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Close to the Sun

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Tales From Sirca Chapter 1: Stability

I glanced at my sword, raising it and meeting the reflection of my yellow eyes in the thicket. The sword pristine, my eyes bright, fur midnight. I slowly crawled forward, using my nose to point me in the right direction. Using the tip of the blade, I nudged the foliage aside. There sat a pelican, blasted into the dirt and the nearby greenery ablaze. The back hatch door was wide open.

A House pelican by the looks of it and is it not only crashed, but the doors are wide open. Not a good sign, someone might have looted it already.

I leaned forward, an armed chupa in heavy armor jogged past my natural cover over to the pelican not bothering to look around. He smashed the shattered glass as he stepped onto the hatch walkway, one hand resting on his pistol the other grabbing a radio from his hip. I broke cover quietly almost slithering on the ground, never taking my eyes off the HADES soldier. There was feedback from his radio, I froze, sword raised, and pointed at their back.

"This is Command," I moved to the side toward his blind spot as he focused on the voice from his radio, "What's the status on target?"

I could see scorch marks on the hold, leaned further looking past the soldier, and saw a body motionless laid over the controls in the cockpit.

"Crash site located," He scoffed, "Pelican is grounded for good. Bastard flew pretty well for not knowing how."

"Target is KIA?"

"Roger. No survivors."

"Wouldn't hurt to double-check. Report back to the rendezvous when you're finished, bring the body."

I was mere feet from him now. He released the radio and my sword plunged straight through the body armor, I reached and wrapped my arm around his throat and squeezed tightly. I grinned as I could feel his terror set in, I could feel the life drain from him as his struggles faded to light movements than to nothing. I removed my blade, pushing the soldier to the ground with a loud clatter of his helmet rolling away. The chupa was sky-blue, navy-blue mane matted down from the helmet. I flicked the blood from the blade onto the ground and wiped what remained off in the crook of my elbow.

How do these novices even get these House jobs? Aren't they supposed to be warriors? I wanted a fight. He didn't even make sure he was alone.

I scoffed, reaching back and returning my katana to its sheath. I stepped on his body and heard a noise.

"P-" It sounded like he was trying to speak.

I crouched down to look him in the eyes drawing my sidearm from my chest holster, there was dire panic in them, "Huh, you're still alive. Impressive. Go ahead, beg for your life."

"P- please-"

"Mm. That sounded genuine. Could really feel the pain..."

I pressed the gun to his skull.

"What do you think, Quai? Should we let this scum bleed out?"

The soldier looked confused.

"No," I nodded at the voice, "I think you should give him mercy."

"Did you hear that? It's your lucky day, Quai said you deserve mercy."

I felt him relax slightly under my foot that was still pressed on his spine, the panic in his eyes subsides.

"Th-thank-"

I unloaded three rounds into the back of his skull, flicked the safety, and holstered the pistol.

"Mercy, on your soul."

Alright. What's in the hunk of shit?

I threw a careful glance over my shoulder, scanning the artificial clearing and tree line. If there had been anything nearby, it was scared off by the gunshots. It was dark inside even though it was only past midday, wires hung haphazardly from the ceiling and sheets of metal all over the place. I felt irritation poke at me as glass crunched under my feet. I lumbered into the hold, running my hand along with the upper netting above the seats looking for anything salvageable. My hand contacted a box and something metal.

Jackpot.

I pulled them down, a small box of ammunition for a pistol and a canteen. A decent find given the state of the vehicle. I drew my other sword, the short sword across my lower back, and cut down some of the nettings, knotting it around the small ammo box making a small makeshift bag, and securing it to my waist with the canteen hanging off it. I put my sword away and turned my gaze toward the cockpit.

The cockpit was somehow in worse shape than the rest of the ship. More disconnected wires, the screens were shattered outward, the front glass was practically gone except for large remaining shards that still stuck to the frame. That was when I laid eyes on the body slumped over the controls, the armor they wore was different, but I could recognize it anywhere.

Freelancer Specialist.

I'd had my crack at killing some like them but never had the chance to interact with one. I stepped in, the chupa covered in blood that I could only assume was their own. The metallic scent was so strong I could almost taste it. Despite the condition of the craft, the chupa and his armor were intact. I looked over his shoulder and at the helmet resting on the dashboard. I turned my head even further; a sniper was secured to the wall next to him. I could only assume that was his rifle.

He'll need that.

"Hm," I stepped close, leaning over the body and pressed my fingers to his neck, "If you could be a Freelancer and The House wants you dead, you could be useful. What say you, Quai?"

"Maybe."

I was satisfied with that answer and even more so when I not only felt a strong pulse but his light ragged breathing.

That idiot, this guy wasn't dead, poor fuck was just knocked out. He's in one piece. A bit bloody too, but-

"Glad to know you see it my way... And still alive. We'll be great friends."

I grabbed his shoulders, leaning his head back and carefully placing the helmet on his head until it fits tight. Flipping him over, I threw him on my shoulder and grabbed the rifle walking both out of the burning pelican. I took one last look over my shoulder before walking into the tree line.

What a way to stray from your path.

As darkness fell, I laid the armored Freelancer down near a fallen log, I'd camped there the previous night and it would be perfect given my situation. The moon shone brightly enough to cast enough light to see. I placed the rifle down next to him before moving his arms, so they rested on his stomach.

"You're very concerned for this male," Quai piped up.

"Not concern, I just don't want him to die before I can get my hands on him," I huffed walking off from the fire pit. "Is it so wrong to save another life, Quai?"

"No. It's not the action, but the intent."

I waved off the voice and marched out in search of firewood. When I returned, the armored chupa was sat upright with the rifle in hand and helmet thrown aside. I watched closely as he noticed me in the moonlight, his red eyes wild and unfocused as he breathed in a panic. His tail lashed as the barrel of the rifle swung towards me but swayed unsteadily back and forth. I began to approach him.

"S-stayy bac-ck," Alabaster chupa squints his eyes as if he's in pain, slurring his speech and constantly adjusting his hands on the sniper.

"You should put that down before someone gets hurt," I continued my approach only smirking when the gun clicked harmlessly. I reached into my makeshift net bag holding up the loaded magazine, "You think I'm leaving a concussed guy with a loaded weapon? Now, calm down. Trust me, if I wanted you dead, you'd still be in that pelican with that soldier."

He seemed to calm down, "Who'rrre you?"

I fixed the stone circle and threw the wood in, making quick work of setting it ablaze. I sat down on the soft dirt near him patting the spot next to me, gently pushing the rifle out of his weak grasp. Instead of moving closer, the smaller chupa flopped over onto my lap with a weak grunt. Head and eyes focused on the fire as it burned brightly, reflecting in his blood-red eyes.

"You may call me Aries," I patted his off-white breastplate lightly, "It's what I'm known as by my allies. What about you?"

The pause was so long I'd wondered if he'd fallen asleep, "Icarus."

"How about I just call you ‘Stray'? You've strayed from your path... Also, it's just easier."

"S' fair."

"You know, I saved your life. You owe me."

"Hm."

He'd brought both his hands up to rest on his stomach.

"How about I tell you a story? That way we aren't strangers, at least not entirely."

"Whoa's a sec, I dun wanna hear your life story-"

"You don't have a choice. Not in your state at least. I'll only tell one. I'll tell you about how my parents died, I feel that's personal enough. You'll tell me if it's too much. Now, it was a while back-"

---

I was a kid when it happened. I won't lie, my family was wealthy. Like, own a vacation home, wealthy. I was a private school kid; I didn't have standout grades and I did all kinds of extra shit after school. Fencing and sword stuff one day, gymnastics another. I was active. My parents, my mother loved that I kept myself busy with ‘valuable ventures'. My father had plans for my future, he wanted me to be an officer. A military drone. Of course, at that age, I had no way of knowing that. I had got anything I asked for, I was a spoiled little bastard. Emphasis on little, I was a short shrimp for my age.

The day it all went wrong was the day my parents discovered me talking to Quai and Raq.

I had gotten home after practice; my parents weren't home as they'd told me they had business to attend to, and so did I. I rushed up to my room to start up on my homework. Like any other day, I went to the desk in my room. I had tons of things on my mind, schoolwork mainly, what I'd learned in my private lessons, some boy I had a crush on. Mindless stuff.

I'd sat down and Quazi burst out angrily, "Raq you can't give him these ideas, surely you know he can't conduct himself like that."

"You would say something like that," Raq had shouted back, "Protecting those who don't deserve protection. What does he gain from that? Whose side are you on? He doesn't need to be like everyone else, those kids mess with him every day. For what? His tail having a blue stripe. All he must do is just run them through with the sword. It'd be their last mistake."

I clamped my hands against my head, their arguing always gave me intense headaches as they were unbearably loud. They helped me make choices, choices I made every day. But it had become more common and more irritating. But that day I'd had enough.

I stood up from my chair and shouted, "If you keep this up, I'm not going to listen to either of you! I'm not going to hurt anyone, what would I gain other than trouble?"

I turned toward my bedroom door, and it turned out that my father was standing in the doorway as I had started shouting at them, my mother was peeking over his shoulder. They cornered me in my room and interrogated me. Being a child, I told them what they wanted to hear, and I was told to never do it again. As if I had any control over them. To the credit of my younger self, I had tried. For weeks I refused to speak to Raq or Quazi, they didn't like that. For those weeks their anger and discontent built up. After the third week of the deafening noise in my head, my mother found me on the floor of my bedroom crying my eyes out begging for the voices to stop.

That had been the last straw for my father. The first thing the next morning it was a silent car ride to the hospital.

It was nice that day, sun shining, clear sky. This hospital was not the one I'd gone to all my childhood, the road wound up a long-secluded path. My father stopped the car right around the front, we were met at the door by my new doctor. Doctor Pherrah McCloud. He didn't have the caring look that you'd imagine doctors or nurses would have, he stared at me like a slab of meat as we approached the doors. He was a pudgy tan chupa, his eyes as black as night I could swear there were no iris. Only pupil and white space. There was a firm handshake between my father and the Doctor before I was nudged into the hands of one of the nurses that had accompanied the doc out. I was marched inside, past the front security desk through white halls that all looked the same, and into a room. Dr. McCloud hadn't accompanied me, just the two nurses who seemed to smile at me menacingly. The taller orange one handed me a white jumper and told me to change clothes while the other pink one stood blocking the door. This confused me, I couldn't understand why I couldn't keep my school clothes. When I expressed my discomfort, they merely responded by telling me that they were here to help me and ‘Just doing their job'. Like a good child, I did exactly as they asked. It fit loosely as if it were made for someone else and I just happened to fit somewhat.

They led me down a series of corridors to a normal-looking examination room, having been to a doctor before I just hopped up and sat down on the table. On the other side of the room were a sink and polished wood drawers. I had been having my doubts, the place and the doctor seemed creepy but at the time I'd chalked it up the unfamiliarity. That didn't mean I was calm, especially when the doctor walked in. He didn't speak to me as he picked up a file resting on the countertop, on the edge of the manila folder I could barely make out my own name as he read in absolute silence. I felt my senses wander. The ticking of the clock above the door, the dripping of water from the faucet that wasn't turned all the way off. The longer I sat in silence, the more unbearable the noises became.

"You're not up to date on your shots," I snapped to attention as he began to approach me with a syringe in hand. "As far as I can see, you only need one so let's get this over with, boy."

I was deathly afraid of shots; I had been for a long time. Making past doctor visits... Troublesome. I had begun to explain this, but the doctor seemed dead set on getting this shot out of the way, pronto. He didn't care to hear or flat out didn't care about what I had to say. The moment he got near me, I grabbed his wrist and held it away from me. He brought his other hand around to force me to lay flat. In a moment of terror, I managed to bring my feet up and not only kick the doctor in the face but send the syringe skittering across the floor. He stepped near the door and pushed a button before approaching me once more, now with blood trickling from his nose. His hand moved for my neck, but I was faster, I opened my mouth and bit down on his hand as hard as I could. The last thing I remembered was his screaming and the smell of copper.


I woke up on the floor of a soft white dim room with a pounding headache, I tried to reach up to massage my temples, but my arms refused to move.

"Having fun in that restraint jacket," Raq chuckled as I scooted myself into a corner, "That muzzle looks dashing on you, brings out the smoldering hatred in your eyes. I'm ready to give you some help-"

"I don't want your help," I hissed angrily, but quietly at empty air working around the muzzle. "You're the main reason I'm here. When my parents get here, I'm going to tell them how I'm getting treated and they'll see this place isn't for me."

"You think it's that simple. You're never leaving this place, you bit that doctor- you really, really messed up. Your parents aren't coming back for you, you're the thorn in their side and they are finally free of you. If they loved you, they would have never left you here."

"They didn't leave me! They just dropped me off, they should be coming to visit in a few days to see how I am."

"Let's give this... Two weeks. You know my name if you need me."

Once more, I was left in silence. For the first time in a long time, I cried. I hadn't been particularly sad; I couldn't really understand why, if anything I was angry. But it just came out.

There was no clock in the room, no window to peek out of. No way to tell the passage of time.

After what felt like an eternity, a nurse opened the door to my new cage. The orange nurse from before, Nurse Orange. Just like before she still had a smile plastered on her face, it was upsetting to look at.

"Are you ready to come out for lunch," She asked in a sickly-sweet voice, "You slept through breakfast call, so I came to personally wake you for lunch."

That threw me through a loop seeing as I had arrived early in the morning, it implied that after whatever happened I had slept or, more realistically, however long I was unconscious for it was longer than a day.

I managed a polite smile and controlled my tone, "Lunch sounds wonderful, but I can't stand up with this thing on, I might fall."

"We apologize for that, when Dr. McCloud attempted to administer a shot, you had missed on your record, you kicked and bit him."

"I tried to tell him I'm scared of needles. I didn't mean to hurt anyone."

"I know, but as a precaution," She walked over to me, standing me up and undoing the belts on the back of the jacket but leaving the muzzle on, "The mouth restraint stays on, so you don't bite anyone, okay?"

"I understand."

At the time, I figured I was in the wrong. The doctor and nurses were just trying to keep themselves and others safe, but it was clear to me that they considered me violent. From my dimly lit cell, it was a short walk to the cafeteria, I made a mental note of everywhere we went in case of an emergency or a fire. The sight of the other patients was more than a little depressing. Some of them looked worse for wear and kept to themselves, I thought of that as a good thing. Once I was seated, I could see just how wrong I was. The once quiet room now buzzed with whispers, the patients who were grouped up only seemed to bore holes in my skin with their glares. They were talking about me. I was the new face- of course, they were. They must have known who I was, how could someone of his family's status end up here. I turned my gaze down toward the table. When a tray was brought to me, I muttered a ‘thank you', the nurse had undone my muzzle and I began to eat. It wasn't appetizing but I hadn't eaten in almost a day, If I hadn't been so hungry, I might have noticed the blue chupa that walked over to me as Nurse Orange left the room. Unlike me, he was wearing street clothes.

He was bigger than me and flicked my head to get my attention, "It's not nice to ignore other people."

"It certainly isn't nice to flick someone either," I shot back, I was more than annoyed. I already got bullied in school, a hospital was not going to be another place I let it happen.

"I couldn't help but notice that nice little jacket you've got on."

I looked away from him.

"I figured as much, Schizo."

I slammed my hands on the table rising to my feet, I couldn't understand why I was angry. I was never angry; I didn't have a temper, but I was fuming.

"You-"

"I what? You better sit back down before the nurse comes and ties you up again."

I took a deep breath; I had no idea where it had come from, but I needed to control it. I didn't want to be back in that dark room again.

Hours later, we were given free time. I spent it sitting by myself, as far away from everyone as possible just watching them. There was more this time than there were in the cafeteria. There was no way I belonged here, there was nothing wrong with me.

As Nurse Orange walked past, I grabbed her attention, "Excuse me, there's this boy who was messing with me in the cafeteria earlier."

I didn't like the confused expression on her face- she smiled politely as she talked down to me, "Well, we can't have that. What did he look like?"

"Blue. White shirt, black vest, pinstripe black and white pants."

"If I see him, I'll speak to him."

She didn't believe me. I could feel it, I could sense it. Her eyes had been exactly like her smile, polite. As if not to anger me. I had spent the rest of the free time watching Nurse Orange, pacing back and forth waiting for her to find and talk to the boy but she never did. I felt an immense fury that refused to subside, even as night fell, and I was brought to my bed in a large room with other patients. Just like every other room, it was painted white. I didn't sleep that night.

The next morning Nurse Orange yelped in surprise when she turned on the lights and I was pacing the floor.

"What are you doing out of bed," She asked in a shaky tone.

"I wasn't tired," The thought came before I'd said it, but it came out more hostile than it did in my head. "I wouldn't sleep fine so I just."

"You gave me a fright is all, could you please wait by your bed while I wake the others?"

I walked toward it, but I felt like I was fighting something the entire way. I didn't want to wait by my bed. But I did it anyway. The rest of the week was like that, more and more I became more irritable and rebellious. More and more, I could tell that everyone was talking about me. Why I didn't join in activities. Why I refused to talk to anyone other than the blue chupa who messed with me every day. I searched each bed for him every night and couldn't find where he slept. It irritated me. The fact that he got away with it and the nurses let him.

But the week ended, and the day came, I sat in the visitation room and waited. I waited... and waited. My parents never showed up. Not even a phone call. As if they'd forgotten me. The nurses must have sedated me to get me out of that room because once again I'd woken up in that dimly lit, soft white cage. Raq had been right. Under the guise of wanting to ‘help' me, my parents had deserted me. Everything had become clear, and the clarity hurt.

"Still think they're coming back for you," Raq's voice floated around the room.

I forced myself to an upright position, shaking my head working my jaws to loosen the muzzle.

"I was telling you the truth then, and the truth isn't always what you want to hear. They hurt you, but we can hurt them worse. All you must do is follow my plan, okay? No questions, just do as I tell you and you'll be free as a bird. You could even go see that boy again."

I perked up; he had my complete attention. He knew what to say, he knew what I wanted. I wanted to make them hurt like how I did.

I was let out of the room later, the nurses offered me sympathies, but I ignored them. This was their fault. They allowed me to use the bathroom and while I was washing my hands, I caught my own gaze in the mirror. I could only see a scowl looking back at me, there was only anger in my eyes. I tore myself away from the mirror and started on Raq's plan. For the next week, I began collecting things and hiding them in my restraint jacket sleeves. They never allowed me to take it off, at this point I was being restrained two to three times a day for violent outbursts or not following instructions. They never checked it either. At this point, I was not only being kept in solitary but I was also forced to take medication that I was told would ‘help me calm down'. I made sure to throw up the pills when they weren't looking, there was no way they meant to help me in any way. I couldn't trust them.

By the week's end, I was ready to carry out the plan.


Nurse Orange opened my cell door, this time with Dr. McCloud in tow. I didn't move, I sat still in my corner of the cell with my head down, but I watched them carefully.

"It's time for your daily dose, boy," The doctor said allowing the nurse to go first, undoing the jacket straps.

I slid my ‘party starter' down the sleeve as the restraints loosened. The moment my arms were free, I slid the knife I'd stolen from the kitchen a few days ago out of my sleeve and across the nurse's throat. The doctor's face changed from boredom to terror as I was on my feet and closed the distance, jamming the knife as deep as it could go into his neck. I ran to the door and took a moment to look back at my handiwork, they wouldn't hurt anyone anymore. From there, I ran down the identical corridors until I hit the front doors and sprinted down the road, focused on the next part of the plan.

By the time I arrived home the sun was setting, I called it home, but the place had never seemed more foreign. The front door was unlocked, which wasn't unusual in the neighborhood I had lived in. People weren't worried about theft. I crept through the halls; I'd once had sweet memories in these halls, now bitter ash. I slithered up to my room, untouched as the day I was thrown in that prison. I hurried over to my dresser, grabbing a scarf from the top drawer. I would need something to just in case it got cold, I couldn't stay but there was the plan. The plan needed to be finished. I turned toward my bed, above it hung my katana. I was always told it was too big for someone my size, but I had a feeling that I'd eventually grow into it. I grabbed the blade from its perch as the front door creaked open.

"Hello?"

I recognized my mother's voice; I must have left the door open. I hopped off my bed with a thump and hid as she rushed up the stairs. The moment I could see her in my bedroom doorway I ran the sword through her midsection.

Words can't describe the look of despair and betrayal in her eyes, but she had betrayed me first. I pulled the blade away and she crumpled to the floor, I made my move to walk away.

I closed the front door and hid behind it, waiting for my ‘father' to return home. It wasn't long before he did, but he didn't deserve the quick death my mother had received. That was mercy, something he wasn't worthy of. The chupa walked in and I knocked him out with a blow to the head with the flat edge of my blade. I dragged him into the kitchen. I don't really remember what I'd done but when I was running away, the house was engulfed in flames. That just left, the boy from my class. All I had wanted was just to talk to him, Raq promised me that and so I went out to his house. I climbed up the side up to his window, sneaking in and sitting on his bed. Sword laying across my lap, I sat and waited. It felt like mere moments before he walked in, I expected a smile, a look of joy- anything other than that horrified look he gave me.

He made a move to run, and my body reacted faster than my mind, in a swift motion I had cut him clean across his body, splattering myself in his blood. It wasn't part of the plan. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

I leaped out of his window, making a mad dash for the woods. The plan was virtually a success, save for the end. I made everyone who hurt me hurt more.

---

I ran my fingers through Icarus' mane, "That's how they died. A house fire. I'd caused it. I can only hope my mother was already dead. I never did return to my childhood home. No need. I've got a new flame to keep me going. Quite the sad tale, albeit short. Some things just weren't worth remembering, ya know? You might wonder what the takeaway is from this- Parents suck. Trust no one. Everyone is out to hurt you. Life and death balance on the edge of my blade-"

I waited for his response and only heard light snoring under me. I didn't really expect him to stay awake through the whole thing, but I did feel better. I stared into the dying fire, once it went out, I'd have to get him moving again.

Once he's got his senses, he's going to resist.

"Sleep well, Icarus. Helluva bedtime story, eh, freelancer?"


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

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