For Tomorrow

Chapter 6

Ayers woke up with a headache, a really damn big headache. He could hear beeping and coughing, so much coughing. The air was thick with disinfectant and cleaning agents, so much that Ayers could almost feel the particles coating his lungs. His whole body hurt as his mind started to wake up and his nerves began to function. He let out a high-pitched groan as his eyes opened to bright sunlight.

The sunlight made it hard to see at first, he could barely make out someone sitting in one of the room chairs. Their head titled down reading what looked to be an old magazine.

"Who's dat?" he rasped, his throat extremely dry at the moment.

"Hey guys look who up!" the person sitting, who no doubt was Cole, whooped.

Ayers squinted as he saw a bunch of people walking in, some with gifts, others without. He was a little overwhelmed; he had mostly been talking to a busted up TAC/COM for the last two years and wasn't used to this much human contact all at once.

"Ayers baby, you gave us a bit of a shock!" Cole whooped as he pulled his chair up to sit next to him. "Can't be showing up and popping out of the blue when we have three tons of ugly pouring down on us! But shit man I been missin' yo jokes."

"Hey Cole Train, nice to see you too." Ayers rasped, his throat still incredibly dry.

"You sound thirsty Brett. How about a tall glass of water?" a woman with a Kashkuri accent asked him. It didn't take him long to figure out whom it was.

"You know I'm always thirsty. And in more ways than one." Ayers told Sam with a large smile on his face.

"Ha, ha. There it is you cheeky root rat." Sam told him as she passed him a glass of water. He took the lukewarm liquid and start to sip on it, grateful as he felt his throat starting to feel less scratchy. He heard more footsteps approach the door.

"Glad to have you back Brent." A woman with short blonde hair told him as she walked in after Jace.

"Shit Anya is that you? You've grown up since I last saw you." Ayers joked as he took another sip of his water.

"Well when we teeter on about twenty thousand people total, Gears became a little hard to find."

"So Anya who used to be my G.P.S is now my in the field C.O.?"

"Damn straight skippy."

Ayers smiled before she was called in on her TAC/COM and exited the room with a slightly concerned face. Ayers noticed Marcus standing in the corner for the first time, he could be really quiet when he wanted to, and he followed out after her. A few minutes passed and he looked to Jace.

"Are they…" he began to ask.

"Yeah, dawg you just now pick up on that?" Jace asked as he gave him a light punch in the arm.

"Yeah. No wonder she never took me up on any of those dates."

The group of people surrounding Ayers bed continued to talk and chat with him until the nurse came in to shoo them away about an hour later. After the group left Ayers felt alone again. Most people adapt to being alone, but not him. Every night he was alone at the rare campfires that he had allowed himself when the night had gotten too cold for the meager shelter he had obtained that night.

The night nurse came in at seven with her normal load of painkillers. Ayers had always refused them during his past hospital stays, they would sit on the tray until the next morning until the morning nurse came in and chastised him for wasting medication he didn't want or need. Ayers looked up at her, she was a middle aged woman. Streaks of grey tinted her reddish brown hair, her eyes looked tired, as if they had seen too much for her to handle.

"When am I scheduled for release?" Ayers asked bluntly, he was rather tired of being cooped up in this hospital.

"You've been in here for only a day. You came in pretty rough shape, chances are you will be released in a week."

"I'm fine, I want to be out on missions."

"Fighting who? The war is over."

"We need supplies, we need people working and repairing. That's the Gears now. Not me lying around in a hospital bed that someone else could be using." Ayers replied as he scratched his side from the irritating fabric of the hospital gown, he hated hospital gowns. They were always so thin, itchy, and it was impossible to keep the back closed.

"Sir, you are required to remain here until you are discharged." the nurse repeated herself with a stern tone in her voice.

"Fine, whatever." Ayers said, feeling a bit wrong for acting like such an asshole to a lady just doing her job.

The nurse left him alone. This prompted Ayers to close his eyes and try to fall asleep. If he got some shuteye he might feel better in the morning when he was faced with lying in his bed all day again waiting for his friends to come visit him.

"Wish I was being shot at again." Ayers mumbled before he succumbed to the pulls of sleeps.

Jace left the hospital to go to mission briefing, despite the need to take a couple days off for his ribs to heal his was already being sent out on another mission. Hoffman had asked to see him personally before his mission briefing.

Jace walked into Command HQ and was directed to Hoffman's office. He knocked on the door and waited until Hoffman told him to enter.

Hoffman was sitting at a rather large desk, the kind Prescott would have worked at before his death. The man looked like he would have ripped his hair out if there was any left for him to pull out on his baldhead. Hoffman was a man of action, not the type to sit behind a desk and work on useless reports. Every chance he had to get in the field he would take it.

"Corporal Jace Stratton, exemplary career record, glowing recommendations from his squad mates, and top of his class in boot camp. But tell me, do you think you've earned any of these things?" Hoffman asked him in his straight to the point no bullshit attitude again.

Jace was caught off guard by this question. With this one of two things was assured, Hoffman would give him a sigh of approval and then tell him some amazing news or Hoffman would give him stare and assign him latrine duty for a month.

"Sir, it don't matter what people say about me. I get the job done, and I try to do it right." Jace replied as honestly as he could.

Hoffman leaned back and gave him a sigh. He couldn't quite tell if it was approval or latrine duty.

"Son, durin' the last three wars I saw hundreds of green recruits die within a week of fighting. Yet, there was always a handful that survived to make veteran soldiers and leaders. Towards the last few years of the war I saw you fighting, all I could see were the hundreds of soldiers who had died. I thought you would be blasted to bits by a stray ticker, or perhaps beaten to death by your own arm." Hoffman stopped for a moment to pick up a file folder and flick it open, scanning the contents before putting it down and looking back at Jace. "However, you were a stubborn bastard. But you were a lucky, stubborn, bastard. You've survived long enough for me to give you a promotion."

"A promotion, sir?" Jace asked, he was sure his jaw had hit the ground in shock.

"Fenix isn't always going to be on base, I can barely count on Baird to not blow us all up out of spite, and Cole continues to refuse any promotion we give him. Way I see it; you're the best choice for a promotion to sergeant."

"Don't know what to say sir."

"I'll take that as your acceptance. First mission, you will be leading Privates Takashi, Rojas, and Aligante on a search and rescue mission to a Stranded Camp outside of Mercy. The last squad we sent failed to report back to the pick up zone and all radio contact was lost. Your mission will be to go to the camp, find the missing Gear squad, and locate whatever was preventing the squad from making contact."

"Yes sir."

"Dismissed, Sergeant Stratton."

Jace walked out of command and was about to meet at the helipad before he stopped for a moment. Did Hoffman say Aligante?

"Shit." Jace mumbled as he went to the helipad.

Baird had barely caught up with the other four before they had taken off without him. The helicopter was in the process of lifting off before Baird had run over and grasped onto the edge, Clay had pulled him in and then left him sitting on the floor of the Raven.

"Thanks guys always need the exercise." Baird snarked as he stood up and held onto the rail above the exits to the Ravens to keep his balance.

"If you weren't messin' round in the workshop we wouda left with ya." Dizzy told him as he looked out the side of the Raven.

"Yeah, I'll remember that the next time you need a part fixed Dizzy."

"Ya know, when my girls acted up I would sit them in the corner and force them ta think 'bout what they'd done. You need corner time?"

"Fuck no."

"Then start actin' right."

Clay almost burst out laughing as Dizzy chewed out Baird. Dizzy never chewed anyone out ever, but Baird would be the exception.

After Baird and Dizzy settled down the four sat down in the seats and focused on grabbing some shuteye. Duke tried to close his eyes but he couldn't help but look at Valeria, she was new to the whole military aspect. Rookies never could get to sleep on a King Raven, about a year they would be able to sleep through a Lightmass Bombing.

Duke stretched and looked at Valeria. She stayed still and eventually returned eye contact.

"Can't sleep?" Duke asked her with a small laugh at the end of his sentence.

"Nerves." Valeria responded with a slight accent, not heavy enough that Duke could tell where from, but heavy enough that it was noticeable.

"Bit different from boot camp and Baird's basic engineering course, ain't it?" Duke asked as he leaned forward and held his hands together.

"Yeah, I'm used to fucking up and retrying, not fucking up and dying."

"You're not gonna die if one thing goes wrong. Big fuckups are a combination of ten shitloads of things going wrong."

"Right. Baird's motto."

"Yeah, so how is he as a teacher?"

"I think I had a physics teacher like him once, ended up getting a D in that class."

"I can imagine."

"Shut up," Baird murmured, Duke and Valeria looked over hoping that he hadn't overheard them. "Cole, charge up there. Monkey man." Baird muttered in his sleep as he rolled over on his side.

"Time to go to sleep. Night!" Valeria said as she closed her eyes and fell asleep quicker than anyone should have been able to.

Duke looked over and gave Baird a quick glare before leaning back in his seat and closing his eyes. Falling asleep to kill the three-hour ride to the vehicle graveyard.