The rest of the meeting was pretty standard for a meeting between an advisor and two of his students. I finally decided on my major: Officer Candidacy. Kyle, meanwhile, talked a lot about transferring. It sounded extremely complicated, mostly because he was in Shadowhaven. Most colleges didn’t let you transfer courses like Basic Toxins or Crowd Concealment I.
When we were done, I walked back to my dorm. It was dark, but that was because the rainy season was coming. At least it wasn’t rainy yet. Being trapped inside a small room was never fun.
The knowledge of the coming confinement and the knowledge that Krieger and others were planning an uprising were weighing heavily on my mind. I was already worried about so many other things, including my parents finding out what I did at school, the Dragon’s Teeth stepping up their attack, and a general uneasiness with myself. To top it off, there was that… incident this morning. All I wanted was to get drunk. Maybe that would make all this go away, at least for an hour.
I finally got back to my dorm and opened the door. When I flipped on the lights, I saw John’s bed moved. To my surprise, it wasn’t John’s head that poked above the covers, but Bai Feng’s. Unsurprisingly, John’s head came up next.
Bai was somewhat short, but she made up for it with her demeanor. With her close-cropped shoulder-length hair and her cold, intense gaze, you could tell that she was a force to be reckoned with. She also had the martial arts skills to back it up, as well as the exacting marksmanship expected from AMS and Shadowhaven students.
“You…” Bai said, like she had just found a particularly disgusting bug. “What are you doing here?” To my complete lack of surprise she was desperately trying to cover her chest with the sheet. After all, the last time she and John had spent a night together, I could hear them getting it on from a room away.
“Technically,” I said, averting my eyes, “I share the dorm with John.” I then turned around to leave. “But I see he needs it all to himself for the moment…”
“About John,” Bai said dangerously.
“Bai…” John said pleadingly.
Bai ignored him. “You said that you’d take care of John. That you’d bring him back. And what happens?”
I was already completely done with this. All I wanted was to pass out into a dreamless sleep. The only problem? The shared cooler where I had put the bottle of whiskey was in between the desks, all the way on the opposite side of the room.
I was brought out of these thoughts by Bai answering her own question. “He nearly dies. The first person I meet outside my… my group who I didn’t have to kill almost dies.”
I was now more than a little pissed. This was one of the things I wanted to forget for a night. Just one night, I wanted to sleep. No dreams, no thoughts, just silence. “Are you done?” I asked.
“No,” Bai said. “I warned you, these Dragon’s Teeth… they are the servants of one of the Three. Did you even know what they were capable of before you risked your life? Before you risked the life of your friend?”
Finally, I had had enough. I turned around and shouted, “Have you ever considered that maybe, just maybe we went because we had no clue about their capabilities? Have you considered that?”
Bai sighed. “If you had listened to my prophecy…”
“Would that have told us they use chemical weapons?” I asked. “Or that they have an advanced energy system? Would it be the equivalent of a report that had technical readouts of many of their weapons, vehicles and armor? Would it break down their tactics? Would it…”
“It would have told you that they were invincible!” Bai yelled.
As she did so, she waved one hand, accidentally hitting John. “Hey,” he said, “everyone, calm down!”
I ignored him, roaring at Bai. “THEY AREN’T INVINCIBLE!”
We were all silent for a moment, Bai and me locking eyes, John obviously praying that we had stopped. Finally, Bai said, “What.”
“They’re fighting among themselves,” I said. “Someone’s making a play for control from the Deets.”
“Someone who sounds an awful lot like this Mistress of Death,” John added unhelpfully.
“And they’re arrogant,” I continued softly. “They let us get away. Even though we may have found their weakness. Maybe it’s hopeless, ok, fine, sure! But maybe we can win. If we can, I will do everything in my power to make sure that the fucking world doesn’t end!” I took a deep breath, mostly because I had shouted the last five words. “You don’t have to join me. If you want, you can just sit on your asses waiting for the people in charge or a fucking prophecy to save us all. In the meantime, just… just leave me alone.” With that, I turned around and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind me.
I looked up, suddenly realizing that several people were staring at me. “What the fuck are you assholes looking at?” I then began walking away, muttering, “Just leave me alone, ok?”
Finally, I managed to get to the common room on the first floor. I turned on the TV to some stupid cartoons. I may have looked like I was watching the bright, cheerful characters do whatever it was they were doing, but inside, I was steaming.
Eventually, that ended, and it was replaced by a more gun-focused cartoon. It was good, but after a while, the sound of gunfire started to get me way too agitated. I then began to channel-surf.
I eventually settled on one of the news channels that was coming via satellite instead of being produced by the campus’s TV station. It was a report on how China was mobilizing its army and heading towards the Korean border.
“Hey,” John said. I turned around. “Bai and me are going to have a night on the town. You can go back to the room if you…”
“Very generous of her,” I said.
“Dude,” John said, “don’t be a dick.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I know she’s your girlfriend, but I’ve had a really rough day today.” I took a deep breath, stopping myself from going on a rant. “Well, good luck on your date,” I said, trying to sound happy for him.
“Thanks man,” John said.
He may have said some other stuff, but I was too busy heading up to the room. When I was finally in, I opened up the mini-fridge and pulled out the bottle of whiskey. I only waited to get the small paper cups. After all, John might want a drink to celebrate when he got back.
This led to the odd sight of me drinking hard liquor out of small paper cups with pictures of cartoon dinosaurs on them. If I was to guess, I’d say that filled up so that they were almost overflowing, they held about a quarter to a third of a shot.
The cups were also pretty flimsy. They quickly became unusable after only a few drinks. I didn’t really care. I just wanted to be able to get to sleep.
Eventually, I got my wish. I wasn’t that full, and I had just ingested way too much whiskey on a slightly empty stomach. I don’t remember passing out, but I do remember that John walking back in woke me up.
“Jesus Christ!” John exclaimed as soon as he walked in the door. “What’s that smell? What’s with all these cups all over the floor? And why are you holding a shredded armor plate?”
I blinked blearily. “Hey man…” I whined, “turn off the lights… I turned them off for a reason!”
“Dude,” John said, “the lights were on when I got in.”
I stared at him in an uncomprehending stupor for what had to be a good five minutes. Finally, I managed to rally my alcohol-scrambled neurons to ask, “Whuh…?”
John let out a long sigh, then repeated everything he had said since walking in the room, except slower. After I had let out a noise of comprehension, he asked, “Nate, what the hell happened?”
I looked down to realize that John was right. I was clutching a Kevlar plate. For some reason I hadn’t believed him. I stared at it for a moment, wondering why it was even in the room.
John, noticing my confusion, said, “We can answer the questions in any order, if you want.”
“Wait,” I said, “I remember now. I saved it. From our thing at the place.”
“Our recon mission to North Korea?”
“Yeah,” I said. “What you said. And the smell is whiskey. Do you want some?”
I began getting up. It was a lot harder than I expected. “The reason there’s cups all over the floor is because they dissolve when you put whiskey in them, and I didn’t want to get my spit over the bottle. Thought I’d share.”
“Nate,” John said, “that shit is so disgusting, not even fucking AIDS will live in it.” He shook his head. “And how much did you drink, anyway? You sound like a cartoon’s depiction of drunk.”
“It isn’t disgusting!” I said. “The first sip or two’s very nice!”
“And after the first few sips?” John asked.
“You can’t really taste it,” I said. “Anyway, want some? It’s…” I had finally managed to stand up. Apparently, that was a bad idea. My stomach quickly informed me of this mistake in the only way it knew how. John and I both stared at the resulting mess, me in a drunken stupor, John in utter disgust.
“Am I going to have to hold your head over the toilet?” John asked. My answer was to heave again. “Yes,” John sighed. “Yes I am.” He then draped my arm over his shoulder and began dragging me to the floor’s bathroom. To what I’m sure must have been his vast relief, I didn’t vomit a single time during the trip.
When I was safely located over a toilet, John asked, “So, what brought this on?”
I would have answered immediately, but I was interrupted by all too familiar spasms. When I had finished upchucking, I said, “Today…” I burped, then continued, “Today was a really shitty day.”
“Did you meet with Krieger or something?” John asked.
“I can deal with Krieger,” I said, “and I might have been able to deal with Bai’s bullshit, but…” I shuddered, remembering the thing from this morning. “There’s… there’s some thing on this fucking island. Something bad.”
“I can’t quite tell if I should think that’s obvious or ominous,” John said.
After yet more bits of bile landed in the toilet, I said, “There’s something new. This… this thing was here, by the outer wall this morning. I don’t know what it is, but whatever it is, its powerful. It warps reality… makes you think you’re running forwards, but you’re actually going backwards, teleports, that kind of bullshit. It… Its hands, man! They feel everything! They… they…”
“Are you ok?” John asked. The reason he was asking is that I was now crying.
“No man,” I said. “I’m not. None of us have been ok for a…” I paused to vomit again. “…for a long time.”
John sighed. “Listen,” he said. “This kind of stuff… something tells me it would be a hell of a lot more productive to talk to me about this stuff when you’re sober.”
“Yeah…” I said. “I think you’re right.”
After a while, John dragged me back to the room. When I was lying on my bed, I said, “John… I’m sorry. I’m sorry I got you shot. I’m sorry I threw up everywhere. I’m sorry I came between you and your girlfriend… I’m just so fucking sorry man.”
“Nate…” John said, busy cleaning up vomit, “…Just… just go to fucking sleep and let me work, man.”
“Yeah…” I said. “I’m sorry, man.”
As I went to sleep, my drunken mind somehow asked a question my fully functional one hadn’t: Just why had the mystery thing dropped me right next to Mubashir? This would be something I would have to pursue when I was sober.