The Last of Us (IC)
Months had passed since the Machine’s last attack on UGC-001. The weeks proceeding the date of the attack, the kill and casualty count had amounted to well into the hundreds. In the past, such numbers would be trivial, for there was always the old notion, drafting, that could easily replenish the numbers of those who had fallen. However, in this world, where what was left of humanity amounted to less than a million, lives wasted – even a single life – was an event worth reflecting upon. Thousands lost in one instance was even worse. Within this day and age, life was a commodity that was too precious to lose.
Claire rustled in her combat fatigues as she stood on the perimeter lines of a recently installed outpost. Ever since the attack, the Committee had adopted a policy of aggressive surface expansion. The heavy breathing from the rebreather mask, which inhaled toxic air to be purified, could be heard as she tightened her grip on her rifle. The memory of the wound she had received from the machine sharp shooter still burned vividly in her mind as she unconsciously touched the spot where a scar had formed. The memories she relived brought her nothing but shame.
She turned away from the perimeter as she nodded to a guard. The outpost was stationed within a small market plaza where the abandoned stores had been militarized and repurposed. There was at least a platoon strength garrisoned within the perimeter, which tried to remain as low key as possible. The infected had been relatively inactive within this sector, which had surprised her. From the radio chatter she had received from other locations, the force that went further northeast ran into heavier resistance. The stories that were whispered amongst the soldiers were … disconcerting. Rumors spoke of the infected becoming smarter and faster – like they weren’t already. The last thing she wanted was a gun wielding infected. She scoffed. When that happened, it would no doubt be the end of world – figuratively speaking since it literally already happened.
As she stepped past a pair of guards, her radio crackled to life. “Captain Rustenford. New orders from the Nest.” Nest was a codename given to 001 in case there were any unwanted listeners. “Proceed to the F.O.C (forward operating center) for retrieval, over.”
Toggling her comm. unit, which rested nicely on her neck, she replied promptly, “Understood. Heading to F.O.C. over and out.” She quickened her pace as she cradled her weapon to her chest. “As if this shit wasn’t ballsy enough. Establishing bases on the ground?” she laughed to herself as she neared the F.O.C. “Crazy hopeful propaganda.”
Ever since the attack, Claire’s behavior had changed altogether. She had received a thorough psych test given her conduct when she attempted to rejoin her squad though she wasn’t fit for duty. Her superiors had almost stripped to her of the rank of Captain, and it was luck that they hadn’t done that. Instead, she was given an extensive psychological therapeutic re-education procedure. Though she had learned her lesson well, she couldn’t help but feel that something important had been taken away from her. It was as if a part of herself was missing, but she didn’t know what it was. She couldn’t remember.
Eventually, the Captain walked through a crumbling entrance as a rifleman stood guard through the window. She walked past another pair of guards as she overheard their conversation. Accidently or no, she really didn’t care.
“You hear what happened near New Jersey?”
“There ain’t anything ‘New’ about it – but ya – what about Jersey?”
The guard to the right ignored his comrade’s outburst as he went on. “Word is that Third Battalion went in. They were swarmed by a horde larger than the whole damn capital of D.C! Shit, I mean, what if they come here?”
“Scared?” mocked the soldier who was sitting down. “This whole entire operation is FUBAR. The Committee just sits on their asses all day claiming to be ‘protectors of the preservation of humanity.’ Ain’t anything to show for their talk is there? God damn white-collar assholes. There isn’t anything strategic about ground operations.”
“Talk like that can have you court martialed.”
“It’s talk like this that makes the most sense dumb ass.” The guard adjusted his mask. He rolled his shoulders as they popped. “Beta’s here too. You hear about their Captain? I heard she went nuts. Almost got her squad killed or some shit like that.”
“Something about delusion was it?”
The soldier nodded. “Almost stripped of her rank. A buddy from intelligence told me. After that, I think she went to the spooks. Fucked with her brain or something like that.” The guard laughed totally oblivious to the angry woman that stood on the opposite side of the wall. “You ever done one of those ‘re-education’ things? I heard they pump your mind with so much shit that you for—“
“Careful. You don’t know who might be listening.” Claire stepped from her spot as she stared at the two guards who looked at her dumbly. “Everything you said up to now can be charged with treason. You’re a soldier. You follow order when they’re issued; you kill when its asked of you; you die when your duty demands it. If the military wanted philosophers, I’m sure they would have asked.”
“Yes ma’am.” The two Marines stood too as erect as poles.
Claire stared at them with seething fury as she pondered the soldier’s words about the psych treatment. It was nothing but rumors she thought to herself. “Don’t you two have orders? Given that we are indeed on the surface, an extra bit of vigilance is needed. If you want an infected sneaking up on you, then by all means, continue pissing about.”
Without another word, she left the room as she headed straight down the corridor. She heard the two breathe in relief and didn’t stay around to hear the rest. Her actions from months ago … it wasn’t news to anyone who participated in the defense, and the gossip sure as hell wasn’t news to her as well. It was something she had to live with, and she got that. She understood the implications of her actions for better than anyone who had confronted her about it.
She emerged into a small circular room as a table littered with electronic gear lay about. Personnel quickly attended each and everyone. She saw a man stand in the middle of the action as she snapped to a salute. “Major Pamis, Captain Rustenford reporting as instructed.”
The Major looked up from his screen as he beckoned her forward. “The Nest has sent orders for our Outpost to send a team to scout out a potential location. That’s where you come in. Since you and your operatives are prepped for such things, you’ll be sent to recon.” He handed her a data pad that listed more specifics, which she lowered to her side and remained concentrated on the Major’s words. “If there’s a strong hostile presence, do not engage. We need eyes only Captain. Satellite systems are down again.”
Satellites? What a load of junk. It certainly didn’t help them when they were sent to extract Badger from the infested city zone. Hell, the images didn’t even tell them of the NRO presence.
“Recon, scout, then report back here. Understood Captain?”
“Crystal clear, sir.”
“Brief your team then depart as soon as possible. There isn’t a strict timeline for this, but the faster the better. Get me?”
“… Anything else, sir?”
The Major shook his head and returned to his screens. “Don’t do anything stupid Rustenford. Not out here.”
Remaining as detached as possible, she saluted the Major before leaving.
You don’t have to remind me Major. You don’t.
Already equipped in her combat battledress, she went to the building that had served as her squad’s temporary home base. It lacked the fine touch of their barracks back in the city, but the return of rugged living felt oddly refreshing to her. Before her arrival, she toggled her comm. “Beta is to regroup within the quarter sector.”
She slowly came upon a red two-story building as she stepped in from out of the gloom of the afternoon. The sun hadn’t been seen for years. She immediately zeroed in on a door that had opened into a spacious room. The briefing would be held there. She touched her send command on her radio. “Move it people. We don’t have all day.”
Nolan had loved every minute of his life since they moved to the surface. He could get samples from the air, the ground, the dead infected... It was like a dream come true. Very few knew it, but the biomedical teams were making leaps and bounds in their research. Sadly, they were leaps and bounds that only they understood, but to others they were just minor breakthroughs. Of course, they were necessary breakthroughs that they were very proud of, and Nolan had been heading the surface team. Chief Warrant Officers were actually kind of rare recently, and Nolan had a rather strong ranking as an NCO. He was, when not performing duties for STG, heading the research teams on the surface. He was just leaving the labs, not outfitted for battle, when the Captain came over the come built into his rebreather. The system he wore was outfitted with both the gas purification system as well as his reliable, high-tech HUD. At his right thigh was his pistol and at his left was his knife, as he always kept the two on or near himself.
Gibbson was surprised to hear the Captain... He knew she'd had a difficult time getting back into the swing of things. He approached the large building, his hands in his coat's pockets. The Captain's voice impatiently sounded over the communicators again and he laughed, replying, "Captain, with all due respect, you gotta give us a little bit of time. I was all the way over in the labs, I'll be there as soon as I can," He told her, pausing before saying, "It's good to have you back."
Only about two minutes later, the man stepped into the room, still in his lab coat and research clothing, "Chief Warrant Officer Three Nolan Gibbson reporting, ma'am," He said, saluting her formally as he made it into the room. He looked around, wondering if Isis was there yet... The two had been growing closer since his injuries a few months ago. He'd had several broken ribs, a concussion, and some other injuries that she helped him with. The two hit it off rather well and he quite enjoyed her company... Despite the age gap between the two, they'd been secretly growing closer than they should have been. Of course, nobody knew, they were very careful and hid it very well.
Isis had been keeping busy and had spent the last few months keeping busy by setting up and organising the medical wing to the best of her limited capabilities. She and a couple of other medical personnel kept the place running, upon their first few weeks they’d treated respiratory problems as people adjusted to the rebreathers. Isis had used this transfer as a good landmark to meet her team properly and perform health checks on all of them, updating and organising their medical records and keeping an eye on their injuries as they healed.
Her main concern these days was her Radiation burns patient who had his own half room in the small ward while he recovered from the multiple surgeries and the lasting mental trauma of his wounds. Often times she’d had to stop the man from injuring himself further or refuse him when he begged her to euthanize him. These days he’d have good days or bad days, on the good days he’d speak and eat and take his medication, he’d try his physiotherapy and rehabilitation exercises and fake a smile for her sake. His bad days usually would have things thrown at her, be it food, books or whatever e could lay his hands on, refusing his meds and screaming all sorts of foul language at her for doing what she had done.
The other Medical staff refused to treat him due to the potential violence and she never had the energy to argue with them. It wasn’t often at all Isis was found in her quarters, if she wasn’t working, training or researching she was with him and on occasion she had fallen asleep at the chair at his bed side.
Today was a bad day for him and the other Medical staff had already made their excuses and left, Isis had been reading to the unknown man they'd taken to calling 'John Doe' and the morning had seemingly gone well. Then, as often it did, with no warning he had snapped. He’d thrown his cup at her face, soaking her uniform and the book she had been reading. As she’d jumped p and brushed herself down he’d then thrown the jug at her as well, the plastic sloshing more water across the floor but further smacking her sharply in the hip. Bending to pick up both items John grabbed her hair with his one good hand and yanked as hard as he was able from the angle he was out. All but frothing at the mouth he hurled insult after insult, insulting insinuations that had reduced at least one of the other’s to tears before. However Isis held the jug and cup in one hand and lightly gripped below where he had her hair with the other.
She’d learned quickly not to struggle when he had hold of her, he got bored quickly and released usually and this time was no different. However as she straightened up he surprised her by slapping her around the face, likely had his muscles been fully healed e would have punched and she could only be glad he was still weakened by the painkillers and sedatives. He’d been in an induced coma for the better part of a month, the pain would have been too much for him it had been agreed and had he been awake he may have gone into shock from the seriousness of the wounds.
Psychologically she knew what was going on as well as she knew the physical problems and yet she was not trained to deal with such deep trauma. None the less on top of the medical side of things she was also, here at least, head of the 'shrinks'. In fact she was the only one with any training in these things on base. She, after all, was told to keep an eye on their Captain and of course on Fog, who despite the other's frosty reception was treated no differently by her. Isis had not known the person that Fog was 'replacing' and thus was likely one of the few not in a position to take the sub-conscience route to blame him for her disappearance.
Regardless she placed both the jug and the cup out of his reach and then – “Beta is to regroup within the quarter sector.” With a small sigh she ignored the comms to lightly grab the side of John's mask as he attempted to remove it. He couldn’t both fight her and try and wrench it off so struggled against her grip. “You fucking whore, you bitch, I’m going to fucking kill you!” He cawed angrily while she kept the mask in place, she was going to have to wait for him to calm down a little before she was able to sedate him. “Move it people. We don’t have all day.” Isis was not one to get angry nor to hold grudges, while the previous actions of the Captain should a fundamental flaw in the armies psych evaluation tests she reasoned that had the Captain remained a threat to them she would have been demoted. It seemed though that her anger ‘therapy’ had done very little for her patience. “With all due respect Captain I have my hands full at the Medical compound, I will pass on my duties as soon as I’m able.” The Captain, while the comm. Was open, would be able to hear the foul mouthed devil speak that John was spewing at his nurse.
_ _ _ _ _
Five minutes had passed and she had calmed her patient enough to be sure he would not try and hurt himself at that point she had sedated him and found one of the other nurses. Despite her initial protest Isis managed to get the woman to take John from her on the understanding to contact her if he started having a ‘bad day’. The comm’s wouldn’t be much good but she hoped it would help.
In ‘casual’ uniform consisting of white dress and red cross, flat black shoes and her warm lab coat she made her way to the designated point. Hopefully the meeting wouldn’t take too long as she had to check up on Veng and then there were the cultures to check on as well. Stretching slowly with arms above her head she made her way into the large empty space that was to serve as the briefing room. Spotting the Captain already there she came to attention, saluted and then glanced over to see Gibbs, offering him a polite nod before coming to stand beside him facing the Captain.
Hazel eyes swept the abandoned studio room of the dilapidated low rise. Before them, a Jericho 941, a piece of Old World tech repurposed for modern times, cleared the room, searching for any hidden dangers. At one point, it looked like the place was used as a safehouse of sorts for a Waster. Cans were littered all over the ground, newspaper piled in the corner for a makeshift nest, and next to it, a dented and mangled metal hot plate. Leo sighed, as he finished clearing the floor and approached the burned out window, the floorboards creaked as he made his way. Aggressive expansion? The thought brought a frown to the scout sniper's masked mouth. More like massacre in the making.
As Leo reached the ledge, his boots crunching over broken glass and ground down brick, his mind wandered back through the months prior. With the machine attack mostly recovered from structurally and as far as materiel was concerned, the upper Command saw fit to expand into the surface. Not the brightest move... From a pack slung over his shoulder, Splatter produced a device, a black metal box no larger than a toaster and secured it to the charred brick via metal bolts. We can build more and more to a certain degree but replacing people and the knowledge that died with them is much tougher. When the device was completely secured into position at the windowsill, Leo used a gloved finger to throw a switch on the backside.
"FOC, Splatter, ears up, eyes open, on radial zero-niner-zero, at five miles. How copy?" Leo keyed into his comm. He took a moment to scan outside the window, noting the desolation in the streets, wondering how many skeletons lay crushed and burnt below. He was in the third floor of a five story apartment building 5 miles east of the FOC. The device he'd set up was a sort of advance warning system, a combination audio/visual transmitter and motion tracker. It was robust enough to handle the topside and had a powerful enough signal to push through multiple buildings and walls. With the massed ruins of the great cities still around, threat acquisition by line of sight means was tricky. This was the first of many such early warning stations he'd be setting in the next couple weeks on orders from FOC. He was effectively loaned to the expansion effort from STG after his recovery, somewhat of a 'trial run' for him after sufficient healing and physical therapy to get back into fighting shape. It was a simple mission, get in, set up, and get out...and because of the lack of infected, machine, or NRO activity in the area.
Finally, there was a key into his comm, prompting a shaded eye downward towards the solid green light shining from the device's case. "Splatter, FOC, good copy, good signal return to base." With that, Leo took a second to 'dress up' the device. A couple generous handfuls of dust on the smooth, outer metal casing and leaning some loose boards along the wall and window went a long way to disguising the device as more wasteland debris. His task done, the STG scout departed for the FOC, shutting the door, just as it was when he first breached, behind him.
When Leo was about a mile away from the FOC, striding from cover to cover the whole way, Captain Rustenford's voice came over the comms. The sniper crouched down with his back against an upturned car into to a wall-sit while he listened to the transmission and its responses. It was months since the attack but in that time, he'd sensed a marked change in his CO's demeanor. Something about her seemed...off. In the few times Leo had been able to speak with her, Rustenford seemed different. He couldn't seem to pin it down; all he could do was guess at what happened to her after the attack. Some soldiers spread rumors of demotion, others of suicide, still others that she was being examined by the head squints. However, all that was put to rest when she was cleared for active service and returned to command STG Beta.
With a shake, Leo pushed the thought from his head; it wasn't the time to doubt CO's, just complete the mission and bring everyone home. He keyed his comms and responded, "Raven, Splatter, en route to quarters, ETA one-zero minutes." As he finished the message, the man looked up and the breath caught in his throat. For a split second he saw fire, debris, red letters streaming across his HUD and a ragdolled body coming up to meet him. Moments later, he caught his breath; he could feel beads of sweat forming on his helmeted brow. The doctors had done a good job patching him up, though his old set of gear was ruined and had to be rebuilt. Every now and again though, brief flashes would still come to him. Leo stood from his position and looked at the car he had leaned against. Poor choice of seating, I guess...
Leo holstered the Jericho on his right thigh as he entered Beta's temporary barracks minutes later. The man toggled his visor clear, saluted Captain Vallenco, and nodded to both Gibbson and Isis. "Specialist Veng, reporting, ma'am." Inwardly, he made a note to see Isis after the meeting. He was told to come in regularly to make sure his ribs, organs, and all the like were still in working order.
Alexis sighed as she sat in the seat of the Atlas transport. Her foot tapped the dash as she thought of a song stuck in her head. Her arms were crossed and her head was back like she had been catching a few winks. On the roof of the Atlas was a picture of her in the cockpit of her first Valkyrie, she was wearing a brand new flight suit in the picture with a clear display of her rank on the shoulder plates. Along the hull of the Valkyrie where the canopy meets it was her rank and name as well as callsign, '2Lt. Alexis 'Eagle' Aquila'. She sighed once again, wishing she'd be flying that instead of the Atlas stuck on the ground.
The transport was being used at the moment to blockade a road to the surface outpost. She was assigned to the enjoyable watchout duty; the Major explaining that 'her pilot eyes are best suited for the job'. Alexis scoffed at the thought, it was a pretty unfair treatment. She'd been assigned to watchout duty for the past two days. She was basically sleeping in the Atlas and living off of MRE's rather than the makeshift mess hall's 'better' provisions. There'd be the occasional time she'd wake up from her hardly asleep state to the sound of a beep and a sore ass from resting on the solid driver's seat. "Some leave to the underground would be nice..." Alexis mumbled to herself.
That was when she heard a proximity alert. She looked over to a monitor and saw that one human sized object was closing in. Alexis leaned forward and switched the radar ping rate from five seconds to two seconds. The object was closing in. Alexis unholstered her pistol and kept an eye on the radar screen. Closer and closer the object got until it was right next to the Atlas. Then she heard some climbing, whoever or whatever it was was now on top of the top the transport. She looked back to her radar and saw that whatever was on the Atlas was alone. She could handle it herself. The sounds of footsteps were easily identifiable, and they were closing in to the window in front of Alexis. She could hear the footsteps directly on top of her now; Alexis cocked her pistol and gripped it tight, she did it quietly. "Infected..." she whispered to herself.
"RAH! Argh! GRR!" the infected growled as in practically swung into the windshield of the transport. She pointed her pistol, about to fire until she noticed it actually wasn't an infected. It was Vincent. He went from making screeches and growls to chuckling and laughing.
Alexis lowered her pistol and sighed, "Vinny... Get off my Atlas..." she said not amused.
"Ha ha! You should've seen your face! It was priceless!" Sergeant Vincent Setala exclaimed, still not getting off.
Alexis rolled her eyes and pressed a few buttons. The turret on top of the Atlas rotated and aimed down at him. Alexis took on a machine-like expression, "Hostile detected. Eliminating target. For the glory of the machines!" she said in a robotic tone.
Vincent went wide-eyed and almost fell back off the Atlas. He staggered a bit before regaining his balance and jumping off. The surprise Sergeant gripped his rifle and moved around back of the Atlas. When he looked in, he saw Alexis laughing, "You! You should've seen YOUR face!" she laughed some more.
Vincent let go of his rifle, the sling catching it. "Jesus, Lexi... For a minute there I thought you weren't kidding. You really shouldn't take advantage of the fact you've got machine parts in you... The men are pretty intimidated by the thought." he scratched the back of his head.
"Ya, I could tell." she stuck her tongue out at him, "And I can do with them what I want. And if it means stopping others from screwing around while I'm on watch, then so be it."
“Beta is to regroup within the quarter sector. Move it people. We don’t have all day.” Alexis's radio spoke up.
That cue from her captain made her smile, "Finally something to do!"
Alexis pressed a few buttons, a voice spoke up, "Sentry mode active." the turret on top of the Atlas started to slowly rotate and scan the area. Sentry mode was an automated targeting system for the Atlas. Though it wasn't as effective as having an actual gunner, it did the job against small numbers.
She grabbed her SMG and holstered her pistol, "Let's go, Vinny." she said before taking the lead, excited to finally do something that didn't entail sitting in a chair.
Alexis entered her unit's proper barracks and spotted the Captain, "Hey, Captain. Glad to see some other Betas. The Atlas was getting pretty dull..." she sighed and moved over to her recently unused bunk to sit on it. Alexis planted the buttstock of her SMG on the floor as she looked up at her commanding officer.
Lisa was sitting on a roof high above the FC and sighed deeply. She had been somewhat depressed ever since Claire had returned. At first she had been extremely happy and had almost pestered Claire with attention. However, that had changed quickly. Claire had changed, she had changed too much. Another loud sigh escaped from her lips through the re-breather mask as she sat on the roof. She had not brought her weapons with her and they were still in the barracks, locked away.
It had not helped at all that a member of her team had died and two seriously wounded. She had spent the last few months mourning her only friend in the military after Claire and talking with Two and Four. They had taken it surprisingly well. Two had just shrugged and said that she would get a robotic replacement once it had been made for her. Four however, she might never recover from her injuries. Lisa was bad at being formal with her squad and had let them all talk freely, ignoring rank and the entire chain of command.
They had spoken about their respective families. Two were apparently an orphan just like Lisa. Her parents had died in the exodus of DC together with her brother. She had not been close to her family, but she had already been in the military for a year when it happened. She had thought of herself as a big failure as a soldier since she had fought in the exodus but had failed to protect her family. Her parents had died early in the battle and her brother had died in the last hour from a machine soldier. Two had been depressed for a long time after that, and had fought for the same reason that Lisa, to die in battle, making a difference. A year before she had been transferred Valkyrie squad, she had found a new purpose, she had found a partner, and they had quickly got engaged to each other.
Lisa had smiled warmly as Two had told her the story of how they had met. They had met in a drunken brawl and had both smacked each other good and had been sent to detention in the cells next to each other. During their two days there, they had formed a bond, and had taken a liking to each other. It did not take many months until he had proposed to her and she had accepted.
Four however, her parents were common soldiers, just like her. She had no real story to tell, part from that she outranked her parents in the military. Her entire family had laughed at that at the promotional ceremony. Four had been about half of her parents age when it happened too. Her parents had always been proud of her and had always supported her in her rise in the ranks. But, when the topic switched to her own injuries, Four had turned pale. All the broken bones in her body, the sheer amount of damage she had taken, she might never recover to full potential ever again. Lisa had suggested electronic warfare and surveillance department due to her skills. Four had taken it with a smile, but Lisa knew that Four wanted to be on the front lines together with her parents again.
Then it were the other issue in her life. Lisa had planned on telling Claire once she had been transferred into STG-Beta. But she had not told her, she could not, Claire was not the same any longer. She still loved her, but she was unsure of this new Claire. Perhaps it would just take time to get used to it. Perhaps the new Claire was better, but it was not her.
Lisa was awoken from her thoughts by just Claire on the radio. "Rodger Ma'am. Valkyrie on the way." Her voice was weak and quiet, but could still be heard. Lisa had gotten a lot more quiet, even more than before after the battle in 001. She barely spoke, even to Beta, her new team that she entrusted her life to, and theirs onto her. She only spoke when spoken to, and even then, only said a few words and the conversation died. She preferred solitude over the company of others these days.
Lisa sighed one final time before she started to abseil down from the roof and slowly made her way over to the barracks. She was not the last one there, she was only missing Ryan and Arturo from the group already there as she entered. She did not say anything as she entered the building and leaned up against the wall next to the door and waited for the debrief.
The months that Beta had spent topside had done wonders to brightening Vincent's mood. The man regained his 'charm' and brashness that made him so memorable and he was back in action and better than ever. After spending a week or two running around trying to prove to their newly assigned medical officer Isis that he was in fact, not insane, Vincent began to settle into the regularity of topside patrols. Needless to say, he could only entertain himself with city ruins and wasteland for so long before the whole thing grew rather dull.
His old friend Alexis Aquila, also seemed to share his growing boredom and restlessness, generally resulting in the two playing pranks on eachother to pass the time. Though Vincent was relieved to see his old friend alive after all this time, after being convinced that she had been shot down and killed ages ago, he would never be one to admit it, especially not to her. He had no desire to give her more fuel in which to prank him with. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Vincent wasn't quite sure which he'd categorize Lexi as.
Vincent had a small break and was wandering around the outpost in a pair of gray-black fatigue pants and a slightly grungy white tank when he noticed Lexi's Atlas set up as a road block. Splitting off from and making a large loop out and back towards the outpost, Vincent made a shamble towards the armored vehicle, making grunting sounds as he did. The prank worked exceedingly well, though it ended with Lexi pointing the barrel of the Atlas' autocannon towards him. They were in the midst of bickering as they usually did when Lexi's radio interrupted them.
“Beta is to regroup within the quarter sector. Move it people. We don’t have all day.” Came the call. Curt and clean, with no nonsense added. Just like the usual Captain, but Vincent was naiive enough to think that nothing had changed. The Captain was different. Something changed in her after that attack. Vincent was hoping it was just a phase, and at the least, that was the theory he stuck to when he spent time with the rest of the Beta's.
"Let's go, Vinny." Lexi called with a upbeat to her tone.
"Yeah yeah I'm coming," Vincent said wearily as he followed, "Freakin' crazy daughteruvabitch.. Pointing a damn autocannon at me.. A pistol's one thing, but -unintelligible grumble- And LT think's I'm the crazy one?"
Following Alexis into Beta's temporary barracks, Vinny noticed that they were one of the later people to show up, Isis and Leo had already arrived, as well as Nolan who was making conversation with the Cap. Walking towards Isis and Leo, Vinny's scarred face grinned warmly at the two as he fell in line with them.
"Leo, how's your... everything, feeling?" He said, clapping his buddy's shoulder as he walked by.
"Morning LT," Vincent offered to the small but fierce medical officer, "No worries, brains are still where they belong."
He took a seat right as beta's stoic flygirl entered the room. She was never much for talking, and Vinny doubted he'd be able to get a very good conversation out of her. That, and the fact that the Captain probably wasn't in the mood to hear him mouth off, led Vincent to keep his mouth shut as he nodded in her direction.
In the months since the assault on UGC-01, Arturo had been busy. He was a ghost before that day, having only appeared out and about several years before the last time he was activated. He had been assigned to some squad of little renown, nothing special accomplished, below average kill count, they were faceless to him and that was the first thing to go wrong. He was marked for his abrasive attitude and lack of attachment. The Facility was warned but they were high on their own success and had the arrogance to believe themselves faultless. He quivered with a dark now at that, he was the reason they were forced to get off their high horses. The squad was just an unfortunate bystander in the situation. To this day, he still felt a twinge of guilt over their fate. Now though, he was alive. The few months he had spent out were the most he had spent outside the Facility and in that time, he had become a particularly recognizable face.
He was loud, he was crude, he was intimidating and for some of the younger personnel, he was damn scary. He seemed to appear and disappear from place to place and he had an immaculate sense of time when it came to chiming into conversations. His lack of a past was disconcerting and the fact that he was part of Beta ushered in rumors and half-truths. When he had his first incident, more and more was said. The incident occurred about a month ago when he was scheduled for a routine medical checkup. It was good fortune that Isis was not his practitioner that day. It had gone as well as it was supposed to, his body was functioning as normal, the only hiccup being when he slapped the nurse's ass. The incident only happened when the nurse came at him with a needle filled with some booster shot. His demeanor shifted dramatically when he saw her enter with it, he was wide-eyed and his voice was a notch higher.
"W-what's that for?"
The nurse explained briefly that he needed some shot for some reason full of medical jargon. The fact that multiple shots were needed drained the color from his face. He stiffened up and when she grabbed his arm, the other swung and connected with the side of her face, cracking the jaw and knocking out a tooth. It became very evident then that there was some deep fear in him when it came to injections and other procedures. The nurse was cared for and reassigned to a different base after the incident. The quacks took to strapping him down afterward.
He tried to get to know Beta the moment he transferred in, not wanting to repeat what happened before. Unfortunately, the situation with Agent Smoke, led them to think that he wanted to replace her. It put a bit of a damper on his integration. He had taken to analyzing his squadmates, and even reading reports of some of Beta's past endeavors. He was impressed and it made him want to prove himself. He didn't have doubts about being able to but there was very little to do without an assignment. He tried to converse with the individual members of Beta but had little success. It was obvious that Smoke's disappearance weighed heavily on them all. To fill the void produced by a lack of interaction, Arturo took to vigorous exercise. Many of the grunts were impressed by this. He would spend hours in the makeshift gym, hours running around the perimeter of the base, and whatever time was leftover either sleeping, eating, or flirting with the female personnel.
His insatiable urge to flirt when a woman was around became another well-known aspect of his character. His gaze wandered obviously around women and his wit proved to be his greatest tool. He possessed a strange mix of courteousness and crudeness that made him stand out amongst the other grunts and he produced rather intense body signals. He was unpredictable and that inability to know what he'll do next is alluring for some. What was strange though was that when Claire was around his behavior suddenly changed. He was quiet, shy even. Arturo had read about her and her actions as Captain of Beta before the assault on 01. Even to him, it was obvious she had been changed by the experience. This change in her behavior captivated him. She was intense, brutal even. She was serious and unapproachable and he so wanted to speak with her alone. He wanted to know if they fucked with her head too. When her voice poured from his receiver, he stopped jogging.
“Beta is to regroup within the quarter sector. Move it people. We don’t have all day.”
Starting back up, he jogged toward the makeshift barracks and blew a kiss at a pair of ladies, receiving a look of disgust from both before he went on with a cocky smile on his face. His white tank stuck to his chest and his dark-gray fatigues were standard. A small necklace hung from his neck with a strange pendant swinging with each step. When he entered the barracks, his breathing was faster than normal though not to the point of panting. He was one of the last ones to arrive but then again, the best should always be saved for last. Smiling broadly at everybody when he came in, he took up a slouch next to Lisa and nodded at her, a surprisingly take greeting from the man.
The beads of sweat that lined the rough skin of Ryans face were now a re occurring event, much like the restless sleep filled with distressing sounds and images, visions of the past that ceased to leave, the still, lifeless bodies with their cold lifeless eyes staring up at nothing in particular. The machines closing in on a crawling Ryan as he makes gis escape. But the worst vision was the one rhat followed, the deafening boom of an explosion, the loud ringing in the ears and hen the world collapsing in on him ... nothing but darkness. It was that moment laying in total silence, in total darkness, not knowing whether he was dead or alive that was the worst.
Ryan woke with a start and bolted up in his bunk, he wiped away the ocean of sweat that coated his face and exhaled slowly. He shook the remnants of the flashbacks from his head and clambered out of bed, he pulled on some gym slacks and t-shirt with a logo of some old rock band on, he headed for the door and picked up his pre packed work out bag and headed to the make shift gym.
The makeshift gym wasnt bad for a post apocalyptic world. It was a ruin of an old boxing club which had been refurbished as best as possible thanks to military headshed. Ryan pulled from his bag two relatively heavy weights, each one attached to a strap which he then fixed around his arms just below the elbow before approaching the horizontal beam and pulling himself up.
His physical fitness an ands strength had suffered a great deal since the events of the machine onslaught. The building collapse had really done a number on him ut thankfully his custom built demolition suit took the brunt if it. He suffered very few major injuries of which there was only one and had undergone physiotherapy upon being discharged from the hospital wing. His physio had helped him recover fully from the damaged leg but meant he couldnt keep up with his strict work out routine, so now he had sone catching up to do.
Towelling down after the mornings extensive activities he heard what should havw been an all too familiar voice, but he noticed there was sonething different about it. Captain Rustenford had been the first of their special forces unit to take a hit, and it was a vad one at that, sirely she had a right to sound and maybe even act different. Those kind of things can change a person.
"Raven, Havoc. I'm en route ETA five minutes. Havoc out" his response was kept short and proffesion, after all this was now a business matter. He finished packing away his bag and slung it over his shoulder with ease as he headed out of the gym and over toward the RV.
There was no better feeling than walking into a room and seeing the Beta guys there, Ryan strolled in and dropped his bag down by the bunks and fell in with his squad. He gently slapped Vincent on the back of the head as he approached him.
"Hey Vin, how are ya keeping?"
His delight on his face was probably visible even through the rebreather mask. Hw hadnt seen any of his team properly since the hospital wing, his vigorous Physio regime simply didnt allow it time wise. He fell in rank between Vinnie and splatter who he also greeted graciously, using their own handshake.
He stood to attention and saluted his Captain.
"It's good to be back... and its good to see you Cap"
Watching silently through her helmet as she noted the appearance of each individual team member, Claire leaned against a makeshift table as she nodded to each arrival. Her lips remained sealed until each and every operative was present. There was no need to exchange pleasantries unless it was deemed necessary. That's what the memories told her anyways. She still remembered when she was held within the white room where the medical personnel stood to her sides. The notion 'exercise appropriate conduct only when called for' was burned into her. Among other things were transferred to her subconscious as well, but she couldn't recall the full extent of the effects of the procedure.
She nodded to those who greeted her, then cleared her throat as she pushed off from the table she was leaning on. She took the data pad that she held firmly in her hand and took a glance at its contents. "I hope all of you enjoyed what leisure you could on base. I've received numerous updates from the Nest." She swiped the touch screen as she continued. "The Fourth Insertion Company - due North of our position - has successfully secured a foothold on the border of Virginia."
Claire wondered if she should share the fate of Third Battalion. She revisited the conversation she had heard from the two Marines she had passed on her way to the F.O.C. Though she couldn't really say it, she also questioned the sanity of the Committee's decision. Though outposts were established, more soldiers were being lost. The gains from this endeavor was far more insignificant to the actual amount of total losses. She really had to wonder what the hell the Committee was thinking, for expanding on the surface was hardly the correct decision to take in her mind.
Tossing the data slate aside she turned to the group. "That's it for the update, and now begins the fun part. For any of you who are rusty with elementary geography and location, we're approximately 60 klicks away from Fourth Insertion. This places us north of Raleigh." She stood up as she dragged over a table and motioned for everyone to gather around. Then she unfolded a map and flattened it against the shabby desk. "30 klicks North of our current position is Falls Lake State Recreation Area." She fingered the spot on the map. "The Nest wants eyes on the area since the satellites are OOC (out of commission). Given our history with Sat. Intel, I wouldn't want to trust their 'surveys' again.
"FOC has tasked this to Beta. We're to go in and survey the area. Strict reconnaissance. Two objectives were given: land survey and area potential. Annalist," she looked at Nolan, a new comer to the squad. They last two yet gained two. How fair. "You'll be lead on the land survey. Isis and Fog will be tasked to you. Valkyrie, Splatter. You two are overwatch. We don't want any surprises. Find a perch and get comfy. Ghost, Havoc, Eagle. You three will be with me on area potential.
"Land Survey is to determine radiation levels of the area and any outstanding hazards that could affect construction and set up. Be comprehensive. We don't need a surplus officer bitching at us because we forgot to mention a sewage leak. Area potential will sweep the area and deal with any physical hazards. As the operation commences, keep in mind the 'surveying' aspect of this mission. Keeping a low profile is to take priority; we'll be blind out there, and I don't want any surprises. If possible, avoid contact. When possible pull back to the FP." Raven pointed at a marked red circle. "Currently, the Major is being an ass and rejecting my request for Atlas transportation; however, I'll see if I can't change his mind. Eagle, pre-check her anyways; I should have a decision to you within the hour."
Stepping back from the table, Raven stood up straight. "Worst comes to worst, we'll hump the 30. Some good, radiated fresh air won't kill us." She smirked behind her mask. "Departure is set at 1700 - about two hours from now - at the Northern exit. Are there any questions? If not, get your shit sorted and get ready to move out."