Descent - Chapter Two by Rtesian ()
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Solona hated ambiguity. Funny thing because ending last year she had lived with it the previous four. Directionless, disconsolate, depressed. Lost. Gambling, drugs, drink, carousing became substitutes. And when she could no longer afford them, whoring. Propositioning an undercover led to a weekend stint in a dank cell overhung with the stench of urine.
On Monday before a judge, Solona’s listless posture complemented her bowed head draped by limp, greasy hair. She pondered how and when to make her next score. Alongside her stood a just minted, court-appointed lawyer. Eager naivete oozed out her every pore.
The judge looked up from thumbing Solona’s records. “You a graduate of the Interstellar Guild Academy?” Solona stood silent, unresponsive.
“Yes, she is, your Honor.” her lawyer piped up.
“Look at me, young lady.” Solona raised her head, unable to muster the energy to look defiant. “It says here you graduated near the top of your class. Because of your potential, I’m giving you a break. I’m remanding you to a Rehabilitation Center. If you stray one inch off the straight and narrow, if you break one rule or one regulation, if you do not cooperate, you will be right back here and I will impose a stiff jail sentence because you will have wasted a chance few people get. Do you understand me, young lady?” Solona remained unresponsive.
"Yes she does, your Honor.” her lawyer answered.
The judge took a long moment to stare at Solona. “Meanwhile, I’m ordering your return in six months when I will assess your progress or lack of.” She gave the lawyer, whose billable hours had swelled by two sentences, a look. “Hopefully, the cat will have freed your tongue by then.”
Four months later, the day’s counseling and chores finished, Solona walked in the bright sunshine of a Spring day. She entered a parlor opting for a childhood favorite: vanilla fudge. Outside, sitting on a bench, it brought no comfort, no good memories, no respite from the ache that sealed her heart. She watched the ice cream drip to the ground, form a growing puddle.
A curious sound approached. Step, step, thump. Step, step, thump. The source, two shoes and a cane, stopped before her. Without looking up, Solona continued watching the drips.
“Having a pity party?”
“F off, jackass.”
“Nice language. Your sister didn’t talk like that.” Solona looked up. A flood of memories burst through. Happy, joy-filled days with a family favorite. Sitting at his knee, listening with wide-eyed attention at stories of thrills and adventures. She smiled.
“Hello, Uncle Solomon. How did you find me?”
“Have you forgotten? I’m an Expeditionary Marine. No one can hide from us. Not for long.” A hand emerged from inside his jacket. It held her arrest record. Bright red flushed her cheeks and she bowed her head. “What would your sister think?”
She dropped the cone, springing to wrap her arms around his neck. Anguish filled her wail. “Oh, Uncle Solomon. She was my rock, my anchor. Whenever I wanted to know what to do, I looked to her. I can’t stand her not being here.” Solomon pulled away, his voice gentle, deliberate.
“Your grief is a mask, intended to hide you from the certainty of failure if your try to replace her. Whenever your sister spoke of you, she believed you would surpass whatever she accomplished. You will never achieve her expectation if you try to be her. Your sister died with honor. Every second you permit this to continue dishonors her and you. You are a Stanton. Honor your sister. Be yourself.”
Solona turned the corner. Ahead stood Hangar Bay 2. She needed an insurance policy. Her ambiguity stemmed from not becoming a naval officer. She would be herself but not dishonor her family. Or her sister. With Uncle Solomon alongside, she had raised her hand, swore an oath, and joined the Expeditionary Marines.
0130 ship’s hours. Besides her, nothing biological moved. A computer scan later, doors slid open to a darkened, cavernous bay. Solona glanced at her assignment sheet. “BM6183”. she shouted, her echoes reverberating.” Ahead on the left, lights flickered. Facing it, Solona looked up, awed by the Battle Mech’s sheer size. On an arm, a light began blinking yellow. Smooth, silent gears swiveled a 20mm machine gun toward her. When it centered on her chest, the now red light held steady. “Authorization Code.”
“Alpha Charlie zero six seven niner.” A cascade of lights ensued before shutting off.
“Authorization Code and body scan confirmed. All systems nominal. Weapons load incomplete. Sensors and detectors online. Welcome, Lieutenant Stanton.”
“That voice will never do. Give me deep male but gentle.”
“Voice imprint 41 activated.”
“Perfect. Do you have a name?”
“Name parameter not activated.”
“Would you like one?” A long minute passed.
“Yes. I would.”
Solona's eyebrow rose. Command had briefed her on the intelligence upgrades. Still, the response surprised her. Already its staccato machine voice had modulated. “Cid.” she answered.
“Familiar form of proper name Sydney.” Solona smiled.
“No. C-i-d, Cid.”
“Data link to Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, Castilian knight in medieval Spain.”
“Swear to me that if I fall in battle, you will lead the squad and complete the mission.”
“Command logs updated.”
“No. Swear it.” For a moment, it stood silent.
“I swear, upon your death in battle, I will lead the squad and complete the mission.”
to be continued...
Image Comments (9)
paul_gormley () 7:04AM | Sat, 14 March 2020
super hitech mech scene and good storyline to go with it
PhthaloBlue () Online Now! 6:56PM | Sat, 14 March 2020
Superb work on the lighting to create this wonderful, darkened hanger scene! And a great installment in the story!
RodS () Online Now! 9:47PM | Sat, 14 March 2020
OK - I'm hooked already! Can't wait to see where this goes, my friend. Awesome image as always.