|IC Date:||18 November 2193|
|RL Date:||10 February 2010|
|Story Arc||Zodiac Insurgency|
|Location||Ramstein Air Base, Germany|
A book of veterinary medicine sat open on the blood-stained table, the little lark that had crashed into their window chirping weakly as she worked on it. Gauze strips and popsicle sticks stood in for supplies, a tiny pair of scissors dipped in rubbing alcohol for surgical equipment. Her tiny fingers worked with infinite patience, realigning broken bones, securing them with the supplies at hand as the little bird twitched in agony. Her father stood by, cleaning her tools as she needed them, occasionally scrolling the pages in the electronic book so his daughter wouldn't bloody the device.
"You said she was only six?" the disbelieving veterinarian asked as he examined the little skylark an hour later.
"Six and a half," Brigadier General August Mallory said, beaming with fatherly pride and affection.
"Amazing," the awestruck vet breathed. "You realize, had it not been for the internal bleeding, this bird would still be alive?"
The quiet admiration of the little girl's work was broken by a panicked shriek. The two men were on their feet in second as Marie Mallory ran into the room. She rushed into August's arms, pressing her face to his chest as she tried to still her panic.
"Ciel," she sobbed. "Ciel's gone!"
I couldn't save her.
The words kept running through Ciel's head as she ran, mud splattering her shoes and dress as the rain poured down. She had no idea where she was going, not even where she was. She just had to get away. Get away from the kind vet, from her parents, from it. The dead thing. Her failure.
I couldn't save her.
You did all you knew how to do, she replied to herself.
I should have known better, the plaintive voice in her mind argued. I should have figured it out.
You're only six, said the other. You don't know everything.
Screaming, Ciel hit herself with both hands, trying to drive the voice from her head, the cold voice of reason that she didn't want to hear right now. Moments later she found herself sprawled on her backside, looking up at what she'd just run into.
The Fence. It surrounded the parcel of land set aside for her father on the military base, a fifteen foot monster of linked chain. Ciel was not allowed to go past The Fence on her own. Going past The Fence meant Time Out, and Ciel hated to be given Time Out.
Getting away meant going past The Fence. Time Out didn't matter any more, only getting away.
Wrapping her little fingers around the rain-slicked links of The Fence, she slowly pulled herself up, shoes slipping as they tried to find purchase on the wet metal. Foot by foot she climbed The Fence, the rain pounding on her face as the muscles in her arms burned with the exertion. She got both hands on the bar that ran across the top of The Fence. All she had to do was pull one leg over that bar and the rest would be easy.
In the end, it was too much. Her little arms were not up to the challenge of pulling her body over The Fence, not a match for the strain and the storm that beat against her, and she shrieked as first one hand, then the other slipped off the metal bar. Wind and water rushed around her as she found herself airborne, hands grabbing for the bar and finding only air. A flash of lightning illuminated The Fence, towering over Ciel in mute judgment of her audacity in trying to best it. She felt her feet hit the ground, heard a sickening double crack like gunshots from her legs. Then pain. Then darkness.
She was crying when she woke up, numb and freezing as the rain continued to pour. She didn't feel pain, not yet, only a vague feeling of wrongness about her. She couldn't focus on it, wouldn't focus on it. As she opened her eyes, she could make out the beams of flashlights cutting through the dark and rain, sweeping across the muddly field to try and find her. In their light, she could see the white bones sticking out of her legs, blood dripping freely into the mud and water around her.
Now I'll die too, she thought. Like the little lark.
You're in shock, the voice of reason said as it asserted itself. She hated that voice, that voice that always told her what she should do, not what she wanted to do. Years later, it was that voice that drove her to do the one thing she would never let herself do, to take the life of Kirin Mathers in order to save her child.
I'm gonna die, she argued. Already she could feel her breath slowing, her eyesight dimming as she drifted towards unconsciousness.
No, you're not. You have to stay conscious, Ciel Renée Mallory. Talk. Scream. Do something to keep yourself awake. Do something to let them know you're here, so they can find you before you bleed to death.
You have to.
So she sang. It was all she could think to do. She sang about the little bird she'd tried to save, the song her mother had taught her when she was still a baby. Her voice was barely audible over the rain, but the faint noise was enough to bring her father to her. To save her life.
"Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette je te plumerai."