Hardings came into the hospital wing, a mountain of a man in bandages behind him, being escorted by two other SPARTANs. He was in pitiful shape, field medics must’ve done what they could, his torso was wrapped in gauze, turning pink with blood and his right arm was in a makeshift splint. The poor soul’s face was scratched all to hell and bruised. There was massive scarring on the man’s throat, he was probably mute. It was late, the other patients were in bed, asleep by now. Doctor Thorne gave him a fed up look, putting her clipboard down.
“What have you brought me, Hardings?” She asked, eying up the man in bandages, there was a dead look in his eyes, he was empty. She was good at her job but she was not a miracle worker. Hardings smiled charmingly, a man his age really should not ooze charm in the way that General Elias Hardings did. He clapped the big man on his shoulder, giving him a good natured jostle, only to make a guilty face at seeming to recall the man’s condition.
“This is Agent Maine of Project Freelancer. He was Matthias-2791 before Freelancer picked him up. Then they fucked him up good, the poor boy. He’s broken, Moriene. You’re the best head doctor the UNSC has, can you give it a shot?” Hardings asked, grey eyes warm and pleading. Upon her silence, he sighed.
“None of this was his fault. He needs help. Here’s his file.” Hardings said, handing her his personal data pad, she synced the information to hers and with a bitter look she started to read.
It was a horror show, as hard as the UNSC was on SPARTANs, Project Freelancer went tenfold, entire weeks without resting in between missions, countless injuries, he was almost completely mute. Moriene thought it couldn’t get worse until she got to the end.
The Sigma AI, originally intended for Agent Carolina, broke Agent Maine’s mind and turned him into a puppet. After the crash of the MOI, the entity known as the Meta went AWOL and two years later started to attack Freelancers and take their equipment and AI, in pursuit of metastability.
Everything came to an end with an EMP, wiping out the AI in Agent Maine’s head, leaving a broken husk of a man. With Agent Washington, Agent Maine pursued the last AI of Freelancer, the Epsilon Unit. I suppose his motive was to alleviate the silence in his head, to find more power.
The UNSC reports Agent Maine dead, drowned at the bottom of the cliff on Sidewinder. An unfortunate ending to such a powerful man, but all in the name of science. I, with immense dissatisfaction must deem the metastability experiment a failure. Whatever the Director’s desire to find it, he cannot. AI are meant to exist for a very short period of time, and then be deleted, no matter the cost.
Aiden Price, Counselor of Project Freelancer
Moriene read the name with a sour taste in her mouth. Aiden Price has been a fellow graduate in her class. He was stripped of his license not five years after they graduated. Then he disappeared, he was a modern day Sigmund Freud, unethical and willing to do anything to get the results he desired. If Agent Maine was a victim of Aiden Price, then Moriene had no choice but to at least try to help the poor soul. She looked up at Maine, gazing into his eyes.
“Is he safe for civilians? And normal soldiers? I can’t help him if he attacks my other patients.” Moriene asked.
“He’s been docile since we pulled him out of the ice. I think he’s still in shock. He had an AI for a very short period of time. I suggest getting him in a room and cuffing him till he comes to.” Hardings answered her.
“What are the extent of his injuries? It looks like he needs to get some medical treatment.” Moriene asked, approaching the broken SPARTAN and gingerly feeling up his ribcage, he gave a pained growl, hissing as he exhaled. A sympathetic pang blossomed in Moriene’s chest, she gazed up at him, looking him in the face. His eyes may have been dead but his face still portrayed pain, this man could be helped. The lady SPARTAN next to him laid a hand on his shoulder.
“Easy Matthias, she’s just checking you out. She’s trying to help.” She said softly, catty green eyes worried.
“Well, he single handedly fought off six sim troopers, one of them had their hands on a plasma sword somehow, got in a good shot, there were two other Freelancers that did a good deal of damage, stabs wounds, some shrapnel, oh and they threw him off a cliff. Resourceful bunch, those sim troopers.” Hardings said, an impressed hint in his voice. Moriene gave Hardings a glare.
He was a SPARTAN, broken bones would heal quickly with rest, as would the stab wounds, the plasma would worried her, those were burns more than stabs.
“I’m going to order some x-rays, to get the extent of his injuries. I’ll try to help him, Elias, but I’m not a miracle worker. I’ve seen my fair share of broken SPARTANS, but this man had been shattered, and then broken some more. He may never recover.” Moriene said, turning to the counter and grabbing a check in form.
“We’ll sign him in as John Doe, considering we told Freelancer Agent Maine was dead.” Hardings said, Moriene nodded and wrote down the name.
“Does he have any surviving family?” Moriene asked.
“There’s us.” The lady SPARTAN spoke up. Hardings looked at her with a gentle expression and nodded. The SPARTANs weren't what Moriene meant when she asked about family.
“No, Moriene… they’re gone, I already looked.” Hardings said with difficulty. Moriene looked at Matthias in sympathy, he had the SPARTANs, but otherwise he was alone.
“There is one person, her name is Elizabeth Thatcher-” Hardings started. The name caught her attention instantly, Matthias had been deployed to protect two soldiers after an attack on their base, evac had been impossible but the UNSC risked dropping a SPARTAN from orbit. Thatcher had been reported to be the only one of the trio to survive to war.
“The soldier from Lucaine? What does she have to do with this?” Moriene asked.
“Just, she knew him from before Freelancer, maybe she could help, she’s got a masters in psychology, she might be useful.” Hardings suggested. Moriene hummed, curiously and made a note in the beginnings of Matthias’s chart.
“Okay, bring him.” Moriene said after she finished filling out the chart, Matthias had been standing long enough, it’s time he got a decent rest, even if he had to be chained to a bed. She led the way to an emptier part of the wing, if he got loose and was violent, Moriene wanted him to be as far away from her other patients as possible. She opened the door and went it.
“If you’ll lay down please, you need to rest.” She told him directly, Moriene felt bad for those being the first words she spoke directly to him. His dead eyes gazed at her for a moment before looking at the bed. A groaning hiss and he stepped forward, sitting on the bed and then laying out, another groan and his eyes shut. Hardings took out a key and some cuffs.
“Sorry, son. This is just precaution.” He apologized, carefully seizing Matthias’s hand and slipping the cuffs on, his eyes opened back, warily studying the general as he clicked the other cuff to the bed rail.
“If you become lucid again, we’ll assess you and then determine whether or not you’re safe to be unrestrained.” Moriene told him. She’d seen this before in a few soldiers, they were never lucid again and spent the rest of their days floating through life at the mercy of whoever they were stuck with.
“I don’t like this Marcus.” Eva said quietly to the other SPARTAN, Moriene sent her a glance. Eva had to understand to some extent, she just had to.
“It’s just precaution, think of it as protecting him.” Marcus said back to her. Eva scowled and shook her head.
“We should’ve been there… if he hadn’t got hurt so badly-”
“There’s nothing we could have done, Eva.” Moriene sighed, giving Matthias another glance, from the looks of it he’d returned to sleep, great chest expanding like a bellows, garbled breathing eliciting from him.
“We’ll do our best to repair him, Eva.” Moriene said, slipping the ear pieces of her stethoscope in place and slipping the chest piece under the edges of gauze to get a listen to his lungs. She didn’t hear any liquid, so that was good. They would do the x-rays in the morning when he’d gotten a proper rest.
“Can one of us stay?” Eva asked, Hardings looked at Moriene with those eyes of his, how such a kind man managed to become a four star general and retain his kindness was a mystery to Moriene.
“We do need someone that could restrain him on hand should things take a turn, one of you can stay.” Moriene said, it was an excuse but a practical one.
“Perhaps we could take shifts? I’ll start tonight and Eva can come in tomorrow morning?” Marcus suggested.
“If your missions interfere you have to go, we’ll send for someone else, but that’s fine with me if Doctor Thorne is okay with it.” Hardings said, she nodded wordlessly as she took a pair of scissors and started to cut away at the gauze, he startled awake, a hand coming down on her wrist to stop her, gentle to deter Moriene, but not hurt her, eyes wide and alive with panic. She stared for a moment at the hotwired look on his face.
“I’m just looking over your wounds, it’s okay, field medics can only do so much, they need to be re-treated.” She spoke softly to him. His eyes darted around, aware but unrecognizing. He leaned back into the bed with a groan, every muscle in his body relaxing and his eyes closing again, he heaved his breaths. Pain, so much pain on his face. Not all of it physical. He was coming back to himself, Moriene believed.
Marcus took up watch by the window as Hardings and Eva left, the massive soldier even bigger than Matthias was quiet, he had a pleasant aura about him. He felt safe. Moriene got to work on Matthias, studying the plasma burn and the numerous stab wounds, there was a couple deep slashes across his chest.
“He’s got a few injuries on his back as well, if he’ll let you look at those.” Marcus said quietly. Moriene looked up at him. There was a haunted look in his eyes, he knew Matthias before Freelancer. Why was Thatcher so important? Moriene shouldn’t question it, Elias knew what he was doing.
“Will you turn over? I know with the cuffs it’s difficult but I need to see.” Moriene asked, his eyes opened again, gazing at her with pain, but turned onto his side with a groan not unlike a wounded farm animal. He just wanted to rest, she could tell. A few more stabs, plenty more bruising. An ugly black tattoo, looking to be an amalgamation of Greek letters was tattooed down the back of his head.
She treated the injuries as she could for now, doing her best job as quick as she could. He needed rest, these would heal if the man could just sleep. When she was done, Matthias turned back over and went to sleep.
“Thank you, Doctor. Matthias was kind before Freelancer, I’m sure he was during as well, but… He just deserves a second chance. He’s a good man. He wouldn’t have done anything the Meta had done if it was up to him. I need you to know that, Doctor Thorne.” Marcus told her. Moriene gave a long sigh, looking at Matthias now asleep in the bed. No more interruptions for tonight.
“I’m going to do my best to help him, Marcus. But if he’s as broken as I think he is it’s going to be an uphill battle.” Moriene said, the soldier by the window smiled.
“He’s a SPARTAN, Doctor, uphill battles are one of his strong suits.”
Moriene entered her office with a huff and started a recording.
“Hardings brought in a Freelancer tonight, Agent Maine. He was previously the SPARTAN tagged Matthias-2791 with the UNSC. He’s been abused and broken for years, this will be an incredibly hard recovery, right now he’s unresponsive, may be for the rest of is life. However I have reason to believe if he does become lucid again he will have identity issues, so when, if he become responsive again we will need to determine his mindset and identity, potential for dissociative identity disorder.”
The following morning, after making rounds with her patients, dodging the nosy Rick’s questions about the ‘big fugger in the room across the wing,’ she went to go check on Matthias. Entering the room, it was dark, the curtains were drawn from last night, she scowled and crossed over to the window, where was Eva? She pulled the curtains back and sunlight filtered into the room. There was a hiss and a growl from her patient, she looked at him. He blinked in the light of the late morning sun, despite his growls, he looked grateful rather than annoyed.
She checked his vitals, things were looking good, a nurse had come and redone his bandages. Moriene wanted to do the x-rays, but she needed a SPARTAN here to make sure he would not hurt anyone should his mental state take a turn for the worse. Almost as though on cue, Eva stepped in, a cup of coffee in hand.
“How long have you been awake, Matthias?” Eva asked, ignoring Moriene and walking further into the room. To this, he said nothing, just stared blankly. Moriene pursed her lips, writing down that he was selectively reactive to stimuli.
“We need to get his x-rays today, Eva. Can you help with that?” Moriene asked as she tucked away her notepad.
“Yeah.” She replied simply, taking a sip of her coffee. “Why won’t he talk to us?” Eva asked. Moriene sighed, walking over to his side and standing still for a moment. Matthias raised his steely blue eyes to look at her, perhaps questioning.
“Do you know your name?” She asked him. His eyebrow twitched, it may have been involuntary, but he continued to stare blankly at her.
“I don’t think he knows who he is, Eva. He’s survived a great trauma, and it was repetitive at that. He’s not going to get better overnight. Now help me move him.” Moriene told her.
She stared at the x-rays in shock. So much damage, new and otherwise. Freelancer had not been forgiving, not even a little. Spiderwebs of reconstruction on basically every bone in his body. Skull was fine though, aside from a few repaired bullet wounds. Compared to the rest of the damage, they weren't that bad. Moriene was glad for that. She looked at him from the x-ray light. He was watching her intently, studying her. Moriene hummed, returning her attention to the images.
“You’ve survived quite a lot, Matthias. I’m horrified and impressed.” She said. There was silence other than Eva’s chuckle.
“You should see my x-rays, doc.” She said, approaching. The light reflected in her eyes and disgust of her own crossed her face.
“What the shit.” She gasped, Eva turned her attention to the man in the bed, who had turned his attention to gazing out the window.
“Matthias, what the fuck?” She asked in disdain. Shoulders bristled and stance wide, she looked like she could be on the attack as she made her way over to the bed. Moriene grabbed Eva’s arm, keeping her from going over to him.
“Easy. Gentle body language. It wasn’t his fault, remember that.” Eva frowned, giving a deep sigh, seeming to deflate and went over to him, Eva took his hand in hers, causing a little jump but otherwise no reaction.
“What the hell did they do to you?” Matthias simply stared. Eva gave a subtle shake, was she crying? Moriene felt it best not to investigate. So she slipped out of the room.
SPARTANs had a special bond with one another, if Moriene saw one of her siblings in such a sorry state she would be acting just like Eva. Moriene absently thought to give her sister a phone call.
Seeing her brother like this made Eva want to pound those responsible into the dust. He used to have wavy black hair that he was proud of, and a glisten in his eyes. He was quieter than most of them, but his eyes spoke volumes. Now they were hauntingly empty, and that ugly back tattoo on the back of his head mocked her. Matthias had been sarcastic and witty when he did speak, and though deep, like most of their voices, his had carried a softness to it. How could this have become of one of the best men she knew? She’d find that Director herself and rip his damn head off.
Doctor Thorne had slipped out, leaving her alone with the empty husk of Matthias 2791. She huffed, sinking into her chair.
“Remember when we met? We were both terrified. But Marcus came up to us, he was already big. He wrapped us in his arms and promised us everything would be okay. We’d watch out for each other. We were supposed to watch out for each other… we should’ve been there, Matthias. I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry. Patrick keeps telling me this isn’t my fault. I know it’s not. But I can’t keep from blaming myself.” She said, her heart feeling heavy. He gazed with empty eyes as she swallowed her sobs. She had to keep it together. Matthias was in there somewhere, she just knew it. If he was, when he came around, he’d never let her live this down.
Eva laughed bitterly at the thought of it.
“I like your new ink, the flowers, not that thing on the back of your head, that’s just creepy. You’ll have to grow your hair back out to cover that.” Eva said, trying to get away from her hurt. Something in Matthias’s eyes shifted and Eva squinted at him.
“Hardings keeps talking about Thatcher. You remember her? One of the soldiers from Lucaine. Do you remember?” Eva asked. His eyes cut away from her, something like shame coming across his face and Eva tilted her head.
“Hey, look at me.” Eva demanded softly. A growl elicited from his throat, no words.
The first time she and Marcus heard him speak was when they got on Sidewinder, a soldier named Marks had called them in because Matthias had been acting difficult, hostile but only because he was scared, holed up in the fort and attacking, but not killing, whoever came in.
They had needed someone who could move a hard headed SPARTAN. He stood in regulation EVA armor, not MJOLNIR, which was her first sign of corruption from Freelancer. Blood had been seeping down the front of his stark white chest plate from several places. There was a wild animal light in his eyes and he was afraid. He had growled at them, not recognizing his siblings.
“What’s happening? Who am I? Where am I?” That was the first heartbreak of many since she’d seen him for the first time after all these years. Marcus managed to calm him down by overpowering him to get close to Matthias, his usual brand comfort was being handsy, taking Matthias’s beaten face in hands, bravely pressing their foreheads together and speaking softly, gazing gently into their brother’s eyes. Marcus had come from a colony where this level of intimacy was actually the norm.
“You can trust us. We’re here to help, don’t you know two of your siblings when you see them?” She watched the tension slip from Matthias’s body, the fear ebbing away to give to a muted consciousness. Marcus had pulled back with a smug little smile, telling the medics it was safe to treat him now. He hadn’t known this was what Matthias was now, fear and emptiness, neither one of them even thought about it.
Eva stayed with him that night, only really needing to sleep every now and then, but apparently Matthias had slipped into the habit of sleeping nightly. So it actually startled her when he jolted awake in the middle of the night, roaring, a loud splintering sound and he was free of the bed. The rail clattered loudly to the ground.
“Wash?! Wash? Where’s Wash?” Eva leapt forward, locking her arms around him, forcing him to be still, she guiltily knew she was hurting his nearly shattered rib cage. She shushed him gently, trying to calm him down.
“Matthias, it’s okay! Calm down, it’s okay!” She urged softly as he thrashed. Pained roared escaped from him. She loosened her grip, careful not to let him slip out of her arms.
“Do you know where you are? Listen to me, Wash isn’t here,” Whoever the fuck that was, “But if you calm down, you’ll get to see him again, sooner or later, do you understand?” She told him softly, trying to emulate Marcus’s tone, but Marcus was just a wonder at this sort of thing.
It worked though, Matthias went limp in her arms and she turned him around, having had her front pressed tightly to his back. She took him gently by the jaw. His eyes avoided her as he heaved his breaths painfully.
“Do you know who you are?” She asked. His eyes squeezed shut and he growled. Maybe he didn’t want to remember. She realized this, thinking it should have shocked her, but it didn’t. If she had done what he did and had the opportunity to forget it, she would.
The nurses came in, quickly injecting Matthias with a tranquilizer and Eva ushered him back to the broken bed. She chewed on her bottom lip as he passed out.
Doctor Thorne came in around ten in the morning, Marcus accompanying her. Eva stood up from the seat, twisting and popping her spine.
“What the hell happened?” Thorne asked, seeing the broken bed rail leaning against the wall near the window. Eva huffed and took a swig from her coffee, and explained the previous night’s events. She had to shoo off that nosy soldier earlier today, she wasn’t in a great mood this morning. Thorne frowned distastefully.
“He mentioned a ‘Wash?’ General Hardings said something about an Agent Washington, I assume the two correlate.” She said, making a note in her data pad. Then Thorne sighed.
“Go home, Eva, I think Patrick has been looking for you.” She instructed as Marcus moved further into the room.
“What if he doesn’t want to remember, not that he can’t?” Eva asked, having spent all night since that realization worrying about it. Thorne looked at her over the rim of her glasses, Marcus gazed at Matthias, who was still unconscious, sympathetically.
“If Matthias doesn’t want to remember, forcing him will only do more damage.” Thorne said. Eva scowled, looking back outside, tugging her hands through her short hair.
“How long has he been unconscious?” Thorne asked, gazing at his chart.
“Since about three this morning. Nurses said they gave him a twelve hour dose. Might be a little less before he wakes up though. Not that him being awake makes any difference.” Eva said bitterly, slinging her overnight back over her shoulder. Marcus looked at her apologetically. She shook her head.
“It’ll be okay, Eva.” He told her grabbing her hand as she walked by. Eva huffed and groaned.
“Do you really think so?” She asked, staring into his eyes intently.
Marcus settled down in the chair Eva had abandoned and gazed out the window. She had a right to be upset about this. Marcus was and the brothers and sisters that hadn’t even known Matthias were upset about how Freelancer had treated him. They were expected to be war machines, they knew that, but what Freelancer did to Matthias had been wrong, beyond wrong, inhumane.
There were grunts from Matthias that broke Marcus from his train of thought. He looked up, seeing him sitting up in the bed.
“Good morning.” He said simply, Matthias’s eyes turned to him and he looked around some more.
“Is there food?” He asked, the man hadn’t eaten what was brought to him, too caught up in his daze, so they hooked him up to a nutrient drip, seeing as for a SPARTAN, he was horribly underweight. Marcus figured if he had been in peak health on Sidewinder he wouldn’t have dropped. SPARTANs needed a healthy layer of fat in order to work properly, they needed to rest but not necessarily sleep, Matthias looked as though he hadn’t rested in years. He was broken in more ways than one. Marcus let his feet down from the window sill and stood up.
“I’ll go tell a nurse you’re asking for food.” Marcus said, leaving the room and looking around for an employee. He managed to find an orderly and inform him of Matthias’s request, he was told it would be a few minutes and then went back to the room.
Matthias was tugging curiously at the cuffs keeping him attached to the bed, Marcus wasn’t sure if they’d let him out to let him eat or not, because with his right arm in a sling, that wasn’t going to work.
“Do you know who you are?” Marcus asked, bringing the chair near the window and setting it down next to his bed. Matthias grumbled.
“No, why is it so important to you two?” He asked almost bitterly, Marcus rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. Well his personality was coming back, nice to see that. Marcus tilted his head downwards.
“Well, we know you, from before you forgot who you were. We missed you.” Marcus said. Matthias raised his eyes to look at him but didn’t say anything. The nurse Marcus found came in with a tray of food. Thorne came in behind him, pulling out the key to the cuff. She released him and turned the table attached to the bed in front of Matthias and the orderly set the tray down, then basically ran away.
“How are you, Matthias?” She asked. He didn’t respond. Thorne didn’t seem very happy about that.
“Still selectively reacting, I see.” She mumbled, perhaps a bitter look in her eyes. If he didn’t start at least addressing her she wasn’t going to be able to help.
He picked up the bowl of broth and straight downed it, something told Marcus that Matthias getting sick was not something they were going to have to worry about. Thorne made a face and carefully removed the IV drip from Matthias’s arm. Him eating must not have been a concern of hers anymore, considering how he was wolfing down the food now.
“As long as you or Eva are here, until I can truly confirm his mental state, we can leave the cuffs off.” Thorne told Marcus, he nodded.
“That’s good. I think he’ll appreciate it.” He told her. Thorne nodded and left the room in a huff. It had only been a few days, he wasn’t sure why she was so bothered by Matthias’s refusal to engage. Marcus had seen flickers of the person Matthias used to be, it was only a matter of time, he was sure.