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Derailed by Dispraiser



Derailed Part 1
Date: 26 August 2003, 4:08 AM

      December 24, 2548
      The First Day of the Invasion of Lunar 4

      

       "Bravo 14, this is Pelican transport Delta 6, do you copy?" The pilot mumbled into his radio. Our Pelican slid carefully over the hills, but in the jagged foothills of the Bootha Mountains there was no word for smooth. The Pelican bounced over the hills, and I held my seat, knowing that if I didn't I would be skipped along the floor of the Pelican till my death, and there was nothing I could do.

       "Delta, we copy, engaging Covenant fighters two miles ahead of rally point gamma, suggest alternate route!" the radio sputtered, I listened as the pilot swore under his breath.

      "How many?" the pilot replied solemnly. "Can you mop em up before we get there?"

      "Heavy resistance, 20, maybe as many as 25. Stay low and hope they don't spot you. I doubt we can take these guys out. Bravo out." Our mission was of great importance, Headquarters was investing many fighters into our relatively small mission. I looked around the Pelican at my seven allies, each holding their seat with equal zeal. The Pelican bounced again, and I looked forward to see that the pilot of the Pelican was narrowly missing most hills, clipping the tops of some trees. The Pelican ducked into the next valley of green trees and roared across the forest, a plume of unsettled leaves and panicking birds following its movements. I noticed a flock of birds above us flying North for the artificial Summer the Covenant were creating. The Pelican slid along the contour of the valley and over the next ridge to reveal a vast canyon, extending for thousands of miles, Valley Gemini.

      I released the seat knowing that the rest of the ride would be somewhat smooth and stumbled queasily to the front of the ship, swallowing two Dramamine tablets on my own spit as I passed the rows of Marines. I walked into the cabin of the dropship and watched the brilliant flashes in the sky, the Covenant. The hum of the Pelican seemed further as I watched orange tracer fire and black flack explosions attempt to shoot down the Covenant ships. The ground below us by only a hundred feet seemed to be coated in Covenant soldiers as well as Marines, both scrambling like ants to kill eachother. The Pelican soon flew beyond the front lines and over a group of artillery cannons to the center of the Valley. I could see some of the fighters above us fighting, some of the last Human pilots versus the countless drones of the Covenant, and I realized that we may be the last hope of mankind on this planet. 400 innocent lives were at risk, and it was our job to save them. The Pelican reached Rally Point Gamma, and forked to the left, arcing over the lip of the canyon. I ran for the back of the ship once again, and seat belted myself into the seat. Across the Pelican and to my left and right some of the other ODSTs began to take out their rifles and check their functionality. I did the same.

      I slid the plastic box out from below my seat and flipped the latches on either side to open it. Contained within was my rifle, a large battle rifle, a lucky battle rifle. I pulled the Main component from the foam padding as well as the other pieces. I slid the large suppressor onto the end of the rifle and spun it a score times to make sure it was secure. I grabbed the butt of the rifle and slid it into place ass the Pelican leapt again, and finally clipped on the scope, spinning both dials to perfection. The Pelican yelled over the roar of the Pelicans strained engines, "We'll be reaching the drop zone in one minute, get ready ODSTs!"

      Our mission was to board a civilian train, which due to a communication failure has no idea that the planet is being invaded, make the train follow a safe junction to Awwek and grab set of nuclear bombs that was stown in the cargo car. The train was carrying our nuclear missiles due to the build up of tensions between the East and West of Lunar 4 over the past week. All of our bombs have been mobile for near to a week and none of them have more than one or two guards, as not to draw attention to itself. This one had none...

      The Pelican roared over the railroad, and I watched as the rear hatch slid open, for a moment a blinding line of light that soon expanded to show the nearby forests and mountains around us. The roar of the Pelican was suddenly challenged by the shriek of the magnalev train, the air howling around it. The first two to move to the back were Dust and Marcus. Each grabbed their drop cable and slid downwards onto the roof of the train, a quick tug releasing the drop cable back to the Pelican. Next to the back of the ship was Warner and Markson, each grabbing the drop cables and sliding down as flawlessly as the first. Sellers and Mitchell followed as I noticed four orange spheres in the distance. I slid the field binoculars from my belt and looked towards the mysterious flying objects. Two Banshees, the glowing tips of their wings signature of their lethality. I grabbed onto one of the drop cables and began to slide down, carefully and cautiously. It seemed like no large feat when the others had done it, but as I hung below the dropship I saw my life flash before my eyes. The metal bars beneath us and the lights along the side of the train tracks zoomed past me and into the distance in an instant. I lowered myself most of the way to the train as the Banshees descended for their attack run. My feet touching the firm, trembling railcar I reached for the latch on my chest to release the cord as Plasma cannon suddenly pelted the Pelican. The cord suddenly rippled, the Pelican staggering to keep stable despite the attack. An instant after my feet had hit the train I was ten feet in the air again, the cord that was still hooked to my belt dragging me into the air as the Pelican performed evasive maneuvers. The Pelican flew to the left slightly, and I watched as the passing lights on the side of the train tracks got closer to me until it was to the point that I could feel the air contrails as they passed. If the Pelican had moved only and inch more to the left I would have died. Luckily it descended against, trying to get me back to the top of the train. I looked towards my belt and readied to unclip the strap as I suddenly realized that it was breaking. The red plastic began to warp and turn to white as the strap, not meant to be used while half unlatched began, to snap. As I spun below the Pelican, the pilot tried to stabilize his course again. The other seven ODSTs on the train waved for me to land on the train. The Pelican gradually lowered towards the train, and a moment later I hovered only a few distant feet over the arms of my allies, each trying to help me. The Pelican suddenly rumbled again as the Banshees fired again. A blue streak of Plasma gunfire flying into the engine was mirrored as a burst of orange fire flew from the engine of the Pelican. The canopy suddenly burst open as the APE (automatic pilot ejection) system enacted. Without a pilot and with one engine lagging the crafts speed the Pelican began to lose altitude, and began to drop me. I fell the remaining eight, give or take, feet to the train and immediately collapsed to the ground. The Pelican suddenly dropped to the left and dragged the gradual arch of the cable along with it. I looked up in terror as the 50 foot drop cable caught on one of the poles along the side of the track, and an instant later caught me, the violent motion ripping the cable back, and within a second the exploding Pelican was already far behind my allies. The taut cable pulled me from my feet and dragged me, literally kicking and screaming off the train, my allies on the middle of the train, me, skipping along the deck of the train. I frantically reached for the latch, though every time I got even within a foot of grabbing it I hit another midsection between two train cars and was flipping into the air. I glanced upwards to realize that I was within two cars of the end of the train, I had only a fraction of a second to unclip the latch. As my life began to flash before my eyes I felt the latch give way, the Pelican's explosions suddenly becoming more distant. I continued to skip along the train, my speed lowering, but not fast enough. I tumbled off the back of the train only a second later. Expecting death to finally grasp me with his horrible tentacles I closed my eyes, but I found that I was far from dead. I opened my eyes and found myself staring at the rail below me as it disappeared into the distance. All of my pockets fell open and I lost most of my personal things, as well as my radio. I looked upwards towards the top of the train to see that my lucky rifle was clipped to my belt, and in turn had caught itself on one of the lights on the back of the train. I thanked whatever god had saved me from death, but realized that I was near to death because a strap had failed, and at the same time holding onto life thanks to only a simple strap. I wasn't going to push my luck...



Derailed Part 2
Date: 28 August 2003, 5:36 PM

      I slid the pistol from the holster on my leg and flipped so that I was right side up. I peered into the train to see shocked passengers looking backwards at me. I waved the pistol in front of the window to order them to get out of the way. I raised the pistol and fired three shots through the window before smashing through it. I rolled to a stop inside the train and looked up at the passengers. Each one of them stared at me with an equal look of shock. I looked down at my bloodstained shirt as a clump of important looking papers flew out the hole in the back of the train. "What?"

      I ran through the train to get to the initial drop zone. The train was quite long, so it took me some time to get to the middle of it. I could hear the panicked voices of the passengers as they remarked the explosions, gunfire and an armed man covered in cuts running through the train. Some shouted about Matheans (Racist for West Lunar 4 People) coming to invade, others about the Covenant, most shouting about terrorists. It was ironic that no one knew what I was doing though they were probably less than three days from death. Suddenly a familiar hum appeared. I looked out the window to the right to see a Covenant dropship hovering alongside the train. The portentous Purple monster hovered slightly outside the train and seemed to glare in at the passenger as it passed, no doubt heading for the forward controls of the train to derail it.

      I ran around the next bend in the train and dropped to my knees. I noticed that the air crackled and that the passengers in this car were all dead. I thought I smelled the familiar stench of an Elite or a Jackal. Either way, it didn't matter, it meant that they were on the train. I peered around the corner to see an Elite. An impressive eight feet tall, the blue warrior stumbled drunkenly down the hallway. I guessed that it wasn't too used to being on a train. As it drew closer I ducked behind a row of seats. The Elite continued to pace down the hallway until it passed my position. I stood as it passed and prepared to slit its throat.

      Suddenly gunfire echoed down the train. The Elite spun to see who was firing only to find that I was standing but two feet from it with a knife drawn. "Shit..." I muttered. The Elite reached for its rifle as I lunged at it with the combat knife, stabbing the Elite in the arm and twisting the knife, the tip shattering in the Elite's dominant arm. As he flung his other arm to grab the rifle I reached for mine. The Elite placed his hand on the rifle and raised it to kill me as a half dozen rounds hit him in the chest, knocking him off his feet and into the connecting car between the car I was in and the next car in the train. I ran at him, my rifle in hand and looked down, aiming for the Elite's face. It stared up at me as it kicked my legs, knocking me to the ground. I fired erroneously as I fell, the bullets merely hitting the ceiling. The Elite stumbled to stand with one arm as I jumped to my feet again and raised the rifle to finish it. The Elite was too fast though, and it grabbed my rifle, hurling it down the train. Before I could react to it grabbing my rifle its hand was placed firmly around my neck, preparing to choke the life from me.

      The Elite picked me up as I kicked it in the chin. It stumbled backwards as I fell to the ground heavily. I quickly rose to my feet, crimson blood dripping from my mouth, and grabbed the small wood broom from the wall of the train. I spun the pole as I walked at the Elite. He looked up at me and matched my challenge, raising his good arm to fight me. He drew first, lunging at me. His attack was easily defeated, I quickly sidestepped and brought the broom's end crashing upon the back of his head. The Elite lie one the ground, a shattered half of the broom crashing to the ground beside him. I raised the sharpened stake-like half of the broom and stabbed the Elite in the heart as he lie. A sudden convulsion was his last move.

      I turned and continued to run down the train, grabbing my rifle from the cold linoleum floor. As I ran down the train a wave of darkness crossed my soul and the train, which began to pass through a long tunnel. The flashlight on the front of my battle rifle automatically turned on in the low light setting, and lit my way to my allies. As I ran into the next car I found an Elite pacing away from me, firing at the junction between the two cars, one of which clearly contained my fellow ODSTs. I noticed that the Elite was standing in a pool of purple blood, the bodies of two other Elites lie motionless on the ground. I raised the battle rifle and fired a full thirty round magazine into the back of the Elite, which died before it could turn around to see its assailant. I was lucky that I didn't have a problem shooting savage monsters in the back. I pulled my sidearm from its holster and aimed it at the ground, firing a single shot into the Elite's head to make sure it was dead. I ran down the train to meet the rest of my squad.

      "Dead man walking..." the slow, deep voice of Samuels echoed through his dirt mottled helmet.

      "If I've lived this far I don't think death has any grip on me." I said, "But the lord knows that with his every motion they will try to strike me down. But when he does, I assure you of one thing. I'll be going feet first into hell."

      "No kidding. Here's the situation." Mitchels said with his stereotypical New Yorker accent, "We finished mopping up the last of the boarding crew as far as we can tell, and so long as we are in this tunnel, we're safe from reinforcements coming." The train was suddenly flooded with light as we left the tunnel.

      "GET READY!!! I want everyone scattered across the top of the train, RPGs in the middle! Knock down the fliers, and don't let anything on the train! Order civilians to the front of the train!" I shouted. Samuels ran for the car junction and pulled his knife from its holster. He cut a large slot in the side of the rubber train connection and pulled himself through it. I followed him, Mitchels sliding through moments after me. I looked out of the train to view a very impressive landscape, the Chinook powered deserts of Lunar 4. The nearby mountains forced all of the air to loose all of its moisture as it rose over the mountains, and the resulting desert was among the most scenic places in the outer colonies realm. A pack of Rahnok (8 ft tall flightless birds of Lunar 4) ran peacefully in the distance. A blue line in the distant skies suddenly reminded me of the peril we faced.

      I clamored along the side of the train, continuing till Samuels found a ladder to the top. I climbed to the top of the train and ran down its length once again. Behind me Samuels helped Mitchels up, who began to unpack his RPG launcher. The train suddenly trembled, and I was thrown to the ground, a green flash from the front of the train signaling the first of the Banshees. I raised the battle rifle's scope to my cheek and watched the Banshee swoop proudly along the train's length. The graceful beast soon met its end, I fired a burst of shots at one of its poorly defended stabilizers. The Banshee spiraled out of control into a telephone line beside the train, the explosion whirring by me as the train continued its death-marked passage. I rolled onto my stomach and watched as a dropship tried to land on the back of the train. A missile struck it like a bolt of lightning, aided by the train's inherent speed boost, and drove it backwards into a fireball. Bodies and shrapnel flew from the explosion as it settled into the distance.

      Another set of Banshees descended as I began to run the length of the train again. One lowered itself to an altitude just above the train, and ran along it firing plasma bolts into the serpent. Metal vaporized as plasma struck cold steel as the bolts battered the top of the train. They traced a path towards me, and I began to run, fleeing the bolts, knowing that there was no escape. Behind me plasma struck closer with each passing moment. My savior came this time in the form of a missile. The bolt converted the portentous purple Banshee into a glowing fireball. The center of the Banshee exploded instantly, and the rest of it was no different, pieces of it striking along the walls of the valley we moved along. The main portion of the carcass struck the train, bouncing from it roof twice before shattering to the sides of the train. The second Banshee circled high above me, diving suddenly. The descending Banshee was suddenly intercepted by twin trails of tracer fire. Just as I began to question the source a trio of Longswords descended from the clouds above. I cheered in excitement, with their help the train would be safe! The mission was a success...



Derailed Part 3
Date: 31 August 2003, 5:16 AM

      I stepped into the control room of the train, pulling my helmet off and setting my rifle to the side of the train. I sat in the engineer's seat, and watched as the other ODSTs gathered along the sides of the train car, each removing their helmet and portions of their armor to get more comfortable.

      "Score, us 1, damn monsters 0." Samuels said emotionlessly.

      "Think it's 1 on 1 mate." Sellers continued, his English accent skewing his words, "They got 64 of our civilians and Dust."

      I looked at my feet, disappointed in our loss. "Well, at least we succeeded in the mission." I said, almost solemnly. It was my job as leader to make sure that my pain did not show to the soldiers under my command.

      Suddenly, almost taunting us the radio sputtered to life, "ODSTs, nice word defending that train..."

      "I doubt you contacted us just to tell us that we did our job. What's the catch?" Samuels said with his usual, unvarying voice.

      "Nothing good, son. Awwek is a big city, and well defended being a costal city. Unfortunately, it is also the hotbed of the latest Covenant attack. Three destroyers have descended from orbit and taken positions around the far side of the city. They began to deploy troops an hour ago, and now we have a siege on our hands. I hate to say this, but Awwek it not going to last. Awwek could take one cruiser, maybe even two, but three cruisers is a death sentence. Activate your brakes, get a Pelican to pick you up and get the hell out of the area. You can get to the bunker in the center of Valley Gemini. With your help they can ward off the invasion and maybe depress their lines enough that they will pull away from Awwek."

      I walked to the front of the train and told the engineer to hit the brakes and turn around. "Anyway, the trouble we have is all in the front that they chose to open. They attacked by land. Awwek, as you know is a very well defended city because it is a costal city, and the threat of an attack from the West was great, so they created huge guns along the coast. The land on the other side, bar only entrances to the city are relatively undefended. Luckily, the great wall is holding them out for now, and defenses are amassing. It doesn't look good nonetheless."

      "Sir, Mr. Warner, we are having some trouble with your orders." The engineer said. I walked toward the front of the train. "Well, look out that window at the plasma scorched area. That was our brake sir."

      "What about other brakes?"

      "What other brakes?" the engineer replied quickly.

      "Is there anything else we can do to slow down?"

      "Nothing besides turn off the engines and kick it in reverse as best we can, but going from full speed to reverse would kill the engines... Even so, at our current speed we won't be stopped fully even at Awwek. This is a fast train that generates almost zero friction. It is half of standard length and some of the train is missing. Sorry, sir, but I have no idea what to do."

      "Well... You can pray."

      I walked into the crew compartment, the radio continuing the babble on, I spoke, interrupting the radio, "I regret to inform you that this little joy ride is coming to an end. The brakes are out."

      The ODSTs stared at me in disbelief, Samuels spoke first, "Out as in working out of all expectations?"

      I sighed, "Nope. Out as in dead. One of the Banshees took the brakes out apparently, and we are on a collision course with the front lines of a Covenant siege."

      "God I love this job... Well, looks like we've got one hell of a ride before us. I say we brave the risk of death and barrel into the Covenant lines full throttle, and if they stop us, what've we lost?"

      "Our lives. I don't see what else we can do though." Samuels said, "How long would it be until we hit their lines?"

      "No way of telling. The only thing more fluid than this train's hull is the Covenant attack force. They are extremely mobile, and could come down on the train as soon as an hour from now or as late as tomorrow. We could miss their attack patrols completely as well." The engineer said.

      "Well, we'd best get ready then. Tell the passengers to sit down and under no circumstances stand up. God knows how our luck will hold out, we need them all seat belted in with air cushions to make sure they live. I would also like you to gather all of the survivors and move them to the front cars. Detach the back ones. Get the nukes padded and in the front of the train. This is going to be a rough landing."

      "Oh hell... I'd like to say that I said this mission was a bad idea before we left! Didn't I!" Mitchels shouted. I chose to ignore him and left, beginning to prepare for a rough impact, and planning on sleeping until then.




      I awoke in the middle of the ensuing night. There was a perfect tranquil silence in the train, and I wondered what had awoken me. Suddenly I felt an unimaginable horror that I found in this silence. I slid the shade up from the window and peered outside. I could see a gradual curve in the track that extended to the horizon. At the horizon I saw lights that lit the night sky and turned it to an artificial day. Blue and orange flames scarred the sky, and vicious arcs of artillery and tracer fire flooded the night sky, piercing it with the acute evil of war. The car had no smell, but for a moment my eyes were flooded with the horrible memories of warfare - the stench of melting flesh, the horror of knowing that I could randomly die at any moment for no reason, the pain of watching my friends die at the hands of foul monsters, and the burning sensation of hatred for life as everything you once knew became death. My silent torture ended suddenly as I snapped to attention and noticed that my hand was on my sidearm, and that a cold tear ran slowly down my face. I didn't want to fight again.



Derailed Part 4
Date: 17 September 2003, 2:02 AM

       "So, tired of sleeping I see." Warner's voice echoed behind me. Surprised I wiped the droplet of my weakness from my face.

      "Tired as hell." I replied, throwing on a gritty voice.

      "Then you should get some rest."

      "Not gonna happen. You know as well as I do that we're all dead within three days, and I don't want to waste any more of my life sleeping. Besides that, we have lots to plan for."

      "Sir, hope is all we have left. Our dropship has been shot down, our brakes destroyed, our planet taken, our families missing, possibly dead... All we have it hope."

      "Well, hope isn't a plan." The silence of the train was eerie. A brief flash ensued in the train as an explosion lit the faceless distance. "Hope is a borderline sign of weakness. It is nothing more than an excuse for the weak, to believe that somehow they will make it through tough situations, despite all pathetic characteristics. You are an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, and I will not tolerate with weakness. I know that you passed brutal training, and a trial at the hands of enemy soldiers and I know you are not weak. Hold yourself together, keep your hands on your rifle and we will survive to fight the Covenant."

      "Spoken like a zealot sir. I can't say I agree with you, but you are right. Our strength will probably help as much as any luck. Sorry for shaming the ODST program." Warner looked down at the ground with a solemn, but fake remorse. I saw through his action instantly.

       "Stand proud Marine," He raised his head, "I need a status update on the train's position and any updates in the Awwek situation."

       "Well, ground based orbital cannons are holding em up in orbit, but the wall is pretty much rubble and their ground forces will soon rush into the city. All sea based assaults have been repelled. Rumors have also been spreading that 4 of the Mathean islands have fallen. As a result we've seen increased troop movements around the area, including a large armored battalion moving across the tracks a minute or so up track. A few dozen troop transports, though they are pulling out of combat, so they probably carry either wounded or dead soldiers for the most part. With luck-" I showed my instinctual dismay and he corrected himself, "-With faith, sir, we'll miss them and make it to the city. To be honest with you sir, I don't understand how crashing in the city is any less lethal and crashing out here, but I would rather not end up in the middle of the Covenant lines."

       I replied in my silence, nothing that I said would matter. This discomforted Warner, who nodded that his report was completed to make sure I knew, and promptly left. I sat in my seat and raised one of my hands. For a second I stared at it, wondering what would happen. The hand of god created humans in his own image. The Covenant's existence is almost open defiance of god's ability to control Human fate. To think that we are perfect is to fail to see humanity for what it is. We are, in our very nature flawed. With power we fall to corruption, and yet an all powerful god somehow has no flaws, but more power than conceivable by man. Corrupt leaders draw millions to zealous deaths, most in the name of the same god. Countless thousands of innocent lives have been sacrifices for a god that has remained essentially the same. I couldn't help but realize that the only thing that motivated anyone to do anything was one sign of weakness. It was hope. Perhaps humans are weak beings. Maybe we are fighting a losing battle? I hoped not, realizing that in a few short minutes the train would crash, and a few hundred would be tested.

       I sat back, and prepared to enjoy the final moments I had on this train. A lance of plasma fire traced a jagged path outside the train, missing horribly. The convoy of Covenant ahead of us crossed the train tracks, one by one.

       "Passengers and designated guards, ready your rifles and prepare for impact! Impact in 3..." the intercom cackled manically. For a fleeting moment I felt a warmth from the inner core of my being. "2!" suddenly the train was ripped from the tracks. The vehicles that it had hit was instantly destroyed as a train dropped hundreds of miles an hours worth of speed upon impact. The energy of the impact threw the front end of the train off the tracks, and ripped through the rest of the cars within moments as a fleeting shockwave. The car twisted off the side of the track, the rest of the cars following. Within the train every cavity had filled with a gel cushion. The cars of the train off the tracks began to strike trees and boulders, and the ones still on the track faced growing flames from the friction. The train skidded to a violent stop, it's tail end flipping in the opposite direction and crushing six of the enemy transports. Eventually the vehicle began to roll facing completely perpendicular to the rail. Around a minute later the trail rolled to a stop. I hung from the new ceiling of the train and unstrapped my seatbelt, which had thrown itself into place at the first signs of a collision. Immediately gravity reacted dragging me to a violent impact on the floor. The gel was still puddle on the floor, though most had drained from the train in the crash. Around me several others unstrapped. I looked up to make sure none of the unconscious were left in the train. I noticed that two dead bodies hang from the ceiling, each horribly mangled. One of them was a civilian that we had designated as a rifleman. Though missing the wall to his right and half his torso, he still had dead fingers wrapped around the plasma rifle and grenades, salvaged from our Elite victims. I smashed a window and climbing to my freedom. As soon as I stepped from the train I noted the path of destruction the train had paved. Along either side of the track there was a strip of missing trees, at least 500 feet on either side and halfway to the horizon in our wake. I hoped that the Covenant didn't spot us, but couldn't help but chuckle at the very thought though.



Derailed Part 5
Date: 23 September 2003, 12:10 AM

       Along the distant, desolate ground a Ghost howled over the surface, viewing the utter destruction before him. He saw a few pieces of armor from Covenant vehicles, but the ground was coated in remains of Human metal. A long duo of metal tubes ran off into the distance, but was destroyed in one place that a crater lie. A Hundred feet from the crater every tree was flattened for as far as his small, beady eyes could see. Something was wrong.

       As the others stumbled with drunkenly slob-like footsteps from the wreckage of the train I began to dispatch teams to search the train for survivors. I clamored to the top of the train to get a better view of the surrounding situation. It was my instinct to gather as much intelligence as possible. When an ODST soldier is dropped into an operation we almost never have complete or accurate intelligence. It was my first duty and priority as commander to make sure my team was properly informed and commanded. At the moment my team was in chaos, and I couldn't rely one anyone but myself to provide accurate intelligence. As I reached the top of the train I pulled a small field monocular from my field pack. I activated the small device and peered along the train's path of destruction. Slowly I scanned the horizon, looking for anything that might indicate enemy movements. My monocular's perspective slid along the horizon gently and silently, until I suddenly noticed a large plume of dust. It crept upward, breathing terror as dust was lifted upwards and fell back down to the cold planet as if it was a respiration of evil. Within the cloud of death I knew that several purple monsters lie shrieking shrill warnings of the destruction they willed to inflict with every strand of their horrible being. I radioed a quick warning to the rest of the team instructing riflemen to garrison the train as cover, and the unarmed survivors to get behind the train. Markson clambered to the top of the train with me. He stopped moving but I could swear I heard something move after he had stopped.

       "The civilians seem to be under control, albeit-" Markson began. I quickly hushed him with a hand signal. After a few moments of silence he continued, "The civilians seems to be controlled, but scared. Designated riflemen have taken up positions along the treeline and behind some cover." I saw something shimmer near the grass.

       "Did you just see that?"

       "I'm not sure what you're talking about sir. You might have had a concussion, we need to get you to the medical tent."

       "It'll have to wait. How are the second wave riflemen?"

       "They're in line and ready. We taught em how to use the rifles yesterday so whoever they have to fill in for they'll be able to."

       "Alright. How much ammo do we have?"

       "Enough, barely. RPG rounds should go first, but the Ghosts are coming first, so that's good. We can at least blow those up."

       I heard some metal move around where Markson had climbed up the train. I thought I heard breathing. "Do you hear that?"

       "What?"

       "It's nothing-- What were we saying?"

       "We were talking about second wave troops and ammo. Any other—." Suddenly I heard an electric whoosh above me. I rolled onto my back to see a blue glow, emanating from nothing plunge into Markson's back. As it lifted him into the air I saw the invisible Elite's telltale shimmering. I fired at it's arm as best I could, but only hit it's torso once. The Elite suddenly flickered into visibility. Markson raised his rifle with the last of his life and fired weakly into the Elite, the recoil throwing his arm around as it would a limp ragdoll. One of the bullets from his machine gun hit the Elite's face, and the body collapsed to the ground, the sword shimmering from existence. Markson's breathing had stopped, and heartlessly I grabbed his rifle and threw it to one of the civilians behind the train. The first wave of the assault hadn't even begun and already we were losing members of the team...

       A Ghost howled defiantly as it arched over a nearby hill and into the firing range of the RPG Launcher. It quickly flaking into nonexistence as the fiery tongues of death licked the pilot. Another Ghost appeared over the hill, this time with a partner. The two weren't smart enough to realize why heir comrade had died, but were smart enough to avoid the fading fireball. The lead Ghost exploded as a hail of gunfire destroyed the other. One of the Ghost crested the lip of the hill and hit a fallen tree, flipping the pilot to a violent stop. I took the opportunity to shoot him several times. Another Ghost drifted over the hill, its pilot already killed by a sniper. The Ghost continued to fly forward until it hit the train and exploded. A half dozen more Ghosts broke the crest of the hill and hurtled toward the train. One of them fired the first plasma gunfire of the firefight, shortly before it was destroyed by a landmine set earlier. Another Ghost was destroyed before the remaining four Ghosts plunged upon our lines. Plasma raked the air near my gun nest and melted holes in the walls of the train around me. I could feel the warmth bleeding from the air around me as another Ghost exploded. One of the plasma bolts hit the ODST next to me, and he fell to the ground instantly. The Ghost was destroyed shortly afterwards. I ran to the wounded man and ducked as I looked at his wound. His leg was almost melted off, the gunfire had melted from one side through to the bone in the middle of his leg.

       "Marcus? Can you hear me?" Another explosion flashed behind me as a frag grenade exploded, pelting the train with shrapnel.

       "Yes, sir. I think I'm gonna need some help, sir."

       "Stay calm, we're gonna dress this wound and get you behind the train." I looked up to see his second wave replacement and tossed him the rifle and ammunition before beginning to tend to Marcus' wounds. All I could do was spray some biofoam in his wounds and bandage it before returning to fight the Covenant. I ran to the window and witnessed utter destruction.



Derailed Part 6
Date: 26 September 2003, 1:46 AM

      Flaming pieces of Ghosts lie everywhere. Bodies, some human and others alien were thrown through the air as the brave recovery teams tried to get Covenant rifles from the battlefield. One Ghost flew harmlessly over a shorter civilian as he picked up a rifle, only to explode a moment later. I drew my rifle and fired at the nearest Ghost, which exploded shortly afterwards. A plasma orb descended upon me from the sky above, and melted a hole in the ground that extended probably five feet below the surface. I leapt from the path of the gunfire as duos of the orbs shredded the train compartment that I was garrisoned in. I looked up, and through the sunflare saw nothing. I shielded my eyes and looked up again to see the growing, blurry silhouette of a Banshee. I slid a fresh magazine into my battle rifle as the Banshee arched away from the ground and towards a higher altitude again. I watched through the scope of my rifle as I leveled the crosshairs on the body of the Banshee. I fired a single shot into the Banshee to test my leading distance, as I was not accustomed to fighting Banshees that weren't dive bombing, followed by another twenty or so rounds, each hitting the cabin. The Banshee spiraled uncontrollably towards the ground, the pilot probably wounded within the machine. Flames sparked from the engine of the damaged beast as it plummeted into a nearby alcove of trees, a satisfying explosion following later.

      I looked towards the ground battle again, noting that for every fallen Ghost two more had taken its place. Covenant foot soldiers began to flood over the distant hill, though it seemed as if the barrage of vehicles had halted. I reloaded my battle rifle and twisted the scope to make it zoom to a further extent. I could tell the emotion that my enemy felt as I pulled the trigger. The relatively small bullet, only a .223, rushed forward, tumbling in the air. The bullet hit the Grunt between the eyes, and exited the back of his neck, clipping an ally's foot. A blue trail of blood followed his head to the ground, and another lead it's path. I swiveled my aim to an Elite, and was about to fire as a sniping rifle contrail ripped his head from it's spine. I ducked into the train and picked up my radio, "Marines, begin contingency plan three, things are getting a little hot back here! I need all nonassigned personnel to grab the nukes and begin walking towards Awwek! Marines in combat, hold your positions until I give the signal." I shouted into the radio of the screams of bullets and dying foes. I looked out the window again in time to see another rocket explode in the center of a group of Grunts, throwing at least a dozen bodies into the air. Unfortunately the contrail from the rocket led the Covenant to their gun nest. I watched as a Plasma Grenade dropped into the center of the nest. Over all the noise and death I could hear the screams of the death marked men as their harrowing passage came to an end. The flash of the grenade was accompanied with several secondary explosions and an ignited rocket that spiraled wildly into the train, exploding a hundred or so feet from me.

      As my eyesight recovered from the blinding flash, a group of four Grunts climbed out of a crater and to within ten feet of my hiding place. Two of them died quickly, courtesy of a half dozen machine gun rounds. The other two ran in fear. I spun to the left to kill one, his body felled a moment later and then to the right. I took careful aim for the side of the Grunt's head. Suddenly I heard an odd noise. I looked towards the battlefield as a plasma grenade arced weakly towards me. I leapt from its path as the device melted through the train's window near me and bounced to a stop where I was sitting only moments before. I jumped as far as I could away from the explosion. I landed on my elbows as it exploded and melted the portion of the train that I had hidden in. I leaned out of the new hole in the train, and began to fire at the Covenant while telling the ODSTs to fall back into the woods. I looked behind me at the civilians carrying the nukes from the train. "Sloppy." I said, before killing a Grunt. Shortly before his death he had activated a plasma grenade, which exploded and killed a few of the nearby Jackals. I was glad for that simple lucky act, I hate Jackals. They are very hard to kill because of their shields. Before I could even count my blessings the Covenant wave continued. I checked behind me to see how far the Civilians had run. Most were at least a hundred yards into the woods. I noticed that the remaining fighters were retreating as well. I quickly counted them to find that there were fifteen. I looked back at the Covenant invaders and counted at least a hundred from a quick estimation. I killed a Grunt as I realized that I was the only one left in the train, and, as logic would dictate I didn't stand a half a chance on my own. Quickly, I ran from the train.

      My footsteps seemed to outrun my feet as I ran through the trees. An Elite ran into the missing part of the train that the plasma grenade had exploded in. I unclipped a frag grenade from my belt and tossed it at him, continuing to run and never looking back to see how well it worked. The explosion flashed, but I was already too far away to notice. As I ran I clipped my rifle to my backpack and began dropping the things I didn't need. I threw my canteen away, and dropped the gauze I was carrying. I threw aside my raincoat, boots, everything I thought I wouldn't need until we made it to Awwek. After around a minute of running a caught up with the civilians carrying the nukes. I grabbed the small nuke from the one who looked weakest in exchange for most of my backpack and continued running. The fallen leaves of the trees crackled beneath my feet as I looked back to see a Ghost trailing us, though traveling very slowly because of the tree cover. I tossed my last grenade in his path and continued running over the hill. I crossed the peak of the hill only to see that our tree cover ended, and there was a large Covenant battle group in the area. Four Wraiths traversed the open field, and I spotted at least a hundred human and Covenant fighters sparring in the area. It appeared as though this was the last stand of a large Human battle group. One of the Longswords descended, a trail of fire following its path a moment later, paving an all too familiar path of destruction across the moonscape that is my home planet. The last bomb tumbled loosely through the air into the last of the surviving Wraiths. A Ghost caught in the secondary explosions was instantly disintegrated. Behind me I could see the Covenant running through the trees, and began to consider the options. Soon I realized again that I was alone, and that everyone else had decided for me, I leapt from the top of the hill. The forest ended abruptly and we found ourselves in a Midwest America type grassland. I slid down the hill and stumbled to a stop eighty feet below where I had started. I could hear the barks of the Covenant as they began to climb the hill. The group was running as fast as civilian legs could carry them. I ran, checking over my shoulder to see if the Covenant had caught up with us. The crack of gunfire at the front of the group brought my attention to the front. As the last of the Jackals fell a Warthog emerged from rock cover ahead. The vehicle was no doubt confused by our army of irregulars, but still graciously accepted the help. The gunner continued to fire into the hills and at targets as best he could, though I noticed that his armor was covered in his spilt blood.

      "Corporal Martes!" the driver shouted over the roar of the chaingun. "Are you the reinforcements HQ sent?"

      "No, we're recovery squad 13, and a group of around a hundred survivors of a train wreck! What's your company doing here?"

      "We were sent in to provide covering fire for the Longswords up there, resistance was too heavy and now we're stuck! We could use some help, sir!"

      "We'll do our best. We need to get back to Awwek, can you help?"

      "I don't see much sense in not helping you. What's the worst they could do, court martial me?"

      "Trust me on this one if nothing else, they will be glad that you helped us back to the city, we have four nukes."

      "Well, throw em in the truck! This is a combat zone and we need to evacuate the area! You take gunner sir, my guy's hurt and I need him to rest in passenger seat!" the Corporal shouted over the sounds of lasers hunting the Longswords above. His gunner jumped from the truck and collapsed in a heap, weakly standing and walking to the passenger seat. Civilians with bombs quickly threw them into the back of the truck, padding them with whatever jackets or excess things they had.

      "Driver!" I shouted as he started the Warthog.

      "Yeah?" he replied as the engine began to purr.

      "I want you to run large circles in front of the civilians, we need to clear them a path!"

      "Sir, we have more important things, like the nukes!" he replied.

      "I owe a lot of them my life. Besides that, we can't allow them to be captured incase one has an implant with the location of Earth on it." I lied. I knew that no one would have an implant that had Earth's location on it. Something inside me was making it impossible to leave them defenseless with a few of my comrades.

      "Alright, your funeral... And mine. I hope you're not wrong because I'm not in the mood to be dying!"

      "Don't Worry Corporal, you'll live. Might wanna buckle up though..."



Derailed Part 7
Date: 1 October 2003, 12:57 AM

      The Warthog accelerated as if driven by the strength of our will, and plunged forward as would the symbolic stake of Covenant power to the heart of this fear wrenched planet. Sparks tumbled in the air, their thunder none other than the roar of their conception within the barrel of the Warthog's dancing chaingun. Lances of tracer fire spilt rivers of blood as the Warthog drove from target to target.

      I stood behind the chaingun, watching, satisfied, as trails of gunfire shredded my targets. An unlucky Grunt wasn't as fast as his friends while running from crater to crater, and proved Darwinism correct as a hole the size of a baseball materialized in his chest. For a brief moment I thought about releasing the trigger, but soon realized that even if I wanted to I probably couldn't. It was hardly me fighting anymore, but instead my will to survive, and my hatred for the Covenant. The Warthog skipped over another hill and slid back into the driver's control as we turned to kill the survivors of the last attack run. An Elite, once the intimidating monster of nightmares was now nothing more than another target. It was odd that though I continued heedlessly on my march to death a hail of bullets preceded my every move, streaking forward like the fiery breath of death. I chuckled as the Warthog barreled over the body of a Grunt.

      The battle continued incessant for nearly fifteen minutes before we finally reached the true site of the Human's last offensive stand. Dozens of Warthogs, APCs, BAPs, Scorpions and Arachnid tanks marked the firm defensive lines of the Human bunkers. The ground was littered with pieces of fallen supply convoys, bodies, and the soil was wet with the spilt blood of fallen friend and foe alike. The Warthog drove into the small opening between the piles of sand bags and trenches, and parked in a large pit, established to use as cover from enemy snipers. Above the orbital batteries fired out of Awwek again, the red trails disappearing as the bolts left the atmosphere, though faith soon sheen its rewards, a brilliant flash in the sky as a Covenant ship was destroyed. I prayed that this was symbolic, and even in this time that faith was so hard to see, there was a god watching us, waiting to help us strike down our foes. I cursed myself for lacking faith and began to dismount the Warthog. I jumped from the Warthog and began to look for a superior officer, though I saw none. It seemed like the Marines didn't have a plan for this battle, just to sit still and fight back. A simple plan, but not a good one.

      "I was part of the light reconnaissance group when our vehicle was ambushed. Two of our group disappeared, and I lost McAvy, my original gunner. Shartenay, the guy you saw was wounded in the same ambush. It was like they were coming from everywhere, sir."

      "You know what's going on better than I do, can you tell me anything about how we're going to get back to Awwek? These nukes are for them."

      "Well, I figured we'd stop here and ask our commanding officer. Looks like he's gone though, don't know when he'll be back, if ever."

      "Alright, do you think you can get a dropship for us?"

      The driver laughed. "You think that any pilot could, or would make it to this place? We're ten miles out form Awwek, and from what I've heard the area around Awwek is nothing but a sheet of Covenant."

      "So, all we can do is drive? Damn... Think we could get a little convoy, a few Warthogs maybe? We could use some troop carriers to speed up the progress. Ammunition is also a little tight, and having some more rifles and grenades would help, lots."

      "I'll see what I can do. No promises, but I think I can get us some Mathean Kraftods." He said. I grinned, I loved those things, though I hated getting shot by one.

      I continued looking for a command post, wandering the base randomly, though I found only a makeshift armory, which I plundered for ammo, and a medical tent. Inside I saw a dozen of the civilians in our escort, and two of the surviving ODSTs. Marcus, wounded, was getting his leg patched, and Samuels cradled a broken arm, an injury he suffered in the crash. A cut dragged along his face, perfectly straight through a blackened cheek, the explosions of a thousand bullets leaving only the single mark on his face. We were the lucky ones... I looked at the ground in shame, blaming myself for the befouled operation, and searched for the commander of the operation. A large blue bolt sliced across the horizon towards Awwek, and shattered into a brilliant explosion. The air above the camp became a blinding blur of light, brighter than the sun and I was beaten to the ground by the bolt's heat. I scrambled to my feet, as did several dozen others and scrambled to reload my weapon. I didn't know what was going on, but having a loaded rifle made me feel more secure. The light was around a hundred feet above the camp and fading. It appeared to be a contrail from a large plasma bolt. Hurried battalions of soldiers crossed the camp and I ran back to the medical tent to hurry Samuels and Marcus n a desperate attempt to get to the Warthog. I didn't wait for them, as I ran to the Warthog's former resting place. It was gone, however, and the nukes were missing within it. A moment before I cursed myself for losing it the Warthog roared, driving defiantly into its former resting spot, this time a duo of trailers in tow.

      "Climb aboard sir, we've gotta get out of here!" Martes shouted. A squad of Banshees flew overhead, very low. Plasma gunfire tore across the ground as the dive bombing monsters tore defenseless Marines to the ground. The wounded, the innocent, it mattered not to the vile creatures; only that we died. I screamed and fired into their ranks as a half dozen V shaped formations met heavy flack fire. "Sir, we've gotta go! We don't have time for this! Get in and get the civilians into the trucks, as many as we can!"

      Disappointed as I failed once again, I shuffled to gather the civilians, waiting, terrified, backs to the wall. "Everyone, get into the trucks, get in the trailers! Let the women and children in first, some of you will have to hang onto the sides of the truck!" I shouted. I don't know if anyone heard me over the roar of the gunfire and aerial fighters dancing above, but most knew to run for the Warthog. They began to climb aboard the Warthog, and I ran for the passenger seat. I sat down, and felt the blood of the former resident of the seat. It was the first time I had felt human blood as cold as this, and it was chilling to realize that so many had died, and now lie as cold and lifeless as the bloodstain. A red bolt crossed the sky, roaring louder than the previous and heading in the opposite direction. The Warthog drove from the trenches just in time to see a spectacular explosion in the horizon. A Covenant cruiser struggled against the explosion, trying not to lose its ground. It seemed as if that brought an answer to my former questions, the blue bolt was from the Covenant cruiser. The bastards had tried to sneak in alongside the city... That probably meant Awwek was probably faring pretty well. The Warthog sluggishly accelerated, though it was towing well over the recommended capacity with around 50 civilians and soldiers in the back along with a ton of munitions. I turned to the driver and asked him what weapons he had found.

      "Well, sir, I think I did pretty good. I got us a few crates of bullets for every imaginable rifle, a duo of sniping rifles, a brace of jackhammer antitank rifles and around fifty other assorted rifles. I got a dozen Kraftods too."

      "I love those things." I replied.

      "Well, generally when the name translates into Mathean to be literally forger of death we tend to like the rifles. Those things are brutal though."

      "Trust me, I know..." I briefly remembered the pain of one of the rifles five blades spinning a path out my neck as two others exited from my hips.

      "Heh, a veteran of the last world war I see. Well, here's the update, that blue flash scared the hell out of everyone, but it looks like that should be the only one. God knows what the Covenant are planning next, but they're having one hell of a time getting into Awwek. They want to get into it, but they can't bomb it from space, the orbital guns are keeping em all back. The last one you saw was their attempt to trick us and destroy the city. I don't know how much damage it did, but the red bolt you saw was an MAC bolt from the cannons. The one slug is as big as a small naval destroyer. Anyways, this is a good thing for Awwek, but a very bad thing for us. We need to get to the city, and the Covenant are out of options. They've lost a half dozen starships to the city and have only hit it once or twice, and it seems like they aren't doing much to kill the real threats. However, this is not a good thing for us. We can't use the MAC cannons on foot soldiers, hence the huge ground battles you're seeing. We have to force our way through the mainstay of this battle to get to the city. As for our luck so far, we seem to be doing good. All we can do is hope..." I frowned instinctively. Another person using prayers to forgive their weakness. I looked at Martes. He forgot his seatbelt...



Derailed Part 8
Date: 12 October 2003, 4:04 AM

      The truck, albeit more sluggish than the usual Warthog, still raced forward with zeal. The civilians in the back hung onto the Warthog, riding on the tops, sides and inside the trailers, stacked, literally, upon eachother. Amongst the chaos I thought one had fallen off, but I didn't know well enough to declare it a fact. I sighed in an attempt to alleviate the pain of my command, but could do nothing to destroy such a foe. At least 300 civilians had died since I began to lead them, and I had lost at least half of my team to death or injuries. This operation was turning into a massacre faster than I had expected. Originally we had a golden plan, to get on the train, grab the nukes, and then get off the train as fast as we could, and ride the Pelican straight to Awwek. However, since the operation began it seemed that everything that could go wrong would. As the leader of the ODST squad it was my job to had realized that simple fact, and to have accounted for it long before the plan had begun.

      "So, I never did ask you," Martes began, "what's your name?"

      "Ciriaco Kazimierz." I replied, half attentive.

      "Oh. Got a nickname?"

      "Well, Kaz and Jake." My thoughts still lie elsewhere, but I replied to Martes. At least it took some of my mind off the pain of defeat.

      "I like Kaz, can I call you Kaz?"

      "Sure."

      "Aright. So, got anyone to fight for back home?"

      "A girlfriend and a planet. You?" This question grew like a cancer in my mind. My planet was dying, and my girlfriend undoubtedly dead.

      "Same as you. I've got a beautiful place out in the deserts. I've got a little ranch out there."

      "I live in Awwek on a military base. It's hardly a home. I generally live half my time on the ODST station in orbit, but it was being refit for polar drops, so I got shipped to Awwek."

      "Sounds like being an ODST isn't just hard on the battlefield, but also off... Sorry, if it makes any difference."

      "I've learned to deal with it. I was raised to fight the Matheans, and changing that from them to the Covenant was easy enough."

      "Ah. I was born in the tiny little area of Lunar 4 that wasn't so racially biased, so I never really hated the Matheans. They never did anything to me."

      "They killed everyone I knew and shot me. I hated them. They did everything to me."

      "Sorry."

      "Don't apologize."

      "Didn't mean to, sir." Martes replied, confused, but hiding his bewilderment very well.

      "It's okay." I replied, "I've just got a lot to think out. I've got a lot of stress right now."

      "Alright. I'll let you think." There was a minute of silence with nothing but the Warthog's engine obscuring perfect tranquility before Martes reached for the radio. He turned it on, flipping from channel to channel, finding that nothing was on any. Clearly they had all been destroyed in the invasion, that or the hosts didn't feel like spending the last hours of their lives talking and playing music. Hindered but not halted Martes continued to pull a small datacube from his pocket and slide it into the Warthog's battered player. The smooth music began sliding from the speakers, though it did little to sooth my pain, until I recognized the words. Soon my foot began tapping, and I doubted I could stop.

      "Heard this song I see. It's great!" Martes said.

      "Yeah, one of my favorites. We used to sing it between missions and Karaoke at the bars. Better with the music video though."

      "One step ahead of ya, Kaz." Martes replied, pressing a button on the Warthog. A tiny hologram, greyscale, granted, began projecting the vivid visuals of the music video. Somehow this tiny gesture delved into the depths of my soul, stirring up emotions of happiness. I remembered times when I didn't fight every day, and I smiled. Martes took notice, but showed no reaction. I could tell Martes was a friend. Quietly I mouthed the words of the song, but it was only a few minutes before there were at least eight of us singing along. I smiled knowing that this was the best my life would get over the next few days. Despite the stress of the situation it was enough to relieve the stress of command. Another red bolt arched into the distant stellar realm. I smiled. Hope.




      The next morning no one was singing. The music had died, and the enemy had shown itself. A half dozen minutes ago a Banshee, alone and damaged, flew overhead. No one dared to fire or make noise, and the Warthog was brought to a silent stop. As the sputtering beast skipped overhead everyone simply cowered in fear, knowing that we wouldn't be able to fight a Covenant attack party. While stopped we had determined it a good time to get out of the Warthog, and to begin to teach some of the civilians about how to use weapons. The first in the list, the Mathean Kraftods. First, I demonstrated how to open a magazine of ammo, and that the Kraftod clips must be handled with extra caution, because of their inherent delicacy. I explained how to reload, cock and change the rate of fire on the rifles, and then what it did. They were very quiet as I showed them the scars.

      "This, is what a Kraftod did to me. When I was struck by one of its bullets two of the blades were lodged in my right lung, one ripped out my neck, and two from my hip. Why it did this? Because the Matheans are mean. They made this bullet so it was shaped like an elongated thumbtack with a bulbous end, hollow. Five blades were put on the pin, like little saw blades. When it is fired part of the gunpowder blast is used to spin the blades, creating a gyroscopic stabilization making it very accurate. The bullet moves at around half the speed of a normal target, and less than half as far as a normal assault rifle bullet. When it hits you, however, the initial pin of it is shattered, causing great pain. The five blades are no longer held in place, so they begin to tear you apart from the inside out. They are too small to snap a rib and make it out your side, and too slow to snap your spine or give you an exit wound. Instead, they just bounce around. So, when firing this weapon, be careful not to shoot your friends. Keep track of where they are, or they will have a few new airholes."

      There was an understanding silence.

      "Now, the primarily difference between this rifle and the MGS-90 is that the MGS is able to reach out and touch something much, much further away. This rifle uses standard caliber bullets, and fires them very, very fast. It is similar to the common sniping rifle used on Earth, but it is slightly less accurate and has a 30 round clip. The scope is a two times zoom optical though. This is not a long range rifle. Again, reloading is similar to the Kraftod, but you can use less caution." I gestured to a small lever on the side, "Switch controls rate of fire. Auto, three round burst, semi automatic."

      Again, a silence was my only reply as 52 sets of eyes peered towards me. I grabbed the rocket launcher. I was never much of a orator, but it seemed as if it was easy to present the rifles that I had spent my life working with. "And this, the final weapon I'll be explaining, is the rocket launcher. It is called the Verwustung by the Matheans which literally means havoc. It fires a canister of explosives with almost no recoil, four round magazines. When it hits, it explodes and fragments into slow burning smoke grenades, which are scattered by the normal explosion from the missile. This creates havoc and death. Now, this shouldn't be something I have to tell you, but do not stand in front of or behind the person using this. The backblast will burn you. Also, you are all undertrained and will be too fast to fire at anything coming out of the smoke cloud, so I want you all to stay away from the smoke so you don't get shot by your friends on the way out. Understood?" It seemed as if a few people were daydreaming, but most grunted a low pitched yes. I knew that the daydreaming ones would wish that they had paid attention when three blades began to emerge from their body...

      "Alright, everyone grab a rifle, it's time to fire a few practice shots. You only get six if you have a nonscoped weapon. If you've got a scope just practice reloading."

      The next hour passed as a blur, memories of my own training repressing anything I might have learned from teaching them. Soon we had loaded back into the vehicles, and had driven for an hour with no music to dull the pain. However I realized something about Lunar 4. It was a unique planet, unlike the others. Nearly 250 years ago when the first war was waged on the planet something changed among us. Every penny our governments ever earned was poured into buying weapons and new technology to make killing an art. It has been speculated that the general issue rifles for both the East and West are around a half decade more advanced than the ones the UNSC uses. Such weapons development created two distinct lines of weapons. The West, full of jungles, was ideal for close range combat, creating a breed of high power weapons like the Kraftod, which is less accurate but more powerful. The East was largely desert terrain, so it created long range weapons like sniping rifles and long range assault rifles. Our tanks were far more sophisticated than the UNSC ones, and more numerous. We never traded with the UNSC in fear that they would give up our technology to the West. Even the least of our rifles was as powerful as the UNSC's finest. Perhaps Lunar 4 would survive the Covenant onslaught? Most normal planetary invasions last hours, but already this one has taken nearly a day. Our most powerful cities still stood, unwavering, and we had destroyed probably a dozen Covenant cruisers. It was odd really, but perhaps hundreds of years of senseless warfare and genocide had spawned what would save billions. I sat in the passenger seat of the Warthog pondering the concept. Humans winning.



Derailed Part 9
Date: 21 October 2003, 12:07 AM

      "HQ?" I asked idly into the radio. Since the beginning of the serious Covenant invasion I had almost forgotten about HQ, though at a time of crisis they are generally the best people to turn to. The radio replied with static.

      I began to reach for the power supply as it crackled to life. "State your name and rank."

      "Colonel Cariaco Kazmierz of the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers."

      "I'm gonna need you to spell that sir."

      "Alright, K-A-Z-M-I-E-R-Z. If more than one registers in the machine I'll spell my first name."

      "Okay Colonel, we have you in our computers. What's the nature of your transmission?"

      "Well, I'd like to get an update on the mission objective."

      "Okay, getting that data now." I could hear the keystrokes of the operator as I waited, "Alright, you were on active duty with a recovery team, trying to bring back four nukes. As far as I can tell, your previous orders stand, to make it to Awwek with the nukes intact."

      My grin suddenly faded as I remembered the deaths under my command, "I'd also like to report some casualties. Samuels and Marcus are wounded, of my team along with around a half dozen civilians. Sellers, Dust and Marcson are all dead, along with nearly 350 civillians."

      "How many civilians do you have with you?"

      "I have 52. We also found Corporal Martes, a Marine who has helped us get a Warthog and supplies."

      "Entering that into the network now. What's your position?"

      "Goxinus readings of 007, 117, 343."

      "Okay, so only a few hours outside the city. Let me check the latest updates in regards to the Covenant offensive lines, I'll see if we can't sneak you through." I waited while he set the data into the computer. "Alright, we have a few little problems. One is that you can't just drive straight to the city from your current position. There is a massive buildup between you and the city in the suburbs. We have some investments in the area that we can't drop, and they need to get into Awwek, so they are trying to pave a path in. Around fifteen miles to the north the Covenant lines begin to fade relative to everywhere else, so, we're gonna ask you to make it there. Still, that is within the Covenant lines. Judging by the fact that you've taken losses I can assume you've seen what it's like out there. The word hell seems to describe it."

      "Okay, got it-"

      "We have one other thing. Two Covenant cruisers dropped out of orbit and into the atmosphere to shoot sideways into the city. One was destroyed far from the city, and later nuked into oblivion. The other was destroyed and fell six miles outside the city. It is destroyed, and will never fly again, but it is being used to refuel Banshee's, and our air defenses are getting thin. We're out of nukes, and we need you to help. This will only take one man, but if someone could get aboard and leave a nuke in a vital area, the ship would be destroyed, and Awwek will maintain air superiority. Understand?"

      "Sure. I'll connect the radio to the Warthog's navigation systems. Can you give it some information as to where the thing landed?"

      "Well, we don't know exactly where it is. Our peeper network has been disabled, and it descended into a valley, but we can tell you that when you get near it you'll know. It dropped in Crevace de Demongo, but that's all we know. Also, I wouldn't take your hog' too close, it kicks up a lot more dust and a lone person with a nuke and a rifle, and as I mentioned, Banshee's will be swarming the area."

      "We'll tell you once we kill the cruiser."

      "Good luck."

      I closed the radio and turned to Martes, "Got that all?" I asked.

      "The jist of it." He replied, "Who's going?"

      "I'll go." I replied, "It's my duty as commanding officer. I can't force my men to do what I will not. Besides, what have I got to lose? A future? A wife? I signed up for the ODSTs to fight. I'm not going to back down now that I'm needed most."

      "Sir... I-"

      "Give me a Kraftod and a nuke in a backpack. I'll be back."

      "Sorry, but I can't let you go on a mission like this, I'd hate myself for not going. How are you planning on setting the nukes off?"

      "Well, I have this remote detonator..." I felt my pocket. It was empty.

      

      I opened my eyes and found myself staring at the rail below me as it disappeared into the distance. All of my pockets fell open and I lost most of my personal things, as well as my radio.

      

      I had dropped it when I fell from the train... The only remaining method was to either manually detonate it with the literal big red button, or to set it for a ten minute timer. Quickly I acted as if I still had it to make negotiating with Martes easier. "Yeah, I'll just sneak on, drop the nuke anywhere inside the ship and walk out, easy as that. I'll steal a Ghost or Banshee from there and get back to the Hog' before you know it, then, I'll hit the button on the remote, and we'll see a satisfying sun-like explosion in the distance."

      "You make it sound easier than I think it's gonna be."

      "Then let us hope you are wrong."

      




      I peered nervously over the hill. A column of at least a hundred Elites moved slowly through the destroyed field. It looked like the area had been a forest, but all of the trees had been literally melted from their root as the ship descended. The charred skeleton of framework that once made the ship slowly faded into the familiar demonic purple of the Covenant cruisers. The front of the ship was entirely intact. The Elites marched into the forest, heading roughly towards Awwek. After a few more moments of surveillance showed no threats I ran down the hill, into Crevace de Demongo. Quickly, I shuffled into a ditch, and dropped to the ground, peering nervously into the field. A fallen tree provided cover as I watched a pair of Ghosts fly towards my hiding spot. Nervously, I watched as they hurtled towards me, full speed, unwavering. I ducked behind the tree and grabbed a grenade, readying it to fight. Nervously, I rolled onto my stomach. Carefully, I raised my eyes to look over the tree's corpse. The Ghosts were no more than a yard away. I ducked, nearly screaming as the Ghosts flew over my head. As each passed I felt a firm, indescribable force from the hovercraft as each passed over my head. The Elites continued up the hill.

      As they leapt across the crest of the hill I let out a sigh of relief, and looked into the wasteland of destroyed trees. The crashed ship was very well fortified. Shades were deployed methodically around the crash site, and a few Ghosts decorated the area. Large groups of Covenant foot soldiers filed from the ship. A squad of Banshees, trailing smoke, flew over my head, roaring defiantly to illustrate that their lips still breathed life despite the UNSC's best efforts. Slowly, they descended into the Covenant vessel, one flaking apart and exploding before it could land, and a red fireball faded from existence. Once I was satisfied that I knew everything about the defenses of the ship I rolled form the ditch and began to crawl across the field of flattened trees.

      Luckily for me, they provided excellent cover, almost better than a forest of living trees would. Slowly, I slithered towards the Covenant vessel, and was soon to the edge of the fallen trees, and into the circle of charred ashes. The hellish grounds were only a reminder to be a good Christian, the outbreak of random fires and seemingly infinite ashes splitting only for the curving figure of the Covenant vessel. The massive purple monolith seemed to embody a satanic form in this symbolic hell. I looked behind me, a thousand feet from where I started, and a hundred feet within the perimeter established by the Shades. Before me lie a barren no mans land that extended for another hundred feet. Running across it would be suicide if any of the Covenant were to spot me, and sneaking would be impossible. I swallowed a deep breath of air and laced my boots. I grinned, all I had left was hope. I readied myself to run across the barren field, gladly taking the crutch of the weak. Hope.

      I looked back again, though I was running regardless of what I saw. Suddenly I bolted from behind the tree cover. I couldn't run through the ashes as well as I had assumed, and found that it was a lot like walking through ankle deep water. Still, I ran as fast as I could knowing that if I was unlucky enough as to be spotted death would soon take my life. Twenty second after I started to run I rolled into the crater.

      It was around two hundred feet deep, and perfectly round. As I leapt over the edge I didn't put any thought into how I was going to get down, only that I got into the crater. Uncontrollably I tumbled down the hill, flipping over rocks and boulders as I rolled faster. As I flipped through the air I caught a brief glimpse of the bottom of the crater, an area lined with sharp glass spikes. They were clearly a formation from the crash. Desperately I reached for rocks as I flipped down the hill. I grabbed at least a dozen rocks, but my grip was quickly ripped free from each by the demon of this planet, gravity. Albeit less than half of Earth's, the gravity still pulled me towards the base of the crater at nearly unstoppable speeds. I dropped my rifle and prepared to die as I fell to within a second of hitting the spikes. Suddenly I stopped rolling. I opened my eyes to see a spike, twisted and transparent, less than a foot from my chest. I looked upwards to where my backpack had caught on a tough tree root. I thanked god that Lunar 4 trees had such deep roots due to the low gravity, and tough ones that helped hold the planet together. Again, my life was saved by a backpack. Slowly I dragged myself up the small embankment to a flatter part of the slope. From there I regained my stature, stretched a little, and jumped over the spikes. My rifle hung from one of the glass spikes. Carefully I grabbed the rifle.

      As I stopped panicking, I noticed the sheer beauty of where I was. The dirt that formerly lie below my feet was melted to glass. I could see for almost a hundred feet into the ground before it became too cloudy to see. The glass field was very smooth, almost unnaturally smooth, and there wasn't a displacement that I could see. The smooth surface reflected a ghosted image of my face, which was covered in cuts from my fall. The vessel lie only a couple hundred feet away. Its destroyed frame faded into purple metal at around the same area that the crater began to fade from glass to dirt. One of its engines must have exploded. I walked carefully along the glass, my feet sliding on the slick glass, coated in some morning dew it still retained because it was in the shadow of the edge of the crater. Slowly, I slipped into the destroyed half of the ship, throwing my rucksack into a hole in the side of the ship, following myself a few moments later. The destroyed hallway of the ship wasn't purple or illustrious, and didn't seem to be alien architecture any longer, a hidden demon. The ground, still slightly squishy, nullified my footsteps as I walked to through the blackened hallway. The door ahead had a hole melted in it, and I quickly climbed through it into the next hallway. The room I entered seemed to be an engineering station, tiny table-like work stations decorating the room. I continued through the room into the next, where the damage became less apparent. A loud whirring occupied the room though I couldn't find the source. As I continued further into the room some lights activated in the ceiling, and illuminated what appeared to be several large tanks. I looked at each, which seemed to be sort of fuel tank, and considered the possibilities. If I were to leave the nuke here chances are that most of the ship would be destroyed, and if not then secondary explosions would destroy more. Really, now that I was a hundred feet into the wreckage, no matter where I left the nuke the ship was dead. I stepped into one of the narrow corridors formed by the tanks. Carefully, I pulled the warhead from my backpack, though it was an instinct more than a necessity. It had been beaten enough in this mission that even if it were to get dropped I doubt it would be anything novel. I pressed the 'ON' button on the tiny display and waited patiently for a few moments. Suddenly the door behind me hissed open. I ducked behind the tanks as two Grunts walked into the room. Slowly, casually, they paced through the room, speaking in their native tongue. After around thirty second they had left through the door further along the ship. I looked at the nuke's tiny LCD display, which still didn't show anything. A quick set of violent taps to the side resolved the problem.

      

BOMB DISPLAY V 1.002

PROMPT

A=TIMER DETONATION

B=MANUAL DETONATION

C=REMOTE DETONATION

      

      I pressed 'A'.

      

BOMB DISPLAY V 1.002

SET 'TIMER DETONATION', CONFIRM?


A=YES

B=NO



      I pressed 'A' again.



BOMB DISPLAY V 1.002

HAVE A NICE DAY

10:00

9:59

9:58



      I set my watch to reflect the timer. I had a little over nine minutes to clear the ship, an easy mile run, especially because I could leave my rucksack on the ship. I grabbed my rifle and what little ammo I had before going through the door into the engineering area. I slowly walked to the end of the rows of tables before I heard a voice outside the door. It was the deep voice of an elite. "'hsart eht tuo ekat' em ot syas efiw eht os dnA" I heard a pair of laughs. The Kraftod was designed for use on soft targets like Grunts and Hunters, not Elites with energy shields. As I worried I heard their footsteps grow closer to the door. Fearing the worst I ducked underneath one of the tables. "Keck!" one of the Elites shouted, "?gnihtemos raeh uoy diD?". I prayed that it didn't hear me, though it seemed as if I was scorned by the wrath of god, as two demonic beast's heavy footsteps entered the room.



Derailed Part 10
Date: 22 October 2003, 10:58 PM

      Carefully, I slid further underneath the table. I looked nervously at my watch, which read '9:30'. I panicked inside, knowing that facing the two Elites would be as great a challenge as avoiding them and making it out of the ship with enough time to run up the crater and to freedom. I looked at my watch again, '9:05'. I squinted over a chair in the room. It appeared as if the Elites were preparing to leave.

      "gnihton ylbaborp saw tI" one of the Elite's muttered, stumbling towards the door. Suddenly my watch beeped signaling that a minute had passed. I panicked and hit the button that silenced it. It was already too late though, both Elites had heard the noise. One snorted wildly as it sniffed the air, searching for any scents that could help it find me. I had never heard of this behavior in an Elite before, but hoped that he was overestimating his sense of smell. The larger of the two Elite's walked into the open, and I carefully scanned him for any weaknesses. His armor was tattered, and he seemed to walk favoring his right leg. Clearly he was wounded. I counted three fingers on one hand, his middle finger missing, and a patch in his armor near his spine. As the Elite turned to face me his decorated battle scars became apparent. The Elite had several deep scars along his face. Clearly, he was also not one to fight with. His long delicate fingers held a plasma rifle, polished to a mirror-like luster. The beast paced across the room, a firm set of hooves sliding past my hiding spot. As zealous as they were, they probab;ly didn't understand the concept of hiding. They must've thought I was invisible or ambushing them. The second Elite soon stepped into the open.

      Immediately I identified him as weak. He stood nervously, had no battle scars, and his armor was unscathed. Even his rifle was held somewhat odd, considering Elites were, as the name implied, elite. Neither seemed to think they needed to radio for help, either. I would have court marshaled one of my men for this behavior, and thanked god that Elite's were so arrogant. Suddenly I realized something. The young Elite's armor had a small shield generator, on it, precisely where the patch on the larger Elite was. I leaned out from behind cover and prepared to shoot the dominant Elite in the back and the other with the rest of the clip. I held the almost alien Mathean rifle to my head, and leveled the sights on the Elites exposed lower spine. Briefly I wondered whether the bullet would penetrate his armor, before a demonic shriek reigned supreme. The watch, zealously completing its job to remind me of each passing minute beeped again. The Elites spun, each at opposite ends of the isle created by the rows of tables. They found a surprised, scared, grinning and angered human to be kneeling in the center of the rows. I smiled, fired at the Elite and rolled for cover. The bullet was slow enough that I could see it moving. A raspy buzzing followed its path into the Elite. The bullet missed his armor, and struck exposed abdomen. Instantly five blades dislodged from the central pin and began to tear through the Elite. For a moment he stood, unaffected, but a tiny snap changed everything. What he thought was a tiny bullet was instead a set of five blades, and a tiny bullet. After he had yelled for only a second one of the blades emerged from his neck, a literal fountain of gore following its path to the ceiling. Another two bullets burst from his side, and another shattered his skull. I rolled under the desk again as he yelled, experiencing a pain like no other, and plasma gunfire melted the ground upon which I had knelt only a moment earlier. A thin piece of sheet metal blocked the other side of the desk, and I kicked it, knowing the Elite would win versus my restricted position. As I rolled from the other side a plasma grenade drifted onto the desk. I crawled and easily avoided it. The Elite's snorts followed a telltale pattern to the grenade's crater, passing n the other side of the desks. As he passed me I leapt from my prone position, and carefully placed his head in the sights of my rifle.

      He found no blood or pieces of flesh in the crater, and had just turned to search for me as a large Kraftod bullet struck his head. The shield absorbed the bullet and bounced it to the ceiling. Now fully alert and angered the Elite retaliated, lances of plasma gunfire arcing towards my position. I ducked, but one of the orbs came close enough to spark a small flame on my shoulder. Quickly, I patted my shoulder eliminating the nuisance. Heavy metal footsteps retraced the Elite's path as he drew closer to where I hid, again, ducked. Rather than face an Elite at point blank range I chose to run under the next set of desks, kick out the sheet metal and roll into the next row. The Elite leapt over the desks and swiveled, searching for me. While I found his tactics stupid, I knew I didn't stand a chance.

      It would take around 25 Kraftod bullets to shatter a Blue Elite's shield, even a rookie, and I only had three left in this clip. I glanced at my watch. '7:01'. The watch beeped again. A sickening feeling flooded my stomach. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me and doom me three times, shame on me. Before I had worried so much about the consequences of the watch's beeping that I had forgotten to turn it off. Learning from my mistakes I shut the watch off before rolling through next row of desks. They seemed o be something like lab stations, and labs used gas. I stood for a moment and looked for anything that looked like a fuel nozzle. The Elite barked in my direction. As he raised his weapon I spun as many knobs as I could. I slid along the floor through the thin sheet metal of the next desk and was rewarded with the smell of gas. I ran to the far end of the aisle of desks as fast as I could, after rolling out what was the last row of desks. The Elite, thinking that I was waiting to ambush him in the desk ran to the other side of the room. After spotting me he continued to the second to last row of desk and charged towards me. He clearly knew my weapon was weak versus his energy shield. He also, clearly didn't understand that gas explodes. By the tie he started to wonder about the hissing noise a Kraftod bullet was already well on its way. It struck his chest, and the energy shield sparked. I grinned before a fireball engulfed his body, throwing it across the room. He skidded to a stop, alive, but dying, near me. I smiled and lowered the rifle to aim at his head, changing my mind and aiming at his chest. I fired once, and he howled in pain.

      




      The watch said I only had six and a half minutes left, and I knew it would be impossible to get far enough from the explosion in time on foot. Rather than face suicide I had decided on a slightly riskier plan, to steal a Covenant ship. I knew that lots of Banshees were flying in and out of the place, and therefore knew I would be able to find one. Unfortunately I hadn't ever flown one before, which only added to the inherent risk of flying from an enemy ship with a possibly damaged flier. I walked in the bottom decks of the ship where there was some damage and fires, and it seemed as if there was no living occupants, though I walked over a number of dead and dying soldiers, gathering a half dozen plasma grenades and a fuel rod gun. The odd gun fit perfectly on my shoulder, somehow. After stumbling down seemingly endless corridors I finally found the hangar. The door slid open as three Banshee's drifted in to the Hanger, coming to a graceful stop. A few were riddled with bullet holes, and one was flaming. Quickly, a fire extinguishing team rushed out to stop the fire from spreading. I grinned as the weak Grunts tried to use the largest tools as the Elites stood back and barked orders. They managed to extinguish the fire, so I decided to give them a few new ones. It seemed as if the side of the hangar closest to me was the refueled, repaired Banshees, and the other side was the damaged intake.

      I pulled the trigger on the fuel rod gun and a large green bolt arced across the small hangar. It hit near the Elite that was ordering the Grunts to work, and instantly vaporized his overconfident body, along with the hose to the Grunt's firefoam hose. A few of the braver ones tried to put out the fires only to be burnt alive by secondary explosions, while some of the more cowardly ran for cover. I leapt to a dropship that was hovering above the second floor in the room, and scrambled to grab the smooth sides. I slid off the edge, however, and barely managed to grab the slot in the side. The fuel rod gun clattered uselessly to the ground along with one of the plasma grenades. I swung quickly to jump to the ledge before the Covenant caught on. I rolled to a stop before realizing I was standing in the center of a group of two Elites and around a dozen Grunts.

      I smiled, "Hola!" The confused Covenant looked up, rifles in hand, as I rolled form the ledge dropping two plasma grenades and igniting a third before I departed. As I fell backwards through the air I fired the plasma rifles into the horde, meaningless bullets meant to do little but splash on my enemies' armor. As I hit the ground there was a blinding flash above, and bodies were hurtled through the air. Secondary explosions damaged the dropship. My back hurt very badly form the impact, but the slightly cushioned Covenant floors aided my impact. The dropship above howled, the damage straining the engines. I threw the grenades and rifles on the ground behind me and ran for the nearest Banshee. As I leapt in the Banshee and began to fly from the hangar, the dropship crashed to the ground behind my narrow escape, explosions scalding the back of the Banshee. As I accelerated from the wrecked ship I looked at my watch, '3:07'.

      The Banshee howled into a wide turn as I began to get a feel for the handling. It was very maneuverable, but the G forces were extreme. I reached forward and poked one button to be rewarded with a sudden leap in the Banshee's speed. It accelerated into a steep vertical climb as a half dozen more Banshees descended on my position. One of the damaged Banshees that had escaped from the hangar behind me tried to follow my path, but one of it's winglets shattered under the strain and the destroyed beast spiraled into the ground, where it exploded. I could feel the blood rushing to my numb feet as the Banshee continued to accelerate into its climb. I reached for the control panel again and pressed another button. Suddenly the engines stopped. There was no soft humming, nothing. The Banshee slowed to a stop, and for a brief moment I hovered in peace. Suddenly the laws of gravity began to catch me, and the ship began to plummet. Even through the deafening hull of the craft I still heard the wind roar by the Banshee as it fell. A viewport illustrated the front view of the vehicle which depicted that I was probably five hundred feet from the ground. As the Banshee dropped it fell through the formation of pursuers. Most of them scattered safely, but two collided while fleeing and one shattered. Panicked I hit any button I could. The Banshee continued to fall, despite my efforts. The small craft settled into a nosedive, and I watched in terror as the ground became dangerously close, to within fifty feet. With my last act I swung my arm down on the controls. Suddenly the Banshee accelerate forward. I shot past the hangar where my rogue flight started, the blue fire melting the sides of the ship, swerving downwards as two more muddy Banshees flew from the fire. It seemed like this was a losing battle. Suddenly the ship started to fire, plasma lances firing into the air and destroying four of the enemy Banshees. The radio skipped to life, "Hello, this is Grunt Command Regiment 13, Nokomee', we need you to say in the air while we shoot the human pilots down, you're the only air defense we have."

      I chuckled. In the disarray they must have acquired the wrong targets. Maybe I was piloting well enough that they had assumed I was an Elite? I continued to fly, dropping to fly a few meters from the top of the ship as plasma guns along its deck started to fire into their allies. I grinned as three more of the Banshees, including the one that was closest to me, fell from the sky as flaming scrap metal. Suddenly the plasma gunfire began to arc towards my craft, and again, I grinned, about time. I pushed a lever in the Banshee and it accelerated away from the craft. I glanced at my watch. '0:15'

      Plasma continued to shatter the tranquility of the nearby air as the Banshee flew from the crash site as fast as it could, given its damage. The HUD said that I was a Superunit from the crashed ship. I prayed that was over a mile as I looked at my watch again.

      '0:07'

      Suddenly the ship erupted in fire. The inside of the Banshee was illuminated by the back viewport, and fire soon broke through the sun-like flash. Blue and red flames hurtled into the air, followed by billowing black smoke. The Banshee behind me trembled as the shockwave's EMP style pulse knock him out of the air. My Banshee sputtered to a stop next, and the viewports opened to reveal tiny manual glass ports. I fumbled with the controls, though it seemed to do nothing. The Banshee plummeted into the forest.



Derailed Part 11
Date: 4 November 2003, 4:15 AM

      First, I felt the soothing effects of my environment. A gentle waterfall and the smooth noise of wind brushing my face flooded my ears. The smells of spring filled my nose, the aural pleasure of the situation budding as the flowers and trees were, tricked into thinking winter had ended as the planet warmed, a result of the Covenant attack and glassing.

      Pain cracked my skull, a bolt of lighting shattering the paradise. An onslaught of painful memories of suffering and death filtered through my mind. I thrashed on the ground as the physical pain of the situation bared itself. My body was covered in cuts, a few large and most still bleeding. My clothes were horribly tattered. I rolled onto my side and struggled some more, moving to relieve the pain. My back, neck, arms, everything... Everything was pain. In hope I retreated to my last sanctuary, my mind. Sellers, Dust, Markson, dead. Friends lost to a cause that I fought idly against. As much as I endured to stop the Covenant I knew that no matter how hard I fought, and how greatly I won, I would still die. It was inevitable from my birth, I would die. I had no control, and there was no choice for me to make. However they had control over other's lives. They could kill me, or anyone, at any time.

      I stumbled to my feet and walked drunkenly into the pool of water collecting at the bottom of the waterfall. It continued into a creek, but no water reached its lip yet. Much of the water had not thawed yet, Lunar 4 in a natural winter, unnaturally brought to a spring-like climate, a result of the glassing. I crashed into the shallow pond of water, perhaps two meters deep, and sunk to the bottom of the lake. I stared up through the water, seeing the world through an entertaining filter of ripples. At the moment I lacked the strength or will to return other world of demise and destruction from which I had temporary solace. The ripples were soon crimson, as my spilt lifeblood from the numerous wounds along my beaten body reminded me of my physical ties to the world that destroyed mind and body. A bubble slowly rose from my mouth, reminding me that I too needed to rise. For the first time in days, I followed something.

      It was in that simple act that I realized that this suffering was not mine to control. With life would come death, and I would have no control over that, and with pleasure would spawn suffering. As the past days had demonstrated, I clearly had no control over my fate. I broke the surface of the water. I realized, I didn't need to lead, I needed something to follow. Faith and hope.

      Before I had declared both as crutches of the weak. Granted not completely unfounded, my faith was excessively cynical. A cough crawled from my lungs, blood and phlegm hurtled from my lungs, as a forgotten belief was shed from my mind, and the pain I bore believing I was responsible for the deaths of my allies was exiled from my shattered body.

      




      Thirty minutes after awakening the pain had reduced. I staggered forward, stumbling towards the Banshee's crash site. Pieces of the vehicle were scattered along the forest bed, nothing larger than a few feet across.

      I searched the wreak and found nothing of any use, but I grabbed a few of the sharper pieces of shrapnel to use as makeshift knives, and sliced parts of my fatigues to create crude bandages for some of the larger cuts. I removed the Goxinus locator from my pocket and struggled uselessly to turn it on. I wouldn't be able to find my way back without it. Another half hour had passed before I was ready to move on, and hopefully to find Martes and the rest of the survivors. As I stumbled through the forest I heard gunfire near, and chose to head towards it in hopes of finding other humans. I pushed through the dense brush and vines, stumbling over the next hill. Slowly, I scanned the horizon for anything that looked familiar, but everything was completely unrecognizable. The jungle extended for a few hundred miles in any direction, and seeing anything recognizable was rare at best. I hadn't expected to tell where I was, so with unharmed valor I continued towards the gunfire. As I passed the next hill I came to a place of hellish fire. Most of the trees were leveled or shredded, tattered remains of some remaining in the moonscape. Bodies lie on the ground, both human and Covenant, some flaming, some partial, few intact. It appeared that the humans had won though, as a squad of Marines moved through the bodies, kicking some of the particularly intact to determine if they were still alive. Stricken with grief, they pulled dog tags from their dead comrades, and shot some who plead with them to die. I continued pitifully down the hill.

      "Hey!" I shouted.

      "Hola!" one of the Marines replied.

      "I need help-" I said, interrupted.

      "Siento. Mi no hablar inglas. Encontar Raul."

      "What? Um... Raul?" I pointed at the body on the ground.

      "No. Raul es alto y flacko."

      "Um... Me no comprehende? Find Raul?"

      "Si Senor! En el 'command APC'."

      "APC, I get that, thanks, er, 'bien'"

      "Nos vemos y bueno suerte."

      "Yeah... Nos cemos."

      Despite the confusion I managed to find the command APC, which lie a few dozen feet behind the furthest crater, a few Warthogs parked around, one destroyed. The APC itself seemed unusually damaged, though the chainguns atop it still spun slow orbits, patrolling for danger. I ducked into the APC, and uttered that I was searching for Raul. A minute later I found myself explaining my story to Raul, who seemed to be a very wise commander.

      "Most interesting tale. I was wondering what that nuke explosion was. I think my men and myself owe you a debt of gratitude. We were facinga hopeless battle, outnumbered ten to one at least and dropping like flies, granted putting up a great fight. Suddenly there was a godlike flash on the horizon as your bomb exploded, and within minutes all of the Covenant forces had been scared away. I can assume why, but I still think god saved me and my men. We'll do anything we can to help."

      "Well, my Goxinus locator is broken, and need to regain contact with my battlegroup. They'll be leaving position in an hour or so, and I need to return before then."

      "We'll see what we can do. This APC has a Goxinus reader built into it, but I'm sure one of the troops has one, or one of the compartments in the APC."

      "Sir," one of the soldiers operating the computers intruded, "I got a Goxinus reading. 008, 117, 344."

      "Thank you cadet," The commander replied, "Well, it doesn't look like you're far from home. Close enough that a Goxinus reader won't help too much, but a compass would."

      "Heh, where would you find a compass in this digital age?"

      "Take this one." The commander held a compass in his extended arm, "It's always brought me luck, but it seems like you're my new lucky charm. I owe you my life, it's the least I can do. Head Southwest exactly and you should find your men."

      "Thanks."

      "One more thing, bueno suerte."

      "What's that?"

      "Good luck."

      For a brief moment my mind took this as an insult, luck was a crutch of the weak. But soon I reminded myself of one thing...

      I wasn't living because I could control anything, I was living because I was damn lucky.

      "Thanks." I replied.

      




      I stepped from the woods, limping into the simple dirt road. A truck surrounded by 52 sets of eyes stared back. Slowly, I grinned, limped to the truck, and collapsed in the passenger's seat.

      "How'd it go?", Martes asked.

      "It's just one of those days.", I replied.

      "Alright, Kaz. So anyways, next objective, radio HQ and tell em you're back and whatever you did to the ship, and then head to the city, right?"

      "Yeah. It's time for the final judgement."

      Warner circled to the front of the Warthog to talk to me, "Sir, I'd like to apologize, but I can't stop hoping. Right now I hope you'll accept that as an excuse, and soon I will hope to make it to Awwek. When you were away I only hoped you would make it back sir, because I knew that I had faith in you.

      "Hope and faith, sir. Sorry." Warner continued.

      "Nothing wrong with believing, that's something I've learned. Try, hope and believe, that's all we can do. I'm sorry for believing anything different, and would like to apologize to you for what I said on the train."

      "It's okay, Kaz."

      I smiled as the truck started, and we drove into the setting sun, a new star rising behind in an eternal day.

      




      Gunfire continued to crackle in the city. Plasma explosions and the black clouds of flack explosions dotted the cityscape, arcs of blue and red gunfire tearing the otherwise beautiful city. The wall that had saved it a half dozen times from Mathean ground invasion was now a mountainous pile of rubble. A wall that was two hundred feet thick and nearly a hundred feet tall lie fallen, flaming. A short quarter mile of the wall still stood, half destroyed. What appeared to be thousands of flaming metal hulks decorated the cratered field before the wall. Almost every craft was a destroyed Covenant vessel, though few bodies were intact enough to tell what race they were. The Warthog continued through the battlefield at jogging pace, the civilians loosely assembled around the vehicle, jogging through the battlefield in a defensive formation. It seemed as if all of the Covenant forces were within the city or far from this particular area of the battlefield. Human weapons, which tend to use range, were especially effective in the plains before this portion of the wall. The lack of Covenant forces in the area made it an eligible area for us to reenter the city without driving through the Covenant frontlines. One of the civilians shot a surviving Covenant soldier, though it seemed he was nearly alone. As I paced in formation I noticed that my footsteps were almost as if in mud, the ground soaked in the blood of the Covenant soldiers. I accidentally stepped in what I believe was an Elite's torso, though I couldn't tell. Suddenly, the craters and bodies faded into houses and peaceful suburban yards. I spun, I recognized this place. I saw the road and knew it. I was home.

      The distant gunfire and explosions faded as I stumbled down the street. The house to my right was my best friend's house when I was twelve. The house to my left was a boyfriend of the first girl I ever had a crush on, I remembered egging it. The road continued, and I was alone with my memories. I looked up at the horizon, and saw the wall. It was a reminder of something, a reminder of my life. This place was so peaceful, so perfect and utopian, but the peace faded into the wall, a symbol of war. Suddenly my memories became dark and sinister.

      "You okay?" I snapped from my nightmare. A large hand rest on my shoulder. I turned to see Samuels.

      "Yeah, fine." I replied, saved from torment.

      We continued down the street for a few tranquil moments before the first gunfire fell upon the squad. Plasma gunfire streamed down the street, shredding white picket fences and peaceful homes. Instinctively I ran to the houses besides the street, though it seemed I wasn't only running from death but also against my soul. Those streets were my home, crimson blood now soaking the streets that once filled with the water of broken fire hydrants and happy memories. Mitchell fell to the ground, blood dropping from his falling body. The Warthog was pelted in plasma gunfire, and at least fifteen of the civilians died instantly, the rest scrambling for cover. One of the civilian rocketeers fired two missiles into the Covenant horde before he, too, died. I saw Marcus trip and hesitated to run into the house. Moments before I turned to help him he looked up, smiled, and shook his head in a loose no as a plasma grenade bounced to a stop a foot in front of his head. Samuels dragged me into the house as the plasma grenade exploded. One of the civilians that was fortunate enough to make it to the house before he was slaughtered. Samuels spun the bolt lock on the door before a line of plasma gunfire burned holes in the wall, one of the bolts striking Samuels in the throat, another killing the civilian. Two of the plasma balls passed almost lethally near to my neck as well. The civilian died instantly, but Samuels lie to suffer. He thrashed on the ground, blood spurting from his melted throat. I looked down with compassion as he struggled to point to the pistol I had slung over my shoulder. Solemnly, I slid the tiny death machine from its holster and aimed at Samuels' head. He smiled, thinking his suffering had ended, but I couldn't bring myself to kill him, even at his own request. "Sorry." I muttered before running up the stairs in the house. I nearly tripped over a small pile of munitions that had been left near the door. One of the Lunar 4 invasion contingency plans was that every family with weapons-grade munitions were to leave them inside the front door of the house for any who would later come through the area and need the ammo. I didn't have time to grab any, as I ran to the second floor and towards the windows facing the street.

      The bloodbath in the streets was now visible. The flaming warthog lie, surrounded in human flesh and blood. A Wraith tank slowly crept around the corner as a few dozen Jackals and Elite regrouped. Many of their comrades, perhaps a half dozen, lie dead, but at least twenty of our fighters stained the road with their lifeblood. The Warthog rested in the center of the road, flaming, though as a distant reminder of the brief battle fought moments ago, the chaingun still spun. Assault rifle fire stuttered from the window across the street, gunfire striking one of the Jackals from its feet. I joined in to fire. The Wraith, realizing the threat, fired at the house across the street. I feet sadness and the pain of helplessness as the house exploded, and with it many more lives. The Wraith swiveled to fire at my shelter, and I ran to the backside of the house. The mortar struck the other side a few moments later, tossing shards of flaming wood and glass towards my new position, though I had quickly ducked and suffered no injury. I crawled towards the edge of the destroyed half of the house and started firing into the streets again. The Wraith's cannon suddenly began to glow. The cannon was about to fire into the house where I rest again, and I didn't struggle to run from it. Randomly, Warner leapt from behind a picket fence across the street and fired a rocket into the tank. It exploded, the charging mortar discharged into his ally's backs. A Pelican roared overhead, its chin chaingun roaring. It disappeared as suddenly as it had arrived though. More Covenant soldiers charged around the street's corner, a loose line of Jackals defending some Grunts. Bullets pinged off the Jackals heedless advance. I turned to the stairs in the house and began to run for the bottom floor. It had become apparent to me that this was not a battle that could be won, and that there was simply too many Covenant, and too few humans. As I ran to the bottom floor I passed a civilian in full military dressing who held a small chest wound. I left him and continued onto the main floor, where I found Martes in the house's kitchen, three nukes on the table.

      "Colonel, we're getting killed out there! We need to get out of here!", Martes shouted.

      "What, you think I can't tell?"

      "Didn't mean to offend sir, it's just that we need to get these nukes into the city, our Warthog's dead along with a dozen or so of our best friends, and they're out there gloating about it. I want to kill them."

      There was an inconvenient pause as the window suddenly flooded with light, another explosion flashing. "You call for a dropship, I'll get a few of the braver Civilians and try to draw them away."

      There was another pause as Martes considered fighting me to go on this mission.

      "Good luck, sir."

      I reloaded, and ran into the streets, strafing to the fences on the other side and hurtling a set of grenades at the Covenant. Explosions tore through the Jackal perimeter. I threw a third grenade to the destroyed tank, which exploded several times, secondary explosions killing most of the surviving Covenant forces. Still, dozens more poured around the corner. I dropped behind the flaming fence to meet a dozen or so civilians, lead by Warner.

      "Warner, I'm going to take a dozen people and try to draw them off. As soon as it looks clear radio me and get the nukes from the house across the street. Martes will help you carry them to the city. Stay out of the streets and remember not to use cover that can melt, like cars."

      "Got it sir. I can only give you seven people though. Good luck."

      "Semper fi."

      I ran along the fence, straight away from my former cover along a road that ran perpendicular to the houses. Seven civilians followed as Warner and the others ducked, trying not to draw attention to themselves as the Covenant passed near. I hurtled another grenade down the road in hopes of killing more of the Jackals, but was only rewarded with one's death. I continued to run along the street as two rows of Jackals advanced along the street firing randomly in our direction. A bolt struck my leg, and I collapsed.

      "Colonel!" one of the civilians shouted. He ran and grabbed my should straps to drag me form the road as I shouted no. I screamed as loud as I could to leave me, but it was no use, I had no control. Warm blood splashed on my face, as plasma melted through flesh. The foreign blood sat on my face for one eternal moment, before a lifeless body collapsed to my right, the dead face staring back into my eyes. Another one of the civilians finished what his friend had started, dragging me to cover. I knew it was no use, they couldn't outrun the Covenant with my dead weight, and they wouldn't outgun them. The other civilians tried to run for cover on the side of the street, but only one managed to make it. I coughed some blood from doomed lungs, and dragged myself to my feet. I leaned on the fence as plasma gunfire flew past my head. I stood though, impervious to their punishment, for they had already taken my life in many more ways than I could ever realize. I watched down the street as Warner panicked, clearly having had seen me fall. He stood from behind the fence and fired into a jackal less than a foot away. Purple blood flew from the dying beast as a dozen of its friends turned to bear arms on Warner and his allies, who now lie, a few yards away, completely unprotected. I screamed as green orbs ripped through human flesh, and Warner, once a man of hope and faith, fell dead. I dropped from the fence, now too weak to stand, and crawled back to the wall. One of the civilians peered around the corner and fired weakly into the horde before ordering the other to help drag me behind the house. Suddenly he panicked and ducked behind the wall.

      "Granada!" he yelled. I was too tired to try to interpret what he was saying, and far too tired to get mad about the large Spanish speaking population that I couldn't understand. Suddenly, a blue plasma grenade landed at his feet. The other civilian dragged me as fast as he could as the first realized he would die. He dropped to his bell, covering the grenade as it detonated. It did little good though, besides to give him a quick death. I had at least twice the maximum recommended painkillers in my system from former wounds, at least, and I didn't feel any pain. I leaned up against the wall, my last escape, hope, destroyed. A Jackal ran around the far side of the house to find me and my savior resting against the wall. As he flung his shield wildly, pointing, a few gunshots burst his chest cavity. The civilian kicked the back door of the house down, and dragged my body into the house as three more Jackals passed around the corner. He dropped to the ground as a few dozen plasma pistols shredded the house in hopes that at least one of the shots would hit a human. I heard the clacking of hooves as the Jackals ran to the back patio of the house and reached the door. As the beast's hand contacted the door on the other side I fired through the door, a full magazine. After around half the clip the screams on the other side of the door had stopped, but I continued to fire, returning the favor that the Covenant had done for Samuels. I hated them.

      I staggered to my feet, and sprayed some biofoam in the wound in my leg. I couldn't run or walk without the civilian to use as a crutch. He carried me to the top floor, and told me to hold out until he returned. He would run to ask Martes what to do. I simply replied by reloading and leaning out the window, shooting into the street at as many targets as I thought I could kill. Jackals and grunts were scattered loosely along the streets, confused and dying. Gunfire burst from almost every window on any side of the street and quickly the battle that had coated the road in crimson red now drew purple and blue blood as well. Together, indifferent, the blood rolled down the street. I franticly reloaded, killing as many targets as I could. Plasma gunfire burned the walls near me, but I hardly cared. They had already shot my leg and slaughtered my friends, paving my last sanctuary, my mind, with brutish force. I acted with the impunity of the doomed, giving my last words, or in this case actions with the truthful zeal that bled from my heart. Bodies fell and plasma bolts barely missed my position as I killed them, one by one. Suddenly the street exploded as a Longsword flew over the streets, very low, dropping a bomb into the group of Covenant. I ducked as Grunt's flaming corpse was launched through the window, and landed behind me, setting fire to the house. I fired again.

      The mission was simple. We were to board a train.

      Another Grunt fell to the ground, blue blood draining from its chest.

      We had to secure four nuclear missiles.

      A Jackal's skull was shattered as a sniping rifle round from a distant building's occupant.

      We had to board the Pelican before the first junction, and fly the nukes to the city.

      A few Jackals died in a secondary explosion from a Grunt's nitrogen sac.

      Then something went wrong. Someone had to be responsible for this. Was it me? No, I had no control over the situation. Was it the Covenant? No, they simply appeared in the right place at the right time. I stopped firing.

      Was it god? This whole quest could have been for me to learn something. There was no other explanation for my incredible luck. I was clearly meant to live, saved at least a dozen times from what should have killed me. I lived through the train, the plains, the forests and the downed ships to come to the inevitable conclusion that this was all fate, and that I had no control over my actions or the effects that they caused, but I now see where my former conclusion was fundamentally wrong. I had as much control over the Covenant as they had over me. It seemed the only person that was nearly impossible to control was myself, though in the end even I could kill myself. Perhaps there was no control at all, or perhaps no being had control, but instead fear. I didn't kill myself because I didn't want to die, I was afraid to. I killed them because I was afraid. They killed us because they were afraid. It has been noted for thousands of years that hate can move a nation faster than love and bliss ever could. I watched as the last Grunt fell, dead. Survivors of the ambush began to creep into the streets, Martes and the civilian who had informed him of my position charging towards my building, running valiantly through the middle of the street. Martes killed a wounded Grunt who lie on the ground, and kicked another flaming Grunt from his path. The torched beast still twitched, with only enough life left in his tortured body for him to suffer a few more moments. The two entered the house and ran to talk with me.

      "Sir, we need to evacuate the area and move further into the city. Granted it won't be easy, it's our only option! It's our mission to get those nukes to the city, and we're probably almost too late! I know we have at least eight survivors, and more than enough ammunition to go around now that we've made it to the city. The Warthog is dead, I can guarantee you of that, and every Covenant vehicle was destroyed in the ambush. I have one of the smarter survivors working on the radio, seeing if it will still work, and if it does to call in reinforcements..."

      "Do you know how many of my friends died in this war?"

      "Sir, this is no time to mourn the dead if we are to have any hope of living! Darwinism says that right now what we have is the best of the best, and also the ability to use the city as cover. However, we're greatly outnumbered. We need you to decide on something, if you're up for it. We could try to hold out here, and given the radio works, call for a pelican to pick us up. It is a larger risk, because we are near the edge of the city, and more Covenant forces could move in, and it is a lot harder to defend something when you have less than a dozen people, most under trained. I'd call that plan B. The other is to march into the city and hope to make it."

      "We march if the radio doesn't work. Otherwise, I'd like to call in a Pelican, but instead of fighting we'll hide."

      "Alright, sir, I'll get the civilians in line. We'll hide in whatever house has a basement and windows to the outside." Martes started to leave but I stopped him.

      "Martes, the answer is fifty-eight. Fifty-eight of my friends, dead, at their hands. I want to make the Covenant soldiers' families cry. Help me make that dream happen."

      "Will do sir."



Derailed Final Part
Date: 8 November 2003, 5:15 AM

      Martes left the room with the Civilian, who soon returned with a fire extinguisher, spraying the flaming Grunt before the fire could spread through the whole house. He then helped me to my feet, and then used his body as a crutch to take me to the basement, where I saw around ten civilians working on various tasks. Most worked on the radio with Martes, where authentic smiles signified success. The other half of the group worked on making rudimentary traps. Luckily, most houses had plenty of grenades and claymores in the family gunshack.

      It is not at all unusual for a rural family of five to have ten rifles and around twenty grenades, twice that number in the suburbs, and enough ammo to last several days. With frequent wars against the Matheans most people spent their money on food and ammo, and nothing else. It seemed alien to me that on a peaceful planet like Mars no one has even a pistol. People are raised and find out guns exist when they're town or twelve. Myself, I knew advanced combat maneuvers when I turned seven, part of this a result of my father's paranoia about the coming invasion from the Matheans or Covenant. Such illustrated my prior point perfectly, however. Fear forced everyone to own rifles, though the bliss on Mars left their society underdeveloped when the Jovian armies attacked in 2480, and as anyone could tell you it was not the peace loving Martians that had great success in the following war, and it was the rifles of the Jovians that changed history.

      The civilians let out a cheer of victory as the radio crackled to life.

      "Command, this is Corporal Martes, en route to deliver three nuclear missiles to HQ! We're pinned down in the suburbs of Awwek and need an evac Pelican, as soon as possible!"

      "Corporal Martes, this is HQ, we have three available Pelicans near your position. The nearest two have been called in, expect them there within ten minutes."

      "Thank you."

      "It's nothing, just get back here in one pieces with those nukes. We were saved by the grace of god just three hours ago. A Covenant ship was hijacked and rammed three others out of the air before it was destroyed. Our MAC cannon is down, though we are redirecting the grid to power it back up, and all we have now are some artillery cannons firing nukes."

       "Alright, Corporal Martes, praying for the best."

       "Over and out." The radio replied before falling silent.

       "Martes!" I shouted, "We need to get those mines out into the street and make some smoke to get the Pelican in here. As good as a Goxinus reading is, a smoke signal would work better."

       "I'll get it in line, sir. Your leg..."

       "It's fine." I replied.

       "Alright, well, as you can see, only a handful of survivors, ammo, bountiful, defenses par. Things are pretty good, considering our position. I could have asked to take less casualties, but we'll manage. Sir, I would like to apologize for my former abruptness, and apologize for the loss of your friends, but with all due respect we have more important things to worry about. If the grief is impairing your command I would gladly run the operation for you."

       "It's fine. Just give me a rifle and I'll make them pay."

       "Kraftod?"

      




       Nervously I bounced the rifle in my hand. A Grunt hung to the last fragments of his life, blue blood seeping from five new holes in his body. I prayed he was alone, but soon another ran around the corner, nervously running to his now deceased ally. I slowly aimed at his chest, and fired. For a split second he was confused by the buzz of the slow-moving bullet, but soon the bullet entered his chest cavity. Five blades instantly dislodged in his chest. He fell to the ground, though I noticed none of the blades exited his body, a good sign that he suffered. Before his death he let a long, loud shriek escape his lungs. Soon, two more Grunts stumbled around the corner, wondering what happened to their friend. I centered the sights on one of the two Grunts and squeezed the rigger, the rifle coughing another bullet into a hapless Grunt. Three of the blades exited his body, one stabbing his ally's head. The wounded Grunt managed to fire in my general direction a few times. Suddenly another wave of gunfire poured into the house, ripping delicate family portraits and memories of happy lives were uprooted and violently torn apart. I ducked, but had they been better at aiming I would not have been so lucky as to live. Gunfire began to roar from almost every house on the block as another wave of Grunts was slaughtered. A landmine exploded, shrapnel shredding one of the Grunts and mortally wounding dozens. The clap of distant landmines satisfied my hunger for Covenant blood. A group of Elite ran around the corner.

       "Oh shit! Take cover!" I yelled, running back into the house. Grunts weren't too clever, and still hadn't figured out where we were for the most part, but the Elites knew where we were hiding.

       I traded my rifle for a traditional assault rifle, and ran for the window. I aimed at the pack of Elites and clicked the grenade launcher's trigger a trio of times. The grenades arched into the Elites and threw their bodies in every direction. Two of the survivors ran into the center of the street, and fired into the house that I hid within. As I ducked I saw weak gunfire tag the Elites from either side of the street, and heard the roar of a sniping rifle tear one of them apart with a series of eight thunderous cracks. I sprung from cover and killed the remaining Elite. We had never seen the Covenant homeworld, but it was increasingly clear that they didn't have streets like we did. The middle of the road is the last place you want to be while under fire from all directions, especially when a planet is prepared for invasion. Lunar 4 ordinance forces all suburban houses to park their cars behind their houses in case of invasion, and to siphon all of the gas into canisters in the house. Cars were not very good cover, even if parked in the streets. They tend to fall apart and explode when used as cover, especially in an ambush where the streetside people stumble basically into the barrel of the enemy guns.

       Another pack of Elites stumbled around the corner and managed to destroy one of the houses with a volley of grenades before they were destroyed. I grabbed my radio and called Martes on the floor below. He sat in the garage with a motorcycle waiting, fueled and ready. "Martes, they're coming in too soon, we still have four minutes left! I think it's time for a diversion. Motorcycle ready?"

       "Yeah." Martes replied.

       "You ready?"

       "Hell yeah, sir."

       I smiled as I hobbled down the stairs on a flimsy crutch and passed through the kitchen into the garage. Martes strapped a large helmet on as he sat on the motorcycle. He tossed me a helmet, though I figured crashing was the least of our worries. Quickly, I sat on the back of the motorcycle and spun so I was facing backwards, relative to Martes. I reloaded as the garage door opened and the motorcycle accelerated into the streets. Martes began to turn left form the driveway, but a Wraith turning onto the street convinced him otherwise. After realizing that he couldn't turn left fast enough Martes accelerated into the yard opposite the street. He smashed through a peaceful picket fence as the street exploded in a blue flash. The motorcycle crashed through a picnic table in the backyard of the house as two Ghosts accelerated to follow the motorcycle. Martes jumped across a small pool in the back yard, continuing the arc into their neighbors back yard. The two pursuing Ghosts smashed through the fence behind Martes. Suddenly plasma gunfire streaked past our faces, and I fired back futilely. The gunfire bounced harmlessly off the Ghosts' armor plating, though I continued to fire in hope that one of the bullets would do anything to harm them. Martes spun to the right, smashing across a small flower garden and through a child's sandbox. The motorcycle leapt across the back fence of the house, and Martes continued into the next yard, narrowly missing a metal swingset. The Ghosts continued behind us, burning the wood fence with their plasma gunfire. One managed to swerve between the swingset, but the other clipped one of the metal poles and crashed into the house. It slowed to back up and continue its path as the motorcycle turned right on the street, passing by the original house. As Martes looked forward after watching the Ghosts over his shoulder he saw a Wraith tank sitting only a few yards away. It was already too late to swerve out of the way, so he slid, tipping the motorcycle. A shower of sparks showering from the pavement, we slid beneath the tank, popping to our original position on the other side. I screamed in terror and relief. The tank had already started to fire at where we had been, a few yards in front of him, and was too late to stop the firing process. The Plasma mortar hurtled into the lead Ghost, melting it instantly. A flaming metal corpse twisted through the air, and I grinned in jubilation. A few mines exploded beneath the Wraith as we accelerated around the street corner at the end of the block. The Ghost that had crashed, perhaps the lucky one, continued to pursue Martes. It detonated a mine, but the trigger had sparked the explosives late, and the flames barely licked the back of the craft. Martes noticed that one of the houses' doors was peppered with bulletholes, and swerved towards it, streams of Plasma bolts chased us into the house. Martes crashed through the door and coincidentally drove into the stairs of the home. I was nearly shaken from the back of the motorcycle. The Ghost rammed its way through the door, though it was too wide to fit into the house. Rather than stop it instead chose to smash its way through the doorframe. As it tried to pursue us I emptied the rest of the magazine into the Ghost in hopes of intimidating it. Martes turned left at the top of the stairs and carefully navigated through a hallway into a small bedroom. As we drove through the rooms I slammed the door shut and tipped a cabinet against it. As the cabinet crashed into the door wooden shrapnel flew everywhere. The Ghost tore its way into the room, and entrapped itself in the cabinet. Martes smashed through a glass window, a few shards cutting my arms, as he smashed onto the balcony outside the house. As we tumbled into the railing and onto the slope of the roof I pulled a grenade from my pocket and dropped it onto the balcony. The motorcycle fell to the ground and snapped beneath the handlebar on impact. Martes rolled to a relatively peaceful landing, but the motorcycle crushed both my legs at the shin. I heard a loud pop as my leg's broke. Another bone snapped in my lower arm, and I screamed in pain at the same moment as the Elite only twenty or so feet away. Flames and shrapnel arched from the balcony of the house. A few larger pieces of wood and marble sized pieces of the house rained on the street.

       Martes struggled to his feet and ran to pull the motorcycle from my legs. I screamed as it moved. I managed to look at my legs to see that jagged bone had ripped through my flesh. Martes looked my legs with grimace, "Sir, your legs..."

       "I know! Go on without me!"

       He hesitated, "But I can't leave you... I'll be back with help soon! Just hold tight!"

       "Just give me some god damn ammo and leave me!"

       "I'm not gonna leave you here! Keep your radio on and keep your head down. I'm gonna run to the others! We'll be here to save you soon!" A plasma bolt arched over Martes head, "Fuck! I'll run back to the base, you try and stay alive! Use your radio if you need help."

       I sighed as Martes left. His intentions were honest, but there was no use in him coming back. I almost felt bad for him. Martes was only twenty or so, and tried his best at everything. He was on the road to disappointment. There was no hope of saving my life.

       A Grunt that had fired at Martes continued to pursue him, and I quickly raised my sidearm and shot its chest with the entirety of the magazine. I dragged myself to the house and leaned against the whitewashed boards. Plasma gunfire danced in the air as a Pelican hovered into place. The chaingun mounted on its chin flashed as it tore Covenant soldiers apart. A Grunts body was lifted through the air into my sight as a half doen rounds hit its chest at almost the exact same moment. A hail of gunfire tore everything apart. It hovered over to the houses that we were originally based in.

       "Sir, I need you to hang on for one more second!" the radio crackled. I didn't bother to reply, as I coughed some more blood from my dying lungs.

       "Sir, if you're alive, tell me! Ciriaco, pick up your radio!" Martes voice trailed off. "Damn, this isn't good. Load the nukes!" I heard him shout to another person, "Sir, Kaz, I need you to respond. Please respond!" I didn't respond, "I'm sorry."

       "I'm sorry too." I muttered to myself, remembering with my last fleeting thoughts the happy memories of my wife and my friends, the people that mattered most to me, and that I had failed to protect. I sighed a final breath and gave up what little control I had to the Covenant. I hated them...





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