From the D-Knight with Love.
A short-ish story from my writing mind set in the world of RWBY. OCs belong to me and Hope.
Distance from Comfort,
a Story of Marcus Sanderson on deployment away from Home. (Original Copy)
Marcus walked out of the command tent a little quieter than normal today; all he wanted to do was take a hot shower and rack out. He didn’t really feel hungry even though he hadn’t eaten for over twelve hours. He just couldn’t bring himself to eat. Maybe he was afraid he couldn’t keep it down or maybe it was the fact that nothing he knew they had sounded appetizing…either way he didn’t want to eat.
He looked at his watch to check the time. It was after noon where he was deployed in Vacuo, so back home in Atlas it should be about mid to late evening. Marcus debated for a moment then looked himself over and realized he was still covered in filth from being out in the field, a shower was not only desired now, but it was mandatory.
He made his way to his tent and slipped inside then zipped the door flap back down, someone forgotten to secure the doorway to keep the wind from blowing sand into their house. It was half the size of the grunts tents but it felt bigger on the inside and yet they were still at a premium for space because of all their gear, being a Fire Team of Huntsmen did have its perks and yet they still didn’t feel all that special from the other units. Marcus believed it was wrong for them to be separated from the regular men who had twice as big of a tent but were four times more populated, but command insisted that the officers and enlisted men be separated for reasons that made sense in theory but in practice the results were a mixed bag at best.
Marcus entered their tent and looked to see who was there. Everyone was present…for the moment at least.
Lance was on his laptop, typing and clicking away at the controls at a rather quick pace, chances are he would be heading out to do some maintenance on some asset or piece of gear that was having difficulties. If this was the case then the normal techs were swamped and short handed, to which he’s ben requested to assist them even though he was on his personal down time, it’s just the way things went. He’d be heading out within the next ten minutes at most.
Jason sat on his cot reading another book from his travel collection, he was still fully dressed in his uniform despite the fact that he was off duty. Most men kick their boots off, or at least remove their utility shirt when they get the chance to, especially in this heat. But for some reason, Jason always kept himself in full uniform save for when he was instructed not to or occasions that made sense only to him. He could normally be found reading the holy book of his religion or something of a philosophical nature in regards to meditation or spiritual guidance, but today he chose a booklet of prayer that had passages from for special occasions…made sense for today.
Kyle was in the corner by his gear cleaning his weapon. He had his combat shirt off but was still wearing his nylon undershirt, the same one he was wearing hours ago when they were out in the field, as obvious by the the darkened color of the fabric indicating a mixture of sweat and dirt. Using his armor crate as a make-shift table, he’d stripped the large sniper rifle down to its individual components and laid them out onto a large specially designed mat that he set down on top of the crate. Along side his broken-down weapon were two or three tool kits that he always used to clean his weapons. One of the cleaning kits was specially tailored to his high-caliber rifle, the other two were more universal for other weapons or gear, but between the three he kept all of his weapons spotless and ready to go at a moments notice.
Marcus knew his team and their mental habits. Lance would already be asleep if he wasn’t needed to go fix something that others couldn’t, Jason preferred to mentally escape from his surroundings until he was calm and ready to come back, and Kyle insisted on maintaining a state of readiness despite hating the tedious and time-consuming step-by-step processes that were involved…it was better than the alternative and ensured him the best possible chance to make it home in one piece.
Still covered in filth, Marcus walked over to his corner of the room and set his rifle down on his cot then stripped the heavy armor from his body. Piece by piece, he felt his body becoming lighter and yet he still couldn’t get his armor off fast enough. After half a minute or so, all of his armor was off and laid out semi-orderly at the foot of his cot. By rule, Marcus didn’t allow himself to rest unduly without cleaning his weapons and gear to an acceptable level of readiness. Laying his to do list in his bed helped make sure he did just that, even when he didn’t want to.
After removing his armor, he looked himself over and saw he was more filthy than he’d realized. His under-armor combat uniform was drenched in sweat nearly from neck to ankle, dirt mixed and packed into joints and folds of the fabric that stuck like wet sand. The smell might have physically repulsed him to wretch if he weren’t nose blind to most of it by now, but as it was in the field, this was only a little worse than average from being out in the field. He looked in the mirror and saw his face was covered in filth from the mixture of sweat and grime that was common from intense fighting while wearing full combat armor.
‘Damn, maybe I should have cleaned up a bit before reporting’ he thought for a brief moment before he stopped caring then grabbed a fresh set of utilities, under garments and socks from his stash of clean clothes “I’m taking a shower, be back later. Kyle…”
“Got it Marc” he responded without looking up from his task.
“Thank you” And with that, Marcus grabbed his shave kit, towel and laundry bag along with his fresh clothes and made his way to the showers.
Being an officer, he was expected to use the officers head and showers. They were a stand alone, deployable facility that had actual running water, hot running water. The thought alone of a hot shower was like a luxury to the men out in the field and it was reserved for the officers and senior staff only. Marcus didn’t approve of special treatment for officers but rules and regs are rules and regs. He walked in and saw the showers were empty, nonetheless he opted to take the stall at the back end of the facility.
Standing outside his stall, he started to unlace his boots when a familiar image made him freeze and stare at his feet. When he snapped out of his trance like stare, he finished unlacing his boots slower then set them by the stall and just stared at the boots. He looked up into the mirror opposite his shower stall and stared at himself, the room was quiet but inside his head was a deafening noise of agony. He snapped his eyes away from the mirror and jumped into the shower, cranking the water on hot while still wearing his uniform and socks.
The water fell on him and tumbled down his clothed body, mixing and washing into the filth that had already stained his clothes. Soon enough, the water pooling at the drain became gray and brown with the grime that washed from his clothes. His body became uncomfortably warm from the shower but he didn’t care, he couldn’t bring himself out of his head. The sound of the water spouting from the shower head blended with the cacophony of chaos in his mind as relived those moments only hours ago.
The sounds of that battle replayed in his head like an audio track from a record. The gunfire and snap of bullets coming and going and the roar of the engines from the overhead aircraft. The grinding metal from the Paladin mechs in combat and the roars and shrieks of the Grimm beasts that rushed their position. The deafening blasts of explosions that erupted all around them and the yelling and screaming of the men…his men. Of course with the sounds came the sights and smells from that event. The smells of the sand mixed with the oil, fire, exhaust fumes, dust and blood made an order the likes of which would test the fortitude of the most war-hardened warriors. Then there were the sights of that battle…sights that would haunt him till the day he died. The individual incidents that he witnessed playing over and over in his head on repeat as well as the snap-shots of battlefield carnage that were frozen in time and burned into his memory.
The combination of sights, smells and sounds proved to be too much for him and he screamed while repeatedly punching and slamming his fists into the stall wall in frustrated rage until he actually chipped a few of the tiles off the wall, causing his hands to bleed and drip blood into the brownish grey water at his feet. When his rage finally subsided, he fell backwards into the shower and broke down, burring his face in his hands as he wept silently with the water still pouring down on him from above.
After quite a bit of time crying his eyes out and trying to regaining his composure, Marcus finally succeeded and pulled himself together then properly showered, stripping away his used combat uniform then cleaned himself up as best he could before drying off and changing over into his fresh utility uniform. He then placed his combat uniform and towel into the laundry bag and paused to look himself over in the mirror. His reflection showed a remarkable difference, something more familiar that he was used to. His face much brighter despite being framed in a nearly identical uniform to the one he was in minutes ago. He was clean and presentable, yet dispite the showers cleansing effects, he could still see the wear degradation that had taken its toll on him beyond the physical grime and filth. Marcus closed his eyes and took a deep breath then exhaled slowly and looked away from the mirror, returning to reality. He grabbed his laundry bag and shave kit then headed out the door.
He checked his watch which indicated it was about an hour later then when he gave his report and left the command tent. His eyes widened as he realized what time it was back home, he made a mad dash back to his tent to drop off his laundry then it was straight to the un-restricted comms tent that allowed service members to talk to their families back home. It was one of the few comforts that the military afforded their men and it was one they sought after the most, short of going straight home.
Marcus reached his team’s tent and looked inside to quickly check on his men. Lance was gone, so was his weapon and pack. He was probably still out on that repair assist. Jason was asleep in his cot, his weapon was cleaned but his gear and armor were not. Marcus decided to let him sleep it off, he knew Jason wouldn’t shirk his duties. Kyle was still awake, his weapons and gear were clean and he’d moved onto his armor. Kyle looked up to see Marcus, his eyes asked if everything was still okay. Kyle nodded to Marcus then he went back to cleaning his armor. Marcus tossed his laundry bag and shave kit over by his cot then rushed off to the comms tent.
Marcus and his unit had been deployed to Vacuo six months ago from their home station in Atlas. They’d spent the past six months in this desert waste land roaming around on patrol while trying to keep the peace and fending off raiders, bandits, the White Fang and the creatures of Grimm. Six months of tedious and dangerous patrols and scouting operations that often didn’t yield any favorable results for command to be proud of. Six months away from home, their families as loved ones that would test the resolve of everyone who was affected by this deployment. That’s why the comms tent was so crowded more often than not, it was their only way to stay in touch with their friends and family they’d left behind back home and gave themselves a little peace of mind and a brief escape from this desert hell hole they were stuck in until they were rotated out or worse. Sometimes the news they got was good and cheerful, something to restore the marines morale and spirit. Other times they got news that made them want to return home immediately because of something that had happened back home. Even other times, they’d call Home only to find that what they left behind might not be there when they returned, something that was often more dangerous than any weapon the enemy might have in their arsenal. Despite whatever might be on the other side of the call, they still had that hope and anticipation to talk with Home and hear good or favorable news about what was happening back home and what awaited then when they returned home.
Marcus sprinted through the sand as fast as he could, panting as he ran and kicking up sand in his wake. He knew what time it was here and because of the time difference he knew he had to hurry or else he might miss his family. Hunger pulled at his stomach that strained his body as he ran but he ignored and rushed forward to call Home. He made it to the comms tent which was surprisingly empty for this time of day, save for the guards on duty to make sure no one misused the antenna to compromise them or their mission. Despite not being connected to any other ships, bases or high command back home, the military made sure this privilege to their men would not be used against them.
Marcus sat down and keyed up the comms program that they used to talk across continents and with a few mouse clicks he was at the dial screen. He keyed in the number for his house then clicked call, picked up the receiver and put it to his ear. Soon enough, the antenna was sending his call home where his wife Molly and daughter Anya were where he’d left them when he deployed and where he’d call them every day around the same time. Unfortunately, because of the recent activities of his unit, Marcus missed his last two calls to Home but that was part of the package, communication was offered to the marines, not guaranteed.
Marcus heard the dial tone through the speaker and he waited with eager anticipation to talk with his wife and daughter while the phone kept ringing and ringing. As it kept ringing, Marcus felt a hole form in the bottom of his stomach but he held out hope that any second someone would pick up on the other side. Then the ringing stopped but instead of Molly or Anya, he heard his own voice greeting him. He recognized the first words immediately, the house answering machine had switched on when nobody answers the phone at home.
He’d missed them. They must have gone to sleep already and when he remembered what day it was today, he knew that tomorrow was a school day for Anya so Molly would have insisted on an early bed time. It made sense and was the right thing to do, but it didn’t make the fact that he’d missed the chance to talk to his family any less painful.
Marcus teared up and started to weep again. He set the receiver down and buried his face in his hands again to try and hide his tears and sobs, but it was obvious to anyone that he was upset because of something he heard or didn’t hear.
Then a notification icon popped up on his screen with a distinctly high “ping” sound that grabbed his attention. He picked up his head and looked at the screen too see he had a message waiting icon on his profile, dated today around two hours ago. He grabbed the mouse and clicked the notification icon to reveal he had a voice message left in his inbox, why the notification didn’t show up earlier when he logged in he didn’t know, and right now he didn’t care.
He double clicked the voice message which opened the playback feature that also had a feature that transcribed every word spoken. He ignored the transcription and immediately pressed play to hear Anya’s voice happily speaking to him.
“Hi Daddy! How are you doing? Are you feeling okay? Have you seen any exotic animals over there? You haven’t called in few days and Mom’s getting pretty worried about you. But I’m not worried Daddy, you’re big and strong and you can do anything Daddy. Friday in school we started reading a book series about King Arthur, and during recess I swung higher than everyone else on the swings. Oh, I almost forgot. We’re writing about people who are influential in our lives. A bunch of kids picked celebrities or superheroes from comic books but I picked you, you’re my hero Daddy. I hope you can come home soon Daddy, mommy really misses you and so do I. But I’m not worried because if anyone can handle the toughest jobs out there, it’s you Daddy. I’ve got to go soon, it’s almost supper time and Mom’s making my favorite meal for dinner. She’s getting better but I still like the way you make it better. I love you Daddy. Have a good day at work and please call us back as soon as you can”
Marcus teared up again but this time he was shedding mixed tears of joy, sadness and relief. Joy for the fact that he got to hear Anya’s voice, sadness because he couldn’t actually talk to her or Molly, and relief because he knew they were safe and still thinking of and waiting for him back home. The thought of his family leaving him was one of those you never know fears, you really didn’t think it would happen but you learned never to take the best things in life for granted ever again, especially in this kind of work.
Marcus pressed play again on the voice message then reached into his wallet and pulled out a photo that he had of him along with his beloved wife and child. He listened to Anya’s voice wile he stared at the picture and he could see her every facial expression she would make as the topics turned from one to the next. It made him smile through the tears that continued to slowly leak from his eyes and when the message ended he just stared at their picture for what seemed like an hour.
He finally pulled himself together and gathered his thoughts then keyed in the Home phone number one more time. Once again, Marcus was greeted by his own voice on the answering machine and a familiar pang of pain echoed in his chest, but that was expected this time and he withstood the pain so that he could leave a clear and message for his family. When he heard the beep, he started talking with a half-forced up-beat inflection and tone while fighting back any hints about what had happened today. He voice did get a little shaken in one or two places but kept himself together as he spoke of how much he missed them and that he couldn’t wait to come home and give them both a big hug. Soon enough he was wrapping up his message to his girls, telling them he loved them and then making three kissing sounds with his mouth to send to the two special ladies in his life, two for his little princess and one for his loving queen. And with than, he clicked the End-Call button and hung-up the receiver back in its proper resting place.
He sat there for another minute or two, debating if he should try to call one more time to see if he would get lucky and get an answer from his family. But ultimately he decided against it and let them sleep, tomorrow was Monday and the start of a potentially busy week for both of them, so they would need their rest. After making peace with only leaving a message with his family, Marcus stood up and grabbed his belongings then pushed in his chair and walked out of the comms tent and back to his team’s tent where he had quite a lot of work to do before he would allow himself sleep.
Marcus returned to his tent to find Jason and Kyle both laying down in their cots, they appeared to be sleeping. He walked over to his cot and looked at the mountain things he had to do before he would allow himself to sleep tonight and sighed.
“Did you get to talk with your girls?” Kyle’s voice resonated lowly from his side of the room. Should have known, he always was a light sleeper.
“Missed them. Monday morning, so early bedtime” he replied as he sat down on his cot and took pause for a moment to wait for Kyle to reply. When he didn’t, Marcus reached over for his rifle to start cleaning it. He looked over his weapon in his lap with tired analytical eyes and saw the same filth, grime and wear he saw on his uniform and armor and flashed back briefly to the battle when he heard Kyle’s voice snap him back to the inside of the tent.
“I’ll bet you haven’t eaten yet” he said getting his leaders attention, and the next thing Marcus saw was a small brown bag flying towards his head. He reacted by leaning back quickly and catching it with both hands. He looked over to Kyle then down at the brown bag and read the writing on it ‘Spaghetti and Meatballs with Marinara Sauce’. It was Kyle’s favorite menu option from the “variety” of choices offered to the Marines, and in reality it was one of the better options. “Eat that before you do anything else, Sir” he said and rolled over to go back to sleep.
Marcus looked over at Kyle for a moment before looking back down at the food in his hands and ultimately gave in to his brother’s “order” to eat. He moved the rifle out of his lap, back onto his pile of gear then wiped his hands with a dab of hand sanitizer and moist towelette. He took a moment to say a quick prayer then open the meal bag to finally eat.