Capture – Always Faithful
The firelight flickers, a solitary figure huddled near it on the mountainside. The storm shatters the mountaintop, unknown powers unleashed above, but the figure does not look towards the breaking stone; instead, he cares for the shelter he has cobbled together and the fire it protects from the torrential downpour.
A stranger comes out of the dark, tall and clutching a wounded side. The figure stands, eyeing the newcomer. He catches sight of the uniform and marks him as another soldier, though he does not know the insignia. Still, one does not turn away a lonely serviceman trapped in these circumstances. He is already moving forward when the stranger stumbles, catches the other man as he falters from blood loss and injury.
“Easy,” the figure says, helping the other man settle. They’re of a height, the figure notes as they settle, both powerfully built but mangled from recent battle.
“Do you know where we are?” the stranger asks, his accent unknown.
“No,” the figure answers. He moves to the other side of his shelter, pretends to check the spitted animal he is cooking while studying the stranger. They’re dressed similarly, green armored plate, though the stranger’s armor seems of better quality. “What outfit you with?”
“Spartans. Big Chief. You?”
“VAC spec ops. Court-martialed.”
The figure’s admission raises the stranger’s eyebrow.
“Don’t think that matters right now,” the stranger says, the words coming slow. “Haven’t seen anyone from my unit. Haven’t seen anything familiar. Truce until we figure things out?”
“Makes sense to me,” the figure says, relaxing muscles he hadn’t realized were tense.
“My name’s Pete.”
“John,” the figure says, after a moment. He nods towards the animal he’s preparing to eat. “You ever seen anything like this?”
“The animal?” Pete asks, then shakes his head. “Got a look at the stars before the storm rolled in. Didn’t recognize them, either.”
They eat in silence, the meat of the animal tender. It has the limbless length of a snake, though the scales look like insect chitin and its body is as thick as Pete’s head. John admits that he only brought a portion of it with him, enough to go over the fire.
“How big was it?” Pete asks, chewing. The meat is thick but it melts like butter on his tongue.
“Big,” John answers, running a hand through his hair. “Left the head out there somewhere. The eyes were freaking me out.”
“Compound eyes.” John paused, looking up. Pete had seen eyes like that, the thousand yard stare, but John had eyes that were miles away, eyes that had traveled all the way to hell and killed the devil before coming back. He turned away, preferring the dark and storm. “Seen some things, you know?”
“Me, too,” Pete answered. “Never heard of VAC.”
“Never heard of the Spartans outside of Greek history,” John said. The two of them eyed one another, cautious. “We’re soldiers, clearly. Never leave a man behind.”
“Always faithful,” Pete nodded. John moved closer, cleaned and dressed Pete’s wounds, checked his shelter. “You look a little banged up yourself.”
“I met the devil on the road,” John chuckled. “Caught him off guard, shoved him off the mountain.”
Pete stared at the other man, wondering who he had just agreed to walk with.
“It’s okay, I’m not crazy,” John muttered, a ghost smile crossing his lips. “I’ve just met the devil before.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t an alien?” Pete asked, wincing as John stitched his wounds closed. “I’ve fought a lot of aliens.”
“The Devil might be an alien,” John said, stoking the fire. “At this point, nothing surprises me.”
“Where you from?”
“West Coast Cascadia.”
“That on Earth?”
“Yeah,” John said, turning to look at the other soldier. “Are you from another planet? Mars, maybe?”
“A little further out,” Pete said, checking his wound as John moved back. “Your armor looks old.”
“Top of the line where I’m from,” John shrugged. “Infantrymen don’t get fancy stuff like what you’re wearing.”
“I’m infantry,” Pete said, wheezing as he leaned back and stared out into the storm. The mountaintop had fallen silent. “Yours looks out of date, is what I’m saying.”
“I’ve never seen anything like yours,” John said. “Mine’s standard issue.”
“Sure, centuries ago.”
“What year do you think it is?” John asked. Pete shifted in place.
“2531,” Pete answered.
“It’s 2149, last I checked,” John whispered.
Pete said nothing.
“Get some rest,” John sighed. “Sounds like we have a lot to talk about.”
STORY AND CONCEPT BY AARON GOLDEN. PICTURE TAKEN FROM PIXABAY, AND YOU CAN FIND IT AND A HOST OF OTHER IMAGES LIKE IT BY CLICKING HERE. CAPTURE UPDATES EVERY TUESDAY AND THURSDAY, AND YOU CAN READ THE VERY FIRST CHAPTER BY CLICKING HERE OR THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER CLICKING HERE.