So, the annual Richard Compton Writing Competition rolled around again. I didn't win, again. Last time, my entry was an allegory of my teenage angst, and this time, it's an expansion on a project I'm working on with Xelda57; Island Life. If you care about spoilers, stop reading now. Otherwise, enjoy, since it's a departure from the dark, self-hatred-riddled crap I usually put out. Bear in mind, though: it's written from a PoV sympathetic to the main character, so some terminology used won't match up with what's canon in Island Life. Also, because it was a college thing, I kind of had to remove all explicit references to Pokémon, but it's still there. It's just all implied.
This piece is an expansion on the death of one of the characters, which, in-project, took place 'off-screen'. There's also reference to nanoparticulate dust, which doesn't come into play until even later in the story, so...spoiler alert. Fo' serious. Also, there's a bit of foreshadowing for a plot point that hasn't even come up in the story at the time of writing. That's also a thing.
I'd contemplated writing this sooner, but it got put off again and again, until Richard Compton '13 rolled around, so I entered it into that. I made the final shortlist, but not the top 4, meaning I must be somewhere between 5th and 10th. I'd like to think the former. But I digress.
~The Courteous Soldier~
Glenn rolled over, onto his side, and took his watch from the bedside-table, holding it aloft so that it caught what little pre-dawn light could make it through the window behind the headboard. It was just after half-past four in the morning, and he gave an agitated but restrained sigh. For him, tonight, sleep was impossible. However, he was of such noble spirit that he would not wish the same fate upon his dorm-mates.
Following the stress of the past few days, he felt quite sure he had developed some kind of stomach ulcer, though that may equally be due to the quality of food available in what some had started to refer to as the Onyx Republic. Ostensibly, he and his comrades were putting themselves through this in the name of independence from a neighbouring territory to whom they were in opposition about a recent shift in government, though Glenn was beginning to doubt the cause. He doubted that he was fighting for anything at all, now.
He sat up and turned ninety degrees, so that he faced the bed next to his, the one occupied by one of his more familiar comrades. Gavin was, quite possibly, the closest thing Glenn considered to a friend in this mess. As far as he was aware, they both shared the spirit of the revolution, but not the thirst for war. They both had concerns about the way the struggle was being conducted, and yet, Gavin seemed much more at-ease with it all.
Glenn rested his head on his hand, which, in turn, he rested on his knee. He wanted to lie down and go to sleep, but he knew this would prove futile. The bed was cold and uninviting-- more so than usual. What little sleep he had managed to accrue thus far had been haunted by nightmares varying from bizarre to truly disturbing, and the aching in his stomach served to remind him that, were the dreams not deterrent enough, getting to sleep at all would be an uphill battle.
At last, feeling he had nothing better with which to occupy his time, he stood, casting another glance at Gavin, who was sound asleep, lending him an oddly peaceful air, which seemed dissonant with reality, as he had, while awake, the combination of the type of soldier with an unbreakable, steely resolve, and the dark, mysterious type who would let on nothing outside of what was necessary. To see him vulnerable like this was almost jarring, but, then again, anything at this hour of the day would seem maddeningly out-of-place, were it not to conform precisely to one's expectations. Such was the nature of the world before dawn.
Glenn made his way to the communal washroom-area, just to stare at his reflection in one of the mirrors above the sinks. Once upon a time, that face bespoke a quiet, caring, loyal soul. Now, all it showed were bloodshot eyes, battle-scars, and a look of weariness with the world, not with a lack of sleep.
He turned on one of the taps just for a moment, just to get enough cold water to splash onto his face, in a hopeless attempt to rejuvenate it. Immediately, he wanted to chide himself for such a vain thing to do, when the plumbing at the barracks was so loud and ill-maintained, and when water was in such short supply, thanks to restrictions from the territory from whom they wanted liberation.
These thoughts alone did nothing but add to the unwell feeling in his stomach. He felt sure, now, that this side of the war was destined for nothing but a crushing defeat. The 'Onyx Republic' had to its name not a single ally. Granted, neither did their opponents, as no other region in the land cared about this struggle, but the 'Republic', if it even deserved that much accreditation, paled in comparison to the size and strength of its former fatherland.
Everything, he had now convinced himself, was lost. This was hopeless. Even if he were to, by some small miracle, make it out of this hell-on-Earth alive, he feared he might never be able to meet eyes with his brother or parents again, if they were even still willing to acknowledge his existence. In that regard, he thought, he might be better off killed by the enemy. At least then, he would have some kind of funeral, albeit a generic, mass one.
He sighed jaggedly, and began to leave the room, back into the maze of corridors that made up the barracks here. The hallways seemed even more labyrinthine in this state of mind. Every turn seemed to lead to more endless passageways, with tighter walls, almost pulsating with how intestinal the place was. It was a small wonder Glenn didn't begin to feel lost on his return journey.
Before he could make it back to bed, however, he found himself accosted.
"Good morning, Glenn," said the eerie, robotic voice of his other close comrade, Getxo, an artificial being recruited to support the Onyx cause, who gave a quasi-polite bow. The sudden greeting made Glenn jump, then he chastised himself for letting something so insignificant get to him, after all he had been through on this campaign so far.
"Good...morning, Getxo," he said, unsure and slightly shaky of voice. "What are you doing up at this hour?"
"I have no need for sleep." This was, to Glenn obvious, and they both knew this. Still, apparently, it had to be said. "Additionally, I suspected you might be awake, which is good. I wished to speak with you. Come."
Glenn blindly followed his comrade, only half-wondering why they could not speak where they were. Leading him into his and Gavin's shared storage-room, Getxo said,
"Your behaviour recently, Glenn. Unless I am quite mistaken, you have been betraying our cause."
"Nowhere does it say that showing compassion to civilians is a betrayal of our cause."
"They were clearly in alliance with the opposing faction, and were seeking to quash our resistance once and for all, and you aided them, on several occasions, with vital information that could threaten us. What-is-more, you were aware of your actions. Even now, you fear retribution. Your physical well-being is indicative enough of that."
"I did what I knew to be right," Glenn said, folding his arms, shutting his eyes and shaking his head in adamance, "so I allied myself with those who would do the right thing."
"Then you would speak ill of our cause. Are you aware of the consequences of being caught breaching policy in this way?"
Glenn avoided the question directly.
"You cannot sentence me to anything without a fair trial, much less without evidence or reason."
"I am Getxo," his artificial cohort said, bowing again, and releasing some kind of dust, which Glenn knew, from seeing its use against others before, was full of those nanoparticles pertinent to the process of assimilation, to make him one of Getxo's victims; a robotic, subservient and conscienceless non-entity. "I do what is right for the final cause."
Glenn gritted his teeth and stepped back, grabbing one of Gavin's battle-swords from its stand by the desk. Getxo appeared amused at his rebellious stance.
"Glenn, you know very well that you cannot harm me. Submit now, and it will be quick and painless. You will never have to hurt, or think, or feel again."
Already, he could feel his limbs growing resistant to his brain, which, itself, was growing misty. His senses grew dull, and his limbs grew heavy, as though cast in lead. Losing any notion of consideration for his sleeping comrades, he gave an unrestrained cry of pain, as the nanoparticles began to attack his system proper, causing sensations of burning, freezing and some kind of electrical shock to wrack every part of his body.
"I...won't..." he stumbled to say, raising the sword, beginning to froth at the mouth with the intensity of his spasms. "I...won't be...controlled..!"
Instead of swinging the weapon at Getxo, he convinced his arm to move at a strange angle, and, in one fell movement, decapitated himself in what he wanted to believe was a noble warrior's death at the end of a path of wavering righteousness.
The last thing he ever saw was Getxo's faux-polite bow, and the last thing he ever heard was Getxo's amused yet emotionless laugh, accompanied by the words,
"This will be of no consequence."