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The Rules Of Marcus Boone

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   Five hated going to sleep, because when she did sleep she'd see things, things that she knew she shouldn't be seeing. They were secrets. But not her secrets, they were the secrets of a different time, a time when they had a whole lifetime of memories and an impressive repertoire of bad habits.

   Usually the dreams shed experience were random, and sporadic. Five would effortlessly slip between eating a home cooked meal with a smiling family to slaughtering masses. What made it so truly terrifying was that it felt as if she was really there. Nobody should know what it feels like to snap a neck and feel no remorse, to see the blood drip from your fingertips and only think of who's next.

   Recently though, she'd began to notice a solid and constant timeline play out before her at night. By the time she realized what the basis of events centred around, she stumbled too far into a secret that she had no right knowing.

   This all started with a dream.

 

~Two~

 

   "Alright boys!" I clap my hands together. The sound resonates against the solid metal of the large cargo bay, grabbing the attention of the crew. "We've got 20 crates of live ammunition ready to be transported into the vault. We also have a potential buyer lined up and they are interested in the entire stock, so if anything happens to even a single crate, I will personally see to it that an appropriate punishment is carried out. Now get loading."

   "And where will you be headed? Just because you give the orders doesn't mean you get to skimp on the gritty work." Three calls out when I turn towards the exit.

   I sigh frustratingly and look back at the smug man. "I have some very important tasks to carry out. Like making sure the airlock works properly because I have a feeling I'll be needing it soon."

   As I exit the cargo bay I hear someone stifle a laugh. If Marcus wasn't such an essential asset to the team he'd have been dropped of at the nearest colony ages ago.

   "Android." I speak through the comm.

   "How may I be of assistance, Portia?would you like to hear the latest ship status report?" Her reply comes.

   "Not now. I'd like you to keep a close eye on Marcus. If he does anything suspicious or out of the ordinary, inform me right away."

   "Of course. Is that all?"

   "Yes."

•••

 

   I was in my sleeping quarters, doing a more thorough background check of the potential buyer when I was interrupted. "I have detected an anomaly in Marcus's movement. It seems both he and Jace have discontinued working."

   "If they aren't working then what are they doing?" I was already on my way out, with a gun in hand. With those two involved nothing good ever came. They'd been hostile towards each other since the moment they stepped aboard the ship. Their dislike for each other was definitely not a secret among the crew.

   "It seems if they are participating in a fist fight."

   Oh great, of course they were. It certainly wasn't the first time. Let's just be glad it wasn't a gun fight. If a stray bullet happened to hit one of those crates they'd all be dead in seconds flat. With that thought I pick up my pace.

   I come upon the cargo bay door and quietly enter, my gun drawn and ready to shoot if necessary. The bay seemed void of life at first glance until the sound of flesh hitting flesh alerts me of their presence.

   I follow the sound, carefully avoiding being seen. I end up ducking behind a sheet of scrap metal that provided me with a perfect view without being seen myself. Now I was within listening distance. If I learnt one thing since being on this ship, it is to not interrupt an argument between Marcus and Jace unless absolutely necessary.

   Even Ryo - with his lifelong hand-to-hand training - ended up with a black eye after trying to separate them over a fight in the mess hall over the protein packets.

   I watch Jace land a hard blow to Marcus' face. Marcus just shrugs it off and wipes away the blood dripping from his chin. "That all you got, pretty boy?"

   "I've told you before. That's not my name." Jace glares at his, and Marcus glares back just as ruthlessly, but with a small glint of amusement and admiration in his eyes.

   Marcus takes two steps towards him, smiling. Jace pushes hard against his chest but it didn't do anything. "You sure...pretty boy?" He mocks.

   Again, Jace pushed but somehow Marcus only got closer. Close enough that they were breathing the same air. Their eyes lock in an intense stare down. Ever so slowly I watched the breakdown of Jace's defences and how his body slowly lent forward during the whole ordeal.

   Marcus let this continue until their foreheads touch,then he swiftly brings his knee up and into Jace's stomach. He topples to the ground, clutching his waist and Marcus laughs. "Rule #1 of Marcus Boone, Never ever let your guard down."

•••

 

   Five sits in her bed that night wondering what would've happened if Three didn't stop One.

 

•••

 

~Four~

 

   We haven't received a mission in a couple weeks and I could feel it in me. My bones were getting stiff and my muscles weakened with the lack of any real combat. Nobody else on the ship proved to be any kind of opponent in hand to hand sparing, they all preferred their guns.

   The training room was the only other option. I could train alone all I wanted but it never stood up to the satisfaction of sparring an unpredictable human opponent.

   To my suspicion the door to the room was already opened. It was late and everyone should already be asleep. This was supposed to be time to myself, in the shadows in silence.

   I stop just outside the entrance, staying out of sight, with my guard up and senses on high alert. It there was an intruder I would be ready.

   "-oh come on! Now you're just trying to impress me." I recognize the voice, it was Marcus. What was he doing in there at this time? And who was he talking to?

   Someone scoffs. "Yeah right. If I was trying to impress you, you'd be kneeling down before me already."

   "You've got a dirty mind pretty boy, I like that." Marcus only used that nickname on one person, Jace. "But I don't think you can impress me. Rule #2 of Marcus Boone, always keep your standards high."

   "Says the man who has to get girls drunk before they'll want to sleep with you." Jace retorts sarcastically. "It's only the highest of standards for you."

   "If my standards are so low then why haven't I slept with you?"

   There was a long and dead silence. I couldn't see what was happening. If I glanced around the corner they'd be able to see me. I couldn't take that chance. What if they really were plotting something dangerous?

   After a while Jace was the first to talk. "You haven't slept with me because I haven't let you." His voice cracks.

   "So that's the only thing stopping us from stripping naked and doing it hard right here, right now, your will power?" Unlike Jace, Marcus's speech remained strong and confident.

   "Yes."

   "Are you going to let me now?"

   That was it, I couldn't stay any longer. They could be planning galaxy wide genocide for all I care, but I will not stick around for whatever was about to go down.

   I half run back to my quarters and try wipe my mind everything I just heard. It wasn't my business, I should not have eavesdropped. Whatever was going on between the two should stay between them, I did not want to know.

 

•••

 

   Five couldn't look One or Three directly in the eye for several days after the dream. She felt guilty and honestly, a little grossed out, it was kind of like accidentally seeing your parents be intimate with each other.

 

•••

 

~Six~

 

   "Hey, have you seen-" I walk into Marcus's room without knocking. Now, looking back on that decision I probably should have. "-umm...wow, sorry." I quickly cover up my eyes, only peeking through the fingers when absolutely necessary.

   Marcus was straddling a flustered Jace on his desk chair, with his arms wrapped loosely around his neck. It was very clear what was going on,

   "What do you want?" Marcus throws his head back with an exasperated sigh. He was totally relaxed, like I didn't just walk in on him with a fellow crewmate. "I'm kind of busy here."

   Jace on the other hand looked completely mortified, and speechless, cheeks flushed cherry red. Whether that was from embarrassment or something else, I couldn't tell, and frankly I didn't want to know.

   "Uh...umm." I stumble over my words while blindly gesturing to the door. "You know, uh...I can come back later."

   Marcus sighs again, louder and more dramatic. He had a knack for that. "I'd rather you not. I have a feeling I'm going to be busy for a while." He plants a suggestive kiss to his jawline. "Right, pretty boy?"

   Jace flashes his eyes between the two of us. "I think maybe It's just time for me to go too..." He tries to get out from under him but Marcus roughly pushes him down his shoulders.

   "Rule #3 of Marcus Boone, always finish what you start." His voice was low and gritty, a tone I've only ever heard him use in dire and deadly situations. Except now instead of sounding hostile it came off as possessive and a tiny hint of desperation. It was a strange shift from there typical dynamic.

   "Do I go now or...?" I didn't know why I was suddenly asking permission but with someone as hotheaded as Marcus it was generally better safe then sorry.

   "Or what? I'm usually always up for a good three way and - don't get me wrong - I dig your whole big brooding teddy bear kinda vibe going on, but I've never been particularly good at sharing." Marcus habitually licks his lips and I notice Jace's eyes draw towards them with a smile. "Especially if that something is mine."

   Whatever was happening between the two of them, it seemed to be rapidly approaching into something more serious. Who would've thought?"

   With that I get out as fast as I could.

   The things I would do to wipe my memories of everything I'd seen.

 

•••

 

~Five // Present Day~

 

    It started out as a normal, quiet mission, just a simple extraction of information from the locals inhabiting a nearby planet when it all went south - just like it always does.

Six, Two and One went down while everyone else stayed onboard the ship. It was only a small and simple task, there was no need to waste the extra manpower. They'd been off-ship for around two hours before any real communication was established.

   "Two here. There seems to be a...situation going on down here." We all hear through our earpieces.

   "What kind of situation?" Four questions suspiciously.

   There was a laugh from Two on the other end that surprised everyone. It wasn't very often you heard a laugh aboard the Raza. It was almost as rare as seeing Three and One get along. Not counting the oddly revealing dreams I've been having lately.

  Another laugh from Two, genuine amusement. "One hasn't quite grasped the concept of subtlety, he was blatantly demanding the secrets of the sacred temple, and in doing so, he grew quite the curious crowd. I assumed most of which were probably just waiting for him to get killed."

   "Is One okay?" I ask anxiously, rocking back and forth on the heels of my boots. Two's news didn't seem very optimistic.

   "Just a little beat up, he'll definitely be sore in the morning, but it's nothing to worry over." Two assures her. The line goes dead for a few more minutes. "We're boarding now. You might want to inform the android and prep the medbay."

   Three paces the bridge, quietly muttering to himself angrily. Occasionally I'd pick up a few words, none of them made sense to me but his tone conveyed heavy vulgarity. I had a feeling if I'd repeated anything he'd said I'd get in big trouble.

   "I'll go find the android." Four announces and promptly exits the bridge without another comment.

   Now I was left alone with the one person I tried so hard to avoid being alone with. Three had never liked me, it was no secret. If he had the chance he'd drop me off at the nearest convenient location without a second thought - that typically meant the closest available airlock.

   I understood his hostility towards me. I was young, unpredictable and a liability. I was no seasoned criminal. The only reason I'm still standing is because of my brain. They need me, even if they won't admit it. I'm clever, and that made me an asset...only until they happen to come across someone smarter, older and good in a fight, then I'm gone, completely forgotten, like our memories.

   "What're you lookin' at kid?" Three tilts his head upwards and pushes out his chest. I've seen that stance before, he was trying to intimidate me. I'd learnt early on that Three gets angry when he's hiding something. Over compensating much.

   I knew I should be afraid of him. There's no doubt he's dangerous but whenever I tried to muster up the appropriate fear my dreams would surface. The soft playful Three - Marcus Boone - would cancel out the fear I felt for the real Three.  He narrows his eyes at me, but instead of a negative impact, I could only picture the delicate way Three would look at One when he thought no one was watching. "I asked you a question, and I expect an answer."

   "One is going to be fine." This wasn't at all what I had planned to say but it worked anyway.

   "What?" Three raises his eyebrow, momentarily ceasing his anxious pacing. "I don't care about him. I'm just mad at Two and Six. If they knew how to handle One properly, and just listened to my instructions, they wouldn't have ended up with a broken crew member. I even volunteered to go down on the planet in the first place, but Two wouldn't listen."

  I didn't exactly have the best personal experiences to draw from, but to me that sounded a lot like caring. You don't go around creating operating instructions for just anybody. "You do care." I say bluntly, it was the only way to get something into Three's thick head.

   I must've caught him off guard because Three momentarily loses his tough facade. "I don't." His eyes dodge mine and in a split second he was back to his normal neutral expression. The small glimpse I managed to catch was enough to confirm my suspicions.

   "He cares about you too, you know." I offer him. A little part of me wanted to resurface the vulnerable and gentle Three I only dreamt about, and One was shaping up to be the key component. Just imagine how much more pleasant the ship would become.

   Three plops himself down on one of the chairs behind the consoles and pulls out a knife from his boot. He gives it a good hard examination before preceding to polish the blade with his t-shirt. He was stalling, trying desperately to fill the silence with pointless motion. "How can you be so sure?" Three drawls, checking his reflection in the metal. He still couldn't look at me directly.

   Should I mention the dreams? Would that be too weird? I already feel guilty about the whole 'accidental peeping' and admitting that would only validate it. I could also keep it too myself and deny it forever, but that too felt wrong.

   "Just think about what I said." And then I did only thing that felt remotely right; I swiftly exited the bridge without a second glance.

   It was a little dramatic but only time would tell if it left any significant impact.

 

•••

 

   Time apparently doesn't wait very long.

   Two and Six had carried a half unconscious One into the medbay.

   One was alive, but he looked worse than death. He was covered head to toe in dirt and a slew of colourful bruises, each at various stages of progression. He was bleeding too, it seemed to be smeared everywhere but I couldn't exactly find the source of the blood. Perhaps his nastiest looking wound was his black eye. Already it was completely swollen shut with dark purple bruises. I was sure he couldn't blink or see anything out of his right eye. I'd take at least several days for the swelling to calm down.

   The android effortlessly takes One to the examination table.

   I look over at Three who had his arms crossed tightly against his chest and his knuckles were white as if he was trying to stop himself from assaulting some one. Not particularly anyone though, Three particularly has eyes on Two and Six.

  "You said he's going to be fine, right?" I ask. Some reassurance could never hurt. 

   "He'll be fine." Two smiles softly at me.

  "Have you even seen One?!" Three strides over to Two angrily. He looked ready to kill someone. "He's not okay, and it's all your fault!"

   Two stands her ground. "My fault?! How can it be my fault? I wasn't even with him!"

  "Exactly! You refused to let me join the mission and then you completely ignored all my rules! What was Rule #4 again? Never ever leave One unattended on a foreign planet." Among the chaos I seemed to be the only one that noticed that Three has his hand hovering above his gun holsters. "I'm also sure you didn't guard behind him or check that his gun was fully loaded, safety on. Did he eat before going down? He gets sluggish and significantly more annoying when he's hungry. Or maybe you forgot to leave his talking to an absolute minimum."

   Six and Four had long back up away from the fight, hands also ready at their own weapons if necessary. The android didn't seem fazed by the altercation and continued working on One.

  Two's anger was beginning to rise, along with their voices. "Oh, shut up. There's more important things to do than babysit!"

   Three moves a little closer to Two, her statement made him even more furious "Now suddenly One isn't important enough for you?! Huh? What happened to keeping the crew together? You don't deserve to call yourself a leader."

   "Guys-" One croaks quietly. "-I'm right here..." Either they didn't hear or they didn't respond. He tried to sit up but the android pushes him back down.

   My heart was racing now. I couldn't take the yelling anymore, I had to get out of the room. This shouldn't be happening, they're my family.

 

•••

 

   I'd been several hours since I fled the medbay. I stayed in my quarters the entire time, skipping dinner. I didn't need to see the hateful glances or hear the tense silence.

   Though the longer I stayed holed up the guiltier I felt about not checking up on One. He'd always been kind to me, so why wasn't I returning the favour?

   I check the time on a small gadget i'd managed to repair a few days back. It was late, just late enough that everybody would be -hopefully- be sleeping or at least in their own quarters.

   Maybe I would pay One a visit after all.

  I silently creep the dark corridors to the medbay. I stop at the door when I notice Three was with One. The déjà vu was so strong it was as if the universe was toying with her. 'How many times can Five accidentally spy on her two completely-hetero-and-totally-not-gay friends?' A lot apparently.

  What would one more time do?

   "I had a talk with Five today." Three recaps calmly. He was sitting on the foot of One's bed, with a shy grin, hands nervously fiddling.

   "What'd she say?" One subtlety slurs his words. The combination of medication and exhaustion were slowly getting to him. It was only a matter of time before he was out cold.

   Three forces a laugh. "She...she said that I care about you."

   Ones eyes flutter closed with a hum. "Yeah?"

   "And get this; she also said that you cared about me too. Can you believe that? Don't you think she's a little...off?"

   "Hmm? Oh, yeah...I do." One clutches the single blanket draped over him and nudges his pillow with his nose. From this distance he looked just like a small child.

   "What do you mean 'I do'? Do you think Five is out of her mind? Or are you confessing that you care about about me?" Three stands up to examine a bottle of pills nearby. "One?" He turns around to see him sleeping, mouth slack. "Well, If you're asleep I might as well get somethings off my chest. If you weren't so adorable I would've sold you off a long time ago. Pretty boys like you fetch a pretty penny these days."

   Three's mood turns somber. "I'm sorry One. I should've been down there with you, I should have fought harder to accompany you. I broke my most important rule of all; always protect what matters most to you."

   "I do care about you, One...I just might even love you." Three puts down the bottle of pills and chastely kisses One on the forehead. "Goodnight pretty boy and thanks for listening, maybe you're not as bad as I thought."

   Three was only a few steps away from the door when he hears a faint "'night sunshine." that sounded surprisingly like One.