot that we've collected from dead civilians."
"We had a lot of casualties since we moved to Farrall. Some of Jacinto's remaining civvies had a hard time adjusting to the conditions here, considering we've been short on supplies."
Raven leaned back on her pillow in awe, never guessing how desperate the COG was, and still is… we're all hanging by a thin thread. She didn't like the idea of having Baird rummage through dead people's clothes, but she understood the circumstances considering their present lack of resources.
"Speaking of which, I'll need your brazier size…"
"Bra size Rav."
"I haven't worn a bra in over ten years, Baird."
"Then what the hell are you using to hold up your boulders, I mean, holy ****, you’re not exactly lacking in the chest Rav, how do you not get black eyes?"
"My CUSTOM made, ceremonial teire', had a built in girdle with a halter top to hold back my bosoms…and let me guess, they probably destroyed that too, didn't they?"
Baird was scratching the back of his head, knowing that if he answered her question, he was going to have to listen to her rant and holler some more… but what the hell, she's cute when she's pissed anyway..
"Uh, yea…they did."
"Son of a *****," she growled quietly while clenching her jaw, fuming from the lack of foresight on behalf of the hospital staff. Letting out a sigh, she cupped her head with her hands to brush her disheveled hair from her face before she turned back to Baird,
"Well you’re going to have to measure me because I don't have a clue what my bra size is."
"Well that shouldn't be hard, just let me a get a feel and I could probably…"
Before Baird could finish, Raven lifted her hand to point it towards the door and bark,
"Go get a tape measure Damon! Fondling my jugs isn't going to determine my brazier size. I'm not that stupid!"
"You know I had to try." Baird mused.
"Whatever…I'm sure one of the nurses can supply a tape measure if you would kindly ask…and not revert to your normal means of requesting for things that's usually followed by something crude or tactless."
"Yea, yea…just…give me a minute," Baird cringed while trying to get up out of the chair. Raven noticed that Baird was somewhat limping as he managed to balance himself by holding onto the railing on her bed.
"For crying out loud, Damon, what did you do to yourself?"
"I pulled a hamstring the other day, ok?" he growled, realizing that he may have exerted himself trying to locate Morose before he escaped. He didn't know when or how he pulled it; all he knew was that earlier that morning, it was tighter than a drum and excruciatingly painful to move.
Raven let out a sigh as she reached over to find the com-button to the front desk,
"Damon, sit back down, I can call a nurse in to bring us one."
"Ah, crap, it took me a ****ing three minutes just to get up…now you want me to spend another agonizing three minutes just to sit down?"
Raven suddenly turned to him, "Just… shut up and sit your hairy ass down!"
Baird stood erect to flash a taunting glance, raising his hand to a salute, "Yes, ma'am…"
Raven spoke into the com,
"This is room 137, please respond…"
"Go ahead, was there something that you needed?"
"Could a nurse bring me a tape measure, please?"
As Baird started to sit back down, Raven listened to hear from the front desk,
"Of course…she'll be there shortly with a tape measure…is there anything else that we can bring?"
Raven looked up at Baird, watching him trying to get comfortable again while grimacing from the pain in the back of his leg,
"Sigh, yes, could you bring some anti-inflammatory pain killers…and I should be due for my evening meds…"
"Yes, you are…the nurse will bring those to you shortly."
"I don't need any meds…" Baird protested as he cringed.
"Damon, you're not going to sleep well if you don't tend to your hamstring…it’s only going to aggravate you further…"
"I don't need sleep, Rav…"
"You're not a machine, Damon! You can't just keep working non-stop twenty-plus hours without taking some time to eat and sleep…"
"You're not my mother Rav; it's not your job, or prerogative, to be worrying over me…"
"…then whose job is it, Damon?"
The room soon became quiet as the atmosphere took a turn, with only the noise of murmuring coming from the hallway just outside Raven's room could be heard. Baird sat at a loss for words, not quite sure what Raven was trying to insinuate, but the walls that he had long erected to keep the outside world from entering in was starting to crack from the shifting of the foundations beneath it.