The Merry Adventures of Steve & Hayden: Part 2

The Merry Adventures of Steve & Hayden: Part 2

It wasn't long before the tears stopped. Hayden just looked silently into the hole. Motionless aside from the slight rise and fall of his chest. Varrok remained focused on his omni-tool while Karen inspected and cleaned her weapon. Steve just stared at the boy. The throbbing in his head felt like a jackhammer going off. Its rhythm sped up, matching the pace of the boy's breathing. Steve knew that, even if the boy's father managed to pay, Hayden would never be the same. This would change him. Haunt him. Steve tried to convince himself that it would make the boy stronger.

Suddenly, before Steve could even process what was happening, the boy was on his feet and charging at the three mercs. Karen chuckled to herself and smirked at Steve. Varrok looked away from his work, curious about the boys intentions. Steve stood up and took a single step forward, striking outward with his palm just in time to catch Hayden in the solar plexus, sending him onto his back and gasping for air.

"Nice try kid." Karen said, returning her attention to the gun in her lap.

Steve dropped to one knee and clasped a gauntleted hand around Hayden's throat, pinning him to the sand. The boy thrashed out at him, kicking and swinging with each limb. A wild blow caught Steve in the jaw, causing the throbbing in his head to grow more severe. The boy was a fighter. Just like Steve. A combination of fear and intense hate nestled in the boy's eyes as he continued to struggle against Steve's grip. In the pitch black of Hayden's pupils, Steve could've sworn he seen his own reflection. He was no better than his own tormentors. It was right at that moment, as the shock from the sloppy punch reverberated through his very being, that Steve decided to spare the boy. To spare himself.

Steve released his grip and stood up, returning to his seat. The boy rolled onto his side and coughed as he struggled to suck air into his lungs. The familiar chirp of Varrok's omni-tool caused Hayden to recoil in fear, kicking up sand as he crawled backwards, away from the mercs. Varrok pressed a few buttons and the familiar face of the asari appeared on the screen.

She sighed, as if exhausted from the whole experience. "He still maintains that he doesn't have the money." she grunted. The man could be heard sobbing and apologizing in the background to nobody in particular. "Bury the bodies. We'll take care of him and begin collecting any valuable assets from his home to make up for the clients loss."

"We're not killing the boy." Steve said as he stood and took a few steps towards the boy. The pounding in his head matched his quickening heartbeat, causing him to close his eyes for a moment. Thump. Thump.

"It's not up for debate." the asari shot back, "This is an order."

"We're not killing the boy." Steven maintained, turning to face the other two mercs who were now on their feet and out from under the canopy. Varrok allowed the interface on his omni-tool to dissipate. The look on Karen's face said it all.

"Don't do this, Thumper." she said, "It's not worth it. You don't even know the kid. Don't throw your life away for nothing. Please." she begged.

As his two allies cautiously approached him, a shine slowly enveloped Steve, like heat rising off asphalt in the summer. Thump. Thump.

"She's right, Steve." the salarian said, "Not worth it."

"We've been through this a hundred times. Why now?" Karen asked, unaware of the large cloud of sand beginning to hover above the ground behind herself and Varrok.

"He's-... He's me." Steve said, glancing briefly at the boy. He no longer saw Hayden. In the boy's place, was a 13 year old Steven, huddled in the corner of the barracks back on Gagarin Station.

Karen stared past Steve, at the young boy. "You're confused, Thumper. You need your meds." Karen said, putting her hands up, palms outward, in a non-threatening way, "You're not thinking clearly right now."

"You're wrong, Karen. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I am thinking clearly." Another cloud of sand raised from the ground at the mercenaries flanks. "Nobody's hurting the boy." Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.

Karen lowered her hands. A defeated look overcame her as she realized there was no rationalizing with him. "I won't be able to protect you from this." she whispered. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.

Varrok made a sudden move for the weapon holstered on his thigh, setting Steve in motion. Steve clapped his hands together in front of himself, causing the clouds of sand to converge on the pair of mercenaries from three directions. The tiny grains hit them with surprising force, rending the flesh on Karen's cheeks and forcing the salarian to throw his hands up to shield his face. Steve used the opportunity to swiftly draw his Tempest and fire a short burst into Varrok's face, effectively ending the salarian's life.

The glow around Steve grew larger, more prominent, as he rushed towards Karen, striking her in the chest. The short woman sailed through the air, crashing against the windshield of the nearby parked shuttle, splintering the glass into thousands of little shards. She weakly rolled off of the hood of the vehicle as Steve made his way over to her. She tried crawling, but there was nowhere to go. Steve turned her over, onto her back, and knelt above her. His eyes shot to her hands; her left was over a large shard of glass protruding from the side of her neck, the other clutched at the collar of her hardsuit.

"H-...Help me..." she begged, releasing her grip on her hardsuit and reaching arbitrarily towards Steve.

Steve put his hand over hers and used his palm to drive the glass deeper, causing a fountain of blood to shoot up, painting the woman's face.

"Shhh." he whispered, "We're doing a good thing. This is the right thing."

Karen opened her mouth to speak, but only a sickening wet gurgle left her lips.

"Shhh. Just breathe." he comforted, balling his fist and hammering downward violently on the shard of glass with the bottom of his hand "Close your eyes and breathe. We're doing the right thing" he repeated.

She stared up at him, tears welling up in her eyes, as if to ask "Why?" but all that escaped the corners of her mouth was a steady stream of crimson.

"This is our redemption." Steve explained, "I'm sorry you can't be around to see it through with me, Karen. We-... I can undo the wrong we've done."

She slowly removed her hand from the fatal wound and clasped it over his. She continued to stare distantly, unblinking. A short wheezing left her chest, a death rattle of sorts, before silence permeated the air once again.

Steve's body went slack as he sat above Karen, the only person he had ever truly allowed to know him. Lonliness crept throughout his body. Throughout his mind. Karen's right hand sat lifelessly against the compartment on Steve's hardsuit he used to store his medication. Thump. Thump. Thump.