Chapter 30 - Trauma

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15th September 2311 07:30 EST - The potential for post-traumatic stress disorder was the bane of every soldier's existence within the USM. It hung over every soldier like a spectre waiting to strike at their most vulnerable state. There was no rhyme or reason to why some people suffered it while others appeared to skirt around it effortlessly.

Jason had seen a few soldiers break down unceremoniously during and after traumatic events, soldiers who felt they and their friends were invincible, only to see the ones around them mowed down like cannon fodder. It broke them as if the last thread of their mental fortitude snapped under a great burden deemed not natural for a person to endure.

Even now, there was no absolute cure, only techniques to manage the endurance of the psyche, techniques that could not guarantee a continuous career on the front lines of the military.

Jason was mentally strong, capable of withstanding anything this war could throw at him, or so he thought. The cries and wails from Jacqueline Donnelly as she ended the Duchess Heissenberger's life just a few days ago tormented him every time he closed his eyes to sleep.

It was not his mind that was of a concern, he knew this was something he would resist and overcome, but that moment had broken Donnelly, snapped her seemingly sturdy mind, and that in itself had rocked Jason.

If it could happen to Donnelly, it could happen to anyone.

Every time they were together, they rarely spoke, Jason had not seen her eat and he knew her sleep cycle had been torn apart by the constant reminders of that horrible event. The woman who left the scuttled submersible was an empty shell of the woman who embraced him at the station.

Jason wanted to help her, but he had no idea what to do, and Donnelly refused to receive any help from the bewildered Raven.

Returning to Europa had been surreal, the excitement of visiting Earth for the first time had long since passed and all that was left was resentment for the capital of the Human Confederate. Lifting off in an unmarked freighter in the middle of what used to be Kazakhstan, felt like Jason had left his troubles behind, but as he had been summoned into the office of Colonel El-Hadji, he had realised that troubles are not confined to one planet, but follow you wherever you go.

Briskly walking to the Colonel's office had not eased his concerns or conscience, it was just another opportunity to reflect on them. Jason's mind was not giving him a break, and it was gradually wearing him down.

The door opened the moment Jason had reached the exterior of the office, encouraging him to enter.

Colonel El-Hadji was sat down, his face lowered towards his desk, a frown deeply burrowed into his forehead. Carefully stroking his trimmed beard, he refused to look up as Jason saluted just a mere metre away from his desk. His dark eyes gleamed as reports and data brought the desk to life, yet despite Jason's appearance, not once did they stray from their target.

Colonel El-Hadji was intimidating, even to other members of the Blue Ravens. A defector from the Eastern Regime some twenty years ago, his career within the USM had flourished, especially after completing basic SORu training. His tactical and physical attributes were quickly recognised as an asset, and before long he was assigned to the Blue Ravens.

Rumours of his past and moral ambiguities had always been present. He was one of the sons of the Sultan of the Eastern Regime and had killed his eldest brother and attempted to kill his father to gain the coveted throne of the vast empire. Yet none of the rumours had been confirmed.

The USM, and in particular, General von Striken, cared little for his past, for it was because of him that the Blue Ravens had become the most efficient and deadliest SORu unit in existence.

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