Lt. Nathan West

"Believe in me," she said.

God, since that moment, I've hardly been able to believe in anything anymore. I was so sure. The way she looked at me through that hole in the wall, the emotion in her voice, those words she used. I suppose I wanted to believe. Those Chigs were good, alright. But they weren't good enough. In the end, I knew. She wouldn't have trampled all over everything that I've held dear, the way that damn Chig impersonator did. Who did they think they were fooling, anyway? In the end, I just couldn't believe anymore. Sometimes I wonder if I still do. And if I was foolish for ever doing so in the first place.

Sometimes I can still see her face in my dreams, the way she really looked at me, that one last time - the last time I saw her. I can remember her telling me, just before she left forever, that she believed in me. Does she still? I wonder. I promised I'd find her, somehow, some way. But I haven't. So many battles fought, so many Chigs killed, and I'm still no closer to her than I was at the start.

So. Lieutenant Nathan West.

That's what they call me these days. It's not such a strange name to me now, like it was at first. At first, it was hard to assign such an image to myself - in my mind, I was just plain old Nate West, the guy who was in love with Kylen Celina, the guy who was desperate enough to join up with the Corps in a desperate bid to be reunited with her again.

For a long time, that was all I ever cared about, finding her. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else was important.

But it's different now. Everything's different now. So many things have changed, so many of my beliefs have been challenged. And, I wouldn't have thought it possible back then, but so many of my priorities have shifted, too.

Suddenly, much more than just Kylen is important to me. Much more's at stake than just her. So much more.

I never knew how falling in with the 58th would change me. At that time, I didn't care. But I am different now. These people, these friends of mine, this family of mine - they've had such a profound effect on me, I wonder if they even know how much.

We live together, sleep together, eat together - fight together. We've laughed together, cried together, lost together. I know them so well now, and they know me. In fact I can't imagine myself not ever knowing them, or being with them. It's like, this is my life now, this is what I'm doing. I'm part of the 58th, and the 58th are part of me.

Every time we go out into the field, I worry about them. I fear for their lives as much as mine. And every time, I try to keep watch over them. Look out for them. I don't know at what point I started to feel responsible for this ragtag bunch of Marines, but now, I do. I have to take care of them. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I lost one of them.

I guess I have formed another bond after all, after I thought I'd never form another one, after I thought losing Kylen was the only and lasting emotion I'd ever feel again. But now I'm just as terrified of losing the WildCards as I was when I lost her. Now, they matter to me just as much as she did - as she still does. I haven't given up on her.

I will find her, sooner or later. But the Cards, they're just as important to me now. I can't give up on them either. I won't.

Too much grief can shatter a person. I don't want them to have to go through all the things I have. Losing your loved ones is hell.

I watched my brother walk into battle proud and cocksure. I watched him pour his heart out into the fight, brave young fool that he was. I let him go. I let him walk into the fire and the smoke and the blood. And later I held him in my arms, a limp, lifeless form who had believed enough to give himself up in the fight for the greater good. Whatever that was. I once thought that nothing could ever hurt as bad as losing Kylen. That day, holding Neil's body in my arms, I knew better.

And then, after all that, I didn't think that anything could ever be any more painful than that - until I had to write to my parents, telling them of his death.

Yeah, life's been hell ever since this damn war broke out. What do I believe in, these days? We've been fed so many lies about this whole conflict that I don't even know the truth from the cover-up anymore. Or what we're fighting for.

I wanted to know the truth. I wanted answers. I didn't want that useless medal they gave me for saving Secretary-General Diane Hayden's life. I just wanted the truth. Was that too much to ask of her? She had to have known. I should've guessed she'd never tell me. But I had to ask. I had to.

And now, where do we start believing? And what?

I believe in the 58th. I'll always have that. They'll be there for me, just as I'm always there for them. We have no choice but to stick together, in this chaos and this madness that's broken out around us. At least I know that if I ever arrive at the lowest point in my life, I'll always have the 58th to hold on to.

That's something I've found. It used to be Kylen, you know? She was all I ever believed in. All I'd ever hang on to. I used to be so focused, so obsessed on finding her, that I hardly thought about anything else. I'm not so foolish now. Or such a lovestruck youth.

I'm Lieutenant Nathan West, I'm a Marine, I'm a WildCard. I have the 58th now. And they have me. We'll just have to make it work, somehow.

Losing Kylen is no longer the worst moment in my life. The worst moment was that one instance when I thought, when I believed, that the 58th were dead.

That was truly horrifying. Even today I sometimes have flashbacks, nightmares, of that one incident. I was sick, I was disoriented, I couldn't remember. They told me the WildCards were dead, that they weren't coming back anymore. How could I have known any better? I remember, back then, even as hurt and mindless as I was, that one thought was like a singular horror sticking out in my mind.

Everything else was black nothingness, and the only thing I could hold onto was the image of Shane, Coop, Phousse and Paul. I kept holding on to that, I just couldn't let go. It was like, they were all I had left, and I couldn't let go of that. I just couldn't.

I told McQueen then, what I never thought I'd tell anyone. That I didn't know, for sure anymore, whether Kylen was still alive out there. But that I did know, as sure as the blood that pounded in my brain that day, I did know that the WildCards weren't dead. That I knew. It was the one truth I was sure of.

That experience had a profound effect on me. I finally know how much they all mean to me. I'm never letting go of that.

So, I have that, at least. Kylen's still very much in my heart, but now she's like a dim star shining on the horizon. I can see it, I can make a wish on it, but I can't reach it. I think I'll get to it someday though.

For now, the Marine Corps is my reality. And the 58th is my life. Now I have a real duty, a real mission. To do whatever it takes to stop our people from being overwhelmed by the Chigs. To keep my fellow squadron mates from dying. To fight on in the memory of Neil and all those other brave soldiers who gave their lives in the fray. This is my quest now, this is my purpose. This I must do.

Believe in me.

The end

© Copyrighted 1997

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