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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Chaos fic: History Repeating (1/2)

May 17th, 2013 (02:30 pm)
thoughtful

feeling: thoughtful

Title: History Repeated

Disclaimer: I do not own Chaos.

A/N: For Oracle10. And the general desire in fandom for Rick whump. With thanks to lena7142 for her beta’ing efforts.

Summary: Rick can’t die. Casey can’t let him.



-o-

Casey remembers this.

He remembers the sound of a gunshot, ripping through the air. The sound of a human cry, cut short and anguished before a body thudded to the ground.

He remembers the skip of his heart, just a fraction off as his breath catches and he turns. His pupils narrow and his palms start to sweat, his forehead going bone dry as he sees.

He remembers thinking about how they should have planned better, how they should have prepped more thoroughly, how they knew this was a possibility and none of them were able to prevent it.

Mostly, though, Casey remembers the blood.

-o-

There’s no time to remember, though.

There’s only time to act.

The shot is still reverberating in the air, but Casey knows it could be the first of many. The shot isn’t the end of this; it’s just the beginning.

Lunging forward, Casey goes low to the ground, skidding across the cement on his knees while lifting his gun and looking for the shooter. Casey’s moving, but he sees a glint in the sunlight -- second story window, the building across the street -- and he waits until he comes to a stop before firing once, and twice--

The light glints again, and the shadow in the window falls away. It’s a victory, but there’s no time to celebrate. More gunfire erupts, and Casey doesn’t hesitate. He turns, lowering his aim and shooting at the pair of insurgents barricaded behind a flamed-out vehicle just up the road. One is a direct hit. The other fires off another round that whizzes by Casey’s ear. He’s so angry that it’s close, that Casey fires three more times until his clip is empty and the threat is gone.

There’s a yell to his left, and Casey doesn’t have time to lift his gun as another man charges him.

That’s okay, though. Casey’s good with a gun, but he’s always found them a little too easy. Often superfluous.

The yell is probably meant to scare him.

Instead, Casey yells back, inarticulate and primal, getting to his feet and flinging himself at the man. They collide in midair, and Casey can feel the metal of the gun against his body. When they hit the ground, Casey rolls hard and comes out on top, yanking the gun away before the man even has a chance to respond. Killing him would be easy, but Casey’s blood is pumping too hard to go for easy. Instead, he throws the gun away and unleashes with his fist. Within two punches, the man is insensate. After two more, his face is a bloody mess. On the fifth, he twitches, and Casey reluctantly pulls away.

He’s won.

Again.

But it’s still not over.

He looks back over to the side of the road, where Rick is still lying where he fell, limp and lifeless, a red stain spreading steadily across his chest.

It’s not over at all.

-o-

It’d be easy to panic. Lesser men would, by all means. After all, Casey’s in the middle of an active warzone in Afghanistan, and though he’s disabled four opponents, gunfire is still echoing over from a few streets down. Their extraction is delayed and communications have been hit and miss -- the last he heard from Michael and Billy, the line had been cut off with an abrupt and particularly loud explosion. Casey’s alone, Casey’s in danger, and Casey’s teammate is prone and bleeding in the middle of the street.

In all, Casey probably should panic. If ever there was a time...

But Casey’s not the type to panic. Not when he has something he can still do. Lesser men might think they’re out of options, but Casey knows better.

Casey believes better.

Without more than a second’s hesitation, he crosses back toward Rick, going to his knees in the war-torn street. Buildings shake as an explosion rattles a few streets down, but Casey doesn’t bother ducking. That’s not a clear and present danger.

No, the real damage has already been done, and he only has to look at Rick for a second to realize the extent of it. They’d been seeking shelter after losing contact with Michael and Billy -- their so-called extraction team -- and rounded a corner and walked right into the thick of it. Rick had gone down before Casey had had a chance to do anything about it.

He can do something about it now, though.

Promptly, he grits his teeth and undoes the tactical gear Rick’s strapped into before ripping open Rick’s shirt. Buttons go flying, and Casey curses his way through shredding his undershirt as well until he has an unobstructed view of Rick’s torso. The blood is smeared everywhere, staining his stomach and his chest, but Casey quickly pinpoints the source -- it’s a single gunshot to the upper chest. It was likely meant to be a kill -- straight to the heart -- but their sniper friend hadn’t been that good, apparently.

Still, he’d been good enough.

The blood is flowing steadily, welling up and continuing to run in rivulets down the side of Rick’s chest, pooling on the dusty ground.

Grimacing, Casey palpates the wound, trying to assess its size. It’s small enough, which makes Casey wonder...

Grunting, he steadies Rick, lifting the kid’s shoulder and rolling him efficiently to his side. He has to finagle Rick’s shirt further off to get a good look.

Then, he swears.

The exit wound is much larger, leaking blood at a much faster rate and already creating a pool beneath him.

Hastily, Casey shrugs one-handedly out of his own gear, stripping his own shirt before balling it quickly and placing it hard against Rick’s back. It’s not a kill shot, but there’s still a good chance it’s hit more than a few vital things, and at this point, Casey can’t decide if a hole in the lung or a nicked artery is more likely.

It doesn’t matter, though. The kid’ll be dead before too long if Casey doesn’t do something about it.

Casey’s chest goes tight and he refuses to blink. That can’t happen.

It won’t.

Rick’s his responsibility. Hell, Rick’s just a kid....

Shaking himself, he rolls Rick back, working his fingers numbly at his belt. Yanking it clear, he weaves it under Rick’s body. He doesn’t have much slack to work with, but he positions it so the bandage is in place before tightening it, pushing the point through the leather forcibly to create a hole to maintain enough pressure.

It’s not a long term solution, but it’s better than nothing. The key is getting Rick out of here.

Casey looks up, scanning the still-quiet street. None of the men have roused, and there’s no sign of further activity. There’s still intermittent gunfire from several streets away, but it seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

Still, Casey’s in a war zone with no ETA on extraction. Michael and Billy could be dead. Rick could be...

He glances back at the kid.

His face is pale and the blood is...alarming.

The kid is dying.

Casey’s heart staggers, his chest aching. He closes his eyes for a moment, forcing out a breath that leaves him choked.

And Casey remembers this.

The helplessness, the fear. The pressing knowledge that this is his failure, his oversight; ultimately, his fault. He should have been better, he should have been the best, but it’s not good enough. There’s blood on his hands and a lump in his throat and none of it is good enough.

Casey remembers.

-o-

Casey makes mistakes. He’s a human weapon and while he does consider himself among the elite of the gene pool, he is still only human. Worse than that, he’s merely mortal. And, God help him, he’s fallible.

Casey learns from his mistakes. And if Casey remembers the failure, he remembers the aftermath -- and he knows what not to do.

Which means, he has a pretty good idea what to do.

Starting with getting Rick off this street. Help could be minutes away; it could be hours. He’s made the choice to hole up before, and it’s not one he’s proud of. This time, he’ll be proactive.

Eyes lingering on Rick’s lifeless features, he has to be proactive. Sitting still would be impossible -- for Rick’s life, not to mention Casey’s sanity.

Rick’s not much bigger than Casey, but still, the task of lifting someone with greater body weight isn’t exactly easy. Still, Casey’s had the misfortune of carrying Michael and Billy a time or two, so he tells himself that lifting Rick will be easy.

At least, physically.

Emotionally, it’s a different story. Rick is frighteningly still, his body nothing more than a dead weight as Casey levers him up. His head flops back lifelessly, jaw slack and face seeming to go even paler as Casey grips his limp wrist, moving himself under Rick’s armpit before he lifts from his knees.

They go up together, Rick’s body heavy against him. He immediately feels Rick’s blood, hot and wet, soaking into the back of his shirt. It’s a garish reminder, but he takes his discomfort and channels it into adrenaline so he can go faster.

In truth, he can’t go fast enough. He can feel the strain in his shoulders, and the added weight presses on his knees as he tightens his grip and starts to run. He’s several yards down the street, circumventing the bodies from before, when it occurs to him that he doesn’t exactly know where he’s going. Sure, he knows where the closer Army base is, but getting there is not exactly an easy thing. This is why they were waiting for extraction to begin with. Getting to safety requires creative driving, fast exits, and bulletproof glass if possible. They’d been moving in the general direction of Michael and Billy’s last known location, but Casey is all too aware that waiting for rescue is probably not his best option right now.

He needs to get to the Army base.

On his own.

He shifts Rick’s weight, tightening his grip. He can run fast -- even with Rick on his back, he might make it in time -- but there’s no telling who they’ll run into along the way. Casey doesn’t doubt his ability to defend himself, but with the kid on his shoulders--

Well, he’s already gotten the kid shot once today. He doesn’t really want to do it again.

If running isn’t an option; if extraction is unreliable; if leaving is a necessity...

Then Casey needs a car.

Preferably, something reinforced and intended for combat, but at this point, he figures he may have to take the first thing that he can see that looks ripe for the picking. He passes a few cars that might still work, but the bullet-riddled exteriors make him want to keep looking. There’s a burned out hull of a Jeep that would have been perfect before it was barbecued.

Gritting his teeth, he turns the corner, sliding in the shadows of the sidestreet, keeping his grip steady and tightening his hold around Rick’s thigh even as a fresh trickle of blood slips down his back.

It’s all the motivation he needs to round the corner at full speed, and then, he sees it.

A Jeep, vacated; in perfect condition.

It’s so damn wonderful -- exactly what Casey needs, exactly what Rick needs -- that Casey almost wants to cry.

But before Casey can keep moving, before he can claim his prize and get Rick to safety, the whole street explodes.

-o-

Even with his ears ringing, Casey realizes that the shock of the explosion had made him hyperbolic. The whole street didn’t explode; a bomb exploded with some force approximately halfway down the narrowed lane. The resulting shockwave had shaken the buildings and created a substantial field of debris, some of which had given the impression of a mass casualty event.

Though the reality is not as stark as his initial impression, Casey is still acutely aware that the blast was enough to knock him off his feet. Which is why, he realizes, he’s on the ground, face smashed into the dust. His head hurts and there’s a pain in his ribs. When he moves, something twinges in his knee and for a second, his stomach roils and threatens to rebel.

There’s no time for that, though. Because if Casey’s on the ground, then Rick is...

He jerks up, ignoring the dizziness that accompanies the motion. He rarely has time to indulge weakness, and now is even less than normal. The weight on his shoulders is gone but he can still feel his shirt, wet and sticky with Rick’s blood.

He turns, mentally accounting for the direction of the blast and the position of his body. Rick would have been flung in the same direction -- with the added height of his position on Casey’s shoulders, he should be farther off, but not too far.

Casey turns, swatting absently at the still-swirling air, squinting until he sees the figure on the ground.

There’s no question it’s Rick.

For the second time in the day, Casey moves numbly to his fallen teammate, and he can’t help but wince when he sees that the kid has been hurtled into the ground, and this time he’s curled up, tipped on his side.

This time, Casey doesn’t even let himself fear the worst. He’s already gone over the possibilities in his mind, cataloguing the potential additional injuries Rick could have incurred from the blast. From bumps and bruises to cuts and contusions. Internal injuries are perhaps unlikely but even the smallest bleed...

Carefully, Casey rolls Rick onto his back. The kid flops, head lolling to the side, face still lax. His features are dusted with ash, giving him a terrifyingly macabre appearance, especially from the fresh splotches of blood on his cheek and chin.

And for a second, Casey thinks he’s made everything worse. That moving Rick had been the wrong choice, that he’d just gotten Rick killed when he should have been saving his life. That he’s done it again, that he’s screwed up and cost a teammate more than he should ever have to give.

It’s a wrenching moment.

And Casey remembers.

The hollowing self-blame; the useless doubt; the overwhelming cost of realizing just how much he cared. The lingering horror that he can’t control, building, mounting, threatening to consume everything.

But then, Rick shudders. He convulses slightly, mouth opening as he inhales raggedly and opens his eyes.

-o-

In the tense seconds that follow, it’s not clear who is actually more surprised: Casey or Rick. For Casey, he’s been so set on all the things that were going horrifically wrong, the the notion of something actually taking a turn for the better is hard to even fathom. Rick, on the other hand -- well, it’s hard to tell if it’s the overwhelming agony or the surreal realization that he’s actually still alive.

As it is, Rick’s still the one who speaks first.

His eyes dart frantically, his breathing quickening as he looks around desperately until he sees Casey. Then his eyes widen and he swallows with obvious effort, pressing his lips together for a moment before croaking, “Casey?”

Casey’s so dumbfounded by this development that his best answer is: “Yeah?”

Rick takes a tremulous breath, starting to shake a little. “I--” He cuts off with his brow furrowed. He inhales raggedly. “I’ve been shot?”

It’s such a simple question that it should be easy to answer. But Rick’s eyes are so huge and wet -- he looks all of 12 suddenly -- and there’s no way he should be traipsing through a warzone in Afghanistan. The kid still talks to his mother each day; he looks forward to sentimental holidays and probably believed in Santa until he was eight and really should have known better.

But he’s here. He is in Afghanistan, on a top secret mission, in a warzone with Casey as backup. Casey has almost 13 years of experience; Rick has one. The fact that Rick’s been shot twice in his short tenure with the ODS is unacceptable.

It’s also the reality.

Billy likes to call Casey a pessimist, but he prefers to think of himself as a cold, hard realist. He acknowledges the facts, no matter how unsavory they may be. No matter how much he hates them.

Gritting his teeth, he forces his own heart to still as he holds Rick’s gaze. “Sniper got you through the upper chest,” he reports, matter of fact. “It could have been worse.”

Rick’s face scrunches and he shifts, crying softly in pain. His eyes screw shut and he writhes slightly. “Really?” he asks, breathing heavily now. When his eyes open again, he looks like he’s ready to start sobbing. He laughs hoarsely, though. “I think it could have been better, too.”

Casey’s chest clenches. “I know it hurts,” he says, working hard to keep the tremor out of his voice. “And I won’t lie, it’s going to be tricky getting you out of here.”

Rick is shaking in earnest now, but he somehow holds Casey’s eyes. “Billy and Michael?”

Casey shakes his head. “No sign yet,” he confirms. “But I’m working on some alternatives.”

Rick’s eyes blink, and his attention starts to drift noticeably. “You’ll take care of it,” he says, nodding. His eyes fix on Casey’s again, even if his eyes are glazed now. “I was wrong that first mission; you really don’t suck.”

The words of doubt had stung. The words of affirmation hurt worse, though. Because Rick trusts him. Rick’s putting his life in Casey’s hands.

And Casey’s not sure he can do this.

Rick’s eyes shut, though, and the tension in his body eases as he slips back into unconsciousness. He’s still visibly breathing, but it’s not much consolation to Casey.

Still, crouched in the street over Rick’s body, Casey supposes he doesn’t need consolation.

He just needs a plan.

-o-

A plan is easier said than done. Casey’s the muscle; Billy’s the charmer; Rick’s the kid; Michael is most definitely the planner. When left to his own devices, Casey’s plans usually consist of beating people into oblivion.

Glancing down the street, somehow Casey thinks that’s perhaps not his best approach here. There’s still gunfire rippling, though it’s not directed at him. Through the haze, Casey can make out the two factions -- one side clad in the telltale uniforms of Afghan security forces, the other scattered and mismatched and dogged -- insurgents, no doubt. They seem to be pretty transfixed with each other, so it makes sense that the blast hadn’t been directed at him.

Such back and forth is still deadly; Casey knows that all too well. But if he can steer clear of it without attracting attention from either side, he may be able to get out of here without any additional complications.

He looks at Rick, still bleeding and unconscious. Casey doesn’t need any more complications; Rick can’t handle them.

Still, Casey’s throat is tight, heart thrumming as he assesses his best course of action. The most discreet choice is to take Rick to another street and hope for better luck there. Any movement farther down on the block he’s at is likely to arouse attention and get him shot at by one party -- or both.

Yet, as the haze clears, Casey still sees the Jeep. It’s covered in soot now, but it looks in better shape than Casey feels. It’s still the perfect escape vehicle. There’s no way of knowing if there’s another vehicle nearby that will suit his needs or that they won’t run into more fighting the farther they wander.

It’s still a risk, though.

He looks back at Rick. You’ll take care of it.

Rick hadn’t doubted.

Which meant Casey can’t fail.

It’s a risk, but it’s one he’s going to have to take.

-o-

Casey knows that strength and training are only part of the equation. There’s probably an element of luck that he is forced to acknowledge, but really, a great deal of his success can be attributed to his simple belief in the supposedly impossible. Casey is a realist, but only because he has a finely tuned understanding of his own capabilities. It’s simply true that he can do most things other people can’t. It’s plain fact that he’s found success where really, he should only be met with failure. Doubt is often a self-fulfilling prophecy that he has no time or patience to indulge.

This, in comparison to some of Casey’s feats, should be easy. He just has to pick up Martinez and run the short distance to the Jeep. He has to secure the younger operative, start the car -- by any means necessary -- and drive out in an expedient fashion before the two sides notice him and consider him a threat. In less than five minutes, he should be on the road and ready to go.

It’s not easy, but it’s certainly not hard.

But Casey remembers this.

Fear. Deep and paralyzing. The uncertainty that he might do something wrong, that things might get worse. That any move is the wrong move and that maybe for once he can let someone else do the heavy lifting.

That’s not the way it works, though.

He looks at Rick. Too young. Casey’s the senior operative. This is Casey’s decision.

And it’s one he’s going to make.

On his feet, he hefts Rick up, throwing him quickly over his shoulder. The weight is heavy, but Rick makes no sound of protest from being manhandled so abruptly. Casey doesn’t have time to feel the blood anymore.

He only has time to run.

He moves with all the speed and agility he has, keeping as low as possible to the ground while he ducks as best he can away from view. There’s still gunfire, but it’s far off, and Casey doesn’t pause to check its source. Instead, he keeps his focus on the car.

As he comes near, he uses one hand to open the door -- the passenger’s side is closest to him -- and is relieved to find it unlocked. Carefully, he slings Rick down, positioning the kid in the seat and using the seatbelt as best he can to prop him up in a moderately secure manner. Rick’s face is tipped forward, his eyes still closed, and Casey can see that the blood is soaking through his makeshift bandage but there’s no time to worry about that.

Swallowing, he steels himself, then closes the door. He hopes that the gunfire will be enough to disguise the sound, but there’s not exactly any other choice. Heart racing, he sprints around to the other side, almost skidding to a stop as he yanks the driver’s door open and dives inside.

Outside, there’s a pause in the gunfire, and Casey holds his breath while he rips away the casing of the steering column. He’s working the wires, stripping the necessary ones and rubbing them together when the gunfire picks up again.

Closer now.

Directed at them.

Casey curses, and tries the wires again, glancing nervously at Rick as one of the bullets hits the exterior of the car.

Just like that, the engine comes to life and Casey wastes no time in sliding up into the seat and putting it into gear, pushing down on the gas as a bullet shatters a back window. Tires screeching, he pulls out, not looking back as the gunfire fades and Casey finally has his exit.

The adrenaline is surging; it’s a bit of a high. The impossible is not so improbable for him. He still has the fight left in him.

As he careens around a corner, though, he reaches out a hand to keep Rick upright. Casey doesn’t have much time to look, but the kid is still slumped forward. He’s still bleeding. He still looks dead.

Casey has his exit.

He just doesn’t know if it’s enough.

-o-

Casey remembers this.

A bleeding wound, a race against the clock. He needs time; he needs help; he needs.

Fear is a useless emotion, but it roils in his gut, tingling in his extremities, building and mounting, until he doesn’t know what to do.

He doesn’t know.

Casey remembers this.

And he has to change it.

He has to.

-o-

Casey’s rarely given the wheel during a mission, and the reason is pretty simple. He lacks nuance; he pays no attention to simple comforts and conveniences. He drives hard; he drives fast. He often takes corners recklessly and doesn’t care if he clips mirrors or jumps curbs as long as he gets to the intended destination.

That’s on a good day.

This, decidedly, is not a good day. Because Casey’s in a warzone in a stolen vehicle and he has no friends out there he can count on. Anyone who sees him is as likely to kill him as anything, and he has a teammate dying in the seat next to him.

A teammate; Rick.

Casey has both hands tight on the wheel, but he can’t help from stealing glances to his side. Rick bounces lifelessly next to him, head bobbing even as the seatbelt forces his body to stay moderately erect. The front of his shirt is soaked now -- entirely red. It’s staining his pants, smeared down his arms.

It’s everywhere.

The garish scene is made worse by the fact that Rick looks so damn young. He’d looked 12 back in the street. Here, he looks like he’s nine, baby-faced and pale even as his breathing begins to labor. It’s that youthful, wide-eyed naivete that’s made Rick such an easy target. They’d hazed him so long and so hard not just to teach him his place, but because the kid made it so easy. His outspoken belief in the greater good may be admirable in some ways, but after all this time in the Agency, it just makes a good punchline.

It amuses Casey.

It worries Casey.

Because Casey still hears the gunfire in Bolivia. He can still see the kid, dazed and pale with Billy in the backseat, saying “If this is it...”

If this is it.

It hadn’t been, then. Not with Billy holding the tourniquet and telling stories; not with Michael running with all the strength he had.

This could be, though.

Rick’s breathing starts to hitch and his mouth is open and gasping. He visibly shudders, moaning slightly even in unconsciousness.

Death throes.

You’ll take care of it.

But Casey doesn’t know if he can. He can evade enemy forces; he can make a damn good pressure bandage; he can steal a car and drive. It may not be enough.

And Casey remembers this.

Because it’s true, he has a general dislike of mankind, but it’s a lesson he’s learned the hard way: his team is not expendable. He’s embraced it since then -- he’s had no choice -- because he’s downright territorial when it comes to the others being in danger. He’ll move heaven and earth for any of them.

But this is Rick.

The rookie. The new guy. The kid.

Casey’s had years to hone his craft; Michael’s had nearly as many. Even Billy’s put in his time now, but Rick...

Rick’s had months.

Casey remembers this.

That he’s a human weapon, and that’s not just an offensive reality. Countries stockpile arms in times of peace as a defensive measure, too. And Rick needs protection more than the rest. It’s not that the kid isn’t good -- in his short time with the ODS, the kid’s been damn impressive sometimes -- it’s just that experience matters. It’s up to Casey to make up the difference until Rick has enough experience to do it on his own.

So, logically, Casey concludes that Rick can’t die here. He can’t die now. Not when he’s so young and still has so much left to learn. Not when he has so much left to give.

Not when he could be the best among them, even if none of them will admit that.

Rick can’t die. Casey can’t let him.

So he grits his teeth, narrows his vision, and drives faster.

-o-

It should be a relief when he finally makes it to the Army hospital. It should be a relief when he manages to get them cleared through security. It should be a relief when the doctors take Rick and load him up on a gurney, hooking up machines and checking his vitals as they start treatment without any further delay.

But Rick’s figure is still and swathed with blood. He’s limp on the gurney, face ashen as someone puts a mask over his face and starts to squeeze oxygen into his deprived lungs. As Casey stands by the car, still surrounded by security personnel, he feels useless.

He’s gotten Rick this far; that is something.

Eyes drifting back to the car, he sees the blood-soaked seats, and he knows it’s not enough.

-o-

Numbly, Casey has no choice but to follow the soldiers as they take him to their superior. He has no choice but to submit his cover identity and give them a CIA phone number that will validate their presence and secure their safety. The commander clearly isn’t pleased by the idea of two mysterious strangers, but Casey’s not even sure he could tell the man why they were here in the first place. He doesn’t quite remember.

The commander hands him the phone, eyes narrowed and shoulders tense. “They want to talk to you.”

Casey takes it without thinking. “Hello?”

“Casey?” Fay’s voice comes from the other end. “Michael’s been worried sick -- they said Rick’s in treatment? How bad?”

“Bad,” Casey replies stiffly. He glances at the commander and turns away slightly. “The others?”

Fay gathers a breath. “They ran into a few road blocks -- literally,” she says. “They had to lie low, but they’re safe and I’ll contact them again with your coordinates.”

This is good. This is reasonable. This is the best Casey can hope for, given the circumstances.

“I’ll smooth things over with the base commander,” she continues. She pauses, clearly hedging. “I assume you have the intel?”

Casey isn’t sure if he wants to laugh or cry. Instead, he feels the rage start to boil in his gut. “Your damn package will be delivered,” he spits. “Just don’t mind the blood.”

He disconnects the call abruptly, looking tersely at the commander. “If she calls back, assume it’s for you,” he says.

The man looks ready to protest.

“I’ll be outside,” he seethes.

The man straightens and seems ready to move to stop Casey. “This is a secure military base--”

“Then shoot me,” Casey snaps on his way out. “It’d be more of an inconvenience for you than me.”

Then he walks out, pushing the door wildly open before him as he leaves the man gaping in his wake.

-o-

Casey walked out with purpose, but he doesn’t actually know what he’s doing. He doesn’t know anything at all.

In the glaring sunlight, he feels his anger surge but his helplessness is only intensified by it. Because this is it, and he knows it. He’s made his choices; he’s done his best.

It may not be enough.

Rick could still die.

Casey’s gut clenches and his jaw locks. His fingers tighten into fists and his vision tunnels dangerously.

He remembers this.

He made different choices this time, but the result is still the same. Casey is still helpless, still a powerless force in the universe, stuck on his knees and raging at nothing.

Casey remembers this.

Casey remembers.

NEXT