Approx. 4200 words
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2015 SJ
written by SJ
Lana Lyu LaFong had no idea where she was or how much time had past when she was finally able gain more than a few seconds of consciousness. She was in a hospital bed, the room was dark, and there was the faint sound of country music far away.
Her limp body felt like a large lead weight, but the bed was comfortable. She couldn’t move very much, and didn’t want to. She jumped a little when the lights came on in the room, followed by a deep-sounding, familiar voice. Gannon got up from a wheelchair, made a couple jokes to the physical therapist, who laughed then took the wheelchair away. He had a walker, and a knee brace on one leg. When he saw Lana with her eyes barely open, he smiled and came over, looking down at her.
She looked back at him. At first, it seemed like he was trying to think of something clever to say, but then, after several hard blinks like he was trying to restrain a tear, he shook at finger at her, “never scare me like that again!” He sighed then got into the hospital bed next to her.
Lana almost smiled...feeling too weak for even that much work. She wanted to jump up and shout, “scare you?” But could only manage to close her eyes and go back to sleep.
When she awoke again, she was more conscious, but felt terrible. She finally figured out where she was: Camp Cheyenne Mercy Hospital. But, as for how many days had passed, she didn’t know, or care.
As to what had happened to her, she unfortunately, knew that all too well. She remained laying in bed, not moving, almost afraid to. Her belly felt like a bag of shredded intestines that had been sewn delicately together with a thin thread, and with the slightest move, they would burst apart inside her.
A little later she noticed Gannon hobbling around nearby. She couldn’t smile, but she was very glad to see him. He smiled, looking down at her. “Well...sleeping beauty is finally awake. I bet you feel like crap.”
The woman finally had the strength answer. She mustered the best smile she had, after a meager sigh. “You’re gonna have to...give me awhile...before I even feel that good, okay?”
The big man laughed like he was celebrating monumental occasion. “Yeah...sure, LuLu. All the time you want.” He sighed. “I’m just glad to have you back.”
Several more days, came and went. The Space Marines of Camp Cheyenne had returned. Aside for a couple more bee stings in first and third squads, not even one more casualty was reported. They took the Marine Base just as Gallardo and Taliaferro had planned, without incident. Their replacements on Cornucopia were two squads of Federal Investigators.
While still in bed, Lana received visits from many friends, Bull coming around more often than the others.
Melinda came by escorted by one of her new boyfriends from supply section. She sighed, trying to sound unemotional. “Hi, LuLu. I was...very worried about you.” She tried to laugh. “They’re calling you the bad belly wound. I bet you’re getting tired of it.”
Before Lana could answer, Melinda’s boyfriend had to ask. “Wow...belly wound. Were your guts hanging out–-“
The woman nudged the man hard with her elbow. “Don’t ask her that! Come on, let’s go before you say something even worse.” To Lana. “See you later, LuLu. Hope you get well soon.”
Later, Colonel Gallardo came in. He sat down next to her and pondered. “You know...for awhile I thought I was going to have two fatalities to record for this mission.” He sighed. “Ben was ready to quit. I’m very glad the both of you are still with us.”
Lana was still too tired to ask why the Major was going to quit. She remained listening.
“We found the Marine Base commander and his Sergeant Major both dead in a lower basement. They had both been decapitated and their heads put on poles right outside the door to their office. Very ghastly. Apparently, whatever caused the other Marines to act violently, didn’t affect them.” The Colonel continued to ponder, thinking out loud. Lana was still too tired to respond very much, but she appreciated him coming by and keeping her informed. “The Feds were going to call those Marines, traitors. But, you know, every Marine had symbols painted on their battle suits. The most common one was...Chaos. And since that’s how they acted, I suggested they use the term, Chaos Marines...instead of traitors. They agreed. The civilians we found, the ones acting cult-like, are now being referred to as Chaos Cultists.” He stood then added, “well, it’s up the Feds now.” As he got up to leave, he placed her oPOD on her bedside and told her he had downloaded more Special Ops manuals for her.
The next day, when a group of doctors came into Lana’s room, she got a more detailed explanation, or so it would seem, of her injury. Actually it was one doctor escorting several interns. Camp Cheyenne Mercy Hospital had a very good training program for many medical personnel in all fields.
Gannon was resting in his bed when they came in. Before the lead doctor could make his diagnosis, the big man had one of his own. “She still feels like crap, Doc.”
“So...you’re in here again, eh, Shannon.” Apparently the two men knew each other. “We fixed that knee up good this time. It’ll be better than the other one now.” He looked at Lana. “Well...feeling like crap, huh?” He smiled. “It won’t last too much longer.”
To his group of interns, the doctor began, allowing the students to look at her chart and medical scans. “This is...Corporal LaFong...” He then explained, in medical terms, the entry location of the bullet and it’s passage through her abdomen. “It just missed, by only a couple millimeters, the abdominal aorta. You see...the bullet went through her at an angle.” He pointed it out on one of her body scans, then added how basically, it was parts of her intestines that took most of the damage, and how they had to do several resections to repair them.
The doctor looked at Lana afterwards. “I’m sorry. We had to remove about 10 centimeters of your intestines. I’m sure you won’t miss them.”
Lana grinned at him, then joked, wryly. “Yeah, thanks...now I can fit into those skinny jeans I always wanted to wear.”
He smiled, while some of the interns laughed just before he escorted them out.
After about a week, Lana was up and slowly moving around, bracing herself with her IV stand. According to the hospital, she was recovering quickly, even though, so far, she didn’t feel like it. Gannon was usually nearby, using a cane now instead of crutches. She was glad he was around. The hospital had its own rec room area; she had made the trip and was now sitting down in a big chair, partly listening to Gannon talk, partly looking at the video screen above.
During her recovery, she hadn’t really thought too much about her Aunt visiting. And she didn’t want to inform her of her injury...not wanting her to worry. However, maybe in another week she would send an email. She almost smiled, happy for the first time in weeks at the thought of seeing her Aunt again. A minute later, the next best thing appeared.
Gannon walked over to greet an on base civilian worker, holding the mail for Camp Cheyenne, or at least that which had been forwarded to the hospital. Afterwards, Gannon started reading names out loud; there were only a couple letters; the last one had Lana’s name on it.
“Lana Lyu LaFong.” He read the name. I bet I know who this is from.” The big man knew how much Lana like receiving mail from her Aunt. He handed it to her, happily.
A letter from her Aunt would be the best medicine Lana could get at this time; but she didn’t understand why she didn’t email. Even the envelope didn’t look right. It appeared sort of like a government letter. She opened it anxiously...
Gannon had returned to his normal boisterous talking for several seconds. After glancing at Lana, he had to give her a double take. She was now on the floor crawling, moaning loudly. He could barely make out her words, something about wanting to go back to bed.
One of the nurses responded quickly, getting help from an orderly. The big man was worried as he watched them put her on a gurney, then wheel her off to her room. He was going to follow her, but on the floor, were she had been sitting, was her open letter. He picked it up and read.
It was indeed a formal, government, letter from the Pavonus, Angora district, informing Lana of the untimely passing of one Antoinette Baudet. Apparently she had died from some kind of brain aneurism.
There wasn’t a whole lot of things that could shake up the big Marine, but this was one of them. He stood trembling...unable to imagine what Lana could be going through right now. He didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t go in and face her--what would he say...what COULD he say. Eventually, he decided to talk to Bull first.
Bull took the news equally as hard as both men stood together in the hospital rec room.
“Bull...what are we gonna do?” Gannon’s voice sounded hopeless.
His buddy couldn’t answer.
“She has no one now. She’s...all alone. Can you imagine that Bull?”
He still couldn’t answer.
Gannon sighed miserably. “It isn’t fair. Between the two us...we have a huge family, too much sometimes. LuLu has none, now--”
“Well...that’s it, then.” Bull had an idea.
“Well...like you said. We have too much family. Little Sister has none. What do you say we share?”
Bull smiled. “We adopt the little tyke. You know...make it formal and all...well, informally, formal.”
“Bull...you’re a genius. We’re due to have one of our big family barbecues.” Gannon smiled, enlightened. “Yeah...bring her along, food, fun, make her part of the family, both our families. I think Janus is gonna really like LuLu.”
“If she comes.”
“Convince her, for LuLu’s sake.”
The two big Marines stood and looked at each other for awhile. They both were thinking the same thing: “How do we tell her...and which one of us does it”.
After looking at each other again, they already knew the answer: both of them had to tell her at the same time. But not right now. Lana needed time to be alone. They’d wait until later tonight.
Being shot in the stomach seemed minor to what Lana was going though now. After awhile she just lay in bed, feeling numb; she didn’t want to except it, but had to. Her worst fear had come true: being all alone in the Universe. But--she refused to cry!
As she dozed, she unconsciously reminisced...a time not that long ago, almost a year, but what seemed like an eternity.
For the first time in her life, she was aboard a spaceliner--but it was not a happy occasion. Only a few hours earlier, the attendants at Cambridge Hospital, after disguising her with a blond wig, had put her on a bus and sent her off to Dandelot, the town were she had grown up with Annie. She remembered waiting at the airport. Annie was so close, yet so far away. Every fiber in her being wanted for her to rush out to were she knew Annie would be and cry in her arms. But she couldn’t; that could mean getting caught, then being returned to that horrible prison, very possibly, for both of them. So she waited, then boarded the shuttle that would take her to a spaceliner.
Once she was aboard the spaceliner, she just sat in her seat, staring out of the window into space all during the take off, jump, then approach to landing. It seemed like it took almost as long as if she had walked the 18.7 light years from Delta Pavonus to Zeta Draconis. Once she was off the spaceliner, and in the spaceport, she just stood...as if lost. When she noticed some people staring at her, she lowered her head and eventually found her way out of the spaceport. When it started to get dark, she located the cheapest looking motel she could find. Inside, she looked at herself in a dirty, cracked mirror: She still had on that stupid blond wig.
All during her life, Annie was the only family she had: mother, father, best-friend, and mentor. And for Annie, Lana was her only family, the daughter she never had; all other family members, for both of them, died on Mars in that horrible disaster decades earlier. Without any doubt, Lana had been linked to Annie by an umbilical cord that she figured might have to one day be stretched, but never broken. Now--not only had it been broken, but ripped apart, and left bleeding in the street. After yanking off her blond wig and throwing it in the trash, she fell down on the bed and began to cry.
When she woke up the next morning, she cried some more--almost until it seemed like she had no more tears left. She knew she only had enough money for a couple more days in the motel room, and would have to look for a job and get an apartment.
Lana wandered the streets of Cheyenne City next to the airport like if she got too far away, she would never see Annie again. She felt like one of the walking dead. There was a diner next to airport that seemed to call out, waitress wanted...your only chance, so she took it.
Afterwards, she did as she was told by the people who helped her escape, setting up a P.O. Box with a phony business name.
Then it was just a matter of waiting three months.
Lana counted every day of each of those three months, then finally wrote her first letter to Annie, much of the ink slightly smeared with her tears. When she received her first letter from Annie in return, it seemed like the greatest day of her life...like she had returned from the dead, so much so that a co-worker noticed her.
He was a stock boy by the name of Jake. And after talking to him awhile, she had finally made her first friend on another planet. As another month went by, he had became someone she could tell her troubles to. Eventually, she carefully explained to him what had happened to her on Pavonus, cleverly leaving out the being-arrested part...making up a story about corruption instead.
One day she got to meet his family: Father, mother, cousins...she couldn’t believe someone could have so many family members. When Jake told one of his cousins about Lana’s troubles on Pavonus, he responded firmly. “Failed colonies...the best thing to do on a failed colony is LEAVE. Get off. Once the population gets low enough, the Federal Government steps in...they help set up a Planetary Guard...then there’s no more bull shit.” After Jake’s cousin introduced himself as Frank, he proceed to tell Lana more about himself, especially about being in Cheyenne’s Planetary Guard, a sergeant. Actually, he was bragging, and most people got bored quickly; but Lana remained very interested. Mostly, she liked the idea of leaving the failed colony. In every letter from now on, she’d try to get Annie to leave–-move here with her on Cheyenne. For the first time in months, she felt good.
She continued to listen to Frank until he had no more Planetary Guard stories to tell. Eventually, he had to mention something else. “You know Lana, about five hundred kilometers south of here is a Space Marine Base. They’re located near the mesas, in chaparral territory.” He faced Jake, asking. “What’s the name of that town next to the Space Marine Base?” He then faced Lana again, speaking firmly. “Now...if you want tough...those guys are it. Nobody messes with the Space Marines. One squad of those guys could straighten out Pavonus for good.”
“Revell.” Jake finally answered, but had long since become bored with Frank’s stories.
After the family event with Jake, the days seemed to go by easier for Lana. But she hated the waitress job. However, several days later, she got bad news. Jake suddenly informed her he was going off to college on the other side of the planet. All of a sudden, it was as if she had lost everything again...friends and family. She went back to her cheap apartment and cried bitterly.
The next day she woke up, then cried again. She was going to be late to work--but, she didn’t care, she never wanted to go there again. In the afternoon, she searched for information about a town named, Revell...which lead to information about a Space Marine Base named Camp Cheyenne. Before she knew it, she was on a monorail heading for what she was hoping to be a new life...one without fear, one were Space Marines DIDN’T cry like little babies...where they kicked ass instead. Half way there, she found herself getting ready to cry again. But she refused. Gritting her teeth, she pounded her fist on the metal bar of seat until her hand was bleeding and bruised...chanting to herself, over, and over again. “I’m never crying again...I’m never crying ever again...”
It was in the evening, well after being served a small dinner she didn’t eat, when she spotted a head outside her door, but couldn’t tell who it was. When it reappeared, she saw--it was Gannon, taking a quick peek, then ducking back out of sight again, only to be followed by Bull the same way...then, Gannon again...then Bull. It was actually rather comical, but she was in no mood to laugh.
She sighed. “Are you guys coming in?”
As the two big men slowly entered, she could see, they were wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Eventually, the two men explained their earlier, come-to-the-barbecue and join-the-family proposition, in their own brash but gentle way. She had never seen them so sincere.
“Well...what do you think?” Bull waited eagerly for her response.
“...okay.” Her answer came out almost too silent for them to hear, but hear it they did.
“Great,” they whooped and shouted at the same time.
A passing nurse heard them and came in. “It’s late guys. Patients are sleeping.”
Bull turned to the nurse and reiterated the good news. “Little Sister 's gonna come!”
“I’m happy for the both of you...but, you, Bull are going to have to leave, and YOU, Gannon–-Get to bed!”
After a little over a month, Lana was up and around, already trying to exercise...painfully sometimes. The doctors told her it would take about three months for her to fully recover. Meanwhile, she kept herself busy studying for Special Ops.
On a bright sunny morning, she walked the distance to the Special Ops building, one and a half kilometers from the main Marine barracks, where she was now residing after being discharged from the hospital about ten days earlier. Major Taliaferro was glad to see her. She decided not to ask why he had thought about quitting, instead she just wanted to make sure she had everything she needed for passing the Special Ops written test.
His answer was simple. “I think you could probably past the test right now. And I’ve seen you shoot with that little 9.1 of yours.” He smiled. “I’m not even going to bother testing you.”
Lana didn’t know what to say. She remained silent until the Major spoke again.
“I just wanted to say, Lana. I’m glad you’re staying with us. Many first-year Marines, after taking a bad wound like you did...they transfer to supply, serve out a few more months, then leave, ETS.”
Taliaferro, after saying what he did, knew how Lana was going to respond. He was almost sorry he said it.
Lana hung her head down, then lifted it up and responded, just like he predicted. “Where else would I go?”
At that point the Special Ops trainer knew Lana was going to be the perfect Marine...because, the Marines would BE her family. He didn’t like it–-but, it was true, a simple fact of military life.
There was another pause before the Major spoke again. “I hear you’ve signed up for sniper school. That’s another thing you’ll need. You might be able to start going to the plasma gun range.”
“I qualified with that already. Gannon drove me to the range.”
“Then all you’ll need is the flamer. And, of course, the physical training...but, you’ll probably have to wait until your insides heal a little more for that.” Taliaferro nodded his approval. But he had to ask. “Have you given anymore thought to going on to Level 2, or higher.”
She nodded. “Sure...all the way.”
All along Taliaferro had been worried about training another Marine for Special Ops greater than Level 1. In actuality, Level 2 was nothing more than a precursor for Level 3, which meant–-Ops missions. But, somehow, now, he felt different about Lana. That bolter round should’ve killed her--but it didn’t.
Lana had everything she needed now. Special Ops Level 1 was less than a month away. The trainer was positive she’d make it...and then some. The woman was almost ready to leave, when Taliaferro spoke again. “Lana...I bought you a little gift.” From inside one of the lower drawers of his desk, he took out a small, familiar-looking box. Placing it on the desk, he opened it, showing it to her.
She almost smiled. “It’s...another 9.1, like the one I already have?”
Before Lana had time to ask why, he explained. “Special Ops Marines need to take advantage of EVERY skill and special ability they have. You’re ambidextrous, Lana. You should be using two weapons...one in each hand, whenever you can. I have a training course in the holo-suites for firing two weapons at the same time.” He shrugged. “Any moron can pick up two weapons and spray bullets all over the place. They usually end up hitting everything but the target.” He pointed proudly at her. “You’re already deadly accurate with that 9.1. Holding one in each hand, and after going through my training program, you’ll be double deadly accurate. In Special Ops, you don’t always have the luxury of having anyone else around to back you up. You need all the firepower you can get.” He closed the lid on the box and slid it to her.
“Thanks. When do you want me to come in for that training course?”
“Later. Wait until you feel better.” The Special Ops trainer escorted her to the door, then watched as she walked down the road from the hill were his office and training facilities were located. He had a very good feeling about her; she was not going to die on her first Ops mission like the last one.
In the past, Lana had said it many times to Bull and Gannon: You’re smart. And by all the creation of the Universe, she was right. When the day came for going with the men to their big family barbecue, she was nervous...more nervous than her first day as a Marine going on her first scouting mission on Cornucopia. But once she got to know everyone, she was happy. In a big, informal, somewhat comical ceremony, in the middle of a large, green, park, both families adopted her. Lana could see where the two men got their boisterous talking; in this family they were only just keeping up. And even though she didn’t say a whole lot, she was kind of sad when it ended, and they were on the monorail on their way back to Camp Cheyenne. However, it worked...she honesty felt better. Those two big bozos–-really were smart.
As the days passed at Camp Cheyenne, she knew, she had a family; it wasn’t going to leave, and no one was going to take it away. It wasn’t her biological family, but it was–-a family.