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World of Darkness: Attrition - Two and Half Deaths [Randy Edison] [FIN]

Adrian Moss

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Randy entered the scene, an alien in the midst of all this sorrow. Today, at this time, he wasn't something from beyond the pale of human perceptions, he was just a man. He was a man with a past and part of that had caught up with him now. As it had happened all too often in his life, this reunion involved death. Marine SSgt Jose Ramirez was dying - he wasn't an active duty marine, but there were only two ways one stopped being a marine - death, or committing such a heinous act as dictated by the Commandant of the Marine Corp, so help me God.

Jose was dying and his old friend from his active duty days - over there, had come to stand by him in these last hours. His family was around too. His wife Anita holding Jose's infant daughter Emily. His older brother and his wife, Carlos and Amelia, stood back to one side. They were avoiding coming close to Jose for some reason. At his side, holding his hand, was Ernesto, himself in Marine BDUs. Ernesto had followed his father and middle brother into the service. The Corp must have given him Family Emergency Leave to be here now. Standing on the other side of the bed, wedged in between the life support machines were Herman and Rositta, the parents.

"What happened?" Edison asked Ernesto.

"A hit and run, right outside his house. I don't know why."

"How is he doing?" Randy said after a deep sigh. He could tell.

"Too much bleeding inside his spinal column. The pressure ... it will stop his heart. Any surgery to repair it will likely kill him anyway, leaving him totally paralyzed. He's refused surgery."

The Death Mage nodded. If one could chose one's own time, if not means, why wouldn't you take it? Life as a quadriplegic could be full in its own way, but it wasn't' for Jose. Jose's image of life was based on the physical disciplines and challenges he set before himself. He still ran five miles a day, worked out in the gym three days a week, and if his beer drinking stories were to be believed, engaged in a very vigorous sex life. The doctor's couldn't return that to him.

Randy stood by Jose, taking Ernesto's place by his friend. He took hold of Jose's cold lifeless arm. There was a pulse, but the will was failing. His friend was already lost to him. Sure, the machines could keep him alive for a day, maybe two if Fate was cruel, but his essence had departed.

'Everything comes to our vaults eventually.' That was the Credo of Death.

Dead always won in the end. If you cheated it enough times all you did was invite the attentions of Death's Disciples - people like him.

Edison pulled away. He made a head motion to Ernesto to follow him out. The younger Marine followed him. Once they got outside and away from nosy IC nurses, he faced off with the young soldier he barely knew. Still, they were Marines ... and in so many ways brothers of Jose.

"What happened?"

"Still not sure, Randy. No one is telling me and everyone is keeps looking away when I press. I do know he was hit - hit hard - by a car."

"You think it was deliberate?"

"I sure do. No one wants to talk about it, but I know something's up. I think I know why no one is saying anything to me. Amelia's brother is a constant fuck-up. He's been staying with Jose for the past few months - since he got out of juvie. Long story. Anyway, I want to wring some information out of the kid. I know he's the key."

"I can help with that."

Ernesto chuckled dryly. "Jose always said that about you. He said Death hung around you - said that's why you never hung around too long."

Randy looked down. The truth did hurt.

"He also told me," Ernesto said, putting a hand on Randy's shoulder, "that you were the best man to have in a fight. He said Death would come calling, but you would always sick it on the other guy. He said you had this gift."

'If only he knew ... it would bend his mind and not in a way I could fix.'

"Jose was my oldest friend. We came in together, toured together, and got out together. You know that he asked me to be his Best Man first, don't you?"

"Yeah," Ernesto said, his voice tinged with the now-sad memory, "he said Dad wanted Carlos, but you told him that I should be the one. He never said why."

"That's between him and me, E. My reason's were good, I assure you."

'I somehow knew that Death would come for Jose. I don't know how. That part of the Art doesn't come to me anymore. I have to rediscover it. I saw Carlos, and I didn't see Ernesto. When I see you, it isn't good.'

Randy continued, "Let's wait a few days. We'll bury Jose," saying that hurt, "and you go back to base. I'll find out something and get back in touch when it's time to do ... something."

Ernesto nodded. Nothing else didn't need to be said. In this, Ernesto and Randy were more like brothers than the bond Ernesto shared with Carlos. Ernesto knew he could rely on Randy, though he barely knew him. Carlos, on the other hand, just didn't get it. He thought the Corp was stupid and that Jose and Ernesto were stupid for following in their Father's footsteps. In Carlos' mind, the Corp was his Father's way of getting out of the barrio, nothing more. He just didn't get it.

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"Lupe," was the last think Jose said to Randy. The Death Magus knew what that meant. Lupe was Jorge Guadeloupe Alvero. He had stumbled across an IED while on patrol - blew him ten meters. There wasn't a scratch on him. Lupe even had a smile on his face. He made this noise, but looked perfectly fine. He even stood back up, and Randy laughed. In that moment the team thought he was the luckiest man alive.

Lupe stumbled and fell back down. His teammates had run to him. They tried to do anything and everything to save him. The hospital tried harder. Lupe was never getting up again. The explosion had scrambled his brain. No one at the VA held any hope that for recovery. He was in a vegetative state. A living death.

When Randy was in town, he always stopped by. Jose had stopped by every Sunday, after church. Well, he wasn't coming by anymore. No one else came by either. There was no family that mattered. If no one came by and checked on a patient, the patient got neglected. It wasn't deliberate, but the squeaky wheel got the grease. So, you paid attention to your buddies - once a Marine, always a Marine.

A few minutes later, Randy had parked and made his way into the VA Hospital in West Hollywood. It was a nice place. He had heard that some other VA facilities were ... not so nice. It was a bitter pill, none the less. It was a nice place, with nice personnel (Lupe had always considered himself a Player - which he wasn't), and the best tech. If Lupe could come out of his coma, this was the place. If he didn't step in ... but that wasn't how it worked.

Lupe's room was sterile. No one lived here. No one breathed here. All the bodily functions were dealt with in a very clinical, professional fashion. For all their care, Lupe could have been an antique sculpture set upon a shelf. Lupe didn't suffer. How could he? He didn't live here anymore.

Randy kept his vigil for an hour, just like Jose had done. He talked to Lupe about all kinds of things. He made jokes as if Lupe would suddenly wake up and laugh at him. No one woke up. Lupe didn't live here anymore. Randy's old companion was in that tragic dark place trapped between life and death. His husk of a body clung to an artificial existence. Lupe's heart still beat. His lungs still gave a ragged breath, but there was no purpose to it. Death held out a patient hand for his old friend. One day, he would finally allow himself to take it.

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"Put your hand here!" the paramedic told him. She was busy trying to get a passage open for a breathing tube. Randy kept his hands pressed on the bandage, keeping as much of the blood in as he could. Bubbles of air leaked around the compress. This was a bad sign.

The lady got the tube in and called out for her partner. He was with the second accident victim, most likely the first victim's son. Other people stood by and watched. Randy had stepped forward, stating his medical training in the marines, and been allowed to assist.

"Thanks for stepping up," she said, attention still focussed on the woman's vitals.

"We are losing her," the Death Mage said. The paramedic took that as a warning. It wasn't. It was a statement. Besides, one didn't have to follow the Moros' path to know she was dying. He could hear the radio as well as the paramedics. The ambulance was twelve minutes away. The female victim had at most five. She was suffering too much blood loss. Blood was seeping into the lungs, and all the vitals told him that something else was busted inside. It was most likely the spleen and/or liver. Both were bad news. He had seen enough of this in Afghanistan to piece together that much. It didn't take a doctor to figure out that much.

In the field, with this kind of damage, your life wasn't counted in hours, but in minutes. That's why operations used helicopters. This woman didn't have a helicopter racing to the rescue. She had been in the accident for over twenty-five minutes before the paramedics arrived. That had been two minutes ago. Twenty-seven minutes and counting. The ambulance would arrive in minute thirty-nine. Then there would be a minute on the ground, minimum - minute forty. Fifteen minutes to the hospital, one more minute to get to the ER, and you were at minute fifty-six.

Death could count too. Life would do what it could. Life tried. Life endured, but every race could only end in one way. Life ran its course and when it had reached its end ...

"Save the boy."

"What?" the paramedic queried. "We can save her. All we need ..."

"She's gone. Save the boy. He can still make it, if you two work together. I'll stay with the woman until she's gone."

The paramedic noted how sad the man's eyes looked. It was the first time she had really seen him. He had that 'look'. Death didn't scare him. The thought of it drove most people away. It was a primal instinct, but this man had overcome it. The worst part about it was that she knew the man was right. She could do the math as well as the soldier. The blood was everywhere. There was not enough left in the body to keep it going. CPR would only add a few minutes, but it wouldn't be enough. Shave fifteen minutes off that, and she might live.

The paramedic ran over to her partner and jumped in.

"What ... did we lose her?" he asked, referring to the female victim.

"She's gone ... she's lost too much blood."

She added the lie, to both make herself feel better and to keep her partner over with the boy, "I told the Good Samaritan to keep up the pressure. He's a Marine. I can tell he's been here before."

The partner nodded. The boy was trying to die on him. The (Mother?) was gone, so the boy was the battle he was going to win.

At the end, she felt a moment of lucidity. She couldn't see clearly, there was no focus. She could tell someone was by her side.

"Whaaa ..." she mumbled. "my ...; boy?"

"They are saving his life right now," the Death Mage answered.

"I hurt," she murmured. "am I ... "

"The hurt will end soon. The long road will come to an end, and you will be okay. I have been there, and I know."

Those were the last words to grace her ears before her mind faded into the final sleep.

'It's not so bad,' she said. The long road lay before her.

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