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I Am Clever

alec_towser


A Fine Line - Between Chaos and Creation

Everybody seems to think I'm lazy; I don't mind, I think they're crazy...


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UNIT!100 - 047. Heart.
I Am Clever
alec_towser
Title: Somebody That I Used to Know
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Inferno!Yates, Inferno!Benton
Prompt: 047. Heart.
Word Count: 1594
Rating: T
Summary: They had been friends, once.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my own OCs, should I create any for these stories.
Author’s Note: Backstory for my headcanon Inferno!verse characters. Doesn’t necessarily require you to read The Great Escape to understand, but rather just shows you how Inferno!Yates got to where he was in that story.

Rank names are borrowed from the Waffen-SS ranking system (as the originals were), with some tweaking here and there to make the rank progression suit my fancy. Warning for minor character death(? Sort of. It’s debatable). Also, the expression Anti-Citizen belongs to Half Life and Valve.


———

Michael Yates and John Benton had been friends when they were much younger. They had met when their families were both at a bi-annual Republic gathering, and as they were both under twelve, they hadn’t been required to attend. They had played together outside while they waited with the other children, and had soon become fast friends despite their different upbringings (John was from a simple, working-class family, and Michael was from a very posh family - one would have said ‘aristocratic’, if there was such a thing anymore to compare them to).

Their families had noticed and let them visit each other every so often, figuring that they should capitalize on that innocent happiness in the two young boys’ lives, having seen enough destructions and executions to last a lifetime. They began sitting together at gatherings, especially once the boys had both turned twelve and started attending.

Once John had turned sixteen, things had begun to change. He had been called up into the military, and Michael had been left behind, as he still had three more years to wait. John and Michael still saw each other infrequently, but they no longer played, as John had said that he wasn’t a child anymore. Michael couldn’t wait until he got older and could join the military as well - then he and John could see each other again, and he wouldn’t be lonely anymore.

———

Once Michael had finally turned sixteen, he had joined the same branch of the military that John had gone into, hoping that they could work together. His hard work was quickly noticed, and he was called up into the branch calling itself the Republican Security Forces within a couple of years, as an officer. He had been disappointed at first, thinking that now he’d never get to see John, but when he had transferred bases, he had been surprised to hear a familiar voice from the other end of the barracks: “Michael Yates?”

He had turned to see John approaching him with a grin on his face. “You managed to get in here as well, I see? And as an officer, too!” He eyed the shoulder flashes.

Michael found that he couldn’t stop his own grin. “Of course. I worked hard in #3 Platoon, and my CO recommended me for a post here. Said I was ‘wasted as an enlisted’, if you can believe it. So I’m now Assault Leader Yates,” he finished proudly.

“Good to hear.” John was still grinning. “So, have you gotten to see any action yet… Sir?” The last part was tacked on as a tease.

“Nothing yet.” Michael shook his head. “It was all just drills. I still can’t believe some of the things we were told to do, though,” he added in a lower voice. “I mean, really - thirty-day prison sentence for a first offence of simple public defacement? Seems a little excessive, if you ask me.”

“Shhh! Don’t let anyone hear you saying that sort of thing,” John hissed in a low voice, looking around to make sure no one had heard. “That’s the easiest way to get your name on the Anti-Citizen list. We don’t make the rules; we just enforce them. And besides, most of the rules are there to make sure that people aren’t disrespecting the government. If that was left unchecked, we’d have anarchy. And nobody wants that, right?”

“…right.” Michael nodded slowly, although he was getting an uneasy feeling in his gut.

———

The uneasy feeling didn’t get any better, as it turned out. Not only were the rules strictly held by with no room whatsoever for leeway, he was now one of the people that had to enforce these overly-harsh sentences. He even had a book listing all the misdemeanours and crimes he was allowed to arrest people for, and what sentences he was allowed to carry out.

He couldn’t skip out on passing these sentences: even if he wasn’t always accompanied by a squad of soldiers, the CCTVs would have caught him easily, and he knew what happened to Anti-Citizens and the people close to them.

So he just kept his head down, did his job, and tried desperately to swallow the bitter taste in his mouth when he was promoted to Senior Assault Leader for outstanding service.

John, on the other hand, seemed to have no such problem. He’d been a decent enough sort before the military, Michael noted - shy and quiet; the sort that often got picked on.

As it was, when he joined up, it was like a switch had been flipped. He was now in a position to hurt those who had hurt him, and he seemed to relish every minute of it.

When his promotion for Platoon Under Leader came in, he looked more than pleased to get it. Michael applauded politely along with everyone else, but inwardly found himself wondering just when those blue eyes had become so cold.

———

It had come to a head shortly after the two of them had been transferred over to the Eastchester Scientific Labour Camp, at the request of the base’s CO - one Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart.

They had been taking a tour of the grounds with Section Leader Munro, finding out where everything was located. All of a sudden, a worker had stopped his work to spit on John’s boots. Everything seemed to freeze for a moment as everyone watched to see what he would do. Then, as everything restarted, Michael watched in (barely-masked) horror as John had started kicking the man viciously.

When he was finished, the man lay in a crumpled heap in the field, and Michael wasn’t sure if the man was dead or alive. No one else seemed to take any notice, and the soldiers had walked off soon after, John only pausing briefly to wipe the blood off his boot on a patch of grass. “Was that really necessary?” Michael whispered when their guide had moved away for a moment.

“Of course it was. Now he knows to never do that again,” John had responded, looking at Michael as if he was a slow child.

“Just for spitting on your boots, though? I think you killed him.” Michael looked over his shoulder furtively.

“If he’s dead, that’s one less troublemaker I have to worry about, and one very good example for the other workers to see. Fear and force are the only ways to make sure people do what you want.” He then looked suspiciously over at Michael. “Don’t you agree?”

“…oh. Yes. Yes, of course.” Just then, their guide had returned, ending their conversation. But for Michael, the matter was far from over.

———

More years went by, and Michael had somehow managed to make his way to Regiment Leader. How he’d managed to make it this far given his questionable opinions about the RSF, he wasn’t sure, but he’d certainly learned after that first incident about the value of keeping his mouth shut, more than ever before.

Michael no longer talked to John about his concerns over procedures and rules. It was all too evident that John believed what he was doing was right, and that he was enjoying himself all too much when it came to enforcing the rules of the State. He clearly liked being able to wield that kind of power and force over the helpless labourers.

It was easier than he thought it would be to distance himself from the older man - they ran in separate circles, anyway (Michael with the officers, and John with the enlisted). Michael simply made less and less effort over time, and soon didn’t even think of him as ‘John’ anymore, but simply ‘Benton’ or ‘Platoon Under Leader’. It was easier to pretend like they had never been good friends, and just act like casual work acquaintances.

However, every so often, Benton would invite Michael to come for a drink when they were both off-duty, and Michael would always accept, for fear of being found out as a skeptic of the State. They would laugh and joke like old times, but Michael’s heart wasn’t really in it anymore. It was like Michael didn’t even know him - it was hard to reconcile this brutal thug of a man with the boy he’d once played with when he was younger.

If only there were some way to effect a change in this country. The citizens had lived for too long in fear from people like Benton; a man who sat there laughing about how terrified the workers were when he’d simply showed up to the housing complex, then how he’d go and beat some workers at random anyway just to see their reactions. All over a pint, just as casual as if he were describing the weather.

And that was when Michael Yates decided he had to do something. He did some (very careful) research, and found out about the small but growing rebellion of others like him who were dissatisfied with the status quo and longed for a world that was different; more free. At first, he was mistrusted, but when they found out he truly was sincere, some of the leaders decided that he would be of great use to them from the inside.

As he listened to another one of Benton’s awful stories several weeks later, he felt justified in his decision. Regardless of whatever happened to him in the end, perhaps this method of helping others would ease his conscience for the horrible acts he’d had to commit on his way to this position. At least he would have tried.


X-posted to FF.net, Teaspoon, AO3, and unit_family.

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I have so many emotions about this one that I'm not quite sure how it made me feel.

Proud of Michael, agonised with him, feeling hurt and angry at John, yet understanding fully how he could feel that way.....

plus many, MANY more.

Very well done!

Icon used because you need a hug after writing THAT.

Yeah... I know exactly what you mean. This one was an attempt to help the reader understand what had led Michael to be the way he was in TGE (and how/why Inferno!Benton is wildly different than UNIT!Benton), and it ended up being more angsty than I thought it would. I'm happy with the way it turned out, though, as I think it's a good look into his head.

I'm glad you enjoyed it, though. :) Fun fact: I actually finished this story before I finished TGE (hence why there's little references to it here and there in that story).

Icon used to return the hug.

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