Rav (corvid) wrote,

Card Universe: Montague and the Army

Montague was barely seventeen when he joined the army. That was how most of his stories started. When he joined the army. When he left the army. When he left home. When he returned. He was nineteen when he got a medical discharge.

He was home again. There was probably a technical term for it - shell shock, or something like that, but he wasn't the same man he was when he left. The age part was obvious. The numb arm from a battle wound was obvious. He knew it was there every time he felt his arm against his side.

The nightmares weren't obvious. Some of it was that he's be woken up by his shoulders aching, or his arm twitching. He put up with it for a week or so before he hunted down a doctor. Said doctor was a semi-legit cybernetic surgeon with a dusty clinic near the docks. They talked in a cramped office full of wires and equipment and lit by a flickering computer screen and a television set to the news.

"Your arm's stable," the doctor told him. "As long as you exercise the muscles, you're not going to have it wither away or die on you. As for the nerves, you've lost all of the sensory ones below the elbow, and it would be unwise to only replace a few. You're quite lucky that your shoulder isn't totally numb as well, Orchard."

Montague nodded mutely.

The doctor fished out a cigarette and lit it. "Typically, with cases that are just winged by those nerve guns, you usually lose just some of the sensory nerves. So - you could feel pressure and not heat, for example. In your case, you weren't so lucky. The motory nerves - the ones for moving your arm look like they're slightly impaired, though I'd need to do more tests to be sure." The smoke curled upward.

"The army docs said I wouldn't lose the arm."

"Oh, you won't. It's in quite good shape. Some of the shaking is normal for cases like you. Some of it is because your shoulders are overly tense. You're under a lot of stress, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I suppose so. I'm working as a bodyguard." Montague shrugged. "Hired gun and all that."

"I've got some muscle relaxants you can take. I'd advise doing it when you've got the time to sleep them off. They should help."

"I don't like drugs much. I get too muzzy."

The doctor chuckled. "You're not fighting a war here, Orchard."

Montague looked out the window. "Yeah. There's no war here."

The muscle relaxants did make him feel muzzy and slow, but they helped his shoulder a little. Drinking also worked, and he felt in more control of how muzzy he felt. So, he started drinking. Usually it was just whatever the dole offered with coffee. He'd go walking for an hour, come home, have a drink, and then go to bed. And usually, he slept.

The stupidest change was the water. When he was in the army, they were stationed at this dusty embassy that had severe water rationing. So they got yelled at about dripping taps and leaky pipes. He'd sit in the Captain's tent and they'd talk sometimes late at night about the canals at home. His Captain always missed the sunsets the most, and the way they'd make the canals just glow. The best time they had during his stay there was this time they were all let to go swim in some big wig's pool. The water was a bit stale, and it was shut up in this humid overdone tiled room, but still, it was water, and it reminded him of home.

Then he got home, and there was water everywhere. The first apartment he got was a first floor little hovel near his home neighborhood. He moved as soon as the lease was up because he couldn't sleep with the water lapping against the building and the pipes gurgling in the bathroom. He kept dreaming about drowning.

It got better over time, of course. Silly fears like that had to, or you'd go mad. Or maybe he was mad.

He was insane enough to go up to the upper town and ask what happened to his Captain. His Captain was a Montechristeu. They were this old military family. At every military briefing on television, there'd be a Montechristeu there. They were supposedly a family that did everything possible to keep the government happy with them. Damien, his Captain, wasn't a bad example of the family. If anything, he was the best rich man that Montague knew.

Damien was one of those guys who tried to learn people's names. He told jokes. He made you feel that a batch of oatmeal and crappy coffee was the best breakfast in the world. He looked out for his men and knew when to enforce the rules and when to look away.

After the skirmish that ended up with Montague losing his arm, Damien was arrested by some Intelligence types. Montague had been half conscious at the time. Damien was sitting in the medical ward having his knee looked at and talking to a private who was also hit by the nerve gun. Then, these guys showed up in glitzy well pressed uniforms and said that Damien was going with them, because he was under arrest. Damien went along with them perfectly calmly. Montague had a hysterical fit and had tried to get up and follow him. The doctors attributed it to the drugs. Montague still didn't know why he was so scared by the thought of his Captain being taken away.

People didn't come back from Intelligence. They just vanished.

So, he went up to the upper town. He was wearing the best outfit he owned, and he still looked rumpled next to everyone else. The Montechristeu house was this massive whitewashed complex, but the butler opened the door to him. Charles Montechristeu even came down to talk to him, though his expression indicated that he wasn't that willing to talk to some strange lower town man asking for their son.

Mr. Montechristeu said that his son was under arrest because he was accused of acts of treason. He didn't know when Damien would be released. Or if Damien would be released. Or even if Damien was alive. He didn't offer Montague a seat, he awkwardly offered Montague a drink, and tried to not stare at the splint on Montague's bad arm.

Montague thanked him for his time and fled.

Later, they sent him a stiffly polite note, and a check for no apparent reason other then some diplomatic comments about his "war injury." He sent the check back. He wasn't crippled and he wasn't some weeping war widow.

He was twenty-one when Damien showed up on his doorstep.

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