Before We Turn To Stone


Summary: This is Gears of War 2 from Benjamin Carmine's point of view. The rookie didn't know what to expect when faced with war, least of all death.

Author's Note: Please tell me what you thought of the first chapter. Advice, ideas, and encouragement would be amazing. Thank you so much and enjoy the first chapter!

~"It began, as always, with the desire for power. A need to conquer, a hunger to consume. Inevitably, this led to conflict. Humanity fought an endless war against itself, until it was forced to unite against a power far greater than it had ever known. But even united, Humanity left only destruction in its wake. Despite their best efforts at survival, the Humans of Sera continue to march blindly to their imminent doom; unaware, that their misguided attempts at retaliation were only leading them ever closer to extinction...

...They had thought us crippled by their weapons of mass destruction. But to survive is to endure and prosper. And we have most certainly survived. Jacinto now stands as the last bastion for Humanity. A final, desperate defense in the face of impossible odds. In a way, I pity them. But Humanity, as always, brought this war upon itself."~

"Oh man, this is so cool!" beamed the rookie. He hung half himself out of the helicopter and pointed to the magnificent building that represented Command. "Do you think I'll get to go inside? I wanna go inside Command!"

"Hey, rook, sit down will ya?" called out the pilot. Ben hesitated and then gave in, slumping down in the seat across from two other Gears.

Ben watched as the city of Jacinto flew by. Building by building came into view and one by one they became a blur. The stone walls decorated with ripped curtains and banners were overrun by the amount of destroyed appartments and crumpled roadways. Lightposts were no longer bearing light and there were no longer any life bouncing about the town squares. Parks that once contained beautiful patches of fresh cut grass were now burnt to a crisp. There were cracks in the earth that ran miles underground.

He was so amazed at how much the world had changed. Basic was pretty normal for a military training base, but now that he was free to be a part of the world, he wasn't so sure he wanted to be anymore. There was nothing left. The humans of Sera were so few. Ben sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. He could remember the good memories when he was a kid before E-Day. He remembered how many people were still around, even in just a small town. The smiles that he would receive while people rode their bikes down the road made him laugh.

One Gear suddenly looked over at him and tilted his head in confusion.

"Sorry... 'bout that," Ben waved apologetically.

He made an extra effort to remain still and silent for the rest of the trip to Jacinto Hospital. For Ben, the squirt of the Carmine family, keeping his excited attitude contained was hard. He was so eager to finally meet Marcus Fenix, his new sargeant. He'd heard rumors, stories, legends, and the facts from a few buddies back at basic. Now he would finally pick out the truth about this infamous man he had learned to call hero.

Ben was jerked out of his thoughts when the helicopter landed, picking up a large amount of dirt. The other two Gears, Matt and Marshal, were already heading out to find their own squads before the helicopter had completely landed. Ben was the last to exit the aircraft. He picked his duffle bag up and his lancer with the other hand. Other Gears were already bustling about leading wounded inside the hospital and others preparing for another assault.

The rookie looked through the crowds of people. He saw two men stumble past him and he followed them.

"I miss coming home with food on the table. I was all like, 'YEAH! I LOVE FOOD!,' And then-" the first Gear spoke.

"Hey, excuse me," Ben started.

"Yeah? I never got that; only a pile of bills on the table." the second Gear didn't seem to hear him either as they continued with their own way and conversation.

"Hey! Can I ask you a question?" Ben tried again for their attention.

He began to catch up with them again, but he dropped his lancer. Once he had regained his composure, Ben looked up for the two men, but they were out of sight. He sighed and searched the area for someone else that would actually listen to him. As the rook, not many people were willing to put up with his lack of knowledge of military standards. He continued his search until he caught sight of two men without helmets and a blonde headed woman huddled in a group.

He hestitantly walked towards them with his duffle bag and lancer in hand; his lancer slightly slipping out of his grasp.

"Sargeant Fenix? Are you Sargeant Fenix? Delta squad? Uh-oh!" Ben managed to speak out before he dropped his lancer. Embarrassed, Ben picked it up and tried to cradle it in one hand while wrestling with his duffle bag in the other. He quickly added, "I'm your new trainee."

"... And green as grass by the looks of it," the blondy mumbled to the man to her right. Ben stood their awkwardly until someone... anyone gave him a response.

"Time to train the rook?" she commented. Ben perked up with those words and listened eagerly for the sarge's answer.

"Yeah, lucky me," mumbled Fenix. Ben was excited to finally have the opportunity to train with one of the best, but there was just something lagging at the back of his mind. The sarge seemed to have little interest with the rookie. He decided to shake it off and prepare for training.

"Go easy on the kid, okay?" Anya said, touching Marcus' arm before retreating back to the hospital.

Ben set his duffle bag onto the ground and attempted to clutch his lancer with both hands, but he decided it was too much trouble so he set it down on top of his bag. He turned his attention from his gun to the men standing before him. He was taken back when they were both looking at him with questioning glances. Though they couldn't see it, Ben smiled sheepishly. Feeling really stupid, Ben jumped up and approached them.

"Private Ben Carmine, sir! Reporting for duty, sir!" Ben confirmed with a quick salute.

"Drop the sir s*it, kid. We're not that polite out here. C'mon, let's go," Fenix said before Ben could even think about apoligizing for his annoying rookie habits. Before he knew it, Sargeant Fenix and his buddie were already heading off. Ben frantically turned around and grabbed his duffle bag and lancer.

"Oh yeah, welcome to Delta," Fenix added just as Ben caught up with them, not sounding at all interested.

The rookie followed his superiors to the far side of the hospital. Before he knew it, Fenix had already picked the spot he wanted to give him training. Ben felt his mouth become instantly dry from his lack of conversation within the past few minutes. Feeling the need to lighten up the very tense atmosphere around him, Ben decided to make conversation with the two of them to try to get on their good side.

"It's an honor to serve with you, sir. I hear that you're the one who-"

"Sargeant..." Fenix groaned. Ben mentally slapped himself. You're such a kiss up, you know that? Ben scolded himself. He had to quickly redeem himself while the three of them jogged through the alleyways following Marcus.

"Yes, sir-Sargeant Fenix," Ben corrected. He already felt like he'd ruined it with the sarge so he directed his next comment to the sarge's buddie, "Must be good to know that you're fighting with a Pendulum War hero."

There was a pause of uncomfortable silence before Dom realized the rookie was talking to him.

"He's just Marcus to me, man... Name's Dom, by the way," Dom introduced himself awkwardly.

"Good to meet you, sir, uh- Dom," Ben shook his head. He was more nervous than he'd thought. " You see action in the war too?

"Rook, we can talk history later. Concentrate on your training now," Marcus interupted. Ben was startled. He felt a jolt of butterflies flutter through his stomach when he realized how frustrated the sarge really was.

"I don't need you gettin' religious out here," Fenix said. Just when Ben couldn't feel more terrible about himself... he did a double take. ...What? What did he mean by that?

"Uh... pardon?" Ben asked.

"Holy," Marcus sighed. Ben felt even more stupid. You idiot! He meant holy as in bullet holy. Dude! The one time he makes a joke you don't get it... good job, Ben, good job...

"Huh?" Ben slapped himself, "Oh right. Full of holes... Got it." Ben's voice was starting to get shakey with nervousness and embarrassment. He was completely over his head in all this. It was then that Ben decided not to say anything else out of his own desire to try to avoid being a fool; instead he'd just wait until someone else spoke to him first. As if nothing he said fully registered, Fenix continued on with his training.

"First things first, rook, stay focused on your mission. Best way is to check your Tac/Com before the bullets fly," Marcus instructed. Ben pressed a button on the inside of his visor and saw a staticy overlay of their current tactical plans. This!... is the coolest thing since sliced bread. Ben gave the sarge a nod, indicating that he understood what he was saying.

"Mine says teach the rook the golden rule," Fenix commented. Ben's spirits lifted and a jolt of renewed excitement ran up his spine. Finally, a question I can get right!

"Oh, I know. Do unto others as you would hav-"

"Not out here, kid. Golden Rule of the Gears is: Take cover or die," Marcus corrected, his tone had a hint of humor sketched within it. Ben felt his face grow hot with overflowing embarrassment now. "You know how to get into cover, rook? Show me."

Ben was unprepared for this. It was like grammer school all over again when the over-zelous teacher would ask the most timid little kid in the class to come up and share what they did for summer. Hesitantly, Ben walked over to where a dumpster and stack of crates rested against a wall. He started for the wall and tried to act as the older war veterans would get into cover. He pressed his lancer close to his chest and bent his knees so he'd be closer to the ground.

"Okay, keep your head down, eyes open, check your surroundings," Ben mumbled to himself. He darted behind the wall of crates, bent his knees, and ducked his head so he'd be completely out of sight to enemies.

"Always keep your head down like that in a firefight and you'll be fine," Fenix encouraged.

Ben smiled beneath his helmet. The was the phrase the sarge had spoken to him in response to something he did. Careful not to screw up the good moment, Ben kept silent and left Fenix's nice comment alone. Suddenly, a bot de-cloaked itself and opened a fence that had been shut in front of Fenix.

"Okay, people, let's move out," Fenix ordered just as he passed from one side of the fence to the other. Ben followed Dom while Dom followed Marcus to the next phase of his training.

"Yo, you said your name is Carmine?" Dom asked Ben, "You got a brother who was a Gear?"

"Yeah, all four of us," he answered pridefully. His sudden confidence and proudness faded. "Well... three now. You know one of 'em?" The rookie was eager to find out which one they have had the priviledge of fighting alongside in battle.

Dom sighed, "I served with Anthony. He was a good soldier... my respects."

Ben's chest began to burn with pride again knowing that two of the most respectable veterans fought with one of his big brothers. The remorseful sorrow that had once filled his heart was replaced with courage to live out the Carmine name just as his brother did. Being the youngest of the Carmine brothers, he had a full time job keeping himself in one piece as well as living up to the name against his much older and more experienced brothers.

"Thanks. Just good to know he died a hero's death," Ben said, his chest puffed up and chin tilted high.

"Uh, Yeah... right." Was Dom's only answer. Ben wondered why he said it like a good soldier went down on his first day of basic. Dom cleared his through and quickly changed the subject, "Hey, Marcus! Check this shot!"

Before Ben could say another word, Dom had taken cover beside Marcus behind a large block of concrete. Dom rose his lancer directly above the croncrete block and shot a glass bottle sitting on top of an old, rusty car and a few dumpsters. With just one bullet the bottle was gone into dozens of small, shattered shards scattered along the crippled ground. Immediately, Ben wanted to give it a try; show the veterans a thing or two what the rookie could do with a lancer.

"Nice one. I'll call that and raise you five," Fenix joked. Ben could already tell that there was a tight bond that sarge and Dom shared with each other. Marcus lifted his rifle into the air and shot at the glass pitcher beside the one Dom had already taken down. He missed the first time he tried to hit it.

"Helps if you aim, Marcus," Dom snickered. Marcus smirked and aimed again, shooting it without a second glance.

"Doesn't help your odds at winning," Marcus said. He smirked and continued to shoot the pitchers one by one in a domino affect. Ben watched with awe as they shot in unison, shattering the bottles, and sending glass flying in all directions. He waited for the sarge's orders, hoping that they included him shooting something.

"You could hit those in your sleep with the rifle. C'mon, use your pistol, man," Dom hit Marcus on the shoulder.

Marcus quickly exchanged his lancer for his pistol resting on his left thigh. Fenix stood up aimed to his left. With three shots he vanquished three bottles. With a smirk, Marcus stood up and motioned for him and Dom to follow him to the other side. He watched Marcus push a trash compactor out of the way for them to move on towards the streets. On the streets, Ben was able to see more of what he'd observed on the King Raven. There were more broken down cars showering the sidewalks. Burnt pieces of paper were piled up in patches along the roads too.

Suddenly, a swift black mass wizzed past the three of them. Dom and Marcus didn't seem to notice the creature. Ben, however, was more than terrified. He'd never seen something like that in his life! He wasn't able to get a good look at it only that it had four legs and it was skidding across the pavement. It even snarled as it vanished inside a building just ahead of him. He was almost afraid to ask the others if they had seen it. as well.

"What the h*ll was that?" Ben finally spoke out, his sheer horror getting the best of him. Ben continued to follow his sargeant closer to the building he watched the creature vanish into.

"Probably just a stray dog," Dom shrugged. Ben frantically shook his head. He knew what a dog looked like and that was NOT a dog.

"No, no, it was bigger than that! It looked like a weird... uh... monkey-dog thing!" Ben tried to explain. He watched as Marcus turned around and looked alarmed.

"Wretch! Shoot it!" he shouted, instantly the two veterans began to shoot behind them at a window just two stories above the ground. Ben turned around just in time to see the same black mass disappear behind the walls adjacent to the window. That was exactly what he had seen earlier.

"Hey! That's it! That's the monkey-dog thing I saw!" Ben yelled.

"You hit him?" Dom asked Marcus, completely ignoring what Ben had confirmed.

"Don't think so. Looks like he got away," Marcus grumbled. His deep, raspy voice was always enough to intimidate Ben, if he was angry or not.

"You ever seen that before?" Ben asked. Once again he had to slap himself mentally. He didn't realize how stupid the comment sounded until after he'd said it. Of course they had seen it before... dummy... they fight 'em everyday.

"Marcus sighed, "Yeah, but they usually travel in packs. All right, stay alert and use cover. The other ones are probably around here somewhere." Packs? They travel in packs! Oh s*it! Ben ducked his head out of sheer habit and kept a keen eye out for anymore dog-monkey looking things scurrying about the perimeter.

"Nice mantle, rook, not an easy maneuver to make in full gear," Fenix commented with a smirk plastered across his face just as Ben jumped over a road block in his way.

"Nothin' here. Maybe they're in the alley," Dom suggested right after Marcus made his coment.

"Let's check it out," Marcus motioned for them to follow him. He raised his heavy boot up to meet face to face with another fence. With the strength of his leg, he kicked it open, sending it flying against the wall. Ben followed him out into the open, just a few meters away from the car lift in front of them.

"Grab a few of those grenades. I got a feeling we're gonna need 'em," Marcus ordered. That was the first time Ben had even noticed there were piles of grenades scattered along the ground. He went to them and picked up two, strapping them to his belt. Ben looked from left to right and saw one pile after another of grenades just lying on the ground.

"D*, someone needs to do an ammo sweap around here," Dom said, taking the words right out Ben's mouth.

"Wretch!" Marcus shouted. He pointed up and Ben followed his line of direction. He saw another dog-monkey thing snarling at them from above in the building across from them. He readied his lancer.

"What'd you call that thing, a monkey-dog?" Marcus raised an eyebrow at the rookie, "I got a special bone for it." Marcus took one of his grenades and chunked it up at the wretch.

"Oh awesome!" Ben mused, getting to see a real explosion up close, "Wait, there's another one!"

"Uh-oh... WATCH OUT!" Fenix screamed just as Ben threw his grenade at the other Wretch. The explosion sent pieces of concrete flying into the air. Fire and smoke enveloped the explosion. Ben was knocked to the ground. His ears were ringing and his back ached from the shock. His vision was a little off and blurry in some places. He watched as Marcus, square on his feet, helped his buddie, Dom up. Before he knew it, Marcus was lending a hand to him as well. How did he miss that much? Was his aim really that bad?

"Dom, you wanna get that checked out?" Marcus added, running after the Wretch.

"Nah, just needs a few stitches. It can wait," Dom answered, shrugging it off. Ben looked over at his slightly bruised and bleeding arm. If this was what it meant to be tough, he was going to have to deal with being in constant pain.

"Pull that s* again, rook, and you're gonna get some unexpected chainsaw training," Marcus scowled. Ben inhaled and swallowed hard. "Let's get in there."

Marcus revved up his chainsaw attached to his lancer. Ben was unsure at first why he needed it, until he moved to the side and saw a few wooden boards blocking their way. He cut throug them, one by one. Splintered wood flew up and hit Ben in the helmet. He brushed off the other debris on his shoulder and followed Marcus up the ramp where a burning heap of cars and junk came into view.

"Almost looks peaceful from up here," Dom said. Ben noticed that he wasn't looking at the horrific sight of crap, but at the view outside. From up there, all you could see was blue sky and white puffs of clouds.

"Almost..." Marcus sighed. Ben sighed too. If anything seemed beautiful or peaceful for even a second there was always something even uglier to overpower what could have been a sight for sore eyes.

"Woah! All this damage came from your grenade?" Ben asked in amazement when they drew closer to the fire from the explosion.

Marcus looked at Ben with a side smirk, "Sure as h*ll didn't come from yours..." Ben scoffed but decided it was the truth. No hard feelings. "Nothing up here, just some rats. Let's head back to the hospital."

Ben followed Marcus and Dom to a ladder that lead them back to the streat the hospital was on. He watched the two men in front of him; how they walked, ran, ducked for cover, searched their surroundings. He wanted to follow by example. Ben wanted to be like them so he had to learn how to talk and act like them. The pain in his arm was barely noticable now and he felt stronger than he'd ever felt before in basic. Finally, they reached the lad and slid down the railing, landing on the pavement with a loud thud. Ben could see the clearing to the hospital and suddenly three King Ravens flew past them heading to the hospital.

"Woah! Those Ravens are in a hurry," Ben observed.

"That can't be good..." Dom muttered.

"Looks like vacation's over, kid," Marcus groaned in frustration. Ben was ready for his next mission with the big boys. He wanted to see some action and he was pumped up for it.

Just when his excitement couldn't get any higher, Marcus added, "Head back to the convoy drop-off. Stay there 'till I call you on your Tac/Com."

"But-" Ben tried to protest, his excitement shattered.

"That's an order, soldier! Dom, let's move," Marcus dismissed the rookie. Ben was left there with just his lancer to find the other convoy Gears. Then the city's sirens began to howl through the air.

This... was war.