talonkarrde: (color)
He gets the text at one in the morning, and doesn't even have to look at his phone to know who it is.

Hey. Still up?

Indeed. He responds. What's up?

What do you think of heading up to SF for the weekend?

He blinks in suprise, and almost wonders if she's joking before texting her back.

Hmmm. Could be fun, though it's a pretty long drive. Any particular reason?

He stares at the screen for a few minutes, waiting. Just as he's about to give up and go back to his book, the reply arrives.

I was thinking of taking a trip up the coastline. Haven't been up there in a few years. Maybe stop in pismo beach and monterey? There's an aquarium there, you know.

It's a long time in a car, he figures, but it's also good company and a good trip. He pauses for a moment, checks his calendar, and then ignores it completely and sends a response back.

Yeah, I remember it being pretty good, though it's been a year since I've been. Let's do it!

Her answer is instant: Great. See you saturday!

---

They've just finished a long, leisurely lunch, and are making good time up the coast. They stop every once in a while simply to admire the views of the surf crashing onto the beach. After the road starts to climb into the mountains, it gets a bit colder, and he takes a moment to reach into his bag to find something unfamiliar — a hoodie from the chowder place they just left.

"What's this?" he asks, turning to look at her.

"Oh, just a little thing that I thought you'd appreciate."

"Yeah, with the hundred other hoodies I have," he says, chuckling.

"Well, it was that, or take a picture of you with soup on your shirt, so I thought you'd prefer this..."

He grins and sticks his tongue out at her, but looks back down at the hoodie afterwards, and smiles. He's touched, honestly, and happy to have a memento that's not just in his head.

---

He remembers the crash clearly — they're talking about relationships, of all things, and she's chiding him for dismissing the last girl he was with as 'lacking in creativity'.

An Ani DiFranco song comes on, and he teases her about it — he's saying something snarky as he looks at her, and then past her, to the SUV that's come around the corner too quickly and is barreling down towards the driver side of the Corolla. Towards Emma.

He turns to her in slow motion, and opens his mouth to say something, to scream a warning as the airbag deploys, as the bag of cheetos explodes, and he notes that some small distant part of his mind would find the explosion of cheese puffs across the car hilarious.

Then his head hits the airbag and bounces, hard, and none of him finds it funny. He feels the jerk of the seatbelt cutting off his breath, the impact of the airbag on his face, and then the whiplash as he bounces back into the seat, slamming his head on the headrest. He hears the sickening crunch of the crash, watches the glass spiderweb and shatter out, and feels the car rise up on the front wheels, spinning as it does.

And then it falls, with a thud, and he closes his eyes. He hurts, everywhere, and he just wants to close his eyes and drift away for a while.
---

But there's something nagging at him, something that won't allow him to to just close his eyes and let go. Someone that he has a responsiblity to.

Someone that he went on a trip with — this trip with. The name is at the tip of his tongue, but in his muddled state, he just can't seem to remember it. His mind traces through through a car, through them leaving SF, through a bread bowl of clam chowder, through a hoodie, bought for the sake of a memory—

"Emma," he breathes, and then his eyes are open and he turns to look at her — she's there, but not moving, slumped over the now deflating airbag, the wheel, her head down and her nose dripping blood.

"Em? Emma?" he says, again, louder, but she doesn't respond. But as he looks at her, her lips are moving, as if she's saying something, to someone he can't hear.

The sunlight filters through the dust motes and he almost thinks that he sees someone else there, but it's broken as someone in the distance peers at them, waves, and says words that he doesn't hear over the ringing. All he thinks about — all he knows — is that she's in the car with him, that she's on the trip with him, that she's spent most of this past year with him, and that she needs to be okay.

He reaches for her weakly, fingers tentatively brushing aside the glass shards, and finally finds her hand. As he slips his hand in hers and squeezes, she squeezes back, though he doesn't know if she's doing it consciously. In the distance, he hears sirens, and he breathes a sigh of relief.

"Em, can you hear me?" he tries again, more urgently.

Nothing.

He starts to scrabble at his seatbelt, trying to get the damn thing to unclick, starts to try and see what he can do to tend to her, to care for her, and and then he hears her cough.

"Em! Hold on, Em! We're gonna get you out of there." he hears himself saying. He says something else, something reassuring, and tries to lean in, to hear her better.

"They told me... don't be afraid," he hears her say, clear as day.

"They were right," he responds. "Don't be afraid. I'm not leaving your side."

And then, as he sees the faintest smile on her face, he feels her squeeze his hand again and he knows it'll all be okay. More than okay, in fact.

"I'm never going to leave your side."

------




This was an entry with an incredible writer and a wonderful friend that I met through Idol years and years ago, [livejournal.com profile] gratefuladdict. She's one of the main reasons that I'm here at all, and it's a joy to be able to write an intersection with her again this year. We wrote about a journey up the California coast that gets cut short, and her entry can be found here: Rapture of the Deep.

♥ team loveli
talonkarrde: (Default)
Harvey laid in the darkness and counted the streaks of light overhead, and every once in a while, whispered a word when an especially bright flash passed.

It would almost have been romantic — except that he was counting warplanes, not meteorites, and this was a warzone, not a sandy beach or a forest clearing. Over his body was a thermal blanket, blocking his heat signature from the drones overhead, and his mutterings were counting the troop transports, with their larger engine nacelles.

He thought about what each transport meant, what each fighter would require to down, and what the cost would be on the rebel side. And then he thought beyond that, to the families that would never see their sons and daughters return, to the fields that would be wasted and lay fallow until the radioactivity faded. And then he kept counting, because while he was frequently philosophical, he never forgot his duty.

When all the flashes disappeared beyond the horizon, Harvey set up a small transmit tower, sent out a compressed radio ‘squeal’ of his findings, and then set off to the west, towards Bradbury Park. When the snoopers got there, they found nothing but a melted pile of scrap metal.

Agent Briggs was long gone.

---

He had joined up early, early enough that there wasn’t much of an organization among the Independent city-states that had been set up, only discontent at the way that the United Nations Command had been expanding their regulation on the red planet. He portrayed himself as an ex-terran adventurer-turned-farmer who had been driven out of business by the rising regulations on the 'native' producers, and was accepted into the ranks of the then still nascent militia-army.

It wasn't long before he stood up in a town hall meeting and told the rag-tag group, in no uncertain terms, how you couldn't beat an enemy you didn't know. How information, not laser-guns, was going to be the most important resource of this conflict. And how without figuring out the UNC's troop movements and tactical plans, they were all going to die to a superior military force.

A week later, he found himself one of the officers in the newly formed Independent Action Council - and started deploying into the territory that was formally claimed by the UNC, on 'fact-finding missions'. In a short time, those fact finding missions become infiltration missions, and then, after the skirmishes began, Harvey Briggs was called to head the spectre division, responsible for strike-and-fade missions on UNC war materiel.

---

Like his older brother Earl, he was often a man of action. His final stop on the trip was to check Bradbury Park. The Indis knew that there were forces there, but they had never been especially friendly to the Northern forces; he also knew that the Park was going to be the only spot that an entrenched battle could be fought. Because of the tall canyon walls on either side, the air advantage of the UNC would be neutralized by the AA flechettes that the Indis could bring to bear; because of the close quarters, a small force could hold off a much larger one. It was meant to be the Thermopylae of this century.

The only problem, then, were those in the park who had 'not yet figured out their allegiances', as his commander politically commented. Harvey knew that it was false; they had chosen, of course, it just wasn't what his side wanted to see. They had decided to try and stay neutral, to try and weather it without supporting either side, instead choosing to enforce a total DMZ. But when there is independence on the line, when there are lives at stake, there can be no neutrality — at least, none that would be respected by either side, Harvey knew.

It was often something that he thought about; like his younger brother Jonathan, he was also a man of philosophy. He knew that there were lines that were not to be crossed, even in war, even in a war to earn independence. He knew that freedom didn’t exonerate a man of crimes against humanity, and he knew that this mission, a false flag operation, would be one that was perilously close to the line.

But Harvey knew, like both his brothers — whom he had lost contact with shortly after the war began — that in the end, you had to be willing to stand up for your beliefs. Whether they were with the order of a central authority, as Earl had sometimes commented on, or with the right of a man to make and choose his own destiny with no yoke around his neck, as Jonathan used to say, they were willing to stand up and die for what they believed in.

And so was he.

With a final look towards the green park, the paradise on the red planet, he set the UNC hovertruck — loaded with weapons that would hopefully be used against its previous owners — into action, sending it careening towards the verdant park, towards the shimmering biodome. Either it would be brought down by the defenses or it would crash through them, but either way, it would hopefully incite the Park to join the Indis in their battle — according to Harvey’s commander, at least.

If he knew one thing, though, it was that nothing was ever, ever that simple. But it was necessary, and the die was cast, and as he watched the truck start gathering speed, Agent Briggs disappeared into the night, intent not to be where the hunters would surely come searching. He still had work to do.




//

A/N: With [livejournal.com profile] beldar  and [livejournal.com profile] ravenshrinkery , we are the League of LJ Idol Gentlemen, and we bring you the tale of three brothers on three sides on a war that is a little bit of the past, a little bit of the present, and a little bit of the future. We hope you enjoy.
talonkarrde: (color)
The backstory: )


She found me there by the edge of the Kraken Mare, the liquid methane sloshing gently on the icy shore.

I had been staring out at the endless expanse, completely still, a statue in the pre-dawn darkness of Titan — not that it ever got lighter, even when Saturn wasn’t blocking the sun. I had my reasons for wanting to be alone, though I suppose she had her reasons for coming to find me.

I saw her on the suit display first, her little dot moving closer and closer to my dot, though I didn’t acknowledge her. I was hoping that she was doing some other research, or was just picking up a probe, or would just take the hint and go away. Mainly, I was hoping she wouldn’t ask me why I was here; she had always read me like an open book and I had been trying to avoid her.

No such luck.

“Clark?” she asked, once she took up a spot alongside me.

I went through a couple of responses in my head, some sarcastic, some heartfelt — some both — and then rejected them all, settling on a default, neutral, completely-ignoring-the-tone-of-her-voice response.

“I never really got used to the way the oceans here felt.” I said. “Probably because of the way that the methane rolls, it just doesn’t give me the same atmosphere. Plus there’s no sun beating down, just a distant globe of light that you don’t even need to shade your eyes to look at. It’s almost as small as the satellite.”

Silence for a moment, and then as usual, she cut right through all of the smoke.

“Look, Clark, you’ve been working here for five years now, and I’ve never seen you as depressed as you were these last couple of weeks. Is it the theft of supplies? Is it the meteorite problem? You’re ignoring your projects, you’re ignoring the other people on the team, you’re even ignoring — a lot of things, you know. It’s not like you, and I want to know why.”

I said nothing.

“What did I do, Clark? Why are you ignoring me?” she asked, plaintively.

“It’s not you! It was never you, you never did anything wrong. You were — are — one of the brightest parts of my life here, but—”

“Come on, Clark,” she said, and then took a step closer. “I always knew when things were bugging you, and the last time — when they stopped funding the research, last May, remember? We pulled through it together, looked for other funding with each other, wrote essays fighting for it together. I was there for you, supported everything you did as leader, didn’t I? And you were there for me, when I needed it. So stop trying to do it all by yourself, and let me in, please?”

She always knew the right thing to say, the one line that would break down all my defenses. And maybe, I was hoping for it a little, hoping that I wouldn’t have to bear the burden all by myself.

“They’re withdrawing funding—” I started, and waved her down before she could make the argument. “— to everything. Not just the scientific experiments, but the whole base. It’s not up to Horizon’s profit standards, partially because of the advances in terraforming they’ve been making on Mars lately. They don’t need much of the ice that we send them. Earth doesn’t need the silica from the core mines. The investment is now a net loss, and Horizon doesn’t want to send rockets here anymore, or do any sort of upkeep.”

“So they’re going to…” I could almost see the gears turning as she puzzled it out. “Titan’s mostly self-sufficient, though. What could they possibly do that would hurt us? We could just go off without them, forever. This is depressing, but not something that you would lose sleep over. So what’s the real problem?”

“NASA — twenty years ago, when this was first launched — promised that they would fund half of the investment. Because of the high danger, though, Horizon didn’t want to commit, and so the administration at the time, which strongly pushed for exploration, had NASA sneak in a clause into the contract that it would pay Horizon all of the money back in the case of catastrophic failure.”

At this point, I think, the puppet strings began to make themselves visible; she looked up, for a second, and then pointed at the satellite, wordlessly.

“Yup. The problem that we’ll have shortly is the satellite not getting any telemetry data, which means it’s going to let all the meteorites through. There’s a fierce wave in the next day or so, actually, which will crash through all of the structures we have up. And, as I’m sure you’ll appreciate, it turns out that where the base is located is one of the most popular places for meteorites to land; Horizon couldn’t have picked a better place…”

“…to be able to ‘accidentally’ wipe out the base.” She completed, looking horrified.

“And then merrily cash in their insurance payout and call it a day, yes.” I said, looking up at twinkling satellite. “They offered me a deal, that if I kept my mouth shut, I’d get a nice cut of the money — and more importantly, a permanent station back on Earth, in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado. A house, a job, everything I could want, and I’d never have to see this frozen hell again. It was a nice offer,” I said quietly.

“But?” she asked, coming over now to take my hand.

“But there were ten people out there whose lives have depended on me for these last few years that I couldn’t possibly let die. There was a sneaking suspicion in me that those who know too much don’t live very long. And there was a wonderful woman who I could never look in the eye again if I took the deal.” I finished, looking down, and away.

“So you told me — but why now?” she asked.

“Because the final preparations are complete. There’s an emergency dome set up, and it won’t be comfortable, but it will fit everyone until the rescue shuttle arrives. The power’s set up, and there are enough rations that we will live comfortably. No exercise equipment, though.”

“So that’s where the supplies have gone,” she said, shaking her head. “I wondered why you seemed less concerned about it than you should’ve been, but I just thought that it was due to the depression. Now I see—”

“I needed a lot of time alone to set everything up correctly, and I wanted to do it in a way that Horizon wouldn’t pick up from the camera. Still, though, I want to warn you that with the satellite not providing the defense net, the dome still might be punctured — we still might die.” And it was true, I knew; even though I had set it under an outcropping with a lot of protection, there was no guarantee we’d make it the six weeks before rescue.

“Even so,” she said, touching her helmet to mine. “I would rather take my chances with you, for as long as we could, than give up.”

I hug her, there, and whisper a promise that’s only meant for her ears; she smiles.

“Next time, though, you better tell me before everything’s set up, so I feel a bit less like a damsel in distress; I’m as capable as you were and could’ve helped, you know. But lead on, sir knight.”

And hand in hand, we head out to the hidden dome, as the first of the meteors starts to fall overhead.

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