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Close to the Sun

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Chapter 2


I clenched my teeth as the tingling and painful stings subsided, I allowed my head to hang forward. I blinked away the blurriness trying to restore my vision, I couldn't catch my breath. The low hum of a light that beamed down on me hurt my eyes; I couldn't see anything outside of the spotlight clearly. Everything was out of focus. I glanced down, the jumper they'd given me was painted with blood that spilled down it and pooled on the floor. My eyes felt heavy.

So tired...

I suddenly felt a stinging pain as my head whipped to the side. Someone just slapped me across the face. I felt awake and angry. I lifted my head.

"Come on Icarus," A dark grey chupa in black clothes stepped around my chair dropping a pair of scissors on a metal tray table as I pulled at my restraints, "You have the power to make this stop. All you need to do is tell us what we want to know. This hurts me more than it hurts you, you know?"

"You know," I panted squinting at him, "I can take everything you can dish out, I'm not... Not telling you a damn thing."

"Shame. I figured a few hours of our pleasant conversation and fun activities might have made you more social."

"Guess we're both disappointments."

The chupa replied with a solid right cross, then a left, and then a hard right.

"That the best you got?"

I coughed, lifting my head and spitting blood into his face. He flinched, wiping the crimson fluid. I watch as his face grew dark, he cracked his knuckles. I sat up in my chair the best I could and smiled defiantly, if I was going to get the shit beaten out of me, I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of me looking defeated. He looked about ready to swing when I heard a door open behind me somewhere.

"That's quite enough," A rough voice barked causing my torturer to back off with a look of annoyance, "He's still gotta do basic, I hope you didn't break him."

"Nothing permanent," The torturer replied taking a step back allowing a figure to step in front.

A red chupa in beige army fatigues, cap, and a greying mane leaned down slightly to get a look at me.

"So, you're the pipsqueak who's been causing us problems? Pretty handy with a sniper rifle, aren't you? Get him up."

"Gunny?"

"That's an order, now."

My torturer reluctantly unbuckled my arm restraints, watching me carefully. I watched him right back with the same amount of caution as he released my legs. I pushed myself up to stand, my breath hitched, and fell to my hands and knees. The beating I took begin to set in. My whole body felt wrong, heavy all over and still stiff from the bruising. I tensed and gingerly rose to a standing position, scowling at the two.

"Stronger than you look, come on let's get you to the barracks Specialist," the camo-wearing chupa began to walk quickly, and with a shove from behind I hobbled after him. "I'm Gunnery Sergeant Kovich. Get real familiar with the name. You better get whatever rest you can, you get up with your new comrades bright and early."

"What do you mean, new comrades," I started.

"New comrades, sir. You're in the military now son."

"I never agreed to this, sir."

"You don't have much of a choice, you refused to give up valuable information and your execution was on the table. You have skills with a rifle, so we're putting you to work."


A loud shout woke me up. I still hadn't healed from the injuries I already had, some of my cuts were still open. Even though my body still hurt I forced myself up out of the bunk, the white tiles were immaculate and hurt my eyes. Everyone else in the room stood rigid at a salute by the time I had lined up all eyes were on me. I tried to block out the glares of the faceless soldiers, they all stood a head or two taller than me so not looking them in the eyes was easy.

"Specialist," I snapped back to reality, Lieutenant stood before me glaring down at me from under the brim of his beige camo cap. "Seems you're having trouble reading the room still, when your commanding officer enters you drop all activity and give me a salute."

"Fuck. You."

The moment the words left my lips all the air seemed to vacate my body, pain lit up my midsection, I couldn't breathe. I dropped to a knee taking shallow and ragged breaths, the tiled white floor looked blurry. I couldn't force air back into my lungs. I dry heaved involuntarily, nearly vacating the contents of my stomach.

He... He punched me in my- that fuck-

"That's a pity. You worthless scumbag! You better learn some respect, I'm not your CO- I'm your new damn father and this here is my house! I've got your name; I've got your ass! Soldiers, this disobedient soul is your new platoon member. You'll just call him Specialist. He's your new sharpshooter. He's also got a mouth and an ego, so it is your job to humble him. Every one of his fuckups are your fuckups if you haven't figured it out by now. Make sure you give him some encouragement to not fuck up."

I heard the shifting of cloth as he bent down, his shadow looming over me.

"Now you best un-fuck yourself and get on your feet, Specialist. You boys can thank the specialist here, he's won you all another 10-mile run this morning. Maybe you all can teach him some manners the third time around."

He stood up and walked away from me. Once air began to circulate normally, I shot to my feet furiously. I could only feel burning hatred. I glanced at my "uniform" and at the uniforms the soldiers wore. Mine was spattered with my own blood and no doubt my fur was still caked in my own blood from last night being a worn green, they were all wearing spotlessly clean black uniforms that looked like they had been thoroughly ironed. Their manes were cut short while mine was grown out wildly. I probably looked like I just crawled away from a bar fight. Fitting in wasn't even a possibility, I just got here, and I already have a target painted on my back. I could feel a feeling I hadn't felt in a long time arising, murderous hatred.

"Now, on your faces, and give me a hundred to get you warmed up for the day!"


The run was the easy part. It would've been harder had the first days I'd spent here not been dead sprints for hours, or if running wasn't a vast majority of the work I did before. I raised my eyebrows when the Sergeant stopped the group in front of a building. I huffed silently, catching my breath stood straight up while most of my "platoon" was hunched over or leaning on one another to stay standing. I scoffed at the idea that these were the House soldiers that everyone was afraid of, they couldn't even handle basic cardio. They all filed in, I followed silently, it was a mess or dining hall as far as I could tell.

I stood away from my platoon as they went to sit in the dining hall if I could even call them that. The sun beamed down the whole time, and it was miserable. But I hadn't been trying to run, the entire time out I couldn't figure out where on Sirca I even am. I didn't recognize anything. I could feel their hateful looks and could give less of a shit, the room was nearly full of ample places for me to sit but I just stayed by the door. I wasn't hungry, I wasn't thirsty, and I didn't trust them. I didn't need their food. I don't want to be near them.

"The dining hall is for eating, Specialist," I lazily brought myself to a salute, I didn't turn to look at the chupa who'd come in the door, "At ease."

I held my stance.

"That means you can relax. Go eat. You starving yourself doesn't hurt me."

I stared straight ahead at a wall; I wasn't interested in listening to anything he had to say.

This place is Hell.

"No, sir."

"Would you care to shower? You smell like death and it's bugging everyone, hell you look like a murder victim risen from the grave."

"No, sir. It's a pleasant reminder to my comrades and myself that I'm a dead man walking. Sir."

I couldn't imagine what I smelled like; I could barely breathe through my nose let alone smell-

"Suit yourself, I can only say I offered," Kovich almost sounded disappointed as he walked off to join some other chupas at a table far across the room, seamlessly joining in on the conversation.

I watched as the group seemed to throw a peek at me every minute or so, I wasn't going to let them control me. They couldn't make me do anything I didn't want to.


"I know some of you are very eager to get your hands on a rifle and begin live-fire training," Gunnery Sergent Kovich paced in front of us as we stood at attention on a painted line.

The entire room's floor was thinly padded from what I could feel, just enough to feel cushioned.

"But we've got to get sorted with the basics, hand-to-hand combat. I wasn't particularly satisfied with your performance. This should be a simple spar. I'm not going to hold your hands through this, pick a partner and get started."

I could feel the eyes, no shortage of potential. But none of them acted, at least not under the watch of the Gunnery Sergent. Everyone pared off, except for one remaining chupa. I was quite familiar with him. The same one I had to spar yesterday, and the day before. He was significantly taller than me by a good foot and a half at my best guess, taller than the other soldiers by at least a foot. Muddy yellow fur covered what the uniform didn't, his mane might as well have been non-existent as it was virtually the same color as his body.

Just my fucking luck.

I raised my hands, the last time I fought someone was in a bar and it didn't go over too well. I probably still had the scar where he kicked me.

It wasn't my fault he took offense to being called stilts.

Not to mention the bouts that I've done recently went just as poorly and these people weren't keen on teaching me.

I heard a grunt and ducked feeling air woosh over my head, I stepped back to dodge another swing. I stepped in and threw a right hook towards his head that hit way softer than I had thrown it, I was struck in the face and staggered back. The room seemed to spin and blur. My nose burned, I swiped my hand across my nose and my whole palm was slick with red. He moved in for another swing, I sidestepped creating some distance as I cupped my hand under my nose. He threw a left cross, it connected with the side of my head with a soft crack. I slung my hand at him, splashing blood across the eye area of the dusty blue soldier. I clenched my jaw trying to ignore the painful tingling and pounding headache, the soldier yelped as his hands shot to his face recoiling from me. I closed the distance unleashing a flurry of body shots that didn't really seem to faze him as much as the blood in his eyes. He swung blindly, catching my shoulder and sending me down to the mat with a twirl. I crawled back to my feet staying low.

With leaping steps, I bolted around to his backside and jumped on, interlocking my feet around his midsection. I slipped my left arm around his neck, successfully locking a rear-naked choke, and began delivering elbows to the side of his head with my right. He cried out as he tried to shake me off, I gripped tighter and hit harder.

I'm sick of this; I haven't even been here a week. Why did it have to be me? Who cursed my name? What did I do to deserve this-

I was jerked back to reality, mentally and physically as I was pried off the back of the chupa by two chupas from my platoon, I hit the floor hard with a tumble. My opponent fell forward to a knee clutching his neck and head collapsing on the floormats, others swarmed to his side to help him up. I tried to shoot back to a sitting position but was held down by multiple hands, I kicked out fighting the hands.

"Concussion Protocol, keep him down," A tan female soldier knelt nearby me while I squirmed, she looked genuinely worried. "You need to keep still; you're covered in your own blood. Bring it over!"

I must have looked messed up something fierce for any of these House soldiers to be even mildly concerned. I heard footsteps approach before I was lifted onto something and restrained before lifted once more and carried out of the training room. I watched as the overhead hallway lights passed by rhythmically. I could feel the adrenaline fading with every light passed. Once- twice- three times- four-


The ceiling greeted me when my eyes fluttered open. It was virtually quiet, except for soft conversation and the beeping of a machine. It took a few moments to blink the blurriness out of my vision, I tried to sit up and was met with stiff resistance. I couldn't even turn my head.

Right. They... They restrained me. They must think I could still be dangerous-

With the peripherals of my vision, I gathered someone had strapped me to a medical bed. A yawn began to escape my mouth only getting it slightly open being met with searing pain and tight resistance, I growled gritting my teeth.

"Holy shit," The female from earlier came into view looking down at me before waving someone over, "Gunny, he's awake."

My bed slowly began to tilt upward at the waist with a quiet whirring until I was sitting mostly upright, by that point Kovich was already standing in front of my bed. I grimaced.

"You know," He began pointing at my face, "Out of every recruit I've ever had, you seem to have a death wish. You disobey direct orders, don't eat, don't bathe- Now this. You better be as good as I was told you are otherwise that armor is gonna go to waste-"

Armor?

"That's enough, Gunny, you're stressing my patient. I'll send him back to the barracks when he's clear. I still have to check him for concussion."

"Miranda-"

She pointed to the door, causing the Sergent to scowl.

"When it comes to medical, I outrank you."

His eyes met mine and at this point, I was thoroughly entertained by this, Kovich getting told off was a nice change.

"This conversation isn't over Specialist."

I watched as he stormed out like an angry toddler, slamming the door causing Miranda to flinch and stare at the door. She let out a long sigh, shaking her head before looking back at me. Just like everyone else her mane was cut low, unlike everyone else she looked at me with actual concern in her soft green eyes.

"What's your name?" she asked slowly.

I raised an eyebrow.

"I already know your name, just answer the question."

I tried to open my jaws but to no avail and settled to speak through gritted teeth, "Icaru-sh Willar."

Pain shot up instantly. I strained to move my hand to my mouth and tight belts dug into my arm- Instantly reminding me that I was still physically restrained.

"Good. Do you know where you are?"

"Hell."

"Close, I'll give you a pass on that one."

I huffed, I figured nobody in this place had a sense of humor. It helped that she was pretty, now in the light I could see the sandy brown clearly.

One bright spot in this whole place.

"Miranda. Robin Miranda. You'll call me Miranda, I'm the go-to medic on base. I'm not the only one, but I'm the only one who was willing to make sure you didn't bleed to death. Initially, I was worried you might have had a concussion of some type as you exhibited symptoms- Miraculously, no serious damage. You must be used to blunt force trauma. You managed to reopen a lot of untreated wounds, which I handled, but you do have a broken jaw which I had to wire shut. Yes, it's going to be painful. No, you may not have painkillers. This is a military base, not a hospital. Not like they would let me give any to you anyway. It's gotta stay on for at least six to eight weeks, Gunny will send you back to me around that time and whenever you've healed enough, we'll get you sorted. Until then- Keep talking down to a minimum, avoid any blunt force to the facial area, just follow orders. I'd rather not meet like this again. You do that for me?"

It took me a moment to realize she had asked me a question. I nodded dumbly, hoping she didn't notice. I looked around and it hit me, I didn't see anyone else in the place.

"What happened to the other guy?"

"He was med-evac'd out. We don't have the facilities to treat that kind of damage."

I fought the urge to smile. It was what he deserved, but I didn't think anyone else would appreciate that sentiment.

"Good, I'm gonna undo your restraints and you're gonna take a damn shower cause you smell. Bad."

I felt embarrassment wash over me. I'd completely forgotten how bad I probably smelled. I watched her undo the straps and got to my feet. She moved to assist me, but I held my hand out to keep her away, I could appreciate the gesture, but I was fine.

I still don't know what her motive is for helping me, this must be some kind of setup.

"When do I get to shoot someone," I hissed.

Miranda walked me over to the door shaking her head, "That eager, huh? Knowing Kovich, I give it a week and a half."

"Good."


True to my word, I'd kept out of trouble. In fact, I hadn't spoken a word since. I followed orders and I was given a tight black jumpsuit to wear under my new matching uniform, it fit like a wetsuit. From what I had overheard over the last week, I had earned a decent amount of respect for what I did.

I stayed silent as Kovich dismissed the unit into the mess hall, I sat alone with my tray of food. Even though they accepted me, their acceptance isn't what I want.

I'm not one of them. I will never be, they can't brainwash me into this shit.

I ate silently, watching the room. Only raising an eyebrow when Kovich walked in hastily, motioning for me to come with him.

That can't be good.

I took one last bite of my sandwich and stood, following the Sergent out. I watched my surroundings carefully as he walked me through the base, even though things had gotten slightly better for me I still agreed with my initial experience. This was a Hell I needed to escape.

"Specialist, Icarus," I perked up at the mention of my own name, he never called me by my name. He kept his hasty pace and I sped up to match, "I don't know anything about this armor they're outfitting you with, I've only heard whispers. I don't imagine anything special, probably just some old retrofitted standard-issue gear. But you're being deployed today. They need a marksman and we've got you on standby, after you get that armor on, they need you on the next pelican out. Don't fuck up."

He almost sounds worried about me.

I shook it off as we entered a building I'd never been inside of, unlike the other buildings this one seemed to have security cameras all over the place. Not to mention significantly smaller. Two soldiers stationed at the doors stopped and frisked us for 'contraband', what that consisted of was never explained to me as they didn't find what they were looking for and allowed us through. I furrowed a bow in irritation as we stepped in front of a wall.

What the fuck?

I threw a glance back toward the stone-faced guards and front door, then back at the wall. Then it began to slide open, if my mouth wasn't wired shut it would have fallen open. The inside of an elevator waited patiently for someone to enter.

What the fuck.

"This is as far as I go," Kovich's voice snapped me out of my amazement. "I'm not permitted down there."

Down there?

"Double time, they're waiting for you."

I stepped past Kovich and into the elevator, the moment I cleared the threshold the door shut immediately almost catching my tail in it. I looked for a button to press, but the inside was mostly mirrored glass and an indicator that said 'Surface'.

Helpful.

Then it jolted, going down. I didn't like this. I didn't like being here, but this felt sketchy like they were going to do something to me. I didn't even have much time to dwell, the moment I began to have second thoughts the elevator dinged. I looked up.

'Laboratory.'


Red vs Blue © Rooster Teeth. Halo © 343 Industries. Concept by Myshu, assisted by The Department of Chupapology.

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