It wasn't Emile's style to feel regret. He rarely entertained the emotion because he never really had reason to; regret came from attachment, and attachment was something he just didn't do. He knew his role, his objective, and the shotgun in his hands. That was all he cared about, or so he liked to tell himself.
He sat hunched like a brooding predator in one far corner of the fallout shelter, as nervous civvies cried and whimpered and comforted each other in the shadows. There was little light, just the hazy flicker of a few self-sustaining panels, but Emile could see just fine through the twin holes that made up the eyes of the skull on his mask. Everything was green and white and yellow thanks to night vision. They all looked like ghosts this way. The normally aggressive Spartan unsheathed his kukri and pondered the way it fit into his palm, remembering how Kat had swiped it to outline their plan in the cave all those days ago.
"Don't cut yourself," he'd said, in a tone that was surprisingly more lenient and... friendly?... than his usual bold banter.
She was gone now. Well, not entirely; her body was still here, still in this bunker. It was now the unofficial property of Carter, who just sat there like a statue, holding her limp form in his arms like he expected her to wake up somehow. Emile didn't know what was going through the Commander's head, didn't care to know. The punctured helmet covered Kat's face even in death; Emile wondered if she'd died with her eyes open. It had been two days since that Elite sniped her from above. None of the remainder of Noble really wanted to know what she looked like now. Whatever decay had set in was thankfully contained by her suit's sealed environment.
Emile just held his knife in front and stared at it. It was bent, like him. He was bent and twisted by decades of war, of killing, of carnage and the love of fresh blood. Usually he was proud of himself, even boastful of what he was. Now? He felt empty, hollow. Like all the Covies and Innies and God knows what else he'd managed to kill off in his twenty-nine years of existence didn't amount to anything, because Kat was dead and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it except mope.
She'd always understood him, somehow. Hadn't given him weird looks because of the way he took "souvenirs" from dead enemies, hadn't taken issue with the way he took his duty to extremes at times. She had a brain, that Kat... always plotting, planning, sneaking. Sneaking because she was his polar opposite and it was his job to go in guns a-blazing so she could do what she had to do for the team. When he argued with people, with teammates (Jorge, rest his sentimental soul, never quite got what made Emile tick the way he did), she was there to mediate and solve the problem. He wondered if she could have ever solved him the way she did equations and codes. If there was anything left buried under the hardened layers of armor he'd put around himself, he bet every last credit he had she could have found it.
But no more. Kat was gone, just flesh and bone and armor now, an empty shell. The needle that plunged through her skull had punctuated her sentence and her life. Emile tightened his grip around the kukri's hilt. She hadn't deserved it. If anyone deserved to make it off Reach alive, it was her, because she'd saved everyone's asses more times than he had extremities to count with.
Emile scowled. He'd always been the angry kid, the one with the attitude. After his home planet was glassed, he'd scorned the other kids for crying over their dead parents, because he knew it wouldn't bring them back. No, he'd stayed dry-eyed all the way, from the evac shuttles to the orphanage to Onyx and onward. So why was he getting all jumbled up now?
She was so young. Twenty-two, right? Damn. Most of us bite the dust at half that, but... dammit. She had spunk. Guess that's why I can't get her out of my head.
They had had seven years between them and two different Greek symbols in front of their numbers, but losing her felt like losing an arm. Ha. Losing an arm. She'd probably laugh at that, or get pissed. Emile exhaled and tilted his knife, his mind traveling back to his days on Onyx, when Chief Mendez had been lecturing Alpha Company on the dangers of attachment.
"You are a family, yes, but that is all. A family will sacrifice for each other and work together for the greater good knowing they are all part of the whole. You get attached, you'll be walking a razor's edge, and you'll eventually bleed. By God, you'll bleed, and it'll hurt like hell. The mission is your number one priority, remember that. Putting an individual before the group-- and before your objective-- is not acceptable."
A low, bitter laugh escaped Emile's lips, concealed by his helmet. Then he sheathed the kukri and shifted his position, watching as a group of civilians clung to each other for assurance.
He leaned back and felt his helmet scrape against the reinforced concrete wall. He wondered when the waiting would be over, when he could get back in the field again. It wouldn't be enough to snap Covie necks and blow their brains out and string them up by their entrails this time. No, he wanted every single one of them to burn in hell for what they had done, and he would personally see them off to the devil without hesitation. He was wounded inside, bleeding, and it felt like someone was trying to apply a tourniquet with barbed wire. It was fuel for the flames. Reach would not burn from plasma, it would burn from the depths of a Spartan's merciless wrath. The Covenant would know the full extent of Emile's pain, would know it sevenfold. He would make her proud, wherever she was, because the sacrifice he planned to offer in Reach's furnace would be more brutal and unrestrained than any massacre Noble Four had ever unleashed on the universe.
"Don't cut yourself," I said. Too late. That razor's edge Mendez was talkin' about? I'm sittin' on it right now.
Emile pulled his kukri out again. He was eager to get started on the multi-digit body count he had planned. Evac would come soon, and purpose. Opponents. Victims. Prey. Behind the skull, his eyes gleamed. Whether it was sadness or madness didn't matter at all.