Chapter 1 - Malaki- Part 2

He struggled to open his eyes, the pain nearly cinching them shut. Slowly the darkness yielded to a dull light. He urged his eyes to open. At once, his vision was flooded with light, and despite every muscle and bone screaming out at him, Malaki raised his hand to his face to filter some of it out. He was aware of tall trees stretching out above him, but their branches were too thick to see anything beyond.

His right arm began to slide around until it touched a gel-like substance. With a jerk he lifted his right hand up and noticed it stained with blood.

Barely lifting his head, he could see what he assumed was his right fibula protruding from a hole in his pants. All the other pain in his body was quickly numbed by the site of his broken leg. Military survival training kicked in as he realized that if he was going to survive, he needed to repair his leg and stop the bleeding.

Rolling his head from side to side, Malaki confirmed what he noticed earlier, that he was indeed in a heavily wooded area. As far as he could see in all directions were large trees. However, his eyes focused on the remains of a large tree that had fallen just a few short paces from where he lay. Its trunk was covered in moss and fungus, but his eye was drawn to piles of splintered wood from branches that had exploded when the tree hit the ground.

Fighting against the pain, Malaki forced himself to sit up. The muscles in his stomach screamed as he managed to get his elbows back enough to lift himself up into a sitting position. He closed his eyes to fight off the dizziness after having laid down for who knows how long. Satisfied that he wasn’t going to pass out again, he began to drag himself backwards along the ground to the tree trunk that lay close by. 

Sitting back against the tree, he started fishing through the pile of broken wood until he found enough pieces to fashion a splint. Reaching into a pocket on the left side of his trousers, Malaki found the standard issue supply of rope that members of the military field crew always carried with them. When he was done, he reached back into the pile of broken tree branches until he found one to place between his teeth. He then tore the hole open in his pant leg, did his best to clean up the area, and with only a quick pause, bit down hard on the stick and snapped his Fibula back into place. The stick snapped in his teeth as his jaw bit through it. He screamed out in pain, not caring who or what heard him. Fighting through the pain, with tears rolling hard down his cheeks, Malaki finished cinching the rope around the splint he had created.

Malaki sat there for some time, propped up against the tree trunk, his leg in the best splint he could make. From where he sat he could see the sky through an opening in the canopy and noticed thick dark clouds. Could they be rain clouds? He had no way of knowing for sure. It was noticeably cooler and darker than when he first came to, but he was in no condition to get up or move. 

Looking to either side of him, he noticed that the ground around the fallen tree had been deeply cut into, but as time went by, after rain and warmth, the tree itself had risen up out of the impression in the ground. This left a decent sized space under the tree that Malaki managed to roll down into. Pulling piles of leaves down onto himself to keep him warm, Malaki closed his eyes and fell asleep. 

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Damon had left right after high school for the academy. The training he had received early on gave him a large leg up on most of the other cadets. For this reason, and because he was easily the best fighter in the bunch, Damon had jumped up the ranks rather quickly. 

Their mother had insisted that Malaki go to the cadet program too, albeit nearly a year later. The commanding officers readily agreed to allow Malaki in because, as brother of Damon Deasley, even if only half the cadet, he would be better than most of the other recruits in the program. They were shocked to find out how wrong they were.

There was, however, one bright side to their extreme disappointment in Malaki’s physical ability. He had proven to be very good with a wrench. Malaki’s intellect allowed him to quickly find and repair any issue with just about anything mechanical. If it stopped working, Malaki would fix it. If it had a moving part, Malaki could keep it moving. This fact is what kept Malaki from getting thrown out of the Manst military.

But because of his need to reason and analyze every situation, he was prone to arguing with nearly every ranking officer. To Malaki, they all suffered from an acute inability to be find the most efficient way to complete a challenge. He decided it was his duty to point this deficiency out each time he could, and this decision was usually met with some sort of punishment. 

“Malaki, get a move on! Those boots are not going to wash themselves. I’m gonna be back here in one hour. If you’re not done by the time I get back, things are gonna get much worse for you.” His commanding officer turned and stormed out of the building letting the large steel door slam behind him. 

How could things get worse? He had already done almost every nasty job that was available. Anyone else would have learned by now not to question their superior officer. Malaki, however, was unwilling to learn this lesson. 

This time, he was given the task of washing the boots of every member of the company who had, conveniently, just completed a 10 mile hike in the rain.

The heavy door to the building opened again, and Malaki half expected to see the commanding officer come to berate him some more, but instead, Damon strolled in with his hands spread wide and shaking his head.

“Again? When are you going to learn big brother?” 

There it was again. The familiar sarcasm. 

“Why can’t you just keep your head down and do what you’re told? They are running out of jobs to give you.”

Not caring to respond, Malaki looked back down at the boot in his hand and continued to scrub.

“Still sulking? Fine.” Damon, dropping his hands back to his side, “The only reason I came in here was to tell you the good news.” 

Good news? What could possibly be good about any of this?

“I have been assigned to the spec-ops division effective immediately. I leave for their training facility in a few hours.” Damon grinned from ear to ear, but the excitement quickly faded when he realized Malaki wasn’t as excited as he was. 

“Really? Nothing?” Damon waited a few more seconds, Malaki still scrubbing mud off the boot. 

Finally Malaki stopped and looked up at Damon, “You leaving won’t change anything. You didn’t do much to help me while I was here, so I may not even notice you’re gone.”

Damon stared at him. After a few moments in silence, he exhaled and said, “What good would it do to come to your rescue every time you ran into trouble? What would you learn? I was only trying….”

Malaki interrupted, dropping his brush and the boot into the bucket of water he was using, “It was never about what you could do for me or even about being protected. It was always about just knowing you were there, and that you would do something if I needed you to! But you did nothing. You never said anything. Osborn Roth tormented me every chance he got, and you did nothing!” He continued, refusing to let Damon stop him. “Even here, you have enough standing, enough clout to at least talk to Commander Dixon, get him to lighten up a bit. But you do nothing. You have never done anything to help me. Ever!”

Malaki was shaking. His hands clutching the sides of the bucket as if he were going to fling it at the wall. He reached into the bucket for the brush and the boot that was now completely submerged. Just before he began scrubbing again, he looked up, “Good luck, Damon. I am sure you will be just fine.” He looked into Damon’s eyes for a moment before dipping the scrub brush back into the bucket of muddy water and continuing his task.

“I am sorry brother. Take care of yourself.” Without looking up, Malaki heard him turn and walk away, the steel door once again opening and slamming shut. 

Malaki paused long enough to think to himself, I always have.

Part 2- Written by Matt Henderson, Created by Micah Metz, Edited by Alex Gergely

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