Going Quietly Into That Good Night
Posted on April 28th, 2005 by Adam Drake
(With apologies to Dylan Thomas for butchering his title for my own personal log-writing purposes.)
The phaser blasts soared overhead with alarming speed and accuracy. Adam watched in stunned silence as an entire armory encampment burst into flames and sent shrapnel flying everywhere. Adam blinked at the intensity of the colors slicing the darkened night open. He could almost feel his pupils constricting under the change. He recognized the structures; this was Tadaus Prime.
He turned his head, drawn by the sound of his name. The landscape that once was their camp now lay in desolate ruin. Equipment was turned over everywhere, or completely disintegrated by enemy fire, and dead bodies with charred flesh lay about. Lay about in their final resting places, struck down by a threat that could barely be seen.
Instinctively he threw himself behind a boulder as a pile of dirt was unearthed near his left leg. He could feel his face caked with grime and dirt from being blown to the ground on more than one occasion, but he always managed to regain his footing and get back to the fighting. Fighting, yeah, what he called fighting. The forcefield generators were gone, the automated turrets took one shot and short-circuited, and half of his engineering corps had been wiped out by a photon grenade.
Adam heard his name again, but resisted the urge to get up and look around. They could be anywhere, they could be right behind the boulder waiting to make a move for all he knew. No, he couldn’t risk sticking his head out there if he was just going to get it blown off. Where was a Vulcan to encourage his line of thinking?
The voice came again, this time stained with horror and panic. Adam tightened his grip on rifle and looked ahead, acting as if he hadn’t heard the third call for aid. He saw the medical units about a hundred yards from his position working frantically on wounded soldiers. Admiring their duty and their ethics he silently cursed his own. The Marines. What the hell was he thinking?
Someone had convinced him. The seminars about ‘The Power of One overcomes the Problems of All’ and all that other stuff had swayed him. How? Why? The propaganda was everywhere and he was always dodging recruiters on the academy grounds. Somehow he had gotten caught up in the potential glory of it. Glory, it was immensely overrated.
This time the voice was closer. He heard a scrapping on the ground just over the sounds of crackling fires and collapsing structures. The person who needed help was just about to him, or so he surmised as he tried to squint through all the growing smoke. A hand caught his leg and he pulled it away almost mortified. Good, though, the injured had come to him and he wouldn’t have to stick his neck out there to save him.
“Adam, please…please help me…” The voice belonged to 2nd Lieutenant Taylor McDermott. A young brash kid of twenty, maybe even nineteen, who had enough enthusiasm to want to be placed on the front lines. He fought gallantly, Adam had seen him in close combat with Jem’Hadar soldiers holding his own. The kid would prove to be a great officer one day.
No, he wouldn’t. Adam pulled the kid behind the boulder; well, half of him anyway. The young man had pulled himself, missing everything from the waist down, back fifty yards to a safe haven. The bloody trail from where he had been showed the man’s dedication. Adam bit back the urge to throw up and fought even harder from just walking away.
“I – I – I can’t feel my legs.” Taylor’s lip was quivering, no doubt from the excruciating pain that was surging through his body. His uniform was torn and bare flesh was exposed underneath. “Please, help me…”
“I’m g – going to get help, all right?” His words were hollow, even to him. Adam moved away as the man settled in behind the sanctuary of the boulder. Adam parted the foliage and stepped through the timberline into that blackened night. He silently wondered how long it would be before the kid died of lack of blood. Or, in the worse case, realized that the man who he had asked for help would not be returning.
Tears had already begun stinging his eyes as he trampled over dead tree limbs and plant life. The rifle had long been tossed over his shoulder and he was merely running now. Just running. The screams and the sounds of terror subsided into a dull murmur until nothing but the gentle sounds of crickets chirping blessed his ears. He had escaped.
At what price? It didn’t matter now. It didn’t matter at all. The only thing that Adam cared about was the fact that he was safe from harm and would live to see another day. The ghosts that came along with it would deal with being ignored – he was alive.
A sudden sound drew his attention and he lost his balance. Staggering backwards, arms flailing, he tripped over a rock. Adam felt the world fall with him, passing him by at light speed before he landed with a thud onto the hard ground. Opening his eyes, he was greeted with sunny blue skies and birds soaring through the air. A gentle change from the warzone he had just left.
“What the hell?” Adam said, taking in his surroundings. Pandria Four? The twin suns were an obvious key. But, he had just left a night battle on Tadaus Prime. Things weren’t adding up. The two events had almost been two years apart. “Where am I?”
“You’re on Pandria Four, Adam. The same place that we’ve been for the past God-knows how long. I know that we all want to get out of here, but pretending you’re somewhere else isn’t going to help?” A woman of about twenty-five called from behind him, perched on a rock eating what looked like a Starfleet ration pack.
“In the flesh, as I was ten minutes ago before you dozed off to sleep. What’s up with you? You try and see everything and end up falling off a rock, and now you have temporary amnesia. You know how to ease a moment, don’t you Drake?”
He shook his head, metaphorically shaking off her questions, “But you didn’t make it. You weren’t at the survivor camp. You were a casualty.” Adam had been talking a good two minutes before he realized that he was babbling – out loud. He looked up and Mala had an inquisitive look on her face. “What?”
“You just said that I didn’t make it. There hasn’t been any Dominion force activity on this planet for months, Adam. What makes you think that they’re going to attack now with a force big enough to kill us. We’re like three lines behind the front.”
Mala took a menacing step forward, “Do you know something that I should?”
“Of course not…”
“Adam Drake, I know that you’re a Betazoid. I didn’t know that they could see the future or anything like that, but I would like to know if my life is going to be cut amazingly short by some freak surprise attack from an enemy we haven’t seen in months.” Mala’s hands went to her hips and she cocked her head sideways.
Adam shook his head, “No. I was just babbling, some weird dream that I had. It’s nothing serious. Why don’t we play a game of Pazaak?”
His eyes didn’t meet hers.
“Or, we could do something else if you like? We need to pass the time here or I’m going to go crazy,” Adam realized he was fighting a losing battle. His futile efforts to change the subject were met only with Mala’s dead gaze. Then, he saw it. It was panic. Her eyes weren’t directed at him; no, they were directed over his shoulder.
Spinning on his heel he gasped himself. There was a dark cloud moving towards them at alarming speed. It wasn’t a cloud though, it was more like a swarm. A million tiny craft descended through the atmosphere. Small orange flares dropped from the underbellies of their crafts and the all-to-familiar sound of explosion shattered the tranquil serenity of that undisturbed forest.
“Mala,” he started, turning to face her.
Nothing could have prepared him for that look. Her eyes were filled with hurt. There was no longer any panic, fear, or terror. It was sheer agony of being betrayed by a friend. “You knew. It was the calm before the storm and you knew. What more, you knew I wouldn’t make it.”
“You’re going to make it,” Adam pushed her pack towards her and pushed her back down the path away from the approaching storm. “Run, and don’t look back.”
They ran like no other. His heart was beating so fast and so loud that he could hear it in his ears and feel it in his head. A steady thumping of blood being pumped to his extremities. His legs were churning faster than they ever had before and his breath was just as ragged. That familiar feeling crept up again; terror and horror returned to be his comrade in arms.
Then it happened, as he knew it would. Mala tripped, stumbled, and fell into the dirt. Adam stopped and knelt down, tugging at her arm valiantly to pull her up. She was half crying and half out of breath – the ultimate agony. “Come on, Mala, come on…”
“My foot, it’s stuck!”
It was just like nature to screw with him. When he was feeling heroic and able to care for those around him, he couldn’t. Adam stared in disbelief as he saw her foot caught between a boulder and a tree root. Lodged in there something fierce, Adam fought from crying himself. He knew he was dreaming, but he couldn’t save her even in his dreams. It was as if the universe was taking her at his expense. Again.
A sharp wind hit him, almost knocking him to the ground. He turned his head and forced his eyes open into the torrent of wind. It stung and he could feel his eyes clogging with dirt and debris. A tree trunk flew past him at warp and he muttered an obscenity as he threw himself over Mala. Another heroic act, another worthless failure.
“Help me! I can’t get it out!” She was screaming at him, her arms tugged drastically at his collar. Her inner walls of duty had caved to the emotions dwelling beneath. The tears flowed freely now against that perfect tan complexion. If the situation had warranted it, he would’ve told her how beautiful she was.
Another instinct forced his head to turn at the approaching catastrophe. Orange flares still dropped from the floating swarm and Adam watched in semi-awe as the forest floor beneath them erupted with force and fury. The sky, once a flawless blue, became slandered in brown and black. The sun was blotted completely, minus a mediocre glow of what lay beyond the now war-tattered world.
In moments he would be nothing more than a scorch mark on the ground, if that. So, Adam did what he did best. Heroism took a backseat as he pulled Mala’s hands off his uniform and took off running. Her outcries grew desperate, like that of someone knowing that in the minutes – or seconds – life itself would cease. He blocked it out as he ran.
The oblivion followed him, sped up, and wreaked more havoc than he remembered. The battle itself was fierce, but nothing like this. There was a clearing up ahead. He burst through the foliage and found himself standing on a precipice looking down into a seemingly endless pit. A pit of despair. It was where he was destined to live out his life; eternal damnation. Whether in his dreams, in reality, or in death; it would always haunt him. He threw out his arm to steady himself to prevent falling headlong into the abyss. It was time to turn and face it, he decided, and in one swift moment he spun into the blazing light.
“What are you doing there, Lieutenant?”
Adam blinked, a bright light shining in his face, “If you’ll lower your weapon, we can talk face to face.” His hand was doing little to reflect the lights, all five of them. No doubt a border patrol skulking along the battle lines in the middle of the night. Border patrol. Draw the short straw and get caught on a triple shift without sleep. It was the bane of Marine life during the Dominion War. Penga’Ra, was no different.
As the lights flicked off one by one, he came to look upon his engineering battalion members. Poor saps. “I’m checking the forcefield generators in this area. I figured that the best time to make the calibrations was when the camp was silent and I could hear myself think.” Snickers fluttered through the few and Adam felt comforted.
“Well, you should’ve told us so we didn’t think you were some traitor working against us. Or, worse, a Jem’Hadar soldier.”
“Are you saying I have horns on my forehead?” Adam asked bluntly, leveling his gaze at the leader of the border patrol – his second in command.
The man blinked, the smile disappeared, and he shook his head. “No, no disrespect, sir. I was just pointing out that you should’ve informed us about your activities as to not alert us of a possible threat in this area.”
“I was joking, Lieutenant.” It was nervous laughter this time, but it brought a smile to Adam’s chiseled face nonetheless. Too much death, too many battles, a smile felt good now and then. “Why don’t you go over and set a cloak dispersal flare near that grove of trees. That’s where the Dominion forces are.”
Apparently there was humor in that as the group of men erupted in a roar of laughter that was quickly stifled. A couple of jokes followed it up in a whisper as the group moved towards the grove. Adam knew that none of them had the intention of wasting a supply at a 1st Lieutenant’s joke. Except for Adam. He reached into the armory case next to his toolkit and chucked it at the tree.
The engineers turned as it hit the trunk and dropped to the ground, settling into a barren patch of thick moss near the root. They all smiled until the flare went off, revealing a set of six Jem’Hadar soldiers standing in wait. His second in command’s jaw dropped. “How did you…?” And then his jaw hit the ground – literally.
He didn’t even bother fighting it this time. He stared a soldier in the eye as it bolted at him, gun in hand. His face belied the feelings of remorse within him as he saw the Dominion combatant raise the weapon high above his head and swing down. It would be a skull-crushing blow.
Adam’s eyes opened. Wiping the sleep from his vision, he sat up. Another nightmare. It was becoming more tedious and monotonous more than anything. They were disturbing; increasingly so every night. Reliving the only events of his life he cared to forget was not something he looked forward to when he lay himself down to sleep.
“You didn’t save us…” The half corpse of Taylor McDermott crawled up the foot of the bed, dragging himself towards Adam. The look that was once young and helpless was now aged and determined. “I asked for you to help me, and you turned your back on me. I died, because you were too weak.”
The words cut like a knife. It was nothing that he hadn’t heard before, but it hurt more coming from half of a man crawling at him with a look of intensity and anger that would rival most Klingons. “I – I – I’m sorry Taylor. I couldn’t help it…”
“Is that what you tell yourself?” He turned and saw Mala standing in the doorway. She didn’t look like herself; in fact, he wouldn’t have known it was her unless he had heard the voice. Her body was a homely shade of black. He looked at her and was only able to see the whites of her eyes. A creepy enough image in itself without the scathing voice and the malicious intent behind her words.
“Don’t say it, Adam. You left me too.” She took a step from the doorway and sat down on the edge of the bed. A mangled hand reached out and Adam, out of reflex, pulled away from her with a twisted look of disgust crossing his features. A smile formed where her mouth should’ve been, but an empty cavity was all that was left.
His feet spurned away and his arms pushed him backwards from his mistakes on Tadaus Prime and Pandria Four. His way was blocked by something; he looked up and saw the headless figure of his engineering companion from Penga’Ra. The fear overtook him again as he moved to the center of the bed hoping to awaken before the penultimate moment. Somehow, given his luck, he didn’t see that happening.
Silently, without fighting, he stopped running and let his past – that horrible past – overtake him.