[Halloween] An Ancient Plea

This is a space for in-character events that do not occur within the line of duty and/or did not fit into the "Daily Life" section as it played out. Threads herein are meant to supplement character development and flesh out the setting elements, but are not necessary to understanding the plot or characters involved. These events are to be considered canon unless otherwise noted.
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[Halloween] An Ancient Plea

Post by Kokuten »

I can hear it calling, Shouting "Come to me, My child."

A whisper, floating on the breeze, the only thing resembling life on an otherwise dead planet. There's evidence around that people once lived here, but if the darkened, dying sun was any indication, the peoples had abandoned the place long ago. All that was left was a wasteland of destroyed buildings, of plants that could barely grow, and that eerie, unceasing breeze.

"Come to me, My child"

It was heard again. What was it? why was it in Terran? the voice that was not a voice, it was not really heard, but felt. Everyone could feel it, deep within them. something deeper, darker than even Humanity's greatest enemies.

So we stood, waiting for it. Our combat suits insulated us from the cold, filtered the air, enhanced our vision.

But there was a chill, everyone here shivered. The air was too thick, it was hard to breathe. And an all-enveloping fog closed around us, turning our world into whatever was less than ten meters away from us.

As Bill's eyes swept over Lolita's figure, she struck a pose with her machine gun to try and lighten the mood up. "Don't look at me! It's too big for you." she coyly batted at him. She then relaxed, back into a more normal pose. "But if you want a grenade, here. I got another pair anyways." Karl was right. No need to over think anything. And if they needed to, she could probably blast the way out for them. Bill was recovering fast, and it seemed too good to be true. Her armored gauntlet reached out to hand over the grenade. The pin happened to have a few teeth marks on it. "Don't mind the marks."

Hume groped for his holster and found it was empty. Thinking back, he remembered that he'd lost it in the hectic drop. What a pain. "I've nothing to offer you, Davis." This battle-hardened sniper was still on high alert. This place was anything but safe, and the longer they maintained this position, the more likely they were to be struck without proper equipment or support. "We need to keep moving," he suggested. Karl didn't so much as blink as he watched for movement toward their backs.

"Pretty please with sugar on top? This place is the suck, and I'd rather not hang around longer than I have to." Without awaiting a response, he began backpedaling, or rather moving forward with a rearward orientation.

"Looks like it's a Grenade and the pistol, Billy." Versa chuckled, collecting Lo's offered weapon and handing it to Bill along with the pistol. Bill grumbled something about feeling like a woman before attaching the grenade to his belt and making sure the pistol was working properly.

Versa and Bill followed Karl, bill raising an eye at Karl's backpedaling, and versa chuckling to himself. With another person in the group, the tension felt a little less, and the group was able to continue on, down the path.

They walked for half an hour or so, but no change seemed to be happening, and the fog seemed to be pressing closer. finally, bill had had enough. He vocalized this frustration thusly: "WHAT THE HELL!?? WHERE IS ANYTHING!" throwing a minor fit of annoyance and frustration before quieting down again.

That's when they heard it. Footsteps. And they saw them. Shadows. And they felt it. A breeze. A stiff, circular breeze. Little bits of dirt and plant began flying up and around, obscuring vision iven further. Bill had to cover his eyes with his hand, but managed to keep most of his vision.

Through the wind, something large, shaped vaguely like a canine, Pounced.

There was nowhere to go, except forward. Contact with the shuttle had been lost, and our GPS units weren't working, so we had no clue where the hell we were. All we could hope for would be to find a way to clearer ground, somewhere with a signal. Somewhere that had hope.

Because if anything, this place was hopeless.

Several shaky, heavy breaths later, Corporal Karl Hume final regained his composure enough to speak. "So... am I crazy, or is there something out there? I mean, did anyone else hear that?" The undersized marine took a few steps forward in the direction he assumed the force... or being... or whatever the hell it was... was. Right? Whatever, English wasn't Hume's strong point. Hume belonged on a hillside or in a tree or beneath a heavy gillie shroud. He was best at plotting trajectories, making quick decisions in his head, and adapting to malicious maneuvers. He should have been back home with an arm around his girl, a root beer in the other hand, and his little girl roaming the backyard with Moogle, their black terrier. Instead, he was romping around this crazy place in what was perhaps the worst case scenario when compared to his standard modus operandi. Why did they have to pick him for this sort of thing? He was a sniper, not a stiff-boot leatherneck. Hume could only sigh at his own thoughts before shaking them off with a shiver.

Versailles Nova shifted the Whisper in his hands, tightening his grip on the silenced Chemical rifle. It was heavier than the Sugar by a lot, but also immensely quieter, much better for his profession as a Scout.

"I heard it too, Karl. Whatever it is, I think we have to find it." The point man looked abck at the group of Marines with him, whome he was 'leading' for now. "Let me know if you need me to search something. Though... I might need someone to come with me. This place Gives me the creeps."

He picked up his right hand, and adjusted his helmet slightly. So hard to breathe. And why were his sensors failing him? He needed those. Well, he didn't need them, but they made his job a helluva lot easier.

The wind picked up slightly, bringing a deeper chill, even through the layers of material that were able to protect from the vacuum of space.

They could almost see ahead of them, what looked like a body, a person. some kind of figure. it was standing up. Just over a Meter tall, almost like a child. it faded in and out of the fog, as if it were barely there, or not there at all. But everyone could see it. there was no denying that they could see... something.

A larger, taller marine stepped forward and got closer to the others. "Yeah, I heard it too." Lolita Sartre was a little uneasy from that too, but she tried her best to hide it. Hell, I gotta try and keep spirits up or we're all done for... She quickly pressed her back up to Versa's, trying to lighten up the mood, "I got your back." she charmingly spoke. Her hand patted the PAA-PA Heavy Machine Gun she had with her. "I'll keep you ss.....shit." In a blink, she was behind cover and aiming at the indistinct form with her gun. "What the hell? What do I do?"

Karl was at Lolita's side in a second, hand on her shoulder while the other kept a strong grip on the TOR-S. "You calm down, and play it safe," was Hume's answer, despite the fact that he was not the one to which that question was aimed. From his new crouching position beside her, Hume slowly raised his weapon and peered through the sextuple-magnification of the scope to get a better look; all he got was a fuller view of the same unsettling figure. He lowered the weapon and glanced between his teammates. "Anyone want to go make a new friend?" he asked, letting the helmet's mic carry his quiet voice to the ears of his comrades.

God, the last I ever ask of you is to send me home to her...

Then, to clarify his request, he added, Alive. Please and thanks.

Versa smiled a little when Lo put her back up against his, he could feel the heavier plates of her Savior combat suit through his lighter Eidelon-style scout suit. but quickly enough he saw the apparition and was tumbling to the nearest short little bit of rubble he could find, glad of the Savior Leg armor he had opted for.

"I have no clue what the hell we do. we could try to find an Inn. or maybe an Excorcist. Shit, we got any of those religious folk around? maybe they have an answer." He stared through his scope, watching the shape vanish. Not away, or turning sideways and walking another direction, not even just disappearing. It seemed as if the wind blew it away piece by piece.

"Maybe we should try to search the ground for the evidence of the rest of our squad, eh? My gut tells me they went this way."

A sign of life. Not the kind they wanted though. It was, once again, only heard. A howl. Unlike any other howl they'd ever heard. It was obviously off in the distance, but you couldn't tell which direction, or how far. One thing was for sure; It was real. Even the audio sensors in the helmets picked it up, none of this feel it in your soul business.

It was soon joined by others, and then another noise. the sound kept growing, louder, nearer, until suddenly, after it seemed like whatever it was would be right upon them, it stopped. And all was Quiet again. The fog still refused to lift, the breeze blew tamely. And that sun. That Dark sun shone down, barely giving them twilight. But they could see it oh so clearly.

"Mmhmm." She gave to Karl in the cutest tone she could muster. The brunette knew that they were in deep, deep shit. No one in active service had ever seen anything like it, and the only things she read about that described what she saw was not encouraging at all. Not at all. Loli saw the thing simply vanish in plain sight after Versa talked. "Yeah, go right ahead and lead the way, but I'm partial to holing up in a nice, sturdy building with lots of empty space around it." Lolita was still scanning her sector with the Papa, but it wouldn't take her mind off...that stuff. If I die here, will I see mom and dad again? I hope so. None of that 'suffering forever due to death by ghost' crap. Are the others thinking the same? She was scared and wanted some place safe to simply sit down and rest at. Loli tried to nudge the others to her idea. "Hey, maybe there's some beds or something in a place like that. I know my feet are..." Her gun snapped up as she was cut off once more. That horrible, horrible howling! Lolita had never heard anything like it before, and what did sound like it was not encouraging. Ok, I'm scared, but I can't show it, I can't! If they think I'm scared... Loli shook her head clear. She saw nothing though, but it was getting closer! I'm not going to die without taking one of you with me! Loli's hand reached down to her chest and put the object to her lips; if it came to the worse, she'd reach up and end it on her terms!

"Now isn't the time for hopeful speculation. Focus: our goal is to survive & regroup. One step at a time now." And then the howling. Well damnit. Hehe. Hume couldn't help but smirk; it'd been ages since he'd sworn, mentally or otherwise. He was getting worked up and that realization helped him calm down. No point in getting flustered, even if it sounded like the hounds of Hell itself were on their way to drag him to their fiery homes in pieces or in part.

His thumb switched the Whisper from sniper to ops mode. This soldier knew when he was out of his element; adaptability was something his instructors had always commended him for. Hopefully, it would pay off in this otherworldly situation.

"This shit's Fubar." Versa stated simply, moving across the way and closer to Karl and Lo. "Think we got enough Ammo on us to beat back Hell? We generally seem to have enough against the lizards and they're pretty damn close to what I'd call Hell." For lack of anything better to do, Versa began an in-depth scan of the ground, noting all the footprints and identifying them all, tagging them through his Helmet's computer. There were indeed footprints of others from the squad, and they were headed forward.

But there was an odd characteristic about them. Deeper holes with dug out toes suggested they had been running. Maybe they ahd the right idea. But why would they have not heard anything? would would make the rest of the squad run, while they stood their ground? Versa puzzled, but he figured it might have something to do with the Howls. Or those things in the fog.

Let's get back to that fog. According to particle sensors, it did not exist. it was not made of water, or somoke, or anything at all. Yet every visual sensor they had, even the fabled Mark one Eyeball, was baffled by it. Passive and active scans never went more than 20 feet. Even though it wasn't there, it was Omnipresent. Always around, never there.

The sound of hooves could be heard, clomping down as if on a cobbled street. they came from behind, but nothing was there, still. Just the sound. and an eerie feeling that they were being watched. a sound like heavy breathing passed them by, about the middle of the road, but they couldn't see it, or sense it. they could only feel, and hear it.

She was a strong girl, despite her pretty looks. Lolita aimed her heavy machine gun one handed from the hip, and with the other, took the grenade away from her mouth so she could speak. "I don't care about the lizards, but I'm sure there's stuff worse than them. I mean, they gotta have their own version of hell, and it's gotta be worse than what we got in mind, right?" At that moment, Lo felt like hitting her head with the palm of her hand. It was a casual, careless statement that anyone could make. And it hurt. With the shitty things happening, it was all that worse. I gotta be more careful with my mouth. Bright side, bright side. C'mon Loli! What's the bright side? They were all in a little piece of nowhere. There was scant cover, and maybe what was a path. Or, it was just a bit of differently colored dirt. footprints left in the dirt suggested the others headed farther down, but that was towards who knew where. All paths lead somewhere. That was a truth. Or, at least in most cases. Or if it were even a path. "All paths lead somewhere guys. If we're lucky, we might find a town or something with a police station or whatnot where we can recharge." She added on a quick jest, voicing her own fears, "Besides, if we need that much ammo, we're probably done for anyways." Crap. Again.

"Let's cut back on the chatter," Karl suggested, rising to his feet. He dropped back down at the sound of a horse approaching. His gun was trained on the direction of its "source" the entire time, but nothing solid ever appeared. The sniper sighed and rose again. "As I was saying, we need to keep it calm and quiet. This fog is... an anomaly, among others. But we also have a lead: I suggest we follow our friend's footprints and go from there. What say you guys?"

"I can't help but feel like this is some kinda trap, but at least if we move, then we aren't HERE." Versa muttered, Hefing the Whisper and tapping on his helmet with his right hand for good luck. He walked down the dirt way that the footprints followed, slowly, carefully, making sure he wasn't more than ten feet away from the others (Even that seemed a bit much, and this coming from a man who was constantly several miles into Enemy territory, completely alone)

"Whu- What the F**k is that!?" he stammered suddenly, pulling his gun up and pointing it at something ahead. It was a body, lying on the ground; a real one this time. In a Terran uniform to boot. "Holy shit I think they've been killing ou-" He stopped. The figure moved. Versa's left index finger pulled back slightly on the trigger, ready to unleash the fury of hot lead on whatever the hell that thing was...

And it turned over, groaning, but it was a soft groan, like someone waking up, and familiar too. "Bill Davis? That you?" the figure sat up, and blinked a bit; his helmet was gone, as was his gun.

"Ye-yeah, I think so..." he mumbled, looking around confused. "Hey, where's the Captain?" Bill rubbed the back of his head. "You alone Vers?"

"Nah, I got Lo and Karl with me. what happened to you?"
"Dunno, just kinda woke up, I don't even remember this place..."

Her heart beat fast and heavy as they approached the still form. As soon as it started to move, she slammed her visor closed and kept a lookout for any other things. Versa's right. What if it's a trap? And what if there's something to our six? As soon as Bill spoke, Lolita was already suspicious of him. Unarmed, unconscious, and without memory? "Well, what do you remember Bill? We've been hearing noises. Hoofs. Howls. And we've seen some one. Or thing. Do you remember any of this?" Her mind was racing. What could have made him so selectively forget? What if it's something in the air? If that's the case, I might already be...she looked at Bill again. No helmet. She gulped, and spoke to Versa and Karl over radio, even if it the thing only worked within 20 feet. "Lets keep our helmets on and sealed, just to be safe. It might be the air, you know?" It might be too late for me, but I hope they'll be fine. Her concern for the others was making her over think the situation, and Lo was already starting to loose hope.

"Lo, just calm down. You get too worked up and next thing you know you'll be claiming we're infected or some nonsense." He pressed a hand to her shoulder to reassure her. "Relieve yourself of those absurd thoughts and just focus. Like I said, one step at a time." Glancing over his shoulder, Karl let his helmet transmit externally once more (as he'd had his visor placed the entire time). "Versa, check him up quick will you? We need to get moving again." Then, just among the three of them. "One step at a time, Lo. What's our objective right now?" Karl Hume was no psychologist, but he wasn't going to let that stop him from trying to bring his comrade out of this hype. Focus was what she needed. These wild thoughts were created by free time. That time needed to be utilized in analyzing what was important instead of concocting wild theories. They wouldn't do anyone any good unless they got the hell off this planet. One step at a time. Right now, they needed to make sure Bill was okay and continue their journey, following the imprints of their follow Marines.

Bill shook his head and groaned a bit, standing up and looking around. "I told you, I don't remember anything past the shuttle landing and rushing into the night." he muttered, as Versa looked him over; he didn't seem to be injured at all, just a little confused.

"Hey, you guys got any extra guns? I feel naked without one." Private Davis asked, cocking an eye and looking around.

"I only got my sidearm, it's one of those stupid EV's, they won't let me take an L/P yet, they're too new." Versa complained, holding up the small laser pistol.
"I said a gun, not an angry flashlight." Bill joked, looking to Lo and Karl.

"Looks like it's a Grenade and the pistol, Billy." Versa chuckled, collecting Lo's offered weapon and handing it to Bill along with the pistol. Bill grumbled something about feeling like a woman before attaching the grenade to his belt and making sure the pistol was working properly.

Versa and Bill followed Karl, bill raising an eye at Karl's backpedaling, and versa chuckling to himself. With another person in the group, the tension felt a little less, and the group was able to continue on, down the path.

They walked for half an hour or so, but no change seemed to be happening, and the fog seemed to be pressing closer. finally, bill had had enough. He vocalized this frustration thusly: "WHAT THE HELL!?? WHERE IS ANYTHING!" throwing a minor fit of annoyance and frustration before quieting down again.

That's when they heard it. Footsteps. And they saw them. Shadows. And they felt it. A breeze. A stiff, circular breeze. Little bits of dirt and plant began flying up and around, obscuring vision iven further. Bill had to cover his eyes with his hand, but managed to keep most of his vision.

Through the wind, something large, shaped vaguely like a canine, Pounced.

Lo sidestepped to get a better shot with her machine gun; it was unwieldy and inaccurate unless it were set up on a tripod or something, even with the heads up display targeting! "Contact! I can't get a good shot on that one. Covering flanks!" She held it from the hip, ready to fire, crosshairs bounding left and right to follow the other things. One pounced. Crap. "Don't let it get your neck! Watch your neck!" It was instances like this she felt nearly helpless, even with all her strength; Lolita spread her legs out into a wide stance. Blue white lances hammered out at the other forms. The others would have to handle the close up work. Please be ok...please!

Karl was quick to act and grateful he'd set his gun to Ops. He brought his gun to bear on the canine and shoved Davis out of the way with the same movement. He didn't bother trying to analyze the creature; Hume squeezed the trigger, loosing a burst toward the aggressor's center of mass.

"Keep it tight, guys! Call 'em when you see 'em!" he shouted over the sound of the arising battle.

Versa pulled the trigger, firing on whatever the hell that thing was that suddenly lunged at them, jumping above his head, even. He was afraid it would fall on top of him, he was the most liekly target, being in front. But there didn't seem to be any blood. Either it was Invulnerable or...

It vanished, as did the wind, and the other forms, as if they weren't there. Davis hit the ground with a heavy thud, making a loud "OOF!" as the wind was knocked out of him temporarily, and he tried to sit up and regain his breath.

"Yannow I can fight too!" Bill complained, looking around, holding the EV-47 out at anything that looked liek a shape in the fog. "What the hell was that anyway?" he asked, seeming oddly unconcerned, as if he hadn't really noticed what was going on. Regaining his breath, he wobbily stood up again.

Lo's lip twitched. They were gone. Nothing. Nada. Zip. There were craters from where her shots landed, yes, but nothing else. Not even footprints of those things. I hate it when I'm right...or, well, kinda right. Sort of. It wasn't the air, it got all of them, seals or not. But the fact was that something came about. And it wasn't pretty by the looks of things. Lolita spoke as calmly as she could muster, "Look on the bright side. Even if they weren't real, at least none of us got hurt." Inside, she was obviously distraught. I miss my ammo... She pouted inside her helmet as though she had spilled milk. That was better than freaking out at the other options. It was still a matter of time however, when she couldn't set aside reality forever. We're going insane! I know it! We're going to either run out of ammo and THEN get ripped to shreds, or turn on each other! I watched this movie dammit! Her hand clenched the folded up tripod even harder, trying to keep a close eye on her teammates without looking like it.

"Sorry Davis, it looked to me like it was going to pounce you, though." He lent Bill a hand in rising to his feet before doing a quick 360 reconnaissance. Absolutely zero trace of their assailants. "Let's not dwell on anything," was Karl Hume's advice. With a sly smirk that was hidden behind his visor, he placed a hand on Lolita's shoulder. "Think you can keep up?" His gaze shifted to the other men. "I'm thinking we just sprint, head-on, until we find a place that'll provide some sort of defensive advantage or more friendlies. Anyone have any other ideas?" He was already walking, heading in the same direction as before. It could only be a matter of time before they finally found the creators of those boot prints.

"Well, we're not getting anything done by standing here." Versa mentioned, looking about and heading off towards the direction the bootprints traveled. Bill grumbled and followed him, started to speak before Versa cut him off with "And no more talking, Bill. I don't want to be attacked again, even if it is nothing."

Bill grumbled again and kicked a small rock, continuing on behind Versa, who condinued to scan the ground with his helmet sensors, looking for signs of anything other than walking or running.

"Oh, so you don't think I can keep up Karl? Ha! If I weren't the heavy gunner right now, I'd trample all over you, and then some! You know?" she teased. Don't die first, don't die first, don't die first... she thought over and over in her head. Lolita pleaded inside her little head. If she could have a wish, Lolita would wish she were the last one standing, after all, she could end it anytime she wanted...Lo still had two perfectly good grenades with her after all. "You know, those things might have been freaky, but I think I might like them better than the lizards. I mean, you shoot, and they go poof! Well, as long as they go poof without touching us..." Her feet stomped on.

Corporal Hume shrugged. "Let's focus. We don't know what we're fighting, let alone what they're capable of. Eyes open, guns at the ready." It was a rather sudden change of attitude, but Karl didn't think so. He didn't like this situation, and Bill's and Lolita's behaviors were irritating him. Bill grumbling about... well, everything. Lo seemed to be too edgy for her own safety at this point. Just relax. Like I said, one step at a time, and we'll push through this no problem. Get all worked up and you're fried. Put 'em on the skillet, we'll have us a nice cannibal brunch fit for kings. Ew. Alright, that was a little too grotesque for Karl. Imagining eating his squadmates wasn't particularly enticing.

Focus. And focus he did, on the path ahead and their left flank.
Almost Anticlimactically, nothing happened again, for nearly 45 minutes, the four walked, until suddenly, the footprints disappeared. "What the.." Versa exclaimed as he stopped dead, Bill bumping into him at the sudden stop. "Hey! watch it!" versa complained, glaring at Bill. "Sorry, not like I can see well, anyway..." the by now somber Bill apologized.

Versa looked around, contemplating as to just what could have caused the footprints to suddenly stop.

Darkness shrouded the small, ragtag squad; Lolita was finally settled down a little. Not even she could stay winded up for so long. Though still tense, she could at least think straight. "Hmm. Lets try sweeping this area and try to find the footprints again. This is weird, but they had to go somewhere. And no splitting up, please!" Even though fighting the Drathonians and watching them mutilate someone with a frigging sword during battle was a horror story in and of itself, she still saw enough movies to know what was stupid

The farther they traveled, the less Karl Hume liked the situation. They'd followed these footprints for about an hour when all was said and done, and now they just disappeared? Something was completely and utterly wrong with this scenario. Just wrong.

And ultimately, there was no good solution to this. Split up and they'd get lost. Wander too far together and they'd get lost, and probably devoured one at a time but whatever inhabited this god-forsaken place. He sighed. "We can't just search the area; it's not that simple in an environment like this. The fog's so heavy that if we wander more than five meters from these tracks, we're likely to lose our way. If we split up, it only gets worse. To me it seems our only choice is to pick a direction and move. We can't go wandering around in aimless circles looking for more prints."

"I say North." Bill suggested, before realizing he didn't know which way North was. "Uhh.. which way is North?" Versa just shrugged, the helmet's electronic compass was coming up empty. there was just left, right, forward, or backwards, really.

"Maybe following the footsteps the other way will lead back to the shuttle? Or could it be that this is where the shuttle dropped us off and we've gone the wrong direction? still, it shouldn't be gone, and there's no trace of a shuttle ever being here..." Versa would have rubbed his head, but his helmet was in the way. "Or we could just keep moving forward?"

It was frightening and boring all at once. An attack, silence for a few hours, and then nothing. Now what? And why is it always north? Is north special? There was nothing to distinguish from the background. No landmarks, large tress and now no footprints. What could cause them to disappear. "You know, I'd give anything for an expert tracker right now. And I mean Anything. But, without one, I'd have to go with the forward option. Or right. You can't go wrong with right." Lo replied lightly. Really, there's not much to do...so few options. Lolita's stomach growled at her. She blushed.

"Guys! Where are you?!" Private Marcus Marcellus called into the dense fog, searching for his squad. "C'mon, guys! This isn't funny! Where'd ya go?!"
What felt like an eternity of walking alone, was actually just a matter of minutes, but Marcus couldn't tell and just wanted it to end. "Okay, Marc, don't panic. Don't panic. It's just like at boot camp when we got sent out into the woods alone and had to survive for three days, remember. Ya, I remember, I also remember that spider that found its way into my sleeping bag," Marcus said to himself. His hands were shaking now. "Just find the rest of your group and---wait, what was that? I heard something. Was that a growl? No, it's nothing. Just calm down and things will be fine."
"Dammit, guys! Stop messing around, we have to get to work!" he called out again into the fog, trying to sound confident. There was a sound behind him. "Okay, that one I know was you, Mich! Mich? That is you right?" His hands were shaking now. He gripped his gun tighter. More growling. It was then that Marcus saw something. It wasn't Mich. It was about twenty feet out, and he could barely make it out, but it did look somewhat dog like.
"Nice....doggy?" Marcus said in a quivering voice. It turned to look at him, and then growled once more, showing off rows of large teeth. It started towards him. Marcus got more frightened. It sped up.
"Oh...shit," Marcus said, he couldn't take it anymore, and then he turned and bolted in the other direction. "Shit. Shit. Shit." he repeated over and over again as he did one of the few things he was really good at. Running fast. He chanced a look over his shoulder to see if it was following him. He didn't see anything, but, just as he looked forward again, he saw the figure of a person appear out of the fog. He did not have time to stop, and he barreled headlong into the person.

Lolita had trailed behind a little. For all her earlier uneasiness and high alert she was now a little apathetic. The heavy gunner's gaze was a little distant, and she thought she heard something. But Lo hardly cared. So few options. Forward. Left. Right. Back. Back? Behind her? Lolita suddenly froze, the little hairs on her skin standing stiff. Feet stomping the ground. Closer. Closer! She whirled around, raising her weapon. Too late; there was no time to fire. So Fast! Lolita was completely winded as it collided with her, sending her sprawling spread eagle, Heavy Machine Gun out of hand and reach! It was right on top of her chest, oppressive weight pinning her. Lolita thought she could smell it's fetid breath, slobber oozing down her collar. Her visor fogged up as the thing exhaled. She screamed high and loud. "NOOOO!" Her left hand instinctively grabbed it by the neck, massive right fist colliding with the helmet. Wait...helmet?! She stopped and loosened the vice like grip she had around the neck. "Oh. Um. Sorry about that! You surprised me. Its...a little early for this, don't you think?"

Marcus began to regain his senses after getting thrown through not one, but two loops. "Ouch. Well, I was gonna be the one to apologize, but then ya kinda punched me," Marcus said as the world came back into focus. "Let me help you..." he started, but then paused as he noticed the awkward position he was still in relative to the woman he knocked over. His face turned a bright shade of red and he quickly rolled off of the woman. "Christ, I'm for sure sorry about that one!" he said in an almost paniced tone.

Versa Ran over at the sounds coming from behind him. "Eh, Pussy in boots. Hands off the new kid. That marcus?" he asked, moments before his helmet confirmed that it was. "Well, looks like we found another one. Hey, Marcus! Anyone back that way?" the sniper asked, inspecting the trail behind them for anything.

He couldn't remember when Marcus had disappeared, or really when everyone else had. All he could remember was this stupid fog, and being around the few people with him. But for some reason, something told him to keep going forward. like there was something there. "How about we just keep moving forward?" Versa asked the group.

“Huh? Back there? Nobody as far as I could tell. I thought y'all were just playing a joke on me, but then that dog-thing appeared. Thing looked like it wanted to eat my shebs! That is when I bolted and ended up running into Miss Sartre,” Marcus said as he stood up and brushed himself off. Then suddenly remembering the situation that he was in just minutes earlier, he quickly picked up his rifle and held it at the ready. “Look, I don't know what the Hell is going, but moving seems like a good idea.”

"Hmph! That's uncalled for Versa." Lo got back up to her feet and picked up her HMG again. If it weren't for the chat, she'd look like any other stormtrooper of doom. Funny we find ourselves staring right at it. She patted the dust off herself and shivered a little. "You know I haven't laid exactly hands on anyone yet." Lolita clenched and unclenched her fist to check if it was alright. "It looks like even he's got the same notion. Forward it is." Forward, to our salvation, or doom? She shivered in her armor again. Pointing out the obvious, temperature controls were just fine.

"Hey, I just call 'em as I see 'em. That's my job and all." Versa defended, thanking the group that they were decided on moving forward. "Anyway, let's get a move on." he said, brushing the previous event off, and looking forward. They all began moving heading forward toward the point where the footsteps ended.

It was like passing through a wall. The Fog was gone. looking behind them, there was none. The footprints resumed here, and kept moving onward. Sensors were still messed up, but their view was much greater, on a barely lit landscape covered in little rolling hills, slightly taller scrub brush, and, every once in a while, large depressions in the ground. The footsteps led to the nearest of these, a huge crater that looked to be part of a fairly recent meteorite impact.

"Whoah...." Versa said.

And from nowhere, the wind picked up into a howling shriek, blowing straight at the group, ruffling anything loose. The wind bore upon it a voice, as if someone yelling, or screaming in pain, or suffering of some kind

Corporal Hume had had about enough of his squad by this point. "Hey, can we focus here?" He sounded agitated, but Karl was in control of himself for the time being. No need to knock anyone's lights out... yet.

And so there they went, just walking. And walking. And next thing they knew, WHOOSH. No fog. At all. "What... the... ...hell?" Karl wasn't much for swearing in any way at any time, so even uttering the word 'hell' was proof that the situation was beginning to get under his skin. That unholy dirge coming from the crater only made it worse.

Despite that fact, Hume felt a strong curiosity (as was natural to him) to discover its source and sort out this situation. So he was the first soldier to the lip of the crater, braving the small gust with a jog. At the crater's edge, he crouched to peer below. He hoped to spot the source of that racket, but really anything that would explain this mess would be nice.

Or another living, breathing, sane marine. Preferably armed and dangerous.

Lolita shrunk back a little as though she was struck. The tint of agitation in Hume's voice was easily heard by her straining ears. It was horrible to be running blind, with no idea what would happen next. But now she had to worry about her friends snapping at her? "Just. Trying to lighten the mood here. That's all." Lo spoke, voice softer.

Harsh wind blew by, the fog lifting. She instinctively covered her eyes with an arm, but with much pointlessness. Lo's visor protected her face from any flying dust or dirt, and also showed that sensors were still royally messed up.

Her bones seemed to ache in pain from the scream. Her knees wanted to give, and she really, really wanted to...Hume started to advance first towards a crater recklessly. Lolita was visibly trying to decide if she should follow him. "Wait for backup!" she hissed, feet moving.

Marc stayed where he was, as he was perfectly content to not go rushing over towards the strange craters. Easing up a bit due to the lifting fog, he finally spoke up saying, "Hey guys, I will watch the perimeter while you guys, uh, play geologist." From there he started to pace a bit, but really staying in pretty much the same spot. "Hm, it's not so bad when you can see past your own nose," he said to himself as he began to bolden up and venture a bit more. "Still wish I knew what in Hell's name is going on." Now that he thought about it, the more he remembered that he still didn't know anything about what the guys he had run into were doing. "Hey guys, what should I be looking for anyway? I mean, besides those dog-thingers." he asked, his pacing bringing him closer to the tree line.

Versa followed Karl and Lo to the Caldera, looking at Bill and Marcus first "You two stay here and , uhh, provide cover or sumthin" he said, following the other two. Bill shrugged and looked at Marcus wondering what was eating him.

As the three looked into the crater, they saw something disturbing. It was filled with deeply stained earth, a sort of reddish-brown. It smelled a lot like Iron. In the bottom of the pit was a pile of what appeared to be Terran uniforms, but there were no weapons, nor armor, or helmets, just the uniforms, laying in tatters as if something had ripped them to shreds.

Almost as if on cue, the weapons and armor of all five marines began dissolving, slowly being blown away by the wind. Versa shook his rifle, only to have it fall apart even faster. Things were not looking good.

Karl realized now that following the bootprints had been the wrong idea. They'd all marched to their deaths, and now whatever the hell was going around murdering them all was prepared to make its final sweep. They were unarmed, and out in the open. Fog or not, they were screwed.

Into the fog would be suicidal. Into the crater would be to welcome death... or would it? Logic and fear and taboo would discourage this, but his survival instinct said, "Jump."

"Down the crater!" he shouted, and gave no time for dispute. As soon as those words escaped his lips, Corporal Hume was over the lip of the crater, sliding toward the pool of mud and blood and soiled uniforms.

Lolita dove into the blood mud of the crater. It was like being naked! Naked! No guns, no armor, no grenade, no god damn easy way out! 'I'm screwed, I'm screwed! I'm screwed! I'm going to get torn apart and eaten by dogs, and I...' Lolita vomited. Her eyes started to fill with tears. "I'm fine. It's just...gross." Her arm reached up to wipe her eyes, only to smear the mud and blood over her face. She retched again. At least the lizards were quick about it, but this...It was wrong! All wrong! "I'm sorry guys, I'm sorry."

"shitshitshit!" Versa cursed, turning back a moment to yell at Marcus and Bill. "HEY! GET YER ARSES OVER HERE!" he bellowed, jumping into the crater with the others, even though it went against everything he knew, but what did he know? everything was just wrong in this world, and none of his instincts had worked yet. he slid into the crater on the heels of his boots, dodging projectile vomit from Lolita, the heavy stench of Iron and now stomach acid and bile filling his nostrils. This was a bad idea and he knew it.

That voice again. Or was it a voice? he could feel it smiling, as if happy about something, all through him he felt so very wrong, so very exposed and helpless, and every hair stood on end. Was this it? Would he die? Here? On this accursed planet with no name? Hell no. Versailles Nova was the best Scout in the Terran military!He'd be damned if he died here.

The sky above the crater grew dark, the wind swirling into a huge vortex. Within the vortex, shapes could be made out, but they were indescernable as anything other than abnormal for a tornado. Bill tumbled his way into the pit, obviously scared for his life, something was off about him, having had no helmet on, it looked as if his face had started to change, he looked older, whiled away, his skin not quite fitting his face anymore. he was hacking and coughing, not sure what was going on.

"Bill? Bill? Whats...whats wrong?" Lolita started to shrink away from him. He didn't look right, he was skinny, deathlike. Her hand covered her mouth as Lo forced herself from puking again. "Guys? Wha..what's happening to him?" As Lolita stood there, the blood and mud seeped into her boots, her weight making her sink a little as the cold sapped away her toes. "Oh Bill..." For the second time in her life, Lolita found herself not able to help what seemed to be a dying friend. She dry retched again and again.

As soon as Lolita was done spewing, he slung an arm over his shoulder, grabbed her around the waist, and pulled her along with him through the muck. He was a strong character, Hume, but not so much in the physical domain; he was strong-willed and had a stomach of steel. The smell could be ignored. The blood could be ignored. If need be, he could ignore his own fellows. His focus was his strength and his will would get him there. Period.

"C'mon babe, don't start with that. We don't need sorries right now, we need you strong! C'mon, just to the other side! We're almost there!" Indeed, they'd waded halfway across. It wouldn't be much longer now. What occurred behind him was almost entirely beyond Karl's awareness; if it wasn't in front of him he didn't see it; if it didn't carry his name, he didn't hear it. Or rather, he heard and saw it all, but his mind was filtering, deeming this important and that as unimportant. It only mattered if it was critical to his survival.

Bill hobbled along behind everyone, trying to keep up, but he just couldn't seem to keep up. his face kept becoming more and more puckered, as if something was trying it out. he started wheezing, as if he was having trouble breathing, and he began to hunch over, almost walking on his hands.

Versa checked himself to see just what he had on him. His utility belt was intact, but anything more advanced than the knife was gone... The knife! Versa still had a weapon! he pulled it out , making sure it was ready for if something attacked them. "Ey! Hume! Check n' see if your knife's still around! mine was!" he called, hoping to be helpful.

Indeed, everyone's knives were still attached to their belts.

The other side of the crater was ominous, taller than the side they hade come down, and steeper too. it looked as if they would be unable to get out that way, and would have to find another. the Howling grew, and the wind kicked up, even down here in the crater, it was blowing, swirling, picking up little bits of dirt and mud and flinging it at the marines.

As Hume helped to drag her forward, Lolita could only mutter under her breath, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Her legs felt like molten lead. Heavy and unwilling to bear her weight. Her hand grasped around her knife, briefly toying with the idea of using that to end it right there. No. I won't. She started to move under her own strength again, Lolita's cold and tired feet pushing herself forward once more. She spared a glance back and saw Bill getting more and more...her legs started to wobble again. "I'm so useless...I couldn't do a thing then, and now..." Her vision blurred as she tripped, almost bringing Hume down with her. Lolita wiped away the tears, only to see a torn and tattered uniform. The name tag was still intact; she knew it all to well. Her mouth slowly opened, and it seemed a small eternity passed as she looked at the name. "Oh Shinji!" Her hands quickly grasped the remains and brought them to her chest; Lolita's feet picked her up again, and she kept moving forward.

"Lo!" Karl shouted, trying to draw her from her self-pitying reverie. "We have to climb! Draw your knife! By God, I will carry you up there myself if so much as think of stopping here. Let's go!" He stabbed into the crater's nearly vertical side, and began to climb. It was simple; drive the knife in, gather his legs beneath him, and reach up for the next stab. This was obviously not going to work as well as the surface became more sheer, but that didn't deter Corporal Hume. As mentioned before, his determination was brutal.

But would determination be enough? The voice could be heard again, inside Karl Hume and Versa Nova. It was cut off from Lolita and Bill, however. "Stand and fight. Ern your right to come to me, child..." it coaxed, digging into the souls of the two men.

Lolita would notice more than the weakness. her body began to slowly grow more painful. Outwardly, Hume would notice she was starting to look like Bill had just minutes before. But where was Bill?

He was lying facedown in the mud, shaking and convulsing, he seemed to be in pain, but he had no voice anymore. The back of his uniform began ripping, and tearing, and a bluish looking sufrace cmae through, his body having completely changed. No longer was Bill a Terran, he had become one of those wolf-things. Blood seeped from the uniform as his old skin wore away, and he slowly rose to his feet, standing on all fours. he stared at Lo. And she knew that that was her fate.

Everything hurt. Her body ached. Her muscles were sore, and even remembering hurt her. Lolita. She knew it couldn't end well. It wouldn't end well for her at all. She clutched the remains Shinji's uniform all the tighter as Bill started to...emerge. 'Is this it? Is this how Bill felt?' Lolita tied the two sleeves around her waist, and stood tall in the mud. Her eyes cried tears, her face tired, but resolute. She looked each remaining man in the eye. "Versa. Hume. Please live. Please." Lolita's voice was as loud as she could muster. She whispered something else. Something to herself. "Thank you. I love you guys." Her knife flipped out into her hand, and she charged. One hand tried to grasp the thing by the shoulder, and the other moved to stab into the neck. She screamed high and loud one last time.

"Lo, NO! Fuck! No!" Karl Hume dropped from the crater's wall and turned his knife forward, ready to attack and defend. For all his desire to rush forward and wrestle Lolita from the situation, he held back. Fine, you want me? "I'm right here! And I will cut you down, bitch, if you think you're going to stop me!" His eyes were set on the ominous vision in the sky, almost as if the gore upon which he stood were a bed of flowers, and Lolita was simply going to hug that thing that had once been Bill: both irrelevant.

"I'm right here! Show yourself!

The creature jumped out of the way. There was no way Lolita would be fast enough to get it. it avoided her, as if it knew what was going to happen to her. It jumped at Versa, because he was closer.

The Scout gritted his teeth as what was once Bill jumped at him. He was resolute, He would not die. This thing couldn't beat him. Bill hadn't been all that good of a fighter as a Terran, anyway. As it came down, Versa swung his arm around, bringing the pommel of his knife into the creature's face, it blew straight through, doing no damage to the creature, but versa was blown out of the way of harm.

"Stand, and Earn your lives." The voice said, as if it were inside Karl and Versa's heads. Lolita could feel a faint tickle of something inside her. It wasn't the pain, but she could feel that too. there was something else, a little sliver of something she might hold onto, if she could find the strength.

It didn't give a shit about her, and went straight for Versa. She wanted to fight! She wanted to die! But it wouldn't even give her that much! But why? Was it because...of course. I"m so useless. I'm already one of them aren't I? Lo's self esteem plummeted even further. What was the point of even fighting now? Lolita searched desperately for any reason not to jam the knife into her own chest. 'Anything? Anything?' Her hand clutched at her heart. It felt like it was breaking all over again; it felt as though he was dying all over again, and she could do nothing! Shinji. What would he do? No. Wait. What did he want? What would he want? From me? It felt like an eternity passed as Versa tried to hit what was Bill. The pommel arched down slowly, so slowly. Lolita could even feel her heart slowly contracting as it pumped the burning blood. 'He jumped on the grenade. He wanted me to live. Bottom line. I...I...' She could wrestle a bear to death easy. She was the heavy gunner. She killed hundreds. What was one more to her? Lolita sprang up once more and chained her attack with Versa's. 'I WANT TO LIVE!'

Karl resorted to mumbling to himself. "Fine, you want a fight?" We'll give you one. The sniper lunged into the fight as well, aiming to impale this beast.

Versa rolled back up to his feet, seeing now that mercy was not the way. He would not be allowed to simply incapacitate the beast, it would not work. The scout gritted his teeth, turning the combat knife around in his hands so he could use it properly. Bill had been one of their own, but now, he had become some kind of creature. As one, the three Lunged at what had once been their squadmate.

Bill's Eyes burned. His whole body did, as did his mind. Everything he saw was tinted with red. But he saw something, Hanging over his friends, attacking them. Those.. THINGS. They were about to take his friends! He pulled the trigger of his rifle, trying to get rid of the creatures. They ran for him, obviously diustressed at the things attacking them. Lo, he would wait for, she wasn't being attacked, but the other two, he could see the things, chasing them. He would save Hume first, he seemed the worst.

The creature launched itself at Karl, biting with teeth and jaws and slashing with its claws. It latched itself onto Kerl's shoulder, digging its teeth deep into the flesh and bone. Next to join the brawl was Lo, her vicious attack sinking into the creatures back. With the anger and the desperation, the will to live, the pain lessened.

Versa came last, knife digging into the haunches. The Creature reared, holding onto Hume, and pulling him up into the air, throwing Lo and Versa off, their Knives still stuck in its back.

'NO NOT HIM!' Lolita screamed in her head. She lunged at the thing again and made for the knives. She tried to pull them out and toss one back to Versa. Her left arm locked around it's neck regardless of the sharp teeth and biting mouth. 'We're going to be ok! We'll make it out! Just...need....to KILL BILL!'

As the monstrosity clamped down on Karl's shoulder, he drove his knife into its chest with a great howl of anger and rage. His fierce grasp on the knife had his knuckles paste-white.His free hand grasped the throat of his assailant weakly and his grip on the knife tightened as he was lifted off his feet. The claws were digging into his chest muscles, threatening to bury themselves beneath his rib cage and do some permanent damage. With all he could muster, Hume withdrew his weapon from its fleshy sheath and aimed to strike its throat. "DIE!" was the only thing Karl could think to shout at his opponent.

Karl's knife struck Lo's arm, stabbing between her radius and Ulna to pin the limb to the creature's throat. feeling the piercing, it finally let go of Hume, dropping him three feet to the ground, where the injured man landed with a thud. Lolita's earlier efforts, however, had been helpful, and Versa picked his knife back up off the ground, lunging at the beast with Lolita, jumping on its back and stabbing at its ribcage, he yelled in fury and outright anger at this thing that had taken over Bill.

Lolita could hear the voice once more, floating about inside her mind, it was like a gentle caress. the pain continued to lift, until she felt that other pain, the knife in her arm, pinning her to the beast.

Suddenly, all three could hear a loud, pircing ring, filling their ears like feedback from so many microphones. The beast reared again, but Lolita and Versa stayed firm on its back, when suddenly the raging storm overhead unleased its fury as a bolt of lightning, striking the beast and melthing the combat kives, charring Lolit'as arm and destroying the beast's throat, as well as turning Versa's arm into a burnt useless chunk of flesh.

The beast fell, sideways, nearly landing on top of Versa, who rolled off with a pained "OOF!". Lolita remained attached to its throat, but she could feel its life leaving it.

Lolita was lying on top of Bill's carcass, the smell of burning hair and who knew what else filling her nostrils. She coughed painfully, and almost winced at the faint voice. Her arm hurt like hell, especially with the heated knife in it. Lo felt like screaming in pain, but when she opened her mouth, nothing came out. She tried to speak. She tried to ask for some help, pulling her arm off the knife. But nothing. No noise. She just couldn't speak anymore. Lolita grimaced and simply yanked her left arm out, feeling the knife's remains go through her forearm. Lolita made a small mewling noise from the pain. She was crying, but smiling at the same time, looking at and cradling her arm. Her mouth moved, "We're alive." The other two heard nothing. That didn't matter to her one bit. She didn't care. Lolita was feeling warm again.

Despite his own injuries, Karl found himself at Lolita's side by the time she'd freed her arm from the knife. There was very little equipment left on their persons, but he was aware of the basic medical pouch at his side and that it was still full. He fumbled for the medigel, applied it liberally on both sides of Lo's injury. "I'm so sorry," he muttered, still working to cover it with gauze. He winced occasionally as his shoulder muscles flexed, but did his best to ignore them during his work.

The sky seemed to explode, and a loud whining noise like that of an engine of some kind could be heard. The voice showed up in the trio's heads "You have succeeded. Live, and be strong. you have done what the people of this world could not, and defeated yourselves." the voice, and all the feelings that had been coming with it vanished, along with the clouds, and the wind.

They were replaced by bright lights, and that loud whine of an engine. Versa looked up, being blinded by the dropping shuttle, which soon landed at the edge of the crater. another group of soldiers scrambled out of the shuttle, and versa tried to call to them, to tell them to go back, and it was too dangerous, but they kept coming, making their way down the wall of the crater, carrying stretchers.

It was the most glorious thing she had ever seen. The shuttle descended from the sky like a chariot sent by god. Lolita's eyes teared up again. Versa started to yell at them. Trying to warn them away. She started to laugh, clear as crystal. If it was still going to pull something, then I'd happen, and they'd beat it again. Still, that was probably not the case; they were done here. It was over. They were going home! Lolita grabbed up Hume and Versa both with a monstrous bear hug, picking both right off the ground. She spun once with them in her arms, laughing all the while.

He looked up to the sky and saw the grace of heaven descending on metal wings wafting in the turmoil of plasma and air currents. He smirked, believing he was going home. And that's when Lolita went nuts, scooping him up, squeezing his injuries tight, and generally crushing him. "OHDEARGODS!" he shouted without any pause between words. "Lo, let me DOWN! You're, ugh... Ugh, you're crushing me!"

Versa was confused when he was suddenly lifted up, and his vision turned sideways, he thought the creature must have gotten him, but it didn't hurt as much as he had expected. Hearing Hume identify who was lifting them, he began scrabbling about in the giant woman's arms, trying to get out so he could make his way over, or at least be carried comfortably on a stretcher. "PUMME DOWN LO!" he screeched, grapping at her armto wrench it off of his body. He ached all over and this wasn't helping. Within moments they were surrounded by a number of combat medics, who wrestled Hume and Nova out of Lolita's arms, and guided the three onto stretchers.

"What the F**k happened here?" one of the marines asked, as the medics began doing work on the three soldiers, and the whole group made its way to the caldera.

At the marine's question, Lolita's smile slowly faded away, and she shut here eyes closed, shaking her head back and forward hard. Her hair flung little bits of bloody mud about as she did so. Another hand merely shooed the medics back as though they were children. Lolita did a solemn walk to the shuttle. 'Is it really over?' Her hand fell to the waist, and briefly touched the tattered uniform tied about her waist.

Hume didn't know how to answer that question, and knew it would fill his future for many months and even years to come. So he decided to follow in Lolita's metaphorical footsteps. The sniper shook his head and sat patiently on the stretcher. "How're you holding up, Versa?" he asked in the brief lull. When the medic was done doing the basic field patching, he walked into the shuttle and put a hand on Lolita's shoulder. "You need to have that properly treated," he said quietly.

"I don't think I'm so okay anymore..." Versa said, as he looked over the crater, looked at the body that had been Bill just minutes before. "This, I think, was worse than being alone in lizard country." Versa shivered, as his hand was administered to and wrapped up. the three were all taken into the shuttle, along with the group of marines. Marcus was already in there, crouched in a corner, looking very bewildered.

The shuttle ascended, blasting off into space, and, after a few minutes of flying, made its way into the Iroquois scout they all belonged to. It was a major loss for the ship, nearly 3/4 of its marines gone, but, whatever had been down there, they didn't want to know, and marked the planet on their starmaps as "Uninhabitable."

In the coming days, months, years...

Karl Hume returned to his wife and daughter for the period of vacation allotted to all those that had been aboard the scout ship during what had been labeled by the Terran military as "The Danubian Encounter." The name was due to the planet's regional code on their maps, and the vacation time was due to the administrative branch's desire to interrogate the select few that had survived. Their stories were consistent where they overlapped, and yet it was terribly difficult to absorb all that was shared, and even more to take it with any weight. The official report deemed it a "Frozen" case in the sense that no advancement could be made into truly understanding the events entailed.

By some method it leaked to the Terran press, and the four survivors became food for the pen-wielding piranhas of the "information industry." Again, their stories were consistent, but it was difficult for the public to absorb. Some wrote them off as crazies and others called it a mass hallucination. Of course, none of these stories could account for the crater filled with the blood and uniforms of the missing.

As time passed, the four became bound by the experience, friendships blossoming where there had been only acquaintances and bonds blooming that had once been weak. For Karl, he needed the others for some emotional support. His wife had always been a pillar of strength for him, but discussing it with her could never truly bring comfort. With the other Marines he could discuss it in its entirety, or completely ignore it and relax. They provided some... security. It was difficult to describe, Hume realized. His best attempt to describe it went thus, "Being with the people that endured it with me brings cohesion to my life. It reminds that it wasn't just a nightmare but reality, and that I was not alone. It was an entirely factual occurrence and these people reassure me with their presence, remind me that it was overcome and far in the past. Because, to this day, the events that transpired on that planet still haunt me and my dreams."

After psychological evaluation he was found to still be suitable for the battlefield and returned to combat three months after rescue.

In the coming days, months, years...

"Post-traumatic Vocal Disarticulation" was what they labeled Lolita Hart with. She simply could either no longer speak, or was unwilling. Though, Lolita was able to make simple noises, such as a grunt of annoyance or a cheery laugh. Laughs. Those were in short supply. Shortly after receiving vacation like the others, she was perhaps the most discussed, photographed and simply bothered of the four survivors.

Then again, she was the most frustrating for the news reporters to deal with, if only because she couldn't speak. The paparazzi of course, didn't give a damn about whether she could speak or not, and proceeded to take photo after photo of her to accompany their bad stories.

Lolita spent what spare time she had with the other four survivors whenever she could. Like Hume, she found that there was nothing that could give her comfort like being with others whom she had struggled with. She seemed to dote upon the younger Marcus as well, as though he were a younger brother. Still, there was a certain...reminder Lolita had always kept with her personal effects; the tattered and blood stained clothing of one Shinji Ikeda. Though this person had died years prior, and the presence of the uniform brought further questions up, she kept it. It and it's owner were perhaps what saved Lolita from falling over the brink and into true, absolute despair.

Though unable to speak due to post traumatic stress, Lolita was otherwise fit for duty, and returned to the field once more as a Heavy Gunner.

In the coming days, months, years...

Versailles Nova ended up becoming the spokesperson of the group, as he was the only one who seemed to be able tot alk fast enough for the reporters. Being the least injured, physically, he was also the first the Press got a crack at. After a short while of being bothered too much, the Scout, prefering to be solitary, simply dissapeared.

In reality, he simply used some connections to get out of the spotlight, but remained near where he could meet with the other three normally. Though he preferred to be alone, the small group proved therapuetic, and Versa became much of what he once was before. Although he returned to active duty, it was later found that any fog would render him temporarily insane, and he would only talk about the voice, and mention a name, Bill. After several weeks on a particularly foggy planet, Versa went ballistic and nearly killed himself trying to escape. He has since been removed from field duty and relegated to training new soldiers in Scout techniques.

To this day, Versa refuses to go anywhere without the knife that he claims saved his life that day.

In the coming days, months, years...

During the final struggle, Marcus did his best to follow his squad into the crater, but as he approached the crater he lost his balance and was knocked unconscious. He came to as the medics were carrying him away, and he made sure to apologize to the other for not being of any help.

Certain that being on the frontlines was not for him, Marcus put in a request for a transfer out of the marines, but that idea was put down quickly by his friends. So, as a compromise, Marcus has recieved specialized training and is now the field medic for his squad. He also became the fastest track runner in his squad.

With no family to go back to, his newfound friends became the driving force in his life, and he spends as much time as he can with them. Even though he contributed little, he is thankful for them, and always makes sure they remember it. Although, he is somewhat irked that he is only seen as a 'little brother' by Lolita.
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