There was the gunfire in the distance, and then there was clack of knobs and buttons that made Mikita stop and put his head on a swivel, the FAL brought ready.
A green line had punched itself across the forest in front of Mikita, perpendicular to him and Apollo's path.
A thin line, lit on its own accord, jittering, where it started and ended was not distinct.
Apollo had seen it as well, and so he had sniffed the air and Mikita had squared his feet and hunched his form.
"Death." Apollo named what he had seen, and then Mikita suddenly alert to the fact there had been shattered exoskeletons of Heracross and Pinsir everywhere. There had been a fight and there had been a winner.
When the green line had gradually, slowly, shifted toward Mikita, he had realized what it was, snapping his orientation around and seeing another green line close in on him like a pincer.
Then gunfire that seemed so distant had now been so close.
Mikita practically felt his bones snap as he reacted upon realization, he falling onto his back as Apollo rode the slant of his body down to the ground as well.
The impact of the ground was warded off, dust and leaves coming up in a sputter, Mikita wise to look through and see the tracers and their orientation. Apollo had hit the ground in a crawl, his cheeks spurring, lighting up the dark momentarily.
The bullets came from right to left, Mikita rolling over, Apollo following the point of Mikita's barrel toward the enemy.
He had sprung forward into a crouch, against a tree as he brought his rifle in line with his eye, squeezing off a few rounds, looking at the red tips of barrels that had just been fired at him. It was hardly the most accurate return fire, but it was something, Mikita cringing at the bright muzzle flash in front of his eyes as he slung himself back around the tree as cover, Apollo running up his body and his face to the top of it.
There was barely any time to return fire as he emerged on the other side of the tree to keep the fire going, but the man had gotten a face full of bark and wood as a burst of fire hit his cover, the impact of the shards breaking Mikita's composure, his ankles betraying him, hitting the ground with his back once again.
The queue in his mind had told him to roll hard over a meter on the ground, lodging pieces of the ground and pieces of bug bone into his form, but it kept him moving, kept him away as the green lasers kept tracing the general area round the tree he had taken cover behind.
"Apollo!" he yelled, clearing his mind, glancing at his watch.
'11:49:21'. The details had been irrelevant seemingly, but it had stuck in Mikita's mind in the intensity of the moment.
A voice shouted back from the trees.
"Who are we dealing with I can't see shit!" Mikita had spit out as he went to a crouch again. A gunshot over his head had kept him on his belly however to his displeasure.
"Godfathers!" Was the return answer, the return fire now directed up into the trees. The Pikachu had literally jumped at it, going the opposite direction of Mikita, dividing the fire. Bullets had cut through branches and leaf like a knife through butter, but Apollo had been faster than the aim of the Godfathers, and he drew them away as Mikita rushed to the left flank, given a miniscule breather.
There had been a glint as Mikita moved from one bush to another, the telltale sign of a device he never really relied on in the dark:
Night Vision Goggles and Infrareds.
He raised his rifle to his side and fired from the hip, spraying the rest of the rounds in the magazine away, dropping to the ground when the gun had clicked empty, the sound of someone horribly groaning heard above it all.
Before he could hear it all play out however, the cries of a dying man, return fire had come and splinter and bark had peppered Mikita.
"Apollo! Back to me!" The Pikachu had appeared right on Mikita's belly, having fallen on the man from the branches.
"Seven I think? These guys are fresh from a battle."
A piece of an exoskeleton had been poking into Mikita's back as he lay there, underneath the cover that had kept his head straight and on.
"Tell me about it… Alright, I know how to deal with these fucks. On my six." Mikita had rumbled, throwing out the FAL mag into a tree in the opposite direction, the twitchy Godfathers shooting in that direction at the sound. He had slapped another one in, but he had brought his 590 up to bear instead. Apollo had known what that meant.
Mikita had rolled over again onto his stomach and sprung forward, shotgun at front, following the origin of the green lasers, diving back down onto the dirt when they passed over him. The tracers had kept over him, his silhouette apparently disappearing into the night to the Godfathers.
The Pikachu had been on his heels as well, on the prone, crawling up to Mikita's head.
Apollo had noticed that Mikita hadn't been panting, his dead silence spoken toward comfort in the situation oddly.
"Electro ball, I need it."
Apollo didn't question it, drawing from his cheeks with his paws and putting an orb of energy in front of Mikita. The light that it generated had been less than ideal, but past a certain point it had played in their favor.
The gunfire had slowly fallen toward the ground where they were, but before they were cut apart Mikita had taken the orb and thrown it over like a grenade. It hadn't been meant to kill but to disorient: overloading the optics they used to supplement their night vision.
"Take them down."
Those were Mikita's words after he had heard the men scream in blinding agony, their goggles and cameras obviously having blinded them as the lightning exploded in front of them. The blinding flash overloaded them, and the goggles weren't the only things to be torn from their heads that night.
These Godfathers had been hiding behind a row of trees that had sprouted up, but they had scrambled from behind their cover as they tried to tear off their gifts from the Valks. Apollo had squeezed through the gaps they were using to fire between and latched onto the neck of a Godfather, clamping down with sharp teeth and even sharper electrical shocks.
Mikita had taken the long way around, the one that lined up man after man after man.
He hadn't even really rushed around it, almost briskly walking up to the closest man and taking his neck, making him stand up right before knocking his head across with the butt of his shotgun, the weapon brought to his hip otherwise.
The straps and the fastenings of the night vision goggles would be the undoing of all of them, hands off their guns, hands on their heads, what Mikita did one of rhythmic inevitability.
Military load double ought buck had torn through the line, they having felt safe behind the cover, not anticipating Mikita to come up close and slug it out. They thought wrong however as black balls had torn through their bone and flesh. The man that had been second in line to Mikita had tried to raise his arms, but they did nothing as his chest was torn up and punched through by the buckshot, his body being blasted back to the next man in line. This had only meant for that man to be dragged down and for the next shot to catch his head, pieces of grey matter sent back to the next man.
Sure, they had gotten the jump, but Mikita and Apollo had been the ones that truly pounced.
Apollo had torn away from the Godfather's throat after a chunk was ripped out by him, he spitting out whatever had collected in his mouth as he sprang forward again, avoiding Mikita doing his work with the five other men.
Nine shots had been what the 590 carried, and he had emptied it into the group of Godfathers, the throaty choking of those who fell first outlined by the yelps from those who had been given precious seconds to see Mikita's form and the boomstick at his hip.
His hands yanked the black pump back as the barrel smoked, the red shell coming out, the chamber left open as he dropped the shotgun and let it swing on his form.
The last man had hit the floor and Mikita had drawn a 1911 with such snappiness it seemed to float over the act he was committing, not taking it within him. The 590 was cradled against his chest, left hand out with the pistol toward the men on the deck, Apollo circling around and seeing what Mikita had done.
Short breaths, hiccups almost, from the Pikachu. Mikita had heard that kind of breathing before from his squad. It was how the unprepared and the uninitiated dealt with the efforts made in battle.
The watch on his left hand was glanced at as the arm was outstretched.
There was a small mental celebration in the ex-soldier's head; of a quick snappy response and the satisfaction of it.
He lived, and they died, and that was all there was to it.
At least, most of them died.
The Godfather that had been hit by Mikita's FAL before had crawled back from cover, the man trying to go for his G36, but Mikita had pulled over his pistol and shot the man in the vague area of his hand. One had hit home and the man was missing his thumb and index finger.
Apollo had been faster than Mikita in movement, so he had been on top of the Godfather before Mikita had walked over; that is after the man had put bullets into those gurgling from his buckshot rain.
Perhaps Marx had been less disturbed by mercy killing. Even more so than Mikita as the ex-lieutenant had liked to think. Though the man had said he was backed by faith, and that had kept his mind at peace.
The high of battle was what Mikita had been backed by at that moment, and that was his savior.
A radio had buzzed on the other surviving man, the one that Mikita had smacked across with the stock, some teeth marks on the stock because of it. The ex-soldier had looked over that with concern.
"I'll handle my father." Apollo had said coldly, his paws digging into the said person's face, what claws he did have drawing blood.
The red smear over his mouth had painted a horrifying picture for the Pikachu, and he was ashamed of it. Moreso because it hadn't been his style, albeit a necessary compromise in that fight. How he usually killed was cleanly, with electricity, so he had let his throat purr slowly like an engine as he charged himself up.
That was when the Pikachu made the mistake of looking into the eyes of this father: one of the older ones: a golden necklace weaved with the teeth of an Infernape. The Godfathers had carried mementos of their personal children. It was no question to which child had suffered under this man.
Apollo imitated Mikita as he brought himself to full charge, his fur frizzing violently. Mikita had the tenacity to stare dead on to those he killed, but not those he cared for.
Was there a trick to it? Something gained?
Apollo unleashed himself, the Godfather's eyes rolled back into his head as his flesh seared and flowered.
The only thing gained was the intimate knowledge of who men truly were in their final moments.
Froth fell out, as did the life, and Apollo had slowly crawled backwards, realizing what he had done for the first time.
"Renegade 3-2. I repeat. Renegade 3-2. Please confirm visual of HVT."
"Renegade 3-2 confirms. Renegade 3-2 is now InOp, please copy, over."
The radio operator at the other end of the radio sputtered, listening over the voice.
"I repeat. Renegade 3-2 is no factor. How copy, over."
The high had drained out of Mikita; and this was when his dry humor had often taken over to keep him a sane man.
So he had talked with the Valk and the radio, he holding over the device in his hand, the other busy tying some left over twine around the hands of the knocked out man.
He heard the frantic clattering behind the radio, interesting enough he had ignored Apollo's discharge into the Godfather.
The Pokémon had started returning to the immediate area around them after the battle, and that had intrigued Mikita: the beings piecing together bodies and the dead and dragging them off to be respected or to clean. There was always respect for the dead, of brothers and sisters. Though there was no respect given to dead Godfathers, their bodies being torn and stolen from.
Apollo had been sitting as if he was mortified at the feet of the father he had shocked to death, but he was brought out by the other Pokémon, the Pikachu yelling at them, they getting the message to leave anything that looks useful to the Father of Sin there. They respected that, and Mikita had nodded in their general direction approvingly.
As the radio chatter had become more and more frantic Mikita had sworn he had heard Karabin yell at the operator he was talking too, but he was distracted as the still living Godfather at his boot was dragged away after his approval, a Floatzel taking the man by the feet and dragging him off to Hell as far as Mikita could care.
"You should know better, Major General," Mikita had absent mindedly commented, his other hand now patting down his body. "Sending out untrained men with UNGA spec equipment."
This was why Mikita had preferred to go out with Delta instead of the local militias. They were well trained enough, but there was only the trust of self when it came to the field in Mikita's mind.
Asides from that, some of the militias in Afghanistan were made of kids. Kids that were no older than him in all actuality. He didn't think about that too much; he chose this path after all, not them.
Seconds of silence and the other end had been active again, but not directed toward him.
Mikita blew out breaths like he blew out the high of his. He looked for cigarettes. "Next time then? I'm sure I'll be picking up more of these radios on the way soon enough."
"Have you made your peace Lieutenant Noelle?" A voice bit back. A golden voice.
It was Karabin. Mikita had licked his broken lips again, poked his cheek with his tongue as he considered an answer, a stick of tobacco in his hand, ready to be lit. The radio was squished between his cheek and shoulder as he took out Marx's lighter.
"I'm not here to make peace Karabin." Karabin had sputtered at the arrogance in Mikita's voice, the click of the lighter punctuating it.
"What are you here to do then?" The Major General asked.
Mikita blew out once again, taking in the dry taste, taking the time to get the answer right. "I'm here to get that damned Dreamstone, and come hell or high water I will."
Silence. Shock. Mikita twisted his over to Apollo, he had been on his back, next to the electrified corpse of the Godfather he dealt with.
'Oh no.' Mikita had internally cringed. He'd seen that thousand yard stare before.
"I didn't think that Vermillion taught you how to manipulate the locals Lieutenant." Karabin broke his thought.
"You too eh?" Mikita looked over his shoulder again, a Lombre tearing the teeth out of a father. Karabin had referred to the word local in a very particular way. "What the locals do is none of my business. I could've fought this war on my own."
Apollo had heard that and looked over rather jokingly, mockingly insulted. At least for once Mikita had popped him out of a reverie and not the other way around.
"Bullshit." Karabin called out.
"I never asked this of them." All of the Pokémon looked up at once at Mikita, as if he needed them to back him up in the debate. "This is Les Padrino's war you… we have gotten caught up in."
"Regardless. My Angels will win this one." Mikita had felt the arrogance in Karabin's voice in turn. Disgust.
"Tell that to the detachment I put down a few hours ago." he grinded through his teeth.
Karabin shot back fast. "They were not worthy for my future."
"Trust me, Major General, you're not gonna have one."
It was comical to Mikita how easy it was to him to break the gadget, but he let the metal and the innards crush between his two hands in a snap, letting it fall out of his hands, onto the ground, where he joined the pieces soon after.
Cool down. Recollect. Bide time and sanity.
His breathing slowed and he cupped his face, a cigarette still burning between his lips. Blocked out the world and went to someplace familiar.
A Pokémon from the forest had taken something out of one of the bags the Godfathers toted. Out came a little black electronic, not unlike a radio. The white typing on the side of it had revealed what it was.
It read: SDAT. A Poochyena had poked its nose at the play switch, the headphones wrapped around it having been unplugged, the speakers slowly coming to life.
Perhaps it was a gift from the Valks to the Godfathers: showing these primitive people of such inventions that they had been denied in their solitude in the world.
The sound that had played from it was music obviously, and that had let a little synapse in Mikita's head snap, and send him back in time.
Apollo wasn't able to stop this one.
They were told to sit tight in this building, a few miles down from the frontline, still comfortably nestled in this Vietnamese city.
There was some French influence left in Vietnam from three centuries ago, and the Reformers had built on that in some areas of Vietnam's urban bustle. From the open balconies to the white stone, the gothicness of this one building was untouched by the war.
Gunshots had previously echoed through this hall, bodies hitting the glossy floor, long having been dragged to one building for a headcount by Mikita.
In those one-off instances Espy had walked with Mikita as he toured the building idly, waiting for commands to come down from GHQ.
It had long been clear the two hadn't liked each other, but there was still recognition that, at the end of it, Espy was under Mikita's command, her paws following him through those glass hallways.
This building had evidently belonged to a French colonial big shot back in the day, and it was kept pristine almost as if it was a piece of history, which it was.
It also had been a spot where a Reformer machine gun team had set up during the UNGA advance into this particular city, causing Delta to react and tear through the rather large manor in search for them.
They'd been dealt with of course, Espy with her powers able to pinpoint them through the walls.
Her ears had been just as acute too, which was perhaps why she had flicked her head to the south of building before Mikita's own ears had picked up the low notes of a sad sounding instrument crawl its way through the halls.
Marx had poked his head out of a nearby doorway, all of Delta platoon hearing what sounded like a piano ring out through the halls slowly.
The sound had been heavy, crisp, if not hollow. The tune of it blocking out the battle a few miles away, still being fought as Delta had been told to settle their feet in that old, rich building. It was a goodness to honest song, it feeling of lamentation and of distraughtness.
Mikita had reactively shouldered his rifle in discomfort, Marx coming out and tapping his shoulder in disagreement. He hadn't even brought is LMG, making his way toward the song.
Espy had thought in kind and flicked the safety of Mikita's weapon, taking off behind Marx instead toward the sound, her paws quietly tapping behind him, Marx letting her playfully overtake him.
The Hoeannic man had been more accustomed to buildings of wood and concrete as opposed to white and marble, but there was some angelic harmony in walking through that building, even after he had killed two men, the other three promptly gun down by the rest of Delta.
He followed the notes, his ears guiding him as he let it flood his mind: a respite from gunfire and warfare.
To him, music was a higher art which he didn't think he could appreciate. Covey, Haven, Crowe, even Marx had their own music players, little card sized pieces of electronics that had played music from both the new and the old world (when recovered from the occasional library there had been often high value for such music). Older music, classical, had survived the Third World War better than the more contemporary examples in the 1960s and late 50s. Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, Vivaldi, they had survived more so than The Beatles or Jagger.
It was a piece of the past people didn't mind holding onto, and even Mikita had found himself humming Ode to Joy during silent moments.
Val however, his travel companion that had walked into every new locale with him, had hummed incessantly, though not annoyingly. She hummed for each place they had gone, almost as if a theme for the location. Music was a sanctuary however, Mikita could not afford.
He had sampled it however in that one moment, following the sad, sad piano notes to where they had come from.
Covey and Crowe had appeared behind him, their rifles still dirty from their recent usage. Covey's in particular had still been hot seeing as he had been taking potshots at the locals from the vantage point afforded to them by the veranda of this manor.
Then there was Haven, the heavenly shade of light casting shadows and white across the black mass and him.
Haven never had a sour look on his face; he was always happy in some way or form. Mischievous, but not more so than he needed to be; to keep him in the wars he was besides Mikita with.
Here, he was at peace.
Espy had gracefully hopped onto the blackened wood of it as Haven continued to play, his eyes closed, the squad slowly coming around to his side of the piano.
It wasn't a long song, and Delta had their reverences to let the three minutes play out and let one man be at peace in the chaos they had just experienced. The tune had been enough to put the other men at peace as well. All except Mikita though, the notes glossing over him like gunfire.
When Haven let the last glassy note persist by pressing down on the immaculate white key, Covey had clapped, and the Irishman had opened his eyes.
"Samick this one. Old company, circa 1960s. Ain't like my Steinway back home, but it's certainly something."
Marx had taken off his dirty gloves and put his clean hand on the black wood, the cover of the Piano propped open by Haven's rifle.
"This thing is a relic." Marx had said, mystified.
"The Vietnamese really know how to maintain their stuff when we're not bombing the shit out of them." Haven joked.
"Didn't know you could play piano mate." Crowe had walked to the side of it, his hand gently petting his beloved.
"Oh come on Crowe; don't think a rich boy like me isn't cultured enough? I'm as cultured as you can get mind you. Piano, violin, tap dancing, name a few. Even Pokémon battling, had a year in that. Just love culture, you know? So fun and colorful, especially things from the past. You know there's this one show where a human looking alien from the stars comes down to the old Isle in a blue police box and just solves things for us. Got a kick out of that. I think Mikita here is actually one of those things. You ever heard of The Doc-"
Mikita had simply sat down next to Haven, shutting him up, his fingers hovering over the keys. The squad had all looked at their LT in curiosity, his own face one of a hesitant child in that moment.
All that great anticipation had come down only as Mikita had pushed down one key.
He looked over to Haven as he listened to the note. The man nodded with a straight face.
"Very good start sir."
Mikita's face twisted into annoyed as he dragged his armored face mask off. His throat had hurt today for some reason; the strain of all the yelling having gotten to his chords, whatever words he said had grated and burned. He was more of an acta as opposed to a verba person anyhow.
He channeled Val; something he thought he would've done more in his life so far. Mikita also thought she wouldn't appreciate the stuff he did in her name though. Still, it wasn't like she wouldn't mind him playing the piano, remembering hew own melodic humming from a long time ago.
The music would have to talk for him.
She whistled this tune to me, a long time ago, in Johto. National Park? He mulled over what it sounded like in his head. The memory of that day was more punctuated by the fact that they had held hands in a moment of affection that Mikita had forgotten he had taken on as a teenager.
Mikita blinked a few times as he remembered, blushed. He didn't think he could translate that hum into piano, but he had sat down, and he was curious, and he had wanted to create music.
"Ah, see, I knew my music could still swoon people." Haven nudged his LT.
Covey had purred suggestively.
Mikita ghosted numbers in his mouth, each apparently assigned to a finger as they came down slowly. It was to be expected how slowly he had done the simplest piano song in the world: Mikita hadn't been a good typer and this had just about been the same thing.
He repeated the first four notes again and backward to no particular rhythm, and it took a while for everyone to know what he was trying to piece together. He had ignored the black keys entirely, and instead gently pressed down on the white with his blackened fingers, ruined by gunpowder and dirt.
"Ode to Joy, eh?"
"I…" Mikita had choked out. "I don't know how the rest of it goes."
"Well…." Marx had always been one for self help. "Hum it sir."
Mikita had looked at the Spaniard like he was mad. The age difference was rarely something that showed in regards to Mikita and the rest of Delta. Though it happened naturally, those rare moments when Mikita had tilted his head and subjects and gazed like a kid.
Mikita shot back a second from his flask, both to clear his voice and his better judgment.
"….Yes sergeant?" Crowe and Espy were trying to hide their smiles.
"You sound like a girl, when you hum."
Delta and Espy had eaten up Mikita's rather high, guttural tones from the back of his throat, having closed his eyes and senses to the war outside and remembered that ancient tune.
They all had bit back a few chuckles, but Haven had relented, continuing where Mikita had left off.
Of all the things the Academy had taught him, it hadn't taught him how to create and mold. All it had ever taught him was to destroy and break with his own hands. To be a man had meant, according to Surge, the ability to fight and do harm. Perhaps Mikita, as he liked to think as he got older, that he had come out as less of a man when he left The Academy.
Even when he patched together broken bone and cracked flesh, picked metal out of blood, that hadn't been creation. That had been mending, putting the broken back together, tantamount to taping a blank paper.
Mikita ghosted Haven on the other side of the spectrum of white keys as they played, surprisingly engrossed, even when a bullet had careened into the door way and defensive positions were set up just a few feet away from the piano, looking out the window and the balcony.
Delta had dropped what they were doing and got their weapons up and away.
Mikita hadn't moved however as he kept repeating those four notes, backwards and forwards, faster, more composed.
By the time Mikita had come to, the battle was over and he was more content than he ever had been in the last year.
Mikita popped out of the memory. Completely sober, completely coherent, completely refreshed.
It was morning, orange sky above, his arms spread out like an eagle, his legs also rather spread apart on the ground. After shifting over his head a bit he saw, or rather, felt Apollo snoring, content, grasping his pony tail.
He smacked his dry mouth, felt the sand in his eye. He had fallen asleep. Or unconscious.
"ёбаный в рот?"
The confusion in his face and the fact that he had fell asleep with bloody palms had meant that he missed something. He didn't even remember falling asleep. All he remembered were lonely digital notes glossing over him.
He tried to regain feeling in his body in his usual wake up routine, not wanting to wake up Apollo. When he had squeezed his right hand he felt something in it.
The hand was brought up to in front of him, then he realized his hearing had been dull not because of the morning grogginess.
Black wires had led to his ears, his other hand passing over the bud that had been stuck in his canal.
'Track 28'. That was the track that the music player had stopped at according to its screen. The other side of the box had something inscribed on it: 'Please return to this address:'
The details had posted Tokyo's third iteration, the apocalypse necessitating new cities. The name which this was also etched into the address a kanji which described a person, based on name alone, that wouldn't be in the Valks.
"Probably… stolen." he muttered. Twice, perhaps thrice, over this time. He would've been surer if he had remembered how he had gotten like this. The why was obviously his own head, links of memories dragging him back to relive.
Perhaps this was the first time he realized he lost himself in that way.
His head had begun to hurt. That meant he wouldn't mind lying there in the warmth of the morning, not minding the dead bodies around him made by bullet and claw mark. Apprently there had been another fight, and quite blatantly he had come out on top: a few Valks, the odd UNGA Houndour and a whole mess of Godfathers. There had been a few Pokémon there in the immediate area too; whether they had been dead or resting the same as him and Apollo was something he wasn't too keen to find out. He would ask Apollo what happened later; quite frankly enjoying the odd embrace he gave through snuggling his ponytail.
He hit the switch on the SDAT, and let music come into his life again. It was the song that Haven had played all those years ago in a piano rendition.
"In other words…. Please be true…"
A/N: I write Merry Christmas Noelle when I don't want to write about people being shot in the face, and I write my Evangelion story when I want a combination of violence and love.