Nov 6, 2008

Posted by in Fiction | 1 Comment

The Bitter Meat Off His Bones

One of our former community members has allowed us to publish his Metroid Prime 2 fan fiction. It’s an extremely well written short story based on the Galactic Federation Soldiers in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. A big thanks to Andrew for taking the time to write such a brilliant story. Coarse language throughout.

The Bitter Meat off His Bones

By Andrew Walter

As the twenty-two Marines of the G.F.S. Tyr ambled in to the GFMC Compound for a sparing repast, the amethystine clouds loomed onward. Nobody had quite an inkling of what they were, but they were there nonetheless and they signified something of an evil nature.

It was a point of discussion, though. And after nearly a cycle, it was one of the few commonsensical ones left. Their rations packs–compressed to the brim with synthesized meat–were small, but conversation waxed for the entire allocated hour of chow after brief pleasantries were exchanged (and these were more of dismal “you’re-still-alive!”s than conventional “how-you-do?”s).

Reevs jargoned on with scientific lexicon–“anionic particles fluctuating spatially due to the presence of Pirate phase generators”–which served no real purpose apart from falsely edifying his intellectual image. Wills and Grippe, the squad’s two green techs, facilitated this process with expressions of conflicting esteem and envy, but the science officer was of no sound mind to dispense pity to lower classes.

Senge made a handful of comments which he demanded remain off the record; namely “fuckin’ balls of cotton”. When the inevitable sniggers and titters came, he hastily remarked that he was simply protective of his life’s love, the Tyr. Benet and Monz, who had been serving with the engineer for the better part of the previous centicycle, could only exchange a pair of all-too-knowing glances at his machismo.

Some even said–and God forbid this, coming from the Federation Marine Corps!–the atmospheric disturbances were interdimensional; “portals to another universe”. Paranoia and fallacy in such a rigid institution? What a thought!

Crany scoffed. Speaking to all but addressing none, he remarked, “Do you really buy into this shit?”

It stopped the banter for a minute. Only Denys, who had spearheaded the alternate-dimension postulate, could answer. “You’re full of it, Crany. It’s only speculation.”

“Damn right it is! It wasn’t science or magic that brought us down here, it was Space Pirates. Herakles wanted the matter taken care of. They sent us. Ha! Down here a fucking cycle, and not a hint of backup!”

Exeter, the stoic leader-type, typically felt it right to leave the idle talk to his subordinates, but the prospect of dissension–as it did every Federation Captain with half a brain–terrified him. “Private, a single Pirate supply freighter is hardly a job for an entire GFMC task force. We–Bravo Squad,” he added, “were only sent to engage, but then–”

“With all due respect, Captain,” and the latter word was said through gritted teeth, “that’s not what I hate about the whole thing. Yeah, I’m all for wiping those fuckin’ crabbacks out of Federation space, but do you really think the Bureau gives a second shit about this planet? Fringe of GF territory, hadn’t even been discovered until now–yeah, that’s right, you ever see a Class M ghost planet?–and all of sudden we’re giving life and limb for it? Doesn’t fit in.”

“Fit in to what?”

Crany didn’t hear a word. “This was a kamikaze mission, and the Herakles Command knew it. But you pick up a Pirate cruiser on scope and don’t engage…somebody finds out, and then you got media hounds on your scent and a hell of a lot of questions to answer back at the Bureau. We’re just placeholders, don’t you see? You got Marines on a derelict planet defending justice–wait, what the hell are we here defending, anyway?–and people start praising the government.”

“So we do die, then. Somebody will find our bodies, and what will they say when we’re shipped home in pine caskets?”

“‘They were good men. God bless their souls,’” he cited in a contemptuous voice. “Yeah, everybody will mourn for half a second, and then they’ll turn around and either commend the politicians who put us here or curse them. Those last folk will pretend to have some say in the whole goddamn thing–‘Next election, next election…’–but will fall flat on their face before they can get a single fuckin’ foot off the ground.” He paused. “Does it all matter now, though?”

The vapory amethysts continued to drift; their shadows more vivacious than those under their blanket. The troopers knew what would come of themselves, and Crany’s acute reassurance didn’t pacify the matter.

Angseth spoke up. “We still have a chance.”

Nobody quite knew what to make of the communications technician, which is typical of the sole female in a Marine Corps squad. Some viewed her as a feminist; a crusader who deluded herself as she “broke gender barriers” which had already been trodden upon numerous times. Others viewed her as a hotheaded progressionist; another trooper who clung to the phrase “course of action” and refused to step back and look at the overarching problem. Still others viewed her as a quixotic; finding solace in the exploits of bounty hunter Samus Aran while disregarding her own fallibilities. All of them were wrong; wrong as the helioliths who try to rationalize the sun’s existence.

The beacon brushed aside her amber hair with a wearied smile as the aura of the compound was lightened considerably. Vonda began to play a couple of bars on his lyre and the twenty-two Marines dissembled into small clusters of amiability.

Haley, however, nibbled at the rations pack conservatively; vigilantly. He had been stricken the hardest of the squad during this whole tribulation, and nobody quite knew why. Dilation betrayed his eyes, erratic spasms his fingers, and an undulating irritability coupled with insomnia his entire person.

McKalla used smalltalk to lift his spirits, but the other would have nothing of it, and Veroni–who was mistaken for a Splinter by his ill-ridden comrade during one shift–failed in this respect as well.

Crany looked over at the trio, two of which were evidently oblivious to the third’s morphine addiction. As his sense of reality fell into the heavy-lidded embrace of rumination, he found it amusing that he was the only one in the squad who bothered to take note of the visits the medic Dominguez made to Haley, in which a parcel of clanging bronze coins was exchanged for a little white packet… Ignorant to the last! Not McKalla, not Veroni, and not even Dr. Huxley knew!

Wresting him from his isolated meditation, Angseth approached the card-carrying cynic (fact of the matter was, the latter wasn’t as ostracized as his chronic outbursts of skepticism warranted). “Why are you spreading crap like that around?”

Crany looked up briefly as if acknowledging the other. “They had their theories. I had mine.”

She frowned. “At the expense of morale?”

“Go to hell, Angseth. If the truth lowers morale, then go to hell and light us a candle while you’re down there. By your reasoning we’ll need one.”

She heated up: no connection, of course, to all the talk about Hades. “By my reasoning we need action. We’re twiddling our thumbs here waiting for a goddamn miracle.” A pause. “You were at least right when you said there won’t be a Federation ship coming to this godforsaken rock. If Samus Aran–”

“You still believe that myth?”

Brouda and Milligan seemed interested enough; shutting up about their dice game. Crany continued, “One Fed–one female Fed, mind you–infiltrates a Pirate stronghold and blows the whole fucking thing to hell? Not a scratch on that goddamn plastic face of hers, of course–we don’t want posters of a war-weary hag, no! Just put sex and war into one big melting pot; make the people happy; maybe even–God forbid!–give them some hope. Likely story.” He took some of the biting sarcasm out of his voice and replaced it with a bitter edge. “10,000 pieces of FPF cannon fodder killed by those fuckin’ crabbacks, and you believe this one bitch did the job herself?”

Angseth retained her fiery edge despite the unabashed scorn. “Causalities were under a quarter. The Bureau made that clear. And the civilized world wept when those 2,500-odd troopers went six-feet under.”

“Then you were one of the billions they duped.” He gestured over to Starling on the other end of the compound. “Hey, hotshot!” Without an answer, he continued, “Starling! Git over here!”

The pilot, along with his companion, Triplette, hustled over to the gathering (after the two exchanged an apprehensive glance). “Yeah?”

“Tell Angseth here about the Battle of Zebes.”

Starling settled down on a ledge with a grimace, drinking deeply of the brisk evening air. “Well, my ship, the Archimedes, got the call for reserve duty in the sector–this, of course, was when I was back in the FPF. We weren’t an assault cruiser, so naturally we didn’t see any combat, but our boys on the ‘Medes were able to pick up some muddled chatter on the box.” He flicked a stone away, and lowered his tone. “It was a damn massacre. Heard a shitload of explosions over the wave, and maybe a retreat order here and there. We were eventually called in with a mixture of recon ships and medical freighters but turned right around within a parsec of the system.” He cleared his throat. “Not a single one left. 10,476 was the body count at the end of the day, but of course those were just heaps of ashes on the surface of the planet.” He gritted his teeth together, muttering, “Goddamn crabbacks.”

Half the squad had begun listening; Smythe echoed the pilot’s sentiments with a resounding, “Aye!” (Starling had a vague idea that Smythe’s father was a CO that day, but could never confront the lieutenant on the matter). Apparently, he or Lance Corporal Brode had never heard the true events of that day before. The latter was left dumbfounded, but his emotions would not betray his staunch demeanor, and while he continued devouring his rations pack his jawbone emanated the same attitude.

Crany let it sink in, eager as he was to make his pessimistic point (he feared his comrades were focusing on the deaths themselves and not their underlying significance–to think!). Hesitating, he continued, “Bureau figures, tell the public you have a twenty-five-percent casualty rate and you can get away with sending a suit to every family, saying ‘Your son was one of the quarter.’ Damn it all! Billions of people in the Federation, and they’re taking advantage of the fact that we know a good hundred of them!”

Angseth, with a plush voice, spoke up. “So they made a mistake. They corrected it. Employ private space hunters to do the same job. Only one applied, and she made it.”

This stoked another flame in Crany’s firebranded temper, and in the dusk the emerging lycanthrope shot a look of fury at the dimming amethysts. “Samus Aran is a figurehead! A fucking marble statue! Don’t you understand this? She is no super-Fed; she’s some lucky face the Federation decided to plaster onto every goddamn billboard from here to Aliehs III! No. The Police Force rallied up another 50,000 Marines–commencing half with a ‘Remember the Alamo!’ and the other half with a ‘For great justice!’–and sent them down to that hellhole to blow it all up! Stubborn as a mule! You forget the first massacre like that, and they win, don’t you see?”

Angseth was losing interest, and–still speaking as matter-of-factly as one in her position could–her voice dropped. “No, I don’t see. Ignorance is bliss, Crany. I’ve kept hope this whole time, and with it my sanity. You think you’re a prophet; maybe even the Messiah. I don’t care. I’ll be wearing my Sunday best on my deathbed. But you–you’ll trip before you even make it under the covers.”

And that was that. He consumed the edible wrapper of the rations pack and went back to work.

Crany was the first to die when the Dark Splinters came around in a day or two. He was delicious, yes, but the darklings found they would rather devour a Kralee whole than eat the bitter meat off his bones.

© Andrew Walter

  1. thats really cool,at first i thought it would end with everbody dying,then with the commander sitting next to that machine thinking”echoes….i can hear them everywhere,watching me……uuuuugh.”but thats me,that story was really awesome,kudos!