I’ve hated Skip for as long as I’ve known him.
Which hasn’t been that long, if I’m being honest. A little less than four months. But I hate him nonetheless. Big, loud and as arrogant as the day is long, Corporal Wayne ‘Skip’ Alders was the kind of guy that would just ride your ass for no good reason. Always bitching that my weapon wasn’t quite clean enough, or that I carried my medpack in a different place than he’d told us.
Whatever. He’s not my father.
Nope, my father died when the Covenant glassed our homeworld. My mother and I had been away visiting family and were lucky enough to have missed the festivities. But my father refused to leave the farm for a few days. We had workers who could have run things while he was gone. But my old man just had to have his hands in things. Had to oversee his little domain. Couldn’t risk that things might not go perfectly if he was absent for a while. Anyway, his stubbornness left me without a father at the age of fifteen.
Over my mother’s protests, I joined the UNSC Marine Corps as soon as I turned eighteen. I was determined to do my part to make sure that the Covies got what was coming to them. For all the countless millions who died in the Covenant’s rampage through our solar systems. For my father. For me... and the anger that burned in my belly. I flew through training and was assigned to UNSC Security Forces Reach. Everybody knew that the Covies would never find Reach, so my assignment there was disappointing. I wanted to get into the fight, so I worked my ass off and in June of 2552, I earned myself a transfer to a frontline infantry unit. Unfortunately, that unit turned out to be the 405th Division, who were based out of Diego Garcia. Yeah, that’s right. On Earth.
I hated the 405th from the moment I arrived. Skip was my squad leader and for some reason, he seemed to take a special interest in breaking my chops. Always on me about something. The real kicker was when the Covenant found Reach. For all my efforts to get into the fight, I’d just barely missed it. Skip told me that I was lucky, but just felt cheated.
On October 20th, 2552, a small Covenant fleet arrived at Earth and it seemed that my prayers had been answered. More than a few Marines were scared. I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty. But there was Skip, in the middle of my moment, telling me to check and re-check my gear. Make sure my magazines were topped off. And to make sure my goddamned medpack in the proper location.
One of the Covenant ships breached the atmospheric defenses and settled over New Mombasa. Our company was deployed to reinforce the 17th Marines, who were fighting a losing battle to hold the ONI Alpha Site. The Adrenaline ran through me like a drug. This was it! And in my moment of glory, as I ran down the Pelican’s ramp, there was Skip, directing me to take cover. Screw that. I didn’t come here to take cover.
Even now, Skip is berating me. Bitching again about the placement of my medpack, as he works. For a guy that clearly doesn’t like me, he’s trying awfully damned hard to save my life. The three glowing pink spikes protruding from my chest plate seem as though they ought to hurt. But they don’t. I can’t feel them. It’s hard to breathe, though. Kinda feels like something heavy is sitting on me.
As my vision grows fuzzy, I can see that Skip has stopped working, his eyes filled with tears and resignation. What the Hell is that about?