Lieutenant Hook sat in the cargo hold of the transport. This was the last time he'd be with his team, Hook's Hellions. The man had circles under his eyes, and his body ached to relax, yet he still sat at attention.
The way he had for the past eighteen hours; alternating between standing at attention or sitting at attention, Hook guarded his team.
They were going home.
In their coffins.
The lieutenant couldn't remember the last time he'd slept. He didn't care. He failed in his duty to keep the Hellions, any of them, alive. He was the sole survivor. That alone would forever mark his record. How could an officer fail to protect his squad? If anything, Hook should've been the first to fall. The first to die.
Instead, here he was, forcing himself to stay alert.
All day long, guilt flooded his mind with memories; he saw the Hellions' faces, but couldn't hear their voices. Or, when he did, it was when they were screaming as they died.
Never in his life had Hook been confronted with such pain. It was overwhelming. The few moments he'd been in his quarters, he fell to the floor, sobbing. And even then, the sobs that wrenched his body, were too much, and he forced himself back to the cargo hold.
He tried to keep his chin up, maintain the stoic stare he was famous for, as he passed through officer country - but he failed miserably. They knew about his situation. The first lieutenant in years to have lost his single squad... and still survive. SICON wouldn't need to reprimand him. SICON wouldn't need to court martial him. They knew he knew what went wrong.
The only officer Hook encountered to offer sympathy, was Razak, of the Roughnecks. The older gentleman actually looked sorry for him. Hook swallowed his agony and returned the handshake, along with a simple nod.
What else could he do?
Alone, with the Hellions, Hook would pace when his legs cramped. He failed them on the surface of their own planet, there was no way in hell he was going to fail them now.
He could feel the slow descent of the transport, and knew they were close to Cubi Point. This would be Private Villatran's home.
Hook sighed as he waited for the landing, then stood at attention. He steeled himself for whatever looks Robert's family would give him.
He wasn't disappointed.
The moment Villatran's pregnant wife - now widow - saw the casket, she fell to the ground, weeping. Villatran's brothers, all five of them, sent Hook looks that could kill. Deep in his heart, he wish those looks did kill. Hook never moved. Anything he said or did was worthless. HE was alive. His people were dead.
As soon as the casket was off-loaded, the pilot sealed her transport, and they were off to the next destination.
Again, Hook sat at attention, holding at bay the sleep that threatened to overcome him. There were four more coffins, four more drop-points... four more families to endure.
And then, when he would be alone.... he would do the unimaginable.
He would take his own life.