It’s been three weeks.
Three damned weeks.
And Calix has barely showed any sign of improvement.
BUT, there is some advantage to this!
General Asshole has not come in to wake me up for at least the past two weeks! I get to sleep til 7 every morning!
And then when I wake up there’s always a tray of breakfast waiting with a small note in Adira’s handwriting, reminding me to visit Calix.
Like I’d forget.
I’d rather wake up at three in the morning every day than wake up at 7 without Calix.
I miss Calix.
And it’s not like the food here is all that good to begin with. It’s about as good as most cafeteria food. No, I don’t mean the ‘we don’t care’ cafeteria that just serves fries and burgers. I mean a cafeteria that’s trying to keep the kids healthy.
Suddenly someone knocks on the door. That’s weird, no one’s knocked on my door in three weeks.
“Govain.” Of course it’s General Asshole. It’s always gonna be General Asshole. “You and the younger Haven are piloting Units 1 and 2.” He says like it’s already been decided.
‘WHAT! HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WORK WITH THAT STUPID DEADPAN LOLI!’
Which is what I would say if I didn’t want to be here when Calix wakes up.
“Because Cade and Moya are dealing with one in their normal area, as well as Dastan and Diva.” Hm. Guess he doesn’t know her name either. Or she told him not to say it to anyone.
Meh. I don’t really care right now.
“And there’s one in my and Calix’s area?” I ask to clarify the situation.
“And I’m guessing this isn’t a choice.” I say again.
For once he doesn’t seem to mind a more casual address. And his normal assholiness has been dropped slightly.
“If Calix doesn’t wake up soon his little brother will come and try to take his place.” I pause. “That can’t happen. So please tell the doctors to stop playing their damn video games and actually wake Calix up!” I finish before standing.
“I will Govain, but first you have to get out there and take down that thing.”
“On it Sir!” I say, stomping my feet into my sneakers and running out of the room and down the hallway, towards the holding bay for Gungrams 1 and 2. This isn’t gonna stop me from helping people if I can. This is what Calix would want me to be doing instead of sulking in my room. So this is what I’ll do.
When I arrive in the holding bay, all my technicians seem surprised. Even more so when River shows up behind me. I glare at her slightly before making a conscious decision to forgive her, at least temporarily.
If we can’t work well together, we’ll both end up like Calix and Akira.
Then the others will really be screwed.
“I understand if you blame me. But, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about how you feel.” She speaks up.
Well, we’re off to a good start.
“I do blame you. But I’m gonna put off my hatred until we’re done working together and Calix is awake again.” I reply, trying to sound somewhat friendly.
“Like I said, I couldn’t care less.” She repeats.
“And you better get over that if you don’t want to die.” I reply.
She just huffs quietly, accepting her task.
And now I’m starting to see how alike she and her sister are. Though she doesn’t reach Akira’s level of assholiness. Hell, she doesn’t even come close.
“Alright, let’s just get this over with.” I say, making my way over to my Gungram.
“I missed you.” I whisper to it as I climb inside the cockpit.
What? I talk to a giant robot, all of you have talked to an action figure or doll at some point, so you don’t have the right to judge.
I’m forced to watch River get into Calix’s Gungram. Which is painful.
“Gungram Unit 2, ready for launch?” Adira’s voice comes through the earpiece. Hearing her voice is a damn relief.
“Good to hear you Cos. And yeah, I’m ready.” I reply.
“Launching in three... two... one...”
I brace myself for the physical exertion of being launched out of the canon again.
My body is violently jerked backwards as the robot goes flying. Just as much fun as the last hundred times I’ve done this.
I repeat my normal landing procedure. Then waiting for Calix’s Gungram with Rivier piloting.
I hate that. Why is River piloting Calix’s Gungram?
River shouldn’t be piloting Calix’s Gungram.
Calix should be piloting Calix’s Gungram.
She lands and pulls the robot up to look at me. Staying completely silent.
We stare at each other for a few seconds before I turn away and charge the admittedly smaller alien a few hundred yards away. River follows.
When the alien finally spots us, it raises its hands in a gesture that almost seems to be surrendering before it pulls out a giant piece of white cloth.
A white flag?
Is it surrendering?
“We just want to talk!” A voice I don’t recognize comes through my comm.
The accent is just plain weird.
“Please stop! We just want to talk!”
Oh My God.
OH MY GOD!
It’s the alien.
The alien is talking to us.
The alien is waving a white flag.
The alien is trying to talk to us.
The alien is trying to be peaceful.
“What the hell makes you think we want to talk to you?” I demand, stopping my charge and sticking my arm out to prevent River from continuing her charge.
“We do not wish to fight with you. We simply seek diplomacy.”
“Bullshit you do!” I spit back.
I won’t believe this.
I refuse to believe that these bastards are trying to make any kind of peace.
“We do not wish to fight with you. Any lives that have been lost thus far have been accidental.”
Bastards killed thousands of people by accident?
I launch myself at the thing and end up sitting on top of its chest.
“AN ACCIDENT? YOU KILLED THOUSANDS OF HUMANS BY ACCIDENT? YOU MURDERED ALL THOSE PEOPLE BY ACCIDENT?”
Tears come to my eyes.
“Annora... Annora and her family... they were... just an accident? One of my... best friends... She was just an accident? Calix... Calix in the infirmary... that was just an accident?”
“I do not know who these humans you speak of are.” The alien replies.
“SHUT UP! I DON’T CARE!” I shout, any logic or common sense gone from my head.
“Lux, you need to calm down.” River speaks up.
“SHUT UP RIVER! YOU HAVE NO RIGHT!” I direct my anger at her.
Suddenly my entire body is full of rage. Just boiling with rage and hatred for both of the robots in my presence.
Calix’s robot, not being piloted by Calix. And an alien trying to tell me that all the deaths caused by them were accidental.
There’s no way for me to let this out, cause there’s no one for me to attack. No one for me to beat to a pulp out of pure rage and hatred. If I beat River up I’ll get court-martialed. And it’s illegal to kill an enemy who’s surrendering.
What am I supposed to do?
What do I do?
“Damn. Damn. Damn. DAMN! I can’t. I can’t do this anymore. I... just want Calix to get better. And it’s all your fault that this happened in the first damn place!” I shout at River.
“No. You need to tell me right now Lux. Tell me how it’s my fault.”
“Because you had the Gungram calibrated wrong.”
“From what I heard, even if the Gungram was calibrated like every other damn robot we have, Calix still would have been hit. There isn’t any connection.”
“That bullshit and you know it.” I reply.
“Do you really think that Lux? Do you really think that, or do you know better?”
“I THINK IT BECAUSE IT’S TRUE!”
“No it’s not.”
“YES IT IS!”
“No it’s not. It’s not and you know that.”
“But it is...”
“No. You know that if you had been able to stop the missile than he would be okay. You know that if you had caught it, it wouldn’t have hit him. You know it’s not my fault.”
“Yeah. I know. I know it’s not your fault River. I know it wasn’t because you calibrated the damn thing wrong.”
“It’s because you weren’t fast enough.”
“It’s because I wasn’t fast enough.”
“It’s not my fault Lux. I didn’t launch the missile. I didn’t provoke the alien to launch the missile. I didn’t design the Gungram to be weak in the back of the head. I didn’t force you to use Akira and my Gungrams. All I did was calibrate the controls to fit me better. I didn’t hurt Calix.”
“It’s my fault. It’s all my fault.” Tears slip out of my eyes. “All of it, all of it is my fault. Calix is in a coma because of me. I was too slow. I couldn’t... I wasn’t... I was too slow... I... I couldn’t even save my best friend... FROM YOU BASTARDS!” I shout at the alien underneath me.
“We apologize for injuries to your friends. We only reacted to you attacking us by defending ourselves.”
Us attacking first?
We attacked first?
General Asshole told us that they attacked first, and that we needed to take care of them.
General Asshole told us that these aliens were a threat to our lives. That they had come down with guns blazing and their robots ripping up ground.
He told us that, if there weren’t any volunteers, the aliens would kill everyone before long.
He didn’t say anything about us attacking first.
“Hey, Cos. Can you put General Dubois on the comm please.”
“One second Major.” Right, I forgot she calls me that.
“What do you want Govain?” General Asshole demands.
“Did you lie?”
“Did you lie about the aliens. About them attacking first?” I ask again.
“What are you talking about Govain?”
“JUST ANSWER THE DAMN QUESTION!” I shout, not even caring that it’s General Asshole I’m shouting at and that I’m supposed to be respectful to him.
“GOVAIN, I WILL HAVE YOU COURT-MARTIALED!”
“I DON’T CARE! JUST TELL ME THE TRUTH!”
He pauses. Maybe he’s thinking about what to say next to prevent me from going even crazier than I already have.
“It was a lie.”
I knew it.
I knew it was a damn lie.
He lied to us. To get us to fight these damn aliens.
He lied to us, so we’d risk our lives in a fight that didn’t even need to be fought.
He lied to us so Calix would end up hurt.
Calix is hurt because this bastard lied to us.
Because he decided that a bunch of teenagers would be the best choice for a fight that wasn’t even necessary.
“So... So... SO... THIS IS ALL YOUR DAMN FAULT YOU SON OF A BITCH!” I shout at the top of my lungs. All of my previous anger at General Asshole for all his stupid shit comes bubbling back to the surface. But now, I don’t care if I get discharged. I don’t care if he court-martials me. I don’t care if they send me into the middle of nowhere and leave me to die.
Because they lied.
And that means I have no reason to be here.
That this whole fight has been a waste of time.
That the last 7 months of my life have been a huge waste of time.
And coming here was worthless.
I was so excited when we first came. So excited that I’d actually get to do something useful, something meaningful. Something that could make me proud to be me.
But it was all a lie.
Everything here was a lie.
“So... And... To add to all your bullshit... You got YOUR OWN DAMN SON... to fight in a life-threatening war... that was completely unnecessary... and... and then... you just let the teenagers get hurt for something that was COMPLETE BULLSHIT!”
“Watch your mouth Govain!”
“NO! I DON’T GIVE A DAMN ANYMORE! YOU CAN COURT-MARTIAL ME IF YOU WANT. I COULDN’T CARE LESS” I shout.
“Lux, you need to calm down.” River states.
“No, no I don’t.”
“Yes you do.” She repeats.
“That’s easy for you to say, deadpan loli!” I shout. Yeah, not that serious of an insult, I know. I’m mentally stretched thin right now, okay.
“What the hell does that mean?” She demands, starting to get angry.
“It means you don’t care about anything. You live your life with minimal effort. Even when someone you care about is being bullied, you just sit by and let it happen. Hell, I bet you don’t even care that Akira is in the infirmary because of a war that doesn’t even exist or matter at all!”
“No, I don’t. I don’t care that my bitch of a sister is in the infirmary. You know why I don’t care? Because all Akira has ever done for me is shout at me. Shout and shout and tell me how I’m not good enough. How I’ll never live up to her legacy. Because she’s so great. She’s the best. She’s amazing. Akira is the best. Everyone loves Akira. Akira is so nice and sweet and strong. But guess what, not to me. Akira is a horrible person, and a horrible sister. And I honestly don’t care if she dies a painful and horrible death in this place. Hell, I’d encourage it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care. Elihu is the nicest person I’ve ever met. You know what? I’d be upset if he died. I’d be upset if he ended up in the infirmary. Because he cares. He cares about me more than my own damn sister does. He cares more about me than the person I’ve known my whole life. Imagine how that feels for a second.”
“No one loves Akira. In fact, most all of us agree with you. She’s a bitch.” I reply.
“THAT’S NOT THE POINT!” River screams like a little girl. That’s the angriest I’ve ever heard her get. “The point is that my sister cares about me the least of anyone here! And you’re asking why I don’t care that she’s in the infirmary? You’re calling me a deadpan loli because I don’t give a shit about something that doesn’t matter! Yeah, my sister who I hate got hurt in a war that doesn’t matter. Dammit. I wish she had died.”
“But... you’re not angry. You’re not angry that they tricked us? You’re not angry that they tricked us into fighting in this stupid and pointless war? I just wanted to help people. But it was all pointless.” And now I get it.
I joined up originally because I wanted to kill the things that killed Annora. I wanted to destroy them.
But now. Why did the aliens even attack any cities?
Because the damn military attacked them first.
“No. No I’m not.”
“It’s their fault.” I whisper.
“It’s their fault! It’s their fault Annora’s dead! If those bastards hadn’t attacked first, the aliens wouldn’t have killed her!”
“Any humans we have killed have been the result of self-defense.”
“Yeah I get it cuttlefish.”
“What is a cuttlefish?”
I take a deep breath.
“Alright alien, I’ll hear you out. I’m listening. So hurry up.”
“We only wish to talk. We do not wish for any more violence.”
“Yeah, I got that. But what do you actually want?”
“We just wish to create an alliance with your planet. There are other races in the universe that wish to see our race destroyed. We wish to form an alliance to help fight this war.”
“Did you try to contact us to tell us you didn’t mean any harm?”
“Yes. We did attempt contact. And yet, your military attacked us.”
“General Dubois. You fucked up royally. You really did.” I whisper into my comm.
I pull my Gungram off of the alien’s robot.
“Sorry I charged you.”
“What the hell are you doing Lux?”
“They tricked us River. And I know you don’t care, and I know you’re happy Akira’s hurt. And I get that you hate Akira. But I can’t deal with that. I don’t hate Calix. Calix is my best friend. I don’t want Calix to be hurt. I owe him my life. And I promised his family he’d come home safe. But... if they hadn’t tricked us... Calix wouldn’t be hurt. He’d be back home. He’d be back home, finishing 12th grade, maybe he’d have a girlfriend. Maybe he’d be going to college. Maybe he’d have a life. He deserves that.”
“And you regret everything that’s happened? Everything you’ve done here? All the people you’ve met?”
“If it could have prevented all the bullshit, yes. I would unmeet Cade, Moya, Elihu, Diva, Akira, General Dubois, Adira, and you too. It would be worth it. Calix deserved his normal life. He only volunteered because I did. Because he didn’t want me to show up here alone and be randomly assigned a partner I didn’t know. He wanted me to have someone I trusted to help me. He knows... He knew I have trust issues. And that he would be the best option for my parter. And... I wish I had told him no. I wish I hadn’t let him come. He shouldn’t have come here.”
“But that doesn’t matter. I’ve met some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life here. People who actually care about me. Someone who... wants me to be alive. Who wants me to be here. Who wants to talk to me and enjoys spending time with me. Someone who’s different from my bitch of a sister.”
“Maybe it doesn’t matter for you. But it does for me. Just... Calix is that person. Calix is my best friend. He’s my person who wants me around. Who wants to talk to me. Who cares about me. And I’m that person for him.”
“Now, General Dubois, you’re gonna do me this favor. And you’re gonna make an alliance with this race. You’re gonna make this alliance, and then all of us are gonna get to go home. And you don’t have any damn reason to argue with this,” I demand into my comm.
“Govain, don’t you go trying to give me orders!”
“Just... General, listen to someone for once in your life. You. Have. Zero. Reason. To. Continue. This. War. So, I would really appreciate it if you would just talk with these guys and come to some sort of agreement that would not require anyone else to get hurt. And, if you have some other bullshit war that needs to be fought, go somewhere other than the goddamn schools!”
I’m done. I’m going home. I’m not doing this shit anymore.
Why did I ever want to do this in the first place?
I hate this.
I hate everything about this.
“We’re going back River. I’m only staying here until Calix wakes up. Then both of us are going home.”
“And what am I supposed to do? Go back with Akira? I’m not going home.”
“So don’t. No one said you had to.”
“Then, where am I supposed to go?”
“Go with Elihu. Go with Diva. Hell, come back to my base with me and Calix. Do whatever you want. No one’s gonna stop you. And even if they do, you shouldn’t listen to them. Just do what you want. I’m not gonna stop you, and if Akira tries to let me know and I’ll kick her ass for you.”
“I think I can kick her ass myself.”
“That’s not my point, River, and you know it.”
“Now, let’s take our new friend here back to base so they can work out some kind of alliance.”
There’s that tone.