Chapter 34 - The Dead Do Tell Tales

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23rd September 2311 19:14 EST - Hollow and discombobulated. The feeling of emptiness left Jason aching for sleep, a respite from reality, yet every time he closed his eyes, he saw the gun, the squeezing of the trigger, the slump of Donnelly and the end of her life signs.

His mind and body screamed for the opportunity to rest, but his anger and turmoil left him in a state of perpetual anxiety and frustration.

Placing the bodies of Kensington and Donnelly onto one of the beetles completely detracted Jason and the other Ravens from the victory they had just achieved. While celebrations continued as the planet had been officially restored under USM rule, the Ravens remained solemn and remorseful. When the Cetis lowered their weapons as tanks and APCs rolled into the canyon, Jason used all his might not to raise his fury against Captain Kagasawa.

Restrained by Turner, Jason's rage was initially overflowing, but now, over a day later, his rage was replaced with regret despite knowing that there was nothing he could have done differently.

The celebrations throughout the camp had been somewhat muted as the dead were laid to rest and prepared to be shipped back to the solar system. Yet to those at home, the media displayed scenes of victory continuously for hours. Despite it all, Jason did not feel victorious, he did not feel heroic or like a liberator, he felt nothing, almost as lifeless as the ones he assisted in wrapping flags around their capsules.

Laying on his bed, he twirled around a hologram of Jacqueline Donnelly as she smiled effortlessly during a brief trip they both experienced on Europa. He did not stir as the door to his cabin on the confined space of the USM Athena buzzed to life prompting Major Elijah Turner to enter.

"I would ask how you were, but I feel that would be a fruitless exercise," Turner commented, hoping to stir some response from his subordinate.

Not even moving to Turner's entrance or his comment, Jason remained fixated on the hologram as Donnelly's face switched from conversation to a giddy smile.

"An inquest has begun; Colonel El-Hadji is determined to find out what happened," explained Turner.

"And what do you think they will find?" Jason responded flippantly.

The sigh from Turner and the way he rubbed his balded head confirmed his desire not to answer the rhetorical question. "I know you two were investigating things, situations about the war, do you think this was why they killed Jacqueline?" Turner asked.

"What do you think?" Jason responded a little harsher than intended, his piercing blue eyes focused on the frustrated Turner for the first time since he had entered.

Turner frowned, before glaring back at Jason, "Do not think that you are the only person to lose someone. I have lost plenty of fine soldiers under my command, yet, Jacqueline's is the most heart-wrenching that I have ever endured. You may have loved each other, but I knew her far longer than you. She was not just a soldier or a comrade, she was a close friend. Someone I would have gladly stepped in the line of fire for."

"But you didn't did you?" Jason reprimanded, "We allowed her to go on a mission which we knew she was not mentally prepared for. We completely missed how Kagasawa had been tasked to assassinate her, and now we will stand by while El-Hadji will do all he can to manipulate the inquest to make it appear that either Kagasawa or Jacqueline were not of sound mind and the incident was a result of negligence."

"Orders are orders, Jason, don't you forget it!" Turner responded angrily.

Jason took a deep breath, realising he was taking his frustration out on, not only his commanding officer but also his friend. "I'm sorry, I overstepped."

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