Chapter 15: Damien
I stare at his lifeless body lying on the cod, metal table. The bright light shines down over top of him, making his skin look even paler than it already is.
I clench my jaw, stifling back tears, sniffling a few times. I use a forearm to wipe the excess from my eyes that managed to escape.
I place a hand on his forehead, running it backwards through. My hand collects the grime and blood that collected in his hair follicles.
I stare at my hand, zoning out for a moment before shaking back into reality.
I unbuckle the vest Tyler was wearing and work it from around his chest, tossing it to the floor. I remove his glasses, a spiderwebbed crack scattered through the left lens.
I remove the heavy brown boots he was wearing as well as his socks. His toes have now turned blue and stiffened, curling inwards.
I unbutton and remove his jumpsuit, followed by the t-shirt and undergarments he wore underneath. I stare at the exit wounds that are scattered across Tyler’s chest, creating some twisted constellation in his flesh.
It’s hard to believe he survived as long as he did with the wounds that he has. He must have been determined to see freedom.
I take a wet rag and wash each wound, one by one, cleaning the dried blood from them. I do the same to the rest of his torso in between.
There was so much blood, the skin beneath was hardly visible. By the time I’m done, the white rag is now colored the same sickly rust red as it’s completely saturated with Tyler’s blood.
I turn on the faucet of the nearby sink and rinse the rag under the cold water. The water is dyed crimson as it runs through my fingers down into the drain. I stare at the sporadic streams and large drops of water that fall randomly between my fingers.
I’m satisfied with the rag being clean as the water begins to turn back to clear. I turn my eyes back to Tyler as I turn the water off. I use the rag to wipe the mud and other unknown grime from his face and forehead.
I remove a sprayer from its hook above the table and depress a lever, causing water to spray out on to Tyler’s hair. I watch the water turn a brownish red hue as it washes through his hair and courses towards the drain.
I proceed to rinse the rest of his body before releasing the lever and returning the sprayer to its hook.
Satisfied with my work I step to a panel on the far-right side of the room nearest the door. I place my hand on the wall next to the panel, resting my thumb on one of the buttons.
I take one last look at Tyler, allowing a few tears to let loose from my eyes. I finally decide to let go and depress the button.
A set of panels beneath the table energize a red light. I can feel the heat from my position in the room. The area begins to glow and with a flash of light, the panels turn off, leaving the ashes of Tyler’s body in their wake.
I press another button on the panel that causes the table to lower beneath the floor. There’s a sound like that of compressed air.
With that I make my way to the nearest window and look out into the void. I see the scattered ashes of Tyler’s body floating in space, the light from the nearest star glinting off of them. I breathe a deep sigh as I let my friend go one more time, forcing myself to look away.
I shower to cleanse myself of the situation. As I clear the nearest mirror of fog, I notice that my hair has grown considerably longer since being captured. I think about cutting it for a moment before deciding not to.
I’m not the same guy anymore.
Not much of a soldier. A real soldier would have gotten them out of there.
I leave it the way it is, accepting this new version of myself I have become.
I scrounge what clothing I can, which consists of finding the smallest Sekrid uniform available. Even with that it still hangs a bit baggy on my body, but not so much that I can’t maneuver.
I hate that I have to sink to wearing the clothing of the enemy, but I can’t stand to wear that jumpsuit anymore. All it does is remind me of how much I failed.
I make my way to the cockpit and sit in the pilot’s side, staring out at my positioning in space. Given the view, I’d take a guess and say that I’m located in the Pretiosum Cluster on account of the Sapphire Twins traveling their orbits in front of me.
I’ve read that this used to be one of the most amazing systems to visit. Back before the war that is.
I look to my right, staring at the chair next to me. Tyler’s blood is still drenching it red. I hadn’t realized just how much he was bleeding out while his life was fading away. I notice large patches on the floor beneath the seat.
I push the grief away and stare at the display to the right of my steering column. I place a few taps on the screen, moving the image to a more blown up view. I study the star map for a few moments. I place a few more taps, charting a course for the nearest UEDF border line. I set the course, engage the drive, and allow the ship to take over.
I lay my head back as the ship jerks into warp space, resting into a smooth glide through space. I close my eyes, feeling myself doze off. I struggle to shake the tired from my eyes before they become too heavy to keep fighting it.
I let the calm of sleep fall over me.
“Sekrid...divert co…will…ired upon,”
I shake the sleep from my mind as I jerk forward to the sound of a UEDF soldier on blaring through my comms.
I stare out of the windshield, realizing my ship has come out of warp space and is still careening directly towards a UEDF blockade line.
I quickly slam my fingers against various buttons until the ship grinds to a halt, very nearly throwing me over the dashboard.
The original message continues to play over my comms until I key the mic.
“To the UEDF soldier on this channel, this is Chief Lieutenant Damien Blake. I have escaped from a prison camp on a commandeered vessel. Requesting asylum and debrief,” I plead to the man on the other end.
There’s a long silence before someone responds.
“Chief Lieutenant, this is Captain Hoss of the Muse. We need to know what happened? For verification purposes,”
I roll my eyes at his response, damning the protocol.
“Sir, I was stationed on the Hercules when it came under attack. In the confusion of the assault, I was captured and sent to a prison camp in Sekrid controlled space,”
“You were on the Hercules?”
“That’s correct, sir,”
“Very well. Relay the passphrase and we’ll receive you,”
I look at the mic, confused “Sir, I was never made aware of any passphrase,”
“Your command should have provided you with it during your initial briefing when you were stationed there. Relay passphrase or we will have no choice but to assume that you are impersonating a distinguished member of the UEDF,”
“Whoa, whoa. Captain, I’m telling you, I was not made aware of any passphrase from my command. You have to believe me,” I say, begging them to hear my pleas.
There’s another long silence. My monitor starts to beep as it senses a lock.
“Captain Hoss, I am begging you, please allow my passage. Belay your targeting and let me pass. I am exactly who I say I am!” I plead once more, slamming a fist into the console.
“Unidentified vessel, this is your last warning. Relay your passphrase or you will be fired upon,”
“Captain, listen to me! If you do this, you will be attacking a fellow sailor in the UEDF Navy. You need to stand down, immediately,”
The beeping intensifies as the monitor displays a torpedo heading directly for my ship.
“God damn it!” I exclaim as I quickly press a few buttons and jettison myself into evasive maneuvers.
I watch on the display as the torpedo immediately alters course, giving chase to me. As I weave through space, attempting to escape the torpedo, I simultaneously begin to key in the sequence needed to engage the warp drive.
A message flashes on the display in Sekrid with a progress bar underneath. I sigh in frustration as the sweat beads down my face.
I cut left, narrowly avoiding the torpedo’s path. My eyes dart from the display and back to the windshield as I dodge several more times. At one point, I felt the torpedo scrape across the hull, luckily not triggering the detonating mechanism.
It seems the UEDF grows tired of watching the dance as my display picks up on another object moving towards my direction at high speed.
One torpedo is hard enough to dodge, impossible with two. The only thing I can hope to do is max my current speed and stay ahead of them for as long as possible until the drive is properly charged.
I stare at the screen relentlessly, my eyes growing wider as I watch the progress bar and the torpedoes race to their respective finish lines. I can’t help but shut my eyes tightly as I anticipate the outcome.
As the beeping gets louder and faster, I hear a message in Sekrid audibly play, causing me to open my eyes. I notice that the progress bar has reached one hundred percent.
Without hesitation I jerk the warp drive lever forward, activating it. I fall back into my seat as the beeping ceases, signaling my escape from death.
I use a hand to wipe the sweat from my brow as I allow my body to relax. I glance at the screen, noticing something strange.
“What the hell is that doing way out here?” I ask aloud.
I disengage the drive as I grow adequately close to it. I fall out of warp, my eyes falling on a massive station, rotating in the orbit of a massive planet.
The station looks completely archaic, using designs from ages ago. I realize it must be an old hub from back when our military was much larger and relied on stations like this for rearming and resupply.
I guide my ship forward, growing closer to the structure. It isn’t long before the station catches wind of me.
“Sekrid ship, we are unsure of why you are positioned in our space. Make no mistake, this station is armed and will eliminate you if you do not alter your course and return to Sekrid space,”
I take the mic in my hand again, taking a breath before responding.
“Unidentified station, this is Chief Lieutenant Damien Blake. I don’t have the passphrase for asylum, but what I do have are my credentials to forward to you if you wish me to. All I ask is that you allow me to come aboard. Please…”
There’s a long silence, causing my stomach to turn, anticipating the worst.
“Did you say Blake?”
I raise a questioning eyebrow at the odd inquiry “That’s correct, station,”
“Roger that. This is Sec Lead Dante Hall of the XR-3 Zeus. You have permission to board. We’re sending you the coordinates to the proper hangar bay. We’ll meet you there. Ensure you aren’t armed and exit with your hands raised for security sake,”
“Copy, Sec Lead. Thank you,” I reply as I follow the heading that just now appeared on my display.
I set the ship down and exit as the Sec Lead requested. I see a single man standing before me, his rifle not even raised.
He waves a hand “You can go ahead and drop your arms, it was just a formality,” He says.
I look around as I lower my arms “What is this place?” I ask.
“It’s a research station. Top Secret kind of stuff,”
He steps closer to me, placing a hand on my shoulder.
“Welcome back to our side. I got a little surprise for you,” He says as he motions a hand to silently request I follow him.
I examine my surroundings as we walk through the halls. It’s very much akin to a hospital back home. The walls and floors are white and stagnant. They look much newer than the outside of the station does. Color coded lines, run along the floor, signaling directions to their designated wings.
I see various scientists moving to and fro, working on projects I probably can’t even begin to fathom.
I notice a woman of what seems to be high stature stop in front of us.
She points at me “This him?” She asks.
“Well I’d say so on account of the way he looks, Doctor,” He explains.
She looks at me, scanning me up and down, then turns her eyes back to him.
“This is a really inconvenient time for this kind of event. Keep this low profile until everything is done and over with. If you remember, we have an esteemed guest here,” She says, her voice growing lower.
“I got it Lauren. It’ll be like he’s not here,” He replies in an equally hushed tone.
She waves a finger up and down my figure “And make sure he changes into something less…Sekridy,”
“That was always the plan,” He says snappily.
“Right,” She says as she walks away.
He motions another hand to follow.
I do so.
I follow him until we reach small cafeteria area.
He motions a hand towards the room “There’s some food here you can help yourself to. If you want something else, there’s a bunch of places on the galley deck. As for that surprise, Ethan,” He calls out.
My eyes dart to a man sitting at one of the tables. He looks up at him, then over to me, his eyes growing wide with surprise. He slowly stands from the table.
“Damien…I…I thought you were dead,”
I slowly step closer to him, my eyes fixed on his face.
“What…what happened to you?” He asks me.
I don’t say anything, just focus on his face. My mind goes back to the Hercules. Replaying all of the events that lead up until this point. I feel a rage build within me, one I can’t control.
Ethan must notice my face begin to twist into one of anger as he puts his hands up.
“Don’t do it. Let me just explain,”
I clench a fist and slam it into his face with a loud thud before he can react. He trips backwards, falling over one of the adjacent tables.
“Ah, shit. Can we not do this right now, guys?” I hear behind me.
Ethan stands up, hopping back over the table.
“You need to cool it, Damien. I’m not going to fight you,”
“Good, then I’m just going to beat the hell out of you and stop when I’m satisfied,” I say, stepping towards him.
“Damien, listen to me. Just listen!” He exclaims as I swing another fist towards him.
He instinctively grabs my arm and tosses me into a stack of chairs, toppling them over. I cover myself as they fall on top of me.
I throw the chairs off me and charge Ethan, landing a knee in to his stomach. I then take hold of him and hip toss him on to the hard floor, his head pointing my direction. I kneel down and immediately start striking him in the face.
He takes hold of my arms, plants a foot in my chest and slings me over him on top of one of the tables. Before I can react, he stands up and starts hitting me in the chest with his elbow. He takes hold of my shirt and slides me down the connecting tables, launching me off of them. I hit the ground and roll several feet into the wall.
“Enough, Damien. Come on, we’re brothers. Let’s hash this out,”
I stand up, flexing my shoulder “That’s exactly what we’re doing,” I say as I charge him once more, throwing another fist at him.
He grabs my arm, throwing me over his shoulder back on the tables, this time causing the one I land on to snap in half.
Ethan steps over me, extending a hand “Are we done?” He asks.
I glare at him for a moment before taking his hand. I sit up on to one knee and then swiftly uppercut Ethan, causing him to stumble and fall on to his backside.
I step forward to place a kick into his chest. I’m taken hold of by four men before I can do so. I struggle as they hold me back.
The Sec Lead steps between Ethan and I “Are you two morons done?” He says.
I struggle a bit more before finally going limp.
I raise my hands up, accepting that the fight is done “Alright, I’m good.” I say as I snap out of their grasp, adjusting my clothing.
Ethan attempts to walk towards me.
“You stay the hell away from me. Because of you, I was captured. Because you didn’t know how to keep control, I was left for dead you son of a bitch,” I say, pointing a hard finger at him.
Ethan’s expression turns to that of guilt “Damien…”
“No…I’m done with you,” I say as I start to walk anywhere but here.
I manage to find a small supply room to hide in. I toss a number of items off their shelves in order to alleviate the excess anger build up.
I pace back and forth, breathing heavily, contemplating what just happened.
I’m angry. I’m so angry at Ethan.
But is that even the right place to put my anger?
Who am I anymore?