Chapter Nineteen: Memory: Part two.
. If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older. ~Tom Stoppard
Raindrops prattled against the windows of the old library.
Maria silently looked out the window, staring up at the sky covered in thick, black clouds. The streets remained silent. Water flowed over the cobblestone road and pooled at the sides. Shops had closed down for the day and the Marines took the day off too.
Not Maria. No, she had stayed behind at the library; she needed some time to be alone with her thoughts.
Her thoughts always came about her Jacky, her brother that had died in her arms, hating them and damning them until the very end.
However, Maria did not cry. She never dared cry. Even in her darkest corners, she never wept or let a tear roll down her face. She made herself feel nothing, no pain, no warmth, no love for none in return.
She leaned her chin on the backside of her hand that she draped over the edge of the windowsill she sat in a chair pulled up to the glass pane. Slouching forward, her other hand played with her dog tags she wore around her neck, along with a silver pendant.
It was another one of these days. Another one of the days where she was forced to remember.
She held up her free hand and a Holocron picture of Jack popped before her in a 6inch by 4-inch frame. It was a picture of him in his uniform, legs slightly parted an expressionless look on his face, arms folded behind his back. He was not smiling; he never smiled when family was involved.
Maria didn't want to look at this picture, she hated it. She hated him almost, she hated him for not ever smiling, not ever giving her a picture that showed him when he was happy. Even though she thought her reason for her anger was quasi-justified that is as far as she got with being angry, another, more realistic and cynical side of her would always fire back 'maybe he never smiled because- oh, I don't know- never gave him a reason to?'
Why she didn't just close the picture away she never really understood. But on every day like this she brought it up, and it only made her feel even more like shit. She should just put the picture away and be done with it
However, she just couldn't bring herself to do it.
It was as if some invisible being grabbed her by the neck, lifted her up, and shoved her face into the picture, holding her eyes open with toothpicks. Forcing her to face reality, to feel like the shit she was. What right did she have to feel sorry for herself; she was the one who made this all happen.
The day his funeral was held, it rained like this, the day his coffin was carried down the rows onto the transport shuttle, an elegant CSA flag draped over the coffin, and with a final salute, they sent him off.
She remembered how she ran into the room with Jack lying on the floor, arms sprawled to the side and legs lying still. His head rolled to the side, right hand still gripped the rifle tightly, finger still squeezed the trigger, the faint repetitive clicks as it fired on a dry mag.
Even as he slowly died, he was determined to fight tooth and nail until the bitter end. He didn't shed a single tear as he died and struggled for air, fading away. While she couldn't even speak clearly she was so distraught, face wet with tears, cheeks red like cherries.
She clenched her fists tightly at that thought and crushed it.
She never let herself be seen crying ever again, she hated herself for that moment of pure weakness. She was not a child; she was a soldier.
It was like somebody or something was punishing the Connors for screwing up.
On the other hand, maybe it was Jack, back from the dead, subjecting them to his unearthly wrath. God knows, they deserved it and so much more.
She looked back at the picture. She stared for a good long time at it, and she felt something tickle back into her system, something that she had long since thought had gone out.
Hatred. She felt disgust, looking at the man she once called a brother and tormented all the same.
She scowled, and with a single finger, she deleted the dreadful thing.
With that gone, she felt… better?
That was it. That was the last straw for her, she had thought about it for a while but she couldn't bring herself to try it. She needed to now though, she needed to forget Jack. It was he who was holding her down, it was he who was pulling her back whenever she made progress, and laughing at her when she fell. He made her second guess her decisions, he was the reason she could never smile again.
She couldn't move forward without leaving him behind, she need to stop waiting for a miracle even though she kept wishing for it, he wasn't coming back, and even if he did. She wouldn't care, not anymore she wouldn't. She wouldn't let his death depress her anymore. He had died; he got full of himself, made a mistake. That was it.
Standing up from her chair she turned away from the window and walked behind the counter, she felt something on her chest bump against her. It was her pendent, a reminder of Jack; it had a picture of him and her when they were very young. With a breath, she yanked it off her neck, snapping the fine chain link necklace. She tossed it over the counter into the waste bin. She wanted to make a statement to herself. She needed to do that; she needed to make it so she didn't go back on her choice again like she had so many times before.
Feeling lighter, like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders, she smiled for the first time in years.
"Fuck! We can't do this!" Jack shouted over the torrent of wind, rain, and thunder, they'd been driving for hours now; the rain was a freaking waterfall it seemed, every time he tried to get the bike up a hill it would slide back down.
Even the small metal barbs in the wheels couldn't cope with the rapidly increasing amount of water that was being tossed onto the ground.
The damn mud was screwing up the traction; he guessed that even a tank would have trouble in this kind of weather!
Jack slammed down on the throttle one more time, the motor whined as the wheels spun madly.
Dirt and mud flew everywhere behind them as the bike slowly climbed the hill, only to slide back down again. Jack stuck his feet out and steadied the bike before they all fell off. Once again, the weather had bested him.
He slammed a fist down on the dashboard, cursing violently."We need to find a place to hunker down! This is getting to damn hard!" He shouts over his shoulder, the storm almost carried away his voice, if not for Cyraxos' and Cylars' keen ears they would've missed it.
He twisted the bike around and sped off onto a less elevated path that led away from the Village, maybe if he could take another route, he could find a path that lead back down to the village.
The rain smashed into them and stung their faces as if it were fired from a pellet gun, well, more or less thousands of pellet guns, all aiming at them.
He wondered how the others fared, he himself faced worse then a little rain.
Glancing over his shoulder, jack sized up their conditions.
Cyraxo was fine to his surprise, She squinted her eyes slightly as she clung to Jack, wrapping her arms around his waist.
Her fur was wet and soggy, along with her white hair.
She should be shivering and on the verge of freezing, but yet, she was not?
Jack guessed that her fur, even when wet, still trapped her body heat like a survival blanket or survival coat that the CSA Marines were issued.
Jack himself had CSA-M grade Combat gear that had temperature regulation in its design. Not to mention he stared down machine guns in frigid conditions, rain was nothing in his mind.
In short: he and Cyraxo were good-to-go, the angel?
Not so much.
Cylar was beginning to shiver, and if they didn't find some place to hunker down for the rest of the storm they would be in some very deep shit.
As luck would have it, Jack took the bike into another turn around a sharp bend of trees in the new path that continued to be a progressive struggle that almost killed them at one point.
The mud was getting thicker and thicker by the minute, the traction of the bike continued to decrease as they slid and fishtailed all the way along the path.
Around the bend, he squints his eyes and blinked to make out the steep slope of the foot of the mountain range.
But what caught his eyes he most was tucked away between two trees, growing near it, was an arch that was clearly the entrance to a cave!
"Oh hell yes! Now we're talkin'!" He gunned the engine and ducked his head as he took the bike into the cave, bears could kiss his ass! He had a heavy assault rifle.
Ten minutes later…
"…I still have my stance unchanged but I will admit to the fact that, that can be pretty damn handy." Jack sat down against the spacious cavern wall.
The large interior of the cavern was illuminated by a warm white glow from Cylars' Angelic fire that hovered a few inches off the ground.
The mystical blaze gave off plenty of heat, enough to dry them all out in a matter of minutes. But it not only did that, it gave off a delightful comforting feeling of Holy warmth, that of which had no effect on Cyraxo, in fact, it seemed to annoy her, she kept scratching at her fur like she had an itch or something.
"Thank you for the compliment." Cylar bowed his head in respect.
"Now c'mon do you need to do that every time somebody thanks-?" without prior warning, Jack suddenly snaps out his hand as he jerks forward grabbing for his rifle, propped next him against the stone wall.
"Jack? Somthin' wrong?" Cyraxo asked in her singsong voice, swaying side to side slightly as if she was listening to a tune only she could hear.
Her naive smile betrayed any hint of fear or concern; she was as soft on the inside as she was on the outside, just as dense in the head too.
Jack gripped the barrel of his rifle tightly; his hands were like steel clamps, hell, his hands almost started bleeding they were so tight!
His eyes scanned the walls and ceiling of the cave for a glimpse of a shifting shadow or the glint of an unwanted eye.
Jack never did anything pointless, nor without good reason, but this time he just thought it needed, he felt something… Off.
There was something off about this cave, this place; it had a stench to it in the air, a sort of rank dryness to the air.
This entire Cave was malevolent, there was something so wrong about it, Jack didn't see or detect any threat, the place is well lit thanks to the life giving fire that burned before them.
Nevertheless, regardless of that, the shadows seemed to shift without warning or reason, the place was alive with death coating the walls.
"Shp!" He hissed, silencing the two before any other squeals of noise erupted from them.
The two of them quickly silenced themselves, but it was not before long that Cyraxo felt compelled to open her mouth once more to speak.
"Erm… Jack- "Shp!" Jack hissed forcefully, glaring daggers at Cyraxo, who shrunk back under his intense gaze.
"…" Cyraxo shut her mouth, and remained silent.
Jack cast his piercing gaze outwards into the blackness that bordered their small circle of light. Death was all that lay outwards.
Jack felt obligated to remove his combat knife and slip it into the bayonet holder at the tip of his rifle, he was nervous, and he did not like being nervous.
As he reached to his side to slip spare cartridges into his vest pocket, he became acutely aware of the tingling sensation of somebody watching him.
It was much like the same feeling he had when a sniper trained its scope on him.
It was that unsettling feeling of death breathing down your neck from behind you, whispering in your ear, speaking to your inner paranoia.
It was a very sickly feeling.
He thought of all this as he began to stand, holding his rifle tightly in both hands.
He looked down at his two companions, "Stay here, and don't even think about moving until I get back. Got it?" He asked them, they both nodded in compliance, not daring to question him, he was the authority figure among them after all.
"Good," and then a bit more softly he added. "Don't worry, you won't be waiting too long, I'll be right back, ya' here?" He smiled charmingly, lifting their spirits slightly, he could tell from Cyraxos' tell tale twinkling of her eyes.
He set forth away from the campfire, butt of the rifle raised to his shoulder, barrel raised at eye level, he crept forward slowly, but surely, dropping back into a combat stance, knees bent, body turned sideways with rifle aimed to the front.
He made sure not to kick any rocks or anything that may alert any other enemies to his location, or even worse, to his comrade's location.
After what seemed like an hour, he reached the border of the small light circle created by the small magical fire, and the surrounding outer darkness, malevolent and menacing.
He took a quick breath, wondering if it would be the last breath he took on this world, he wondered what would happen if he died—again that is.
Would he end up back in hell? Back on the outer circle? On the other hand, could he die? He had already died before, but he woke up back in his former grave, did that mean his body was recomposed?
He cleared his head of these thoughts; they were distracting him from his current duty.
Not to mention that thinking of such thoughts in such a situation did not seem to do well for his courage.
He stepped out of the circle; the suffocating darkness quickly swallowed him up, seemingly dragging him into its eternal abysmal night.
Cyraxo and Cylar watched him go, straining their eyes to the limit to try to see him through the darkness.
They saw two small beams of light disappear deeper into the cave until they could no longer hear his departing footsteps and the two beams of light his suit emitted, it was if he had been entirely swallowed up by the all-consuming darkness...
The two sat there, quiet for quite some time, the only noise- the beating of their hearts, and gentle breathing of their lungs.
Cyraxo nervously pawed the ground beneath her with her gentle hands. She peered out into the black shroud of shadows that skirted around the edges of the camp-light.
The insanity driven voices of the abyss were speaking to her again. She felt an overwhelming sense of despair fall over her like a tidal wave. Coldness enveloped her.
She started to shiver, the voices that circled her mind started to close on her, started to form mouths of their own and bit at her with their sharp nagging teeth.
She nearly broke down crying, when she felt a familiar warmth wrap around her.
He sat next to her, his cloak wrapped around both of them as they leaned their backs against the cave wall.
He seemed rather worried himself like he had a bad feeling about all of this, much like she did.
For some reason she felt her face heat up at his sudden move, that he moved this close to her, pressing up against her- side by side, together.
She saw that he himself was slightly embarrassed by this, but as if she red her thoughts he coughed into his hand and said: "You were shivering. I can't let you catch a cold at a time and place like this."
"Oh, oh!" She realized, "Umm...Okay..." She shifted to get comfortable, in truth, she welcomed his warmth, it felt nice being as close as this. "Thank you..." She smiled, the voices have gone away...
Jack remained cool as he plunged through the darkness, one step at a time. Left, right, left, right, left, right... Each step he took defied the suffocating darkness around him, this was darkness? Hah! this wasn't darkness, what he faced and gone through as a child that was darkness.
He had his rifle raised before him, the stock pressed into his shoulder, barrel pointed forward and at the ready.
Safety off, finger on the trigger, fresh mag locked home, Tesla Bolt charged, primed, and ready.
He felt the cold darkness all around him, squeezing him, poking at him, biting at him with its cold, cold, fangs.
He smiled a smile only an insane man would understand, he liked this darkness, because it's cold embrace was comforting in comparison to the darkness he knew long ago.
It clung to the ceiling like a silent beast, head shrouded in darkness, its body rippled with movement as it snaked in-between the hanging stalactites.
Its body exuded the essence of malice. It was like death itself was stalking the cavern halls.
It's eyes tracked the brave human that dared to venture forth from the safety of the Divine light circle, as he walked forward it followed above.
He was a brave human indeed, able to sense it's presence and was not afraid to act to defend his comrades.
It pondered whether to attack the two vulnerable, insignificant, midges, or rather the human himself.
The human would be the first to die. And so it was decided, slinking through the spikes of the roof it prepared to strike it's prey, it followed until it was far enough away from the light for it to attack.
It angled itself above the human, it had found its first target, Master will be pleased...
And yet, it still cried.
Jack scanned the silence with his ears and listened with his eyes. He was nearly blind in this darkness, only his shoulder mounted light, helmet light, and Night-vision Visor, which was slightly dirty, and his instincts could guide him through the darkness.
It was unsettling; knowing that someone was watching you.
They controlled everything. They do whatever they wished to you, and you only had a split second to react before they killed you, or used you to whatever they desired.
Jack hated playing into someones hand...
Which is why he did just that, to lure them out, to play the part of the ignorant soldier, pretending to not know that he knew he was being watched.
He knew that the time was soon approaching, they would attack now, or never.
It was time, with disturbing grace it released its claws from the ceiling, and fell to the ground, drifting ever so slowly in its minds eye. It lightly touched the floor, making no noise, no sound whatsoever.
With unrivled speed, it closed the gap between it and its prey, like a cat running across a carpet it made no noise as it leaped skywards and brought down its claws on the weak humans nec-
The same 'weak human' spun around like a flare of lightning in the sky, the strange contraption in its hands met its claws, with a loud 'clang~' sound a spark jumped off of the metal thing.
Jack shouted as he blocked the blow, he was seconds away from getting his head chopped off before he got a tingling feeling down his spine.
He grit his teeth, this bastard was strong! He roared and pushed back against the opposition, he caught a quick look at it, all he saw though was a tattered hood.
He quickly brought back his rifle to his arm and fired off a burst, the muzzle flashes lit up the area, snapshot like sightings of his opponent flickered in the gunfire-made light as he tracked the enemy that continued to dart around him.
It jumped at him again, and he responded with knocking the attack back by swinging the butt of his rifle forward, catching the beast on the shoulder.
It let out some garbled hiss as it leaped back into the shadows of the cave, "Shit!" He cried as it leaped at him again- this time from his left.
He dove forward, and rolled up to a standing position as he turned around it materialized into sight, seeing his chance he yelled and lunged forward, hoping to overpower it and beat it into submission.
The human was indeed foolish, with a single breath cold flames burst forth from its mouth, blanketing the Human in freezing fire.
He screamed, and hit the ground hard as a face full of it hit him.
Fire, fucking cold fire. it stung like needles, he had ducked just in time for it to strike his Helmet, and wash over his visor, ruining it! He grabbed the helmet and the lightless fire that burned on it, freezing the damn thing!
he threw it to the ground all the same, useless to him now! "Shit! Shit!" He skipped backwards a bit, eyes darting left and right, he only had his shoulder light now, he was blind otherwise.
He felt movement to his right, on instinct he dropped to the ground on one knee and kicked out to his right blindly.
His foot met something solid, and something stumbled backwards- he stood bolt upright and the beam of light arced across the floor, he saw something, his target!
He brought his rifle to bear- pulled the trigger and-
His blood ran cold, the Monster jumped to its feet and hissed at him wickedly, and jumped at him.
It tackled him to the ground, his rifle was knocked out of his hand, he coughed as he felt something stab into his side just under his shoulder where he wasn't protected by armor. He held his arm in front of his face, blocking its snapping jaws from biting his neck.
He felt it bite down, hard onto his arm, he shouted and seethed against the pain. The light from his shoulder lit up the creatures face.
It was a Demoness.
A pretty one at that... She looked like Cyraxo.
He was distracted for only a brief second and she took advantage of that, slamming him against the ground, his head slammed against the rock. "CAk!" He hacked up a wad of blood, his vision swirled, he reached out with his free hand, he groped for his gun, his thoughts far too jumbled to remember his Revolver.
He felt the stock of his M416, right as she pushed past his arm to reach for his throat, he grabbed the secondary fire grip, lifted it up at the Demoness-
- and fired.
The brilliant blue bolt of light from his Tesla Attachment, he felt the Demoness Grip relent and he cast her off him.
The beam struck the ceiling of the cave, and in the brief moment of bright blue light, he saw the Demoness lunge for him- himself still on the ground.
That's when a very large rock fell from the ceiling landed on her leg and pinned her to the floor, the Demoness let out a agonizing scream of pain.
He rolled out of the way just as another rock fell from the ceiling.
"Shit!" he scrambled to his feet, Rifle forgotten. He whirled around, he spotted the Demoness, and from the other direction, he saw a light coming towards them, a fiery ball of light held by Cylar with Cyraxo close behind, calling to him to hurry and come back.
He would call them out later, but now he had to leave.
He turned and ran in their direction.
However, he then heard the pained sob of the Demoness behind him.
He didn't know why, he didn't even want to.
He froze, he glanced behind him, not even flinching as another rock fell from the ceiling, his Tesla bolt had caused the ceiling to become stable above them, it was about to collapse on top of him, and the Demoness.
He rushed forward, rushed to her side, and with a burst of strength, he lifted the rock off her leg.
Before she could struggle, he grabbed her and slung her over his shoulder.
a large pillar of rock fell before him, blocking his way to Cylar and Cyraxo.
"FUCKING SHIT!" He shouted as his route was cut off.
He had no choice; he sprinted in the opposite direction, back down into the darkness of the tunnel as he carried the cause of the darkness with him.
He ran, he ran fast. He ran faster than he ever had before. He needed to run faster, he didn't want to be caught in the cave-in. He could feel the rocks and dust falling behind him.
He did not know that he was shouting, screaming-yelling.
He felt the Demoness stop kicking him from an inch of his life, and instead holding onto him for dear life.
He broke into a full-out sprint, dashing down the cavern at breakneck speeds. He ran faster and faster, not slowing down, only going faster and faster, his legs felt like cinder blocks but he still kept going.
Even when his cloths were drenched with sweat and his limbs felt like they were falling off he still kept going.
He still kept going even when he finally exited the cave and into the rain of the night.
Mud up to his knees, rain on his face, Demon on his shoulder, he ran into the jungle.
Trees skipped past in his vision, bushes became blurs, and everything else became a muddied fog in his eyes.
He ran, and ran, and ran.
Legs hitting the muddy ground like heavy lightning bolts, pounding the ground like drums, he propelled himself forward.
He had long since stopped running from the cave, now he was running from something for worse; he was running from the truth.
He was running from himself, from the reality that he now faced. He had made a decision the moment he sullied the chance of reuniting with his companions.
He had decided to sacrifice himself, to save himself.
The girl, the Demon, he saw himself in her, he didn't know how, he just felt the heavy blanket of despair that he knew far too well.
He saw it. The darkest recesses of her soul were like blinding lighthouses to him, she couldn't hide it.
She was like him. He was like her, two sides of the same coin.
Therefore, he ran from it, he ran from the fact that he was like her, her ran from the fact that he had no other choices, he ran from the fact that he had to go back, he ran from the fact that no matter how much he ran- his past would find him.
His past, the enemy he couldn't beat, he could shoot a terrorist, he could perform a takedown on an enemy grunt, he could Frag a bunker and mine a beach- but he couldn't kill his past, he could only run from it, run as fast as he could.
Yet, here he was, storming through the rain in an unknown forest on his home world with his past slung over his shoulder.
He was on his last few gasps of strength, his body failed where his will demanded that it go on. But go on, he could no more.
So he fell, fell to his knees with a slump. He fell to his side, the hellish monster on his shoulders tumbled off of him as his eyes were dragged down over his eyes like blinds.
'some mess I got myself into…' his mind saw the irony of the situation. 'now I need them to find me…'
with that said, he fell into the deepest corners of his mind.