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Macerr by Adam Stark, Amanda Rzucidlo, Nick Fiore, Joe Lord, Connor Sheppard, Daniel



Macerr Chapters 1 - 20
Date: 7 September 2006, 2:50 am

After the Planet Cairn was glassed by the Covenant, the surviving members of the Red and Blue forces were transferred to the planet of Macerr (Pronounced Mah-sair) in orbit of the Alpha Forcanis A system. It's been about a year since then. October 2553.

Macerr is a combination of desolation and abundance. The minerals and forests on the northern hemisphere make up for the desolate and lifeless wasteland on the Southern Hemisphere. The planet's largest city and capital, Macerr City, borders both hemisphereres. There are no major bodies of water anymore in the Southern Hemisphere, and the Northern Hemisphere is kept alive by The Dios River and Sea of Macerr. The river is fed from a spring in the Altonor Mountains.

However, the crucial factor for both sides is a remote uranium mine in the Southern Hemisphere.

War is hell. The only thing is, there is no heaven.

Welcome to Macerr.


Chapter 0.The Prelude

Forty red soldiers waited in the trenches in front of Omicron. A heavy fog was beginning to settle in front them. It was about a 350-meter sprint to the next cover, and recon had done nothing to spot the Blue machine gun nests. Not to forget the AP mines in the field. Whoever organized this operation should be hanged. Major Tomson raised his arm, and swung it back down, signaling the charge. The soldiers charged out of the trench and sprinted across the open plain. Major Tomson stopped in the middle of the field.

"Odd, no mines or machine guns," he thought. Suddenly an Antlion Mine went off under him, blowing his legs clear off of him. Simultaneously, M247 GMPGs began firing, cutting through the fog. The rest of the soldiers hit the deck, but to their dismay. More antlions went off, blowing limbs off right and left. On sergeant took off back to the trenches, but was cut down by the machine gun spray. Soldiers began spraying through the fog, killing nothing but air. They were cut down as well. By the time the M247s ceased, 39 out of 40 Red Soldiers were dead. The remaining private stood up and looked around. He turned back around to look forward, and was cut in half by the bumper of an M12 LRV. Four other warthogs drove through the field of corpses, crushing skulls and bodies. The Blues had just captured Omicron.


Chapter 1.Angels Touch Down

The Albatross designated R-365 touched down with a bit of a hop, the soldiers inside jostled slightly. They'd been ready for it of course, most of them had seen much worse. They were still chatting as the doors opened, most of them bustling out in civilian clothing, one of the Red soldiers however still wearing his right shoulderpad and arm plates down to his orange, white and black gloved hand. Ezekial Crowe, or as he was known in the service Ezekial Seraphim Crowe, a Hawk emblem of white shining brightly on plates of white and orange. As was mandatory he had his medals and awards pinned to his left breast, 3 purple hearts, several iron, silver and gold stars. A Sergeant's insignia on his chest, as well as a few more awards as he shouldered the rather large packs behind each shoulder. They were actually wrapped around his shoulders, large boxes in either hand. His personal weapons of war, disassembled and cleaned, ready for use as soon as he could reassemble them. Onto the hoverbus, placing all of his bags in the bottom storage compartment. He sat down slowly stretching his arms, a broad smile across his face. Stark white hair, piercing green eyes, a strong build but the mind of a scholar behind that tan forehead. He wiped a bit of sweat from his brow, admiring the fact that he was off a transport and on another one. He hated them so, what irony to get off, have one moment of freedom from this mechanical housing, then right back on. The sooner he arrived at Iota the better.




Chapter 2.Bonaparte

Sanderson had fallen asleep in her helmet again. Too much work being a platoon commander. A bleep was going off inside her helmet. She picked her head up off her desk and turned on her comm. "Go ahead, Napoleon."

"Excuse me, not to disturb ma'am, but the captain needs the platoon leaders on emergency conference channel 1. If you recall, Lt. Colonel Backersi was assaulting Blue Base alpha. The conflict went south, if you get what I-"

Sanderson clicked off her comm and rested her head back down on the desk. She switched it back on to the conference channel. She caught Captain Antwone in another on of his sermons.

"So if we pull together, and compensate for our recent losses, I'm sure our team can pull ahead and achieve victory. Recon confirms Lt. Colonel Backersi has been captured. As with the deployment of Alpha, Bravo, and Delta companies in the Southern Hemisphere, it is up to us to defeat the Blues on our own ground. Since 2nd platoon sustained 27 casualties in last night's raid, they will not be participating in the counterassault. Skyhawk and Longswords will be pounding the base for all of tomorrow to soften their defenses. 1st and 3rd platoon will be deployed by troop pod Pelicans to the outskirts of Omicron in two days. Ready your soldiers, this battle's gonna be big."

Another beep, soldiers were arriving. The last of 1st Platoon were on their way into the base, a list of arrivals already set for Sanderson. A new Sergeant had arrived for 1st Platoon; his voice was already reverberating through the halls. He was telling jokes, a favorite pastime, and like every time he had everyone within earshot laughing hysterically. Sergeant Ezekial Seraphim Crowe, the "Guardian Angel" of the Red Army was doing the talking, his teammates and fellow Red soldiers doing the laughing.

He carried in his own bags and his two large boxes, wondering if he'd be met by his commanding officer, or if he was expected to head to his new quarters first. He marveled at the structure that was the Iota Compound, already knowing his room assignment. He started telling another joke, best to get everyone loose, get everyone in a good mood. They never knew when all hell would break loose.

Sanderson's helmet light went back off just as she had turned off her comm. She turned it back on. "-Sigh- what now, Napoleon?"

"Sergeant Crowe and the rest of the replacements are here. Just thought you should know."

"Great. Just perfect. Tell the replacements to head to their rooms, if you can reach them. I'm going to go meet with the new sergeant."

"Will do."

Sanderson left her quarters on the Officers' Quarters floor and headed down the ramp to the rest of the quarters. She could hear a few faint laughs echoing through the hallway as she turned the corner. She looked left and right through the battleship gray hallways,
looking for the Sergeant's quarters. She found the room a few doors down on the left and knocked on it.

A voice from inside. A young man's voice, full of humor and happiness. The sound of armor rustling, of clicks and whirrs. The Sergeant was busy with something in the room.-
"Doors open, come on in."

Sanderson opened the door to Crowe arranging his stuff.
"Sergeant Ezekial Crowe?" she asked to make sure it was him.

"That's me ma'am."
He stood and turned to her, saluting with his gloved right hand, still armored to the shoulder. His awards jingled on the left side of his shirt, on the bed a half-assembled M7057 Defoliation Projector and a fully assembled M19 SSM Rocket Launcher. "Kaminari" was written on the side of the M19 in dark orange letters, his personal Thunder launcher as he called it. The rest of his armor was strapped to their specific panels on the wall, easily accessible for him should the need arise.

Sanderson smiled.
"At ease. The reason you were sent here is because we needed a good NCO who wouldn't get any more soldiers killed. You seem to do the opposite, if one were to glance at your operational records. Also, these boys that you came in with are fresh outta boot.
All they want is, "lets go fight some blues" or, "man I hope we get some action." I'm sure you can whip these replacements into shape. Am I right?"

"You are ma'am. I spent a year training recruits at the Galedon Red Military Academy on Terra 4. I shouldn't have any trouble with this group. And..yes...I am known for my track record of...zero losses...hoping to keep it that way, ma'am..thank you."

"Hehe. Well, get some shuteye. Its already almost morning. We're going to be deploying in two days."
Sanderson saluted and left the quarters, heading back down the concrete hallway and back up the ramp to her quarters. She went inside and fell down onto her bed.
Stupid work...

He nodded, saluting her once again before she departed. He turned, back to work assembling "Gojira," his Defoliant Projector. He'd get some rest once it was done, placing it and "Kaminari" on their boxes in the corner, close to his armor. Spare ammunition was left inside, he always carried 4 rockets on him and 3 full tanks of napalm.

He settled down into bed after removing his right arm plates and glove, hanging them up on the wall with the rest of his suit. He removed his medals, placing them on the left breast of the armor, changing into his boxers and a white t-shirt. Down beneath the covers, his eyes closing a few minutes after. The Seraphim would not let these souls down, not ever.

Chapter 3.Ghosts In The Night

The stealthy dark exterior of the Oni ship coupled with its incredibly efficient silent engines brought the craft down without any detection just a bit South of the mines. The dead of night, a horrible place, but it would do them well to set their...experiment here. A small amount of people, an incredibly large field of terrain, water available from the town or from the well they'd installed earlier, just for this purpose. The rear bay doors of the black craft opened to allow 5 armored soldiers, all just as dark as the ship to start lugging a crate to the ground. A red insignia, Red's Oni division dropping off their cargo.

One of the Oni's patted the side of the box, looking through her custom visor of deep green, the only one in the group that wasn't black. She signaled for her soldiers to undo the triple-thick locks on either side, deactivate the containment field and open the crate. The door hissed open with the rush of air and rose vertically, exposing the cargo of the crate to the Oni official. A voice croaked from her visor into the headsets of her fellow Oni members as she reached in, stroking something inside with the glove of her right hand.

"You're going to do us proud, my little experiment...yesss...."

She brought her hand back, moving around to the rear of the crate to access a datapanel there. She placed her own personal password into the onboard screen, several clicks heard inside the crate as locks were undone and something was released. A loud thud inside the crate, almost a grunt heard. The Oni's backed away slowly, two of them actually running for their ship. Only the female Oni, the lead scientist for this expedition remained, walking around the crate to view her specimen. He'd live up to the expectations of her officers, and he'd surpass all of the tests. The SPARTAN project had been a success, project OROCHI would only accomplish more.

She entered the last few commands for the crate, to wake the experiment in one standard hour. Once he was free and clear of the crate, it would self-destruct to leave no debris behind. The crate certainly had enough C7 and high explosives to atomize it. She boarded the ship, blowing a kiss to the crate as its bay doors closed. The ship ascended into the sky, leaving behind its priceless cargo, its pristine experiment.

He was cautious. Maybe what the ship had left was valuable, maybe he could sell it. He could certainly use the money; mining wasn't the most paying job on Macerr. He approached from the side with the datapanel, looking down at it with a confused look. "Project OROCHI" was the only thing on the panel, the controls locked by the final commands of that one last soldier. He noticed the raised door of the crate, circling around to take a look inside. Money, valuable minerals? He had to see, turning around the box and standing infront of it. All he was met with was a low growl, something shuffling in the contents of the crate.

An electrical current surged over a dark figure, small points of gold light beginning to emerge across a metallic body. It rose in the cage, 4ft, 5ft, 6ft, almost 7ft tall, its face as red as blood. The man released only the smallest of screams, most likely not even audible to any of the sleeping citizens here in the South. The creature was upon him, steely jaws tearing through flesh, through muscle, through his windpipe and trachea, through bone, one quick clamping of its jaws almost severing the man's head from his body.

The corpse would be found the next day, lying on its back in the middle of a dry field. He looked as though he'd been mauled by an animal of some sort, much of his muscle torn away, leaving heat-seared wounds and cauterized arteries exposed. They'd find a large black crater about 50 yards away, strange as noone had heard an explosion, noone had seen a meteor come down. The only thing they found at the crater was a damaged datapanel, still displaying "OROCHI" on its flickering plasma screen. That night they'd hear a howl, with the wind, over the wind, unearthly, inhuman, and it came from all sides of the small mining community. They locked their doors, they barred their windows. They traveled to the mines with weapons and in packs, and the rumors of the Orochi began to spread across Macerr.


Chapter 4.The Residence of Mr. Harold

A dark-haired man armored from the neck down strolls through the streets of Kalaa, carrying his helmet below his arm and smiling and waving at those he knows. He finds himself in a secluded neighborhood inhabited by beautiful houses and walks right in the front door of a large log cabin-esque house.

"Jack, you here?" Lieutenant Lennalli calls out as he steps through the entryway.

"In the basement." Comes a reply. Lennalli walks through the house and descends a stairway to an unfurnished basement. The room is strewn with pieces of various machines and in the corner, bent over a poorly constructed workbench, is a frail man formerly known as Corporal Jack Harold. Now a shadow of his former self, he's allowed his formerly muscular frame to atrophy and his pale skin hasn't seen the sun for months. He looks up at his old friend and in the dim light one could see his hair, jet black only a year ago, has now become almost entirely gray.

"You look like shit, Jack. You need to get out of this basement every-so-often. C'mon. I'll buy you a drink." Jack just shakes his head and turns back to his 'work'. "No, no. I've got far too much to do. If I continue at this pace it'll only be 2 more weeks before he's finished." At this Lennalli shakes his head and looks over at a roughly human-shaped form slumped in a corner.

"You've been saying that for 3 months, Jack. It's not gonna start working again. You'd be better off starting fresh the trying to repair it." Mr. Harold barely reacts. Without even lifting his head he throws back a retort to the lieutenant. "He saved both our lives more times then I can count. I'm not just gonna leave him in the scrap heap. And don't try to get me to come 'take a tour of the base' again. I still refuse to re-enlist. I can't believe you're still in it after you saw what happened to Private Samson."

"Even I've come to peace with what happened to those privates that day. There was nothing we could've done. That could've happened whether he was enlisted or not. For the love of god. The 3rd largest base on the planet is right outside of town. You think just because you're not a soldier anymore you don't have anything to worry about? You're not thinking straight anymore. You need to get out of the house. At least take a walk and get some fresh air. Go to the pool hall. Have some fun. You're worrying me."

"Maybe later."

Lennalli just shakes his head and turns to leave. "I'm going back to base. You know how to get ahold of me if you change your mind."



Chapter 5.South of Iota Outpost

...beep... beep... beep... beep...

"Not yet... five more minutes..."

...beep... beep... beep... beep...

"Ugh... fine..." Talitha's feet hit the floor, scrubbing her shoulder length hair out of her eyes, her hand reaching for her alarm, but it was off, her datapad rumbling again. More messages, three more messages from the Mercenary Guild alone, asking her to join up. She deleted them all without even looking at their contents, disgust on her face as she headed for the kitchen of her small home. No glory, no fame... she just wanted to go back... back to where she could actually make a difference, and joining up with those backstabbing killers was the last thing she wanted to do. She wouldn't work for people with whom loyalty was forgotten as soon as a quick quid could be made.

She passed her armor on its rack, the maroon covered with the dull steel and brown camouflage of her trade, her shotgun propped up next to it, a thin layer of dust over both. No jobs in a while, and money was starting to run thin. A cup of tea was in the synthesizer for her, and she took it outside to watch the sunrise. Maybe the new day would bring something for her to do... this new life sure was boring.

It beeped, and it blinked. It hadn't done anything for a year, just sitting where Talitha had left it, wherever that was. Its battery life couldn't even be calculated, even when it wasn't docked with its mother armor. Another beep, a steady beeping. Something was up, something had activated it. The comm-mod just kept its steady tone.

Beep....beep......beep.....beep.....

"...Huh..?"

The com-mod was on a table next to her large armchair, almost a place of reverence, the one part of her life she had left behind that she regretted... but he had died when Cairn was glassed... hadn't he? She just watched it beep for a while, stupified... he was alive... he was here on Macerr... but where? She reached for her datapad, beginning to slam her fingers into it. Where was he?!?

A whirr and a click from the comm-mod, it had locked onto a location. South, far south of Iota. A topographical map of the area, a blinking symbol. A few more beeps from the comm-mod. It was on the move, the device having a hard time tracking it. Close to the mining communities around the area, a small rocky series of outcroppings. Perfect hiding spot.

"Near the mines... beats the shit out of just sitting here." She headed back, wrapping her lithe fingers around the muzzle of her shotgun, her other hand grabbing the keys to her Ghost. She put the prefab dome into lockdown, heading to the shed in the back, hastily undoing the triple locks on the shed, frowning slightly at the state of disrepair her purple hovering wonder was in. Nothing out in the wastes, though, she wasn't even taking her armor, just in an army drab jumpsuit. She strapped the com-mod to the panel, gripping the dual motorbike grips and letting the throttle fly wide open, heading south.

WOOOOO!!!

It was moving during the day as the sun began to rise. The marker on the screen from the comm-mod showed it moving faster than any human could run. Was it even Riggs, or was it just his armor? It kept on going, heading East of the mining colony, coming close to something...a structure...the Blue's Lambda Base. What did it want there? Why was it heading in that direction?

They'd receive the alert late into the night, something moving on the borders of their bunkers. It was still several hundred yards out, but if anyone was watching the radar they'd see it make a complete circle around the perimeter of the bunker, taunting them, remaining just out of range for any A.I to tell just what it was. The signature read like any standard infantry suit, but the signature looked to be as long as a Hog, just making languid circles around their structure.

It started up low, like a rushing wind across a bare plain, then it began to pick up, began to deepen in pitch and grow, pushing through the wind to an inhuman roar. It was a challenge, whatever it was, it wanted the attention of the soldiers in Lambda base to come out, and it wasn't going to leave until they did. It kept up its circles, always just beyond the range of the base's more powerful detection systems, the howl picking up several times through the night.


Chapter 6.Enter Cocaine

The cab pulls up outside of the B-Sector High-Rises. It slows to a stop, brakes squealing softly. I just arrived on Macerr and now it's time to find somewhere to stay. Cairn was a disaster. The only plus is that I didn't have to linger. Lord knows the UNSC can't be too far behind me now...and it's only a matter of time until the next-
Well, enough reminiscing. I step out into the pouring rain. It's dark, just an hour past sunset. The rain splatters on my visor, obscuring my view of the street. I can make out a few vagrants across the road. Nothing of interest anyway.
I pay off the cabbie after he places my...baggage...on the curb. HK-133-E has moved around the cab now and I instruct him to bring my things inside. I lead 133-E into the building, pausing inside the doorway to allow the water to pool into the collectors and be deposited back outside. Continuing inside, I signal the clerk. He makes the necessary arrangements and assures me a few too many times that this place is secure. It was obvious that he recognized my name. I can see it on the Wanted Listing behind him. He won't want any trouble and has no problem accepting a small bribe to keep quiet.
The small man leads me up to my new room. For a "small fee" he says he can reserve the whole floor for me. I doubt that money will ever reach the ledgers. There's no doubt the demand to live in South-Central is at an all time low. This place looks like it hasn't been renovated since the 26th century. The equivalent of Earth mice can be seen scurrying about in the shadows. Proper lighting isn't much of a priority in this establishment either. Suits me just fine.
The clerk leaves after showing me my lovely living quarters. A small bedroom in the back, a dilapidated kitchen, and a moderately sized living room comprise my new home. Apartment #----. The A/C is broken. Hmm...
133-E comes back out of the bedroom and shuts down in the corner of the room to recharge and update his systems. Miraculously this place supports Xi-Fi. Guess I won't have to worry about hard-lining E then. The phone works...time to make a few calls, I suppose. Back to business. Back to being Cocaine.

I hang up the phone. I've almost forgotten how tiring it is to set up an operation in a new city. Too many damn calls have to be made and too many damn contacts have to be brought in. And I'll have to do it all over again in a few hours. Looking at the clock I can see that it's just past midnight. No time to rest. Have to finish this before tomorrow. 133-E responds quickly, powering up and readying himself. I ensure that the alarm systems are set and we're off. Mag lock on the door is sealed...of course, I doubt there'll be any trouble my first night here, but you can never be too careful. If we'd only been more careful then...things might be different...

I shrug off the thoughts and hail a cab outside. The rain has subsided by now and the water glistens on the road, reflecting the faint glow of the overheads. The car arrives and we climb inside. The driver is not too pleased at the prospect of traveling outside the city, much less that our destination is the center of the Blue sympathetics. Little matter, a few hundred quid suppresses his anxiety and we're off.


We arrive hours behind schedule, no thanks to a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and an unprepared driver. Hopefully everything will still be in place for my arrival. The cab pulls up at our destination. I pay the man, but leave no tip. After this fiasco, he's lucky to be alive...
...My how I've grown bitter over the years...
My liaison is waiting. He's negotiated the purchase of a local warehouse...the warehouse that we are now standing in. All that is left is the money I bring to seal the transaction. We aren't penalized for the delay...lucky break.

Tomorrow we'll begin unloading and stocking the warehouse. My ship is in orbit, probably on the flip side, but that doesn't matter right now. Now I've got to make up for lost time and set up shop quickly. My man hands me the daily reports...no activity in the Blue sectors, heavy fighting near Omicron, good bit of troop movements in the other Red sectors, reports of some mysterious sightings in some mines down south...nothing of interest at present, we'll get back to that later.

We're outside now, the day broke sometime while we were inside and the streets are filled with the amber glow of the resident star. My visor adjusts to the light and I get into the LRV. No doubt it's stolen, but we won't look out of place at this time of day...the patrols should still be out, I think...

A few blocks away is a little bar/nightclub that I'm told I should find to my liking. If the meet goes well I should have my base of ops up by tonight. Looking back at the reports this should be fine...although it doesn't look like the Blue faction is bringing in the numbers they were hoping for. Turning the last corner now...oh my, what a beautiful sight...

As I flip the power switches I can't help but think back to Cairn and to my first day there. Setting up the little bar in capital city...I really thought I could've retired there. Who knows what lies in store these days, really? What with the Covenant armies around every celestial corner, so to speak. If they didn't hate humankind so much, I'd probably be living on their side of the Galaxy...away from here and those damned UNSC agents. Don't doubt I'd fare just as well...and sure wouldn't have to worry about the inevitable defeat for that matter. But then...well, I'd sure miss some of these characters. Word is most of the survivors of Cairn have been reassigned here. And those that didn't have military ties, in some miraculous coincidence, decided to relocate here as well.

I see that 133-E has taken up residence in the corner near the entrance. He's powered off at the moment, but his internal systems will be running constant monitor programs to ensure the security of my new front.

The "Open" sign is lit now, but I doubt I will see many file in tonight. Got to wait a few days before the word gets out. Hopefully I'll see some Blue Army officers slink in here during off-duty hours. Need someone in the ranks to kick-start the economy around here.

Welll...I'll just enjoy a drink and have a bit or rest. Hell...I'll be heading back to Macerr in a few days to set up a "business" there tomorrow or the next day. Better take it easy while I can...don't doubt this'll be one of the few nights I'll get to relax...

Hmmmm...some damn fine whiskey on this planet...

My man just walked into the club. We're almost ready to open for the night, and he's right on time with the daily reports. I step around from behind the bar and greet him as he hands me the datapad. These little things really are important when you're first starting out, especially in unfamiliar territory.

Hmm...not much of interest today again...oh, hello. Oh Damnit. Looks like our boys botched the deal last night...let's see...a shootout with the gang that tried to bust the deal...well, did bust the deal...one man down, two in the hospital. Of all the bad luck...

"Alright, Sam," I speak up to my lieutenant. "Looks like we've got to tie up a few loose ends." A dark grin breaks across his face. Sam turns to a cabinet in the corner and pulls out two pistols, tosses them to me, and grabs an M90. I holster the pistols in the low-riding belt and take the M90 from Sam. We secured our weapons permits just yesterday, so there shouldn't be any trouble along the way. Sam has readied himself by now as well. I pick up my helmet and hang it on the backside of my belt. No need to wear it just yet. Time to hit the hospital.


Chapter 7.Rho

Lennalli barely walks through the base's front door before a young woman in blue army fatigues walks up to him with some papers. "Sir, here's the casualty reports from the recent assault on base Kappa."
The Lieutenant glances down at the papers and his eyes widen "59 deaths?!? That base only barracks for 120! Son of a bitch...Give the order to wipe all computers in the base and retreat to Base Gamma. Shouldn't Command at Alpha be taking care of this stuff?"
"They're currently formulating a strategy for an attack of our own, Sir. The minor outlying bases are fully under your command for the time being in addition to base Rho."
"There just must not be enough officers in this army...Alright, I've got some recruits to train." Lennalli looks up at the young woman and hands the reports back. "Samantha, isn't it? You're probly due for a bit of training yourself. Get your armor and a sniper rifle and report to Training hall C."

It takes her almost a half-hour to get armored, prepare her weapon and get to the training hall. She steps through the door to find a half-dozen recruits, all wearing regulation blue armor from the neck down, sitting around the lieutenant, laughing their asses off. "Ah, you finally got here. Troops, this is Private First Class Samantha Williams. She'll be joining you in training today." One of the privates whispers something to another, causing a chuckle. Lennalli snaps a death glare in that direction. "You will treat her as if she was my little sister." The laughter ends immediately.

Lennalli turns his attention towards PFC Williams. "I understand it's been six months since you've seen combat?" She nods. "Alright, well load that rifle of yours and lets see how rusty you've gotten." She steps over to a shooting platform and lies in a prone position. She looks through her scope at the distant target and empties two magazines into it.

Lennalli pushes a button and a few moments later the paper, human-shaped target is dragged to where they stand, a smiley face shot into its head. "Impressive." Is all the lieutenant can manage to say through his grin. "Ok, recruits. Get your helmets on and grab an assault rifle. I've got quite the training exercise set up for you. This ain't boot-camp anymore."

The six privates head off in one direction and Lennalli motions for PFC Williams to follow him to the observation area. From there they watch the privates basically engage in a paintball match with some other soldiers in red armor. The Lieutenant turns the Samantha. "So what do you think? How would you handle them?" Her response is rather quick. "Rodrigues is quite gung-ho. Put him at point, give him a shotgun and put Peterson close behind him with a battle rifle. He needs someone to watch him. Private Mishama seems to hang back and survey the situation a good deal before acting. A sniper rifle should fit him nicely. Kusman and Ried seem very proficient with the assault rifle. Have Ried carry the medpack. As for Private Davis, that assault rifle seems like too much for him. I say give him a pair of those nice pistols you officers carry around and plenty of grenades. The only problem is that they lack leadership and none of them seem to have the proper qualities. How do you intend to handle that?"

Lennalli's responds without hesitation. "You're now in charge of these six men. You've never spoken with them but you already know as much about them as I do. Your talents are being wasted in a secretary position. You need to be out on the field. I'll leave the seven of you to get acquainted. Sergeant Harris will set up your next scenario." With that Lennalli turns to go, leaving the PFC to her shock.


Chapter 8.Lambda

Talitha snapped down her glasses against the oncoming glare from the rising sun straight ahead of her, the circuits automatically increasing the contrast and allowing her to see the obstacles ahead of her and her Ghost. The regional map showed she was approximately two miles from Lambda Base... god damn Blues... She still didn't have an aversion to shooting back if they decided to be obnoxious, even if it got her on bad terms with them... guh... she took her mind off freelancing, focusing it back on the com-mod, watching it steadily blink and beep. The disturbance was about a mile and a half ahead of her, it hadn't moved in the past few hours she had been flying. And the battery was only down to 62%!
She may not look like much anymore, but she's still got it...

It was moving again, giving up on the Lambda bunker. It was once again moving on a straight Eastern line, towards the mountain ranges, and boy could it move. Its land speed was comparable to that of perhaps a hoverboard or recreational skiff, the comm-mod flickering, gaining a target, losing it and gaining it again. She had to speed up if she was going to beat it to the mountains. She'd never find it in there. Too much magnetite and hematite, she knew she'd lose the signal. Not even Riggs' pirated technology could break through geological disturbances.

"Shit... come on, girl... I know you're gonna hate me for this..."

She cut in the newly installed boosters, the plasma cannons fading as all power went to the engines, increasing her speed by half, rushing to catch up.

The Blue's would have registered the direction the signature was moving, and they wouldn't have much of a problem chasing after it if they used Hogs. Still it kept going, but Talitha was gaining on it, the boost of speed beginning to close the uneasy gap between herself and whatever the comm-mod was locked on to. Still it kept running, it had been moving for hours, never seeming to tire or suffer from fatigue. It kept its pace steady, hurtling across the landscape, oblivious to the one following it, the one who knew its location.

The fusion core continued to steadily drain; she couldn't keep up this power draw for long. The com-mod projected a location, a speed... her fingers flickered through the calculations.
"Just a few more minutes girl... just stay above 50..."

And there it was! The beeping of the comm-mod grew steadily louder as she approached, pointing in a surefire direction, just dead ahead. But what it was could not be told. It moved as though transferring its particles through the air, a heavy distortion such as heat rising off tarmac. A waver across the field, a ghost of the past moving between this realm and the next. It did not turn back towards Talitha, it just kept running forward. The mountain ranges were in sight; it was heading for cover, possibly from the sun. It seemed long, maybe as long as her Ghost, but no other features could be distinguished at this distance. What in the name of everything holy was it..?

"Come on girl... just a little further... gotta see what this thing is..."
The core was toying with 51% power... it would take her 30% to get back as the core reached the bottom of its discharge curve... 20% for safekeeping... time for a risk.

"RIIGGGSS!!!!"

It slowed, it almost stopped, then it actually ran faster than before! A stretched out body, thinner than originally thought. The signature was only so large because of the distortion it was making, because of its length. She could see something trailing behind what might have been its hips, a long, segmented tail-like appendage, steadily growing thinner from the base of the creature's spine. Its body was thin, lithe, designed for speed, but at the same time the distortion it was creating obscured most specifics.

The heat was like a sauna expanded around the creature, far hotter than the ground. Talitha might already have sweat forming on her brow from the heat. It worked to hide the creature in these small thermals, the scent of ozone in the air around it. Spines, or what might have been spines rose from its shoulders, two extremely long pairs swept back almost a full meter and a half, a smaller pair roughly one meter just below them, and another half-meter set below those. Four spines seemed to jut back from its helmet, two long tendrils roughly a foot and a half, a smaller 6-inch set below those. As close to Riggs' original helmet as they would come.

Two blue Warthogs closed in, on the two bleeps on the radar. They didn't have visual contact yet, but they tried to hail them. "Unknown object, identify yourself. This is Sergeant Anderson from Blue Base Lambda. Do you copy, over?" The 'Hogs sped up to try to come in visual contact, but they saw the objects speed up even faster. Anderson pulled out a rangefinder and set it on the dash, to try and get a view. Nothing, yet.
"Please respond, over."

"Damn... too hot..." -She felt the Ghost start to buck and shudder in protest, the hoverpads couldn't take this intense burst of energy. She shut down the engines, sighing heavily as she let the disturbance carry on by itself.
That had to be Riggs... looked just like him... sorta... it had to be... right?

Just then, the Blues' transmission came through, jerking her head back up. She could see them on the com-mod, half a mile off. Could she outrun them? Should she even try, would they still mistake her for a Red? Sure, she had Red sympathies... no time to think, time to run. She kicked the throttle back up, heading straight back for Red Territory. No sense taking any chances, even if she would pass them on the way.

It just kept running, kept on moving, continued to gain speed as it streaked across the landscape, making its way to the safety of the mountains. It had almost ground to a halt when Talitha had called its name, the distortions wavering enough to see pitch-black armor, the same as Riggs' always wore. But in that instance something set this creature apart from Riggs. It was longer, more predatory in appearance. The helmet was thinner, more like the jaws of a raptor or some avian than the brutish jaws of Riggs.-

The Blue's weren't going to get any clues, save for the talon-like footprints left in the dirt, and the signatures they had on the creature. Talitha however would receive a clue, the comm-mod giving a beep as it received a message for her. From the mining community she'd first seen the creatures' signature. Someone wanted to speak with her there.

Sergeant Anderson halted the 'Hogs. Damn. The signals split up. This isn't good. He hopped out of the passenger's seat and went to the back of the warthog. He pulled out two crates. One was labeled WST M19 SSM and the other WST SRSC99-S2AM. He opened the crates and pulled out the rocket launcher and sniper rifle.
"Corporal Pribade, take the S2 and follow the one heading for the mountains. We're going for the other one. It's heading for Red Territory."
The corporal nodded and took the S2AM in his hands. The 'Hog sped off after the object. Anderson grabbed extra rockets and settled back into his seat. The jeep sped off after the other object.

The Hog that followed the strange creature wouldn't have the best of luck following him. The magnetite and hematite of the mountains was already affecting their motion sensors, and the tracking sensors following the object had long lost focus. It was still there however, somewhere at the base of the mountain, hidden in the rocky crags and outcroppings. If they wanted to find it, they'd have to go on foot, the Hog couldn't squeeze through some of the gaps.

It moved and twisted, watched them as they could not watch it. The shadows were its ally, the heat its brother in arms, its body its weapon. It had all the patience in the world, stalking its prey, always watching, always waiting...to feed.

Fuck, they're following... and I can't push full throttle anymore... hopefully I can make it back to base... come on girl... I'll even clean your hull if you get us back...
No plasma turrets... nothing but plains between her and home... shit... she drove in as straight of a line as she could, conserving her speed.

The Warthog chasing the object into the mountains halted at the base. The corporal scanned the rocks with the sniper rifle, but the digital scope was FUBAR. The three soldiers climbed out and proceeded into the rocks together. One had an M90 Shotgun, one, an M/7, and the corporal had an M6C. The moved through the crevices in a line, scanning every nook in cranny.


Meanwhile, the 'Hog began to catch up with the object out on the plains. Sergeant Anderson ordered the LAAG gunner to fire about 30 rounds in the air above the object.
Soon after a loud "BlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlam
BlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlam
rung out on the plains."

The sergeant tried to hail the object again. "Is anyone there? Respond immediatly. The next shots will not be in the air." He readied the M19 and brought it up to his shoulders so he could have a thermal lock once they were closer. The object was in sight now, but it was still unrecognizable.

SHIT! I know you're not gonna like this, girl... here we go...
She ducked away from the LAAG fire, twisting the grips and bringing up the rudimentary AI, dormant for so long... it probably wouldn't save her, but it was damn sure worth a try. After being Red for six years, they sure weren't gonna be cozy when they heard her name.

Claw marks here and there on the rocks, an unearthly heat that seemed to be all around them. A low growl to the left, to the right. It was playing with them, surrounding them, its eyes on every one of the Blues that had followed it into the mountain range. No sight, not a clue as to its location, only the steady hiss and the moving heat. Just waiting for the right moment, watch for the moment, watch the enemy, destroy the enemy ..Destroy destroy DESTROY!.

One of the soldiers stopped at one of the scratched rocks and removed his helmet.
"Sir, I don't think anything was even out here. These are old." He panted a bit and then took a drink of water.
The corporal stopped and turned around. "Get your fucking helmet back on. These are fresh. There's specks of the rock around the scratches, which means the wind hasn't had time to blow the sand away." Meanwhile the third soldier kept on going, peeking through the rocks with his M90, looking for anything else alive in this barren area.


"This is your last chance. Respond."
Anderson had just lost his thermal lock. He turned to the driver and said, "gun the 'Hog. We're probably dealing with a criminal." He reshouldered the M19 and tracked the object in its straight line. He smiled. It was an impossibly easy target for anything. Whoever the pilot was, they probably didn't know a thing about evasive actions.

"...Alright... let's do this Tal..."
She gunned the engines of her Ghost, sending it leaping forward, steering with her knees as she quickly programmed the evasive maneuvers into the computer, trying to gain as much distance as possible. Dodging rockets, even with a fully active Ghost, was far from easy.

He'd hear it before he'd see it, a whistling sound from his right, moving towards his left. Something dark, something black slicing through the air, level with the throat of the soldier that had strayed from his companions. It looked like a blade, flat, a triangular hole in the center of the weapon as it moved through the air effortlessly, affixed to a series of interlocking cylinders, a tail that twitched and throttled that blade towards the larynx, trachea and jugular vein of the soldier. The hiss started up, but it sounded closer to the two soldiers rather than this third, this possible first victim.

The soldier turned to see the object decapitate him, leaving nothing but a red, spongy stump. The body twitched for a second, and then fell to the ground. His head rolled around, still in his helmet. It rolled back down the slope to the two soldiers, stopping at the foot of the corporal. He looked down, and froze at what he saw. The bloody upper stump his a bit as the air was released through the flapping valves and severed trachea.
"Jesus Christ. Private, run. Now!"
Both soldiers took off running through the rocks, dodging them and nearly running head into them. They sprinted towards their hog, about 100 meters away.

Anderson fired his rocket; this one had a thermal lock. It flew through the air as the object tried to dodge it. He lowered his M19 to see the impact and explosion. The 'Hog slowed in case some explosives were blown up, so there was a blast radius to take thought of.

"OH FUCK!" The AI brought her Ghost into a sudden stall and jerked to the right, the rocket hitting the ground just off her right engine, the blast radius enough to almost flip her Ghost. That was too damn close, she was getting sloppy. One more rocket, then reload time... as long as she dodged the next one, she might be okay... this was a bad idea.

-The soldiers could hear it before they could see it, the hissing of air escaping tires, a thunderous explosion and pieces of metal flying as the engine of the Warthog was shredded and ruptured. It stood there, turning towards them. How fast, so fast it had already slain one of their men and had time to beat them to the hog and destroy it. The air and the fire wavered and flickered, an obviously powerful active camouflage system installed in the armor that stood before them.-

They could still make out its shape due to the fire. Hideously long blades extended from each wrists, its fingers ending in long rending claws. Several enormous spines rose from its back, bobbing as it breathed heavily. Its boots were instead clawed toes, talons that could tear through metal and flesh. A long, multi-segmented tail weaved through the air, crimson blood splattered across a 1.5ft long blade of black and silver. It just growled, watching them as they headed right for it, awaiting the inevitable feast to come.

The two soldiers stopped cold in their tracks. With no way out, the only thing to do was hide. They took off in opposite directions. The corporal began climbing the mountains, hoping to get over and into the dried up sea. The other private took off into a rocky outcropping, trying to conceal himself in a crevice. The corporal shed his helmet, handgun, and Sniper Rifle to speed up. The private jumped into the outcropping, but it was just a small pit in the center with zero cover.
"Shit. Out of the frying pan and into the fire."

The 'Hog caught up with the Ghost and was withing 25 feet. Anderson told the LAAG gunner to open up with the turret. Bullets began whizzing through the air as the M41 spat out casing after casing. "Prepare to die, criminal."

The bullets began to spring off the hull, even as much as she spun and dodged. It was just as the first bullet sliced into her right calf, her grip on the handlebars braking the Ghost in response. She opened up her comm channel, punching up the only Blue freq she knew.

"You have no reason to be firing on me! I'm an independent freelancer in pursuit of a bounty in your territory!"

The sound of rocks falling, something scrabbling up the cliff, much faster than the Corporal. That growl, a hiss, the sound of something creaking open just inches from his face. If he looked he could stare into the very jaws of death, hideous metallic fangs and blades in a maw more hideous than any shark or lion. It lunged forward, its clawed hands and feet dug into the rock wall, thrusting it towards the Corporal, to bring those vice-like jaws towards his face. The monstrosities head turned, swiveled so that if it found the Corporal in its jaws they would close on his cheeks, all the way to his ears to crack bone and severe the frontal lobes of his brain.

The corporal didn't have a chance the moment they began tailing the creature. His entire
skull was crushed, and the fragments punctured the brain. The blood in his mouth gurgled and bubbled, slowly oozing out in a saliva/blood mixture. The remaining skull pieces fell out of the grip of the jaw. All that remained was a gooey combination of mush and hard bone. The body split away from the head, dropping to the ground. The private could hear the crunch, his heart racing. He knew he was next.

Anderson told the gunner to cease-fire. "State your name, freelancer." he shouted as the 'Hog caught up to the stopped vehicle. How the hell did a freelancer get a Covenant Ghost? Something's not right about this...Anderson reshouldered his launcher in case of an emergency.

"My name is irrelevant. All that matters is that you fired on me first." She pressed her hands to either side of the hole on her calf, tracking each of the three Blues with her eyes.

"Let me pass back to Red Territory, and I might consider accepting future jobs from you."

Anderson had a grim expression behind his helmet. "Then why didn't you respond to the
hail that I sent?" She's no freelancer; she's a goddamn red spy. If I just had some proof...

"That's personal. I was unsuccessful in pursuing my quarry, and I simply wish to return home. Maybe take care of this shot wound before it gets infected."

He could hear it now too, the last of three. That hiss, footfalls that kicked up small clouds of dust. It was approaching his hiding spot. It knew where he was. What could the soldier do but cower? Could he fight it? Dare he fight it? The footsteps came ever so close, so close that from his hole he could see dust flying up with each step. Then it began to move away, as did that low growl. He could see the blood-smeared tailblade slide across the dirt, wiping itself clean on the ground. It was moving off. Maybe it was sparing him, maybe it was releasing him.

The private gripped his M/7 tightly as he lay back in the pit. He was dead anyway. The 'Hog was demolished, and its a 12 hour walk back to the base. By nighttime, the indigenous creatures would pick him clean. He pulled his helmet off. Radio wouldn't work. The mountains could easily block any transmissions. He pulled a grenade out of his pack. He tossed it around, knowing what to do. He stuck it in his mouth and primed it.

Boom.

Anderson scoffed at the response. "Bullshit. You're a red spy. Why else would you be so god damn deep in blue territory?"

"Chasing that disturbance your other Warthog went after."

She wasn't used to this pain, it had been too long. Keep your thoughts together, don't slip, Talitha, you've been in worse binds than this.

It had been standing just above the Blue private's hiding spot, waiting for him to come out. When the grenade went off it just smiled in satisfaction. It wiped the blood clean from its body, using the dirt and heat around it to remove the biological crimson chemicals. Once it was clean it once again was on the move, heading back towards the Lambda Blue Base at its enhanced run. It crossed the terrain like a blur of air and wind, its tail straightening for balance as it ran hunched forward, arms swung back, solid hooked blades from its wrists fully extended. It had a mission, a directive, they had to die, all of them had to die. Kill them all....kill them...Talitha....kill them all...the Blues...all of the blues...

Anderson paused, thinking about what to do.

"Hrmm. Alright. Follow us back to Lambda. You'll receive medical attention."
Anderson put the rocket launcher in his lap as he kept his eyes on the suspicious freelancer. The warthog began to move, going about 5 mph, to see if the freelancer would follow.

"I can handle this myself, thanks."

Anderson brought his rocket launcher back up to his shoulder.
"No, I insist. Its the least I can do for this....mishap."

"Now, my dear Sergeant... we just met... I wouldn't want our possible relations to go so sour after our first encounter. I'll be fine - I have a medkit back at my residence."

It was being picked up by the base's outer radar once again, flashing, appearing and disappearing, its signature so chaotic the computer might even have a hard time telling what it was. The effects of the magnetite and hematite had skewed its camouflage system, temporarily shut down the active camo matrix so that it could degauss and function properly later. It dodged and weaved, it moved like a demon on fire across the terrain. Perhaps it knew the set-up of the mines situated around the base, if there were any. Maybe it had staked them out in the night, had seen their defenses and knew how to penetrate them. Whatever the reason this demonic entity was moving upon the Lambda base of the Blues, with one thing in its mind. Death.

Anderson knew this freelancer was hiding something, or otherwise she probably follow them. He reached under his seat and pulled out the emergency medkit. He tossed it over to her in the Ghost.
"Here. Use mine."

"Thanks..."

She pulled a syringe of biofoam free, injecting it into the hole, then quickly bandaging it. The Sarge might be able to catch a small tattoo behind her ear as she brushed her hair back - it was the emblem of the Mercury Project.

The door had been little to no problem. Two X-shaped slashes from his blades had cleaved it into 8 pieces, dropping them to the ground with loud booms and tangs. If anyone was in the base, the alarms should be going off by now. Fresh blood to be spilt. It moved through the halls, its sense of smell and sight far beyond that of the average human. Its cloaking device was partially working, exposing some of the monster, cloaking other areas, so that noone that might happen upon it would get a look at its full shape. They would however note the two incredibly long, curved blades expanding from each wrist, each hooked tip-ending 2ft from his balled, talloned fists.

It growled and hissed as it moved through the complex, its jaws opening slightly as it searched for the warmth of the living to steal, for the blood that flowed through its enemies' veins. It wanted to spill that blood across its hands, tear flesh and bone and muscle, rip and rend, mangle and destroy. Destroy destroy DESTROY!

Anderson flinched as a large amount of screams and static came through his comm.
"Ah shit! The hell? Did you guys hear that?" The two other soldiers nodded. One message stood out from the rest. "Is anyone out there, respond? I'm hiding in a closet. This thing is out there killing everyone inside. Jesus, what is it?"
Anderson looked at the freelancer, then back at his fellow soldiers.
"Freelancer, follow us. Something's going on at the base. We may need your assistance." The 'Hog peeled around and headed off for Blue Base Lambda.

...Well that's convenient. Now the question remains... ahh hell... out of the frying pan, into the fire... maybe I could get some cash off of this...

She fired the engines of her Ghost, keeping pace with the 'Hog as well as the bullet ridden vehicle could.


Chapter 9.Training Day

He had them running through tire-rows before the sun was even up, just a sliver of orange on the horizon. A 5km run was up next, Ezekiel Seraphim Crowe making several large circles around the base. If a soldier lagged he was there to give them a morale boost, then headed up to the front of the line. Next he had them don their armor, another run of 2km's ending their first Basics with the Sergeant. They performed magnificently, the well-oiled machine that would be 1st Squad, who'd already coined a name. The Light Brigade moved on into a series of stretches and short runs, finally taking a short break for breakfast.-

-He sat them down in a field to the East of the base after they'd had their fill from the mess hall, Weapons Inspection being a key part of a soldier's life. He had his M19 SSM Rocket Launcher "Kaminari" for display, as well as his M7057 Defoliant Projector Gojira at his feet. He showed them the proper way to load the M19 in case they needed to use one, then fired a dummy-rocket into an outcropping. He taught them about the newly equipped heat guidance systems the M19's had. He had every soldier lock onto one of the Warthogs he had running beside them, then pass "Kaminari" on to the next person.
Lance Corporal Stephen Graye raised his hand, a question in his mind.
"Sir, what should we do in case an enemy moves into close quarter combat with us? What is the best method for dealing with such a threat?"
Ezekiel nodded to the Lance Corporal, then replied.
"Lance Corporal Stephen Graye, if you are using an M19 SSM Rocket Launcher and someone comes into close quarter combat range, you break that person's skull in with the back end of your M19. Built just for that purpose."
The entire group chuckled, then broke for lunch. Ezekiel watched them go. His Light Brigade was taking shape.

Sanderson awoke at about 10:00am. She still had her helmet on, falling asleep in her armor. She crawled out of the cot and removed her helmet. She walked over the small desk and picked up her datapad. Nothing new other than troop deployment records as of that morning. She attached it to her belt and grabbed the M/7 out of its case. She slung it over her shoulder, and then reattached her helmet. She turned on her comm to hear the voice of Napoleon.
"That was very rude what you-" She cut him off again. She left her quarters and headed towards the mess hall on the second floor. Lets see, menu. Glurp, glurp, Protein Drink, glurp. As usual. She got some food and began consuming. At about 11, she finished, just as Crowe's squad entered. She disposed of the waste and went to talk to Crowe. She met up with Crowe as he watched them enter.
"Good day, Sergeant. I take it you were up early training them?"

Ezekiel stopped and saluted Sanderson, dropping his hand once he was told at ease. He watched his squad, his Light Brigade take their seats close to each other, staying in one tight-knit group.

"Why yes ma'am I was. Up at about 0800, will be every morning. Getting them into shape, teaching them what it means to be a team, to be a Red."

Sanderson chuckled a bit.
"At ease, sergeant. That's good to hear. I just hope they'll be ready by tomorrow night. Command is throwing everyone in my command into the rescue mission. And also, make sure you have someone in your squad be able to use an S2. Give em a crash course if necessary."

Yes ma'am. We have weapons detail and live-fire exercises lined up for this afternoon. I'll find our best marksman and educate him in the use of the S2. I'd like to request 3 S2 Sniper Rifles with 6 rounds of ammunition each on the firing range by 0100 if possible, ma'am.

"I'll have the gunnery sergeant get those down there. Now I'm sure you're hungry, so I won't keep you from lunch anymore. Good day, sergeant." The lieutenant saluted and headed down to the Pelican Hanger. The Pelicans they'd be going in on were being equipped with HE Anvil II missile pods. Troop pods were mounted on four of the five, with the fifth carrying an M12T1. This operation was crazy enough to work.

He saluted in return before heading for the line. He took his plate full and sat down with his group, explaining to them that this would be the routine every day. They had to get comfortable with being shoulder-to-shoulder, if they were ever in a foxhole together they'd be even closer. They had to be alert, they had to be ready. Above all else, they had to think about each other, not about themselves.


Chapter 10.The Base

The hog arrived to see the bunker door in a piece of rubble in the doorway.
"What the hell happened here?" he asked himself as he grabbed more rockets.
"Freelancer, come." As they walked down the hallway, blood was smeared across the walls. They checked the living quarters first. Most were killed in there sleep.
"Ok. Doytrev, go with the freelancer and secure the mess hall and R&R hall. We'll secure the offices and motor pool."

The sound of tearing metal, a sudden gasp and a "THUNK!" The soldier let out his last breath in a raspy gurgle, a deep growling sound heard on the other line. More screams as metal tore from metal. It was tearing not only the people but also the base apart, smashing any weapon it found that could be used against it. Further through the base he found a soldier, cowering with a pistol in his hand. The man brought the pistol to his own head, but the sweet salvation of suicide would not be his. His hand was removed at the wrist, his other hand at the wrist, his feet at the ankles. His legs were cut in half at the knees, arms at the elbows, legs removed at the waist, arms removed at the shoulders.

The beast planted its blades into the man's stomach, into the wall he was leaning against. Metal ground against metal as he pulled the man up, blood dribbling and drooling from his lips as he cried out in utter torment. The jaws of the monster opened, its hideous maw slamming forward to cleave the man's head from his shoulders. It dropped and rolled to the ground, the beast retracting its blades to let the body slump to the floor. On to more killing.

As the creature turns in search of more victims it finds some. A half-dozen blue privates armed with assault rifles and a sergeant with a shotgun stand aiming at the beast.
"Open fire!"

It knew these words, possibly because they had been burned into its skull, or maybe because of its military background. Either one caused it to lack hesitation, diving into the alcove the soldier it had just eviscerated had used as his hiding spot. Sparks flew, plates of metal torn and thrown from the nook, the creature's tail the last thing they'd see. Thumps and echoes through the base, moving through the inner workings, through air vents and wide gaps between structural supports. To complicate things its motion signature was extremely erratic, sometimes jumping by at least 2 meters left, right, forward and back.

It found a spot, a nice area for it to prepare an ambush. It kept quiet, pulling its tail to itself. It coiled its tail behind it the way a snake coiled in preparation for a strike, and so it waited, waited for the first Blue soldier to make his or her way into the killing field. Again its patience was infinite, it was designed to strike fear and terror, and just the thought of knowing something like this monstrosity was loose amongst them surely might have riled some of those who were still alive, those who had witnessed its carnage. They wouldn't escape, none would escape...

Mess hall huh? Maybe if I play nice they won't try to dig anything up on me.
"Come on, Doytrev, stay close. Watch the rear, I got the front." Talitha hefted her shotgun, clicking a few extra shells into the chambers, making sure it was fully loaded as she crept down the hallway. She took an extra few seconds to tighten the bandage around her calf, making her foot slightly numb, but it didn't hurt any more either, which would definitely be a plus if the shit hit the fan. Another deep breath, and she turned the corner, creeping slowly down the hallway, making sure the corporal stayed close behind.

"Cease fire!" The privates release their triggers and reload. Sergeant Hennessy takes a few steps ahead of his men and listens. "It's stopped moving. Waiting for us most likely." He turns to the privates, every one of them trembling with fear. "Private Daniels, broadcast a transmission to every soldier left alive on the base. Tell them they have less than five minutes to get the hell out before I blow this whole god forsaken bunker off the face of this rock."

The Lambda compound may've been barely a bunker as far as the base itself was concerned but being the last chance for vehicles to fuel up before getting into red territory, it had a filling station just as large as any other blue base, save maybe Epsilon and Alpha. "Everyone run like hell to get outside and drop a grenade into the first fuel access point you find. I've always hated this place anyways."

It began to move again. With those words it knew where it had to go, knew how it could sustain and survive, not caring about anyone else in the facility. A few fleeting glimpses, nothing more as its active camouflage device once again seemed to be working. Some would feel the heat of its breath on the backs of their necks, others would hear its growl and hiss, but none would be given the time to aim and pull a trigger as it moved through the innards of the base, waiting once again.

..well that makes this easy... get this Blue back with his buddies and I should be good to go... I hope...

"Where's the closest fuel access point, kid?"

"Uh... back where we came..."

"Alright, let's motor. I don't wanna stick around here when your Sarge lights this place up."

It feels like hours before the seven men reach the outside of the base. The frightened privates stayed right behind Sergeant Hennassy the whole time. Immediatly after exiting they find a steel plate bolted to the ground, hidden under some sand. He tells his men to back off and a few shotgun blasts later, he's looking into a hole in the ground filled with massive amounts of extremely flammable liquid. If this doesn't kill me...I'm sure the guys at Alpha will...He pulls a pin on a grenade and drops it in there. Just for good measure he drops two more before running like the privates behind him are to a single warthog that one very wise individual decided to pull out of the garage. There's not another living soldier in sight as the sergeant climbs into the passenger seat and all 6 privates do their best to all fit in the rear of the vehicle.

"Floor it. And remind me to make sure you get a promotion."

It might be then that the Sergeant realized his driver was missing a head. Not only that, it was sitting on the ground just behind a long, waving distortion of some sort, like a desert heat rising off the ground. A low hiss, the heat seeming to move through the Warthog, the smell of ozone suddenly permeating the air, thick and copper to the nostrils. The Warthog bucked and thudded back to the ground, once, twice, whatever it was on the driver's side was actually trying to tip the Warthog.

It succeeded on the fourth try, a guttural roar emanating from raspy jaws as the Warthog flipped and rolled over, something immediately moving around the other side, halting, out of sight, but not out of feeling, not out of scent. Ozone and heat, but from where? It seemed all around them...where had it gone?

"Son of a bitch!" The sergeant was thrown from the vehicle as it flipped. at least one unfortunate private was crushed underneath it. the rest immediatly open fire at wherever they the think enemy might be. At this point, they'll all be dead soon anyway with the coming explosion. Hennessy gets close to the 'hog and fires his shotgun into the fuel tank of the 'hog. Looks like command will never get the chance. Maybe they'll at least send my wife a purple heart.

As the vehicle explodes, sending the sergeant and three more of the privates to meet their maker, the fuel line below the base does too. Flames erupt from the ground all over; as a massive area, much larger than one would expect, is blown into nothingness. The explosion could be heard from as far away as the mines and left nothing but a crater where the blue outpost Lambda used to stand.

"Come on kid, don't lag behind!" She kept running, even wounded able to outrun the dazed and confused soldier following her, knowing she didn't have much time.

Just as she got outside, she saw the fully loaded Warthog begin to drive away. "SHIT!!! Come on, we gotta go!"

She pulled the Blue along, throwing him across her Ghost before gunning the engines, making it to about 500 feet before the world exploded, flipping her Ghost end over end, throwing her off to skid against the ground, her vision blacking out as she slammed into a rock and felt a sharp pain lance through her arm and her chest, almost enough to save her from unconsciousness in hostile territory. Almost.

In the firefight it had fled before the inevitable explosion, only moving in once the smoke was rising, once it knew 3 of the soldiers were dead. Any bodies it found were skewered with the twin blades of its right wrist. One slash, right through the heart of each either dead or dying victim. It seemed to gain some sort of twisted satisfaction with each murder, its jaws spreading open in almost a smile as it moved about, playing God and Death at the same time with the Blues.

Talitha's nostrils would pick up the thick metallic scent moving through them, if she was awake she'd feel the footfalls on the ground as something approached. The heat on the back of her head, moving past her, searching for any still-living Blues at the moment.

A warthog slowly pulled to a stop behind the Ghost. Sergeant Anderson climbed out of the Hog and walked over to the crashed vehicle. He limped over to the vehicle. A 5-inch piece of steel was imbedded in his thigh. He pulled the blue soldier off of the freelancer. His neck was broken. He was dead for sure. He limped back over to the freelancer and shook her a bit.
"Hey, freelancer, you ok?"

"Hmmmm... wha...?"

Her eyes fluttered weakly open, blood thickly covering a gash just above her hairline. She was awake enough to regret that she hadn't brought her armor, but aside from a broken arm, a cracked rib, and a few cuts and bruises from shrapnel, she seemed to be recovering fairly quickly, the dead Blue having saved her life by cushioning her head from striking the rock.

"Are you ok? Anything broken?" The sergeant tried not to move her or displace any possible broken bones. He pulled out a small cloth to wipe the blood that was dripping from the gash in her head.

"...think my arm's broken... AGH! Yeah... it's broken... ribs don't feel too good either..."
Great... now the Blues'll take me back... find out who I am... just bloody perfect...

"Can you walk?"

"Think so... might need some help... one of your boys shot me in the calf with a LAAG before..."

She tried to boost herself up, using her uninjured right arm and her good left leg.

Anderson grabbed her good arm and slung it over his neck. He helped her up and over to the 'Hog. He set her down in the passenger and went and got the dead private. He put him in the back and climbed into the driver's seat.
"We're going to Rho. Or would you rather want to be dropped off at your place?"

Two loud footfalls, a low hiss rising like hot lead thrust into water. Two loud sounds like metal grinding on metal, 3ft long hooked blades thrusting out from special mounts on the backs of his wrists. It was right there, not two meters from Sanderson and Talitha. It let out a crackle from its jaws, spreading its talloned hands as its metallic teeth ground against each other. Its helmet was narrow and long, like the face of a raptor or bird of prey. It seemed extremely thin, best for its movement, its speed and liquid grace. All in all it looked like a much more gaunt miniature Hunter than a soldier, its black armor seeming to glow a faint gold in the darkness.

It took a step towards Talitha and Anderson, its tail flicking behind it. It looked down at her, seemed to stop, actually took a step back. It looked confused, tilting its head off-center as it let out a long series of clicks. What could be going through the mind of a monster?

"My place... thanks... I think I've had enough of your... ugh... hospitality... for one day..."

"Ok. What are the coordinates?"
He keyed the ignition, and checked to make sure everything was secure.

It landed on the hood of the Warthog, shrieking like a banshee at the inhabitants. At the same time it began to rip and tear at the armor plating of the hog, trying to make its way to the more important targets inside. Its tail slashed over its back and between the rows of spines on its black, smashing in the windshield of the hog and throwing the tempered, armored glass all over its occupants. The beast wasn't relenting, wasn't giving up, throwing its past hesitation aside as it attempted to disable the vehicle.

"25 southeast of the Red Iota Base... start driving towards there... you'll hit it along the way... I thinkAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!"

She shrieked like a 6 year old, her eyes going wide at the apparition before her, fumbling for her pistol at her side.

"Jesus Christ!" Anderson shouted as he bailed out of the driver's seat of the Warthog. He had no weapon, and the only thing that could within 100 yards that could shoot was the M41 on the back of the Hog. He scrambled back to the rear of the Hog, but found the ammunition barrel to be empty. Shit.

A snarl as Anderson went for the weapon of the Warthog, the creature leaping from the hood towards the rear of the vehicle. It cleared Talitha by at least 2ft, the heat almost unbearable at this range. She'd see the tiny flecks of gold, arranged in what might have been patterns at one time. A simple set in the center of its chest plate, a crimson Greek symbol for the letter Alpha. Only a fleeting glimpse though as the monster slammed its blades into the protective shields of the weapon. Its jaws opened with the hiss of pneumatic pistons, clamping down as they rended and tore at the barrel of the Hog's primary weapon. Three chomps severed the end of the barrel, assuring it that this would no longer be a threat.

Its head turned menacingly slow towards Anderson, a low growl starting up in its chest as its blades retracted into the housings, large sections rising up through the back of each device to run parallel with his arms when at rest. It made a slow hop from the turret to the ground, slowly circling the Sergeant with the most ill of intents. Its tail snapped the air behind it like a bullwhip, its hands spread wide to reveal the almost 3-inch long talons it had for fingertips. It wanted a fight, and it would get one.

Anderson laid back on the ground, the monster steadily approaching him. He bit his lip and pulled the piece of metal out of his thigh. It was very sharp and about 8 inches long.
It was at least something, as he knew he was gonna die anyways.
"I hate it when two enemies make small talk during battle, so I'll be quick. Do it already, you ugly ass lizard."

Talitha nearly passed out again from the heat as the creature jumped straight over her, but she kept it together somehow, bailing out of the Warthog while it was still fixated on the Sarge. There it was, 25 feet away, under the starboard hoverpad... her shottie. Hopefully she could get to it in time to save that Blue's life. She inched closer, using her legs to push herself along the ground, crouching low to stay hidden behind the bumper of the Hog.

Gotcha.

She rolled and threw herself clear, balancing carefully on her good leg, aiming a shot to the right of the creature, away from Anderson and the Hog. The simple act of pulling the trigger to send a warning spray of shrapnel sent another thrust of pain through her arm, enough that she was glad the Warthog was there to steady her as she waited to see what the creature would do now, gingerly pumping the slide to ready another shell, though reloading was out of the question.

At the least it turned its head slightly when the shotgun went off, could feel the wind of its shot pass his right side and continue on, not even a ping as the entirety of the round cleared him. It released a very low hiss, then refocused on Sergeant Anderson. It hunkered down, spreading its arms wide as another billowing roar exploded from its throat. It continued to circle him, waiting until it had moved to place the Blue between itself and the woman with the shotgun...Talitha...Talitha....is that......gah...kill..kill....

One last growl before it kicked off with its right foot, hurling itself towards the Blue, its tail cracking the air once again as it straightened behind the creature. It balled its right fist into its palm, knuckles releasing several more cracks and pops from its joints. As it neared the Blue it let loose another howl of anger and rage, hoping to distract him or even frighten him before it let its fist fly, aiming for the left shoulder of the opponent. He wanted to turn the man around, get that weapon from him before savaging him as he had the rest of the Blue squad here.

As the creature charged him with its fist coming towards him, Anderson raised the piece of steel into the path of the creature's fist, hoping to have the creature spear its own fist on the steel.

He's not stopping... yeah he's Blue... but this guy doesn't deserve to die... not just because he's Blue... he helped me... he was gonna take me back, no questions asked... maybe I could get a job off him now... no... I gotta stop him...

"RIGGS! NO! STOP!!!"

She stumbled forward, working her way forward until she could aim her weapon at Riggs again, and this time, she wouldn't shoot to miss.

He stopped. All that force, all of that muscle, all of that energy just seemed to disappear, as though the creature had reach absolute zero right infront of Anderson. The knuckle of its right middle finger rested against the tip of the Sergeant's blade, its talloned boots digging into the ground. Its jaw was ajar slightly, quivering, almost commanding to push its hand forward, or at least to release the pair of hideous curved blades in their assembly above his right wrist. Anderson could see about 4 or 5 inches of those claws, extending from the block-like housing, their tips ending above the back of the beast's hand. Even at this range, if it cared to release them they'd tear right through the Sergeant, but it held firm, it obeyed the command.-

GrRr..Rrrrrrrrrr....Tal....tha.............

It slowly turned its visor to Talitha, its voice gravelly, raw in its throat. Human blood still dripped from those mechanical black jaws, signs of its earlier kills all over its body, from the blade of its tail to the ends of the horns on its head. An electrical surge moved up its body, the creature slowly bringing its hand back to resting. It looked away from Talitha, one last feral cry in the night before it turned and began to run, leaving behind the woman it knew...wanted to remember, but even now could not. The comm-mod's beeps slowly grew silent, the creature out of its tracking range completely, or it had taken shelter in the mountains.

The sergeant watched the creature run off before getting back up, throwing the piece of metal to the ground. He limped over to the freelancer with the M90, offering his assistance. "You know what that thing is, don't you? What the hell is going on?"

Talitha shuddered as she dropped her shotgun to the ground, resting against the side of the 'Hog as she clutched her broken arm.

"...I... I don't know... he should have been dead... but he's alive..."

She swallowed hard, closing her eyes as her vision swam. The adrenaline was fading, leaving her just with the pain of her stupidity, not bringing her armor...

"How about that ride back to my place, huh?"

Anderson had a grim expression on his face. "Yeah, that ride." He looked over into the Hog. The LAAG was busted up, the windshield was broken, and the hood was crushed in. Hopefully the engine survived. "Hopefully the engine block survived. That thing crunched the hood in pretty hard." He walked over in front of the Hog and popped open the hood. A few hoses were severed, but nothing serious. "It should work." He closed the hood and walked back over to the freelancer. "What do you want to do about your Ghost? Can't really leave it out here, it'd be gone by tomorrow morning."

"I can hook it up to the back."

She limped over carefully, opening up the storage pod behind the seat, pulling out the length of rope she had there. A few taps on the controls, and the hoverpads activated and stayed on even as she tied the plasma cannons to the bumper of the 'Hog, leaving about 2 meters for it to move and sway, activating the inertial dampers so that it wouldn't crash into the back. As she worked, she kept shaking her head, blood loss obviously getting to her.

"Well, good then. When you're done, get in. Its best if we get out of here soon. No telling when that thing will return." The sergeant picked up the M90 on the ground and tossed it into the 'Hog as he sat down into the driver's seat. He keyed the ignition, and heard the Hog whine as it tried to start, unsuccessfully. He tried it again, but still lost it. He tried a third time, but still nothing. "Shit it won't start."


...you can't call the Reds... you can't rely on them anymore... shiiiit...

"...maybe... call... your superiors... all I got is that Ghost... and I'm an independent, I can't call the Guild..."

Talitha shivered slightly again, pulling Anderson's medpack out of her Ghost and gingerly wrapping some gauze around the break.

Anderson grabbed the M90 and walked out in front of the 'Hog. He raised the shotgun above his head, and begin beating on the hood of the 'Hog. Goddamn car! Fucking start already! Don't use that tone with me! I'll demote your ass! Miraculously, it starts. The sergeant freezes, shotgun in mid-air. He lowers it down. "Huh. Heh, never thought it'd actually work...C'mon. Lets go." He got back into the Hog and they sped off. Soon though, they stopped. "What were those coordinates again? You sure you don't need a doctor?"

"...maybe I should... normally it doesn't hurt this much... heh... it's been a while..."

"Good choice." The 'Hog sped off again towards Blue Base Rho and the City of Kalaa.
Chapter 11.The Club

My man just walked into the club. We're almost ready to open for the night, and he's right on time with the daily reports. I step around from behind the bar and greet him as he hands me the datapad. These little things really are important when you're first starting out, especially in unfamiliar territory.

Hmm...not much of interest today again...oh, hello. Oh Damnit. Looks like our boys botched the deal last night...let's see...a shootout with the gang that tried to bust the deal...well, did bust the deal...one man down, two in the hospital. Of all the bad luck...

"Alright, Sam," I speak up to my lieutenant. "Looks like we've got to tie up a few loose ends." A dark grin breaks across his face. Sam turns to a cabinet in the corner and pulls out two pistols, tosses them to me, and grabs an M90. I holster the pistols in the low-riding belt and take the M90 from Sam. We secured our weapons permits just yesterday, so there shouldn't be any trouble along the way. Sam has readied himself by now as well. I pick up my helmet and hang it on the backside of my belt. No need to wear it just yet. Time to hit the hospital.


Chapter 12.The Hospital

The 'Hog pulled to a stop outside the Kalaa Medical Center. The sergeant looked over at the freelancer. "You owe me for not taking you to the infirmary at the base. Now c'mon."
The sergeant waited in the driver's seat for the freelancer to get out so he could go park.

"Yeah... I do..." It's not gonna do anything anyway... once they pull my file, in the middle of a city of Blues, I'm still done for.

She hopped out gingerly, looking up at the smooth white building of the hospital as she rubbed her shoulder a bit.

Anderson nodded and drove off into the underground parking garage. He parked the 'Hog and got out, taking the M90 with him. He took the Airlift up to the main level and walked outside. He keyed his comm and began to speak. "This is Sergeant Anderson I need a fire team at the Kalaa Medical Center. We've got a red spy here." He turned it off
and limped inside to meet up with the freelancer. After, of course, he got his leg stitched
up.

She slowly worked her way up the stairs, holding her hand to the wound in her leg until the orderlies noticed and helped her inside, letting her lay down on a stretcher. She just answered all their questions with a nod or a shake of her head, closing her eyes as she felt the medics and nurses patch up her arm, side and leg better than she ever could have on her own.

...just wish I was at Macerr City rather than here...

The nurse finished the stitches on the back of his thigh. Five of them, to be exact. Alright, back to business. He wandered around until he found the freelancer. He stopped outside of the room and keyed his comm. "Ok guys, she's on floor 2, room 238. Meet me up here, over." He peeked back inside as the nurses and doctors patched her up.

...what the...

Talitha's keen ears just barely caught the noise, but it was quickly pushed from her mind as a nurse deftly set her arm, wrapping it in thermoplast to keep it steady until it healed.

"Agh... that's the only left arm I have, you know?"

"Sorry, ma'am..."

Five blue soldiers came running down the hall and stopped next to the sergeant. "Nice of you to make it, corporal."

"Yes, sir. What do we have here?"

"Female, age 28-35. The thing that destroyed Lambda, she knew it. Something's not right. It killed about 23 soldiers. She seemed to be able to control it. So if we control the controller, we control the beast. Ok? So wait for the doctors to finish up, then when she exits, we nab her."

"Roger that. sir." The soldiers waited lined up on the wall as the nurses patched up the freelancer.

...fuckshit... alright... alright... calm down, don't let them catch on that you know...
She tried to control her thoughts as she forced herself to relax, even through the medics speed healing the damaged calf muscle of her right leg. The window... she was only on the second floor... take one of them hostage... but she was outnumbered, unarmed, and injured with blood loss.
This wasn't gonna be pretty.

We arrive at the hospital shortly thereafter. Sam parks the LRV near the exit in case there's need of a quick escape. Can never be too prepared. We enter the reception area and I walk directly to the secretaries at the front desk. I give a false name, naturally, and state that I am the patient's uncle. The lady opposite me gives me a disapproving look but, as there's no way for her to prove I'm lying, she tells me that he's in a waiting room on the 2nd floor with his friend. "Excellent service, thanks," I sneer.

Turning back to Sam, I share the information with him and we head up the stairs.

Oh yeah! Completely forgot... yes...

Her pistol may have been in the 'Hog, that damn Blue Sarge might have her shottie, but she still had her knife, that old trusty friend she'd had for as long as she could remember, the whole way back from the Mercury Project... and everything before that...

Don't think about that... just think about getting out of here...

She gladly sat up as the medic began to patch her side, wrapping each of the cracked ribs over the heated paste that quickly soothed the sore muscles there, gingerly reaching forward beneath the sheets to loosen the blade in its sheath in the inside of her left ankle. She could barely contain her smile as two of the medics left the room to deal with the paperwork. As the third finished the wrapping on her side, Talitha carefully used her good arm to help him pull her shirt back on, then fasten up her slightly torn jumpsuit.

"Need anything else, ma'am?"

"Nope. I'm all good."

The medic turned to leave, and Talitha made her move. She leapt from her bed, aiming for a body slam into the wall, unfortunately something that would be heard by the fire team standing outside waiting for her, but she had to take that chance. Hopefully she'd be able to subdue this medic before they came in.

"I'm really sorry about this, but I am not leaving in handcuffs."

The sergeant heard the scuffle and ran into the room, holding the M90 at firing level. He saw the freelancer pin the medic up against the wall. "What the hell are you doing freelancer!? Don't move!"

"You know, asking for my help goes a long way instead of deciding I have to help you. Let me get back to my Ghost and get out of here - I don't want to kill this guy."

She pulled the medic's back against her stomach, holding the blade against his throat. She really did regret doing this, and he was heavy against her still sore and injured form, but she kept that glint in her eye, trying to bluff her way out of the situation that had suddenly gotten that much hairier.

The sergeant gripped the shotgun tighter. "I'm really sorry bout this, but hell, its my god damn job. And that means a whole lot more to me than to some freelancer that I met deep in our territory. Hell, all signs point to you being a goddamn Red spy! That thing you were with was probably your damn contact in some kind of fucked up armor! But hell, I'll at least get bonus if I don't feel good about this afterwards."

"I told you, I'M NOT A SPY! I'm a freelancer, and I knew Riggs when I lived on Cairn, alright? I haven't even talked to a Red since I got here to Macerr!"

The medic was slipping in her arms, he was starting to come around.

This is going well...

"Throw the knife away now or you AND the medical officer will be dead. Drop it, and you both will live."

"I knew you were an ass, doing this after I saved your life, but killing someone on your side? That's just heartless!"

"Saved my life? What about the 23 soldiers that died because of that thing? Did you bother to try and save them? I don't think so. And so what if I'm heartless? I kill people like you for a living. The whole damn universe is heartless"

"It's more than you saved. You think I wanted those 23 people to die?"

"Enough talking!" The sergeant fired the shotgun over her head and into the wall, making eight black indentations in the room's wall. He pumped the shotgun and prepared to fire again. "Now. Do what I say."

Talitha flinched slightly as the shot went off over her head, causing her to lose her grip on the medic, who dropped and threw himself away from Talitha. She didn't try to go after him though, but she did throw the knife, imbedding it in the wall near the window.

"Fine. You're making a big mistake, though."

Lennalli was strolling about the streets of Kalaa, as was his custom on Tuesday afternoons, when he spots a covenant ghost with a Blue army warthog parked outside the city's hospital. "Huh...haven't seen one of these since I was back on Cairn." As he moves to get a closer look he vaguely hears a police broadcast coming from his helmet, which is tucked under his arm.

Kalaa's law enforcement would often broadcast on blue frequencies in addition to their own and Lieutenant Lennalli saw to it that they were assisted as often as possible. He was always all for furthering relationships with the civilian developments.

All he makes out is something about a hostage situation at a hospital. Maybe it's this one. I may as well check.

The sergeant motioned for the private to get the medical officer out of the area. He then
took his pump hand off and grabbed the freelancer by the collar. "Get the lead out. Lets go." He pushed her out of the room and into the hallway, meeting up with the five other blue soldiers. "Wait here." Sergeant Anderson left the freelancer with the five blue soldiers and went down to the clerk at the desk, talking to her and paying her off.

Lennalli starts moving more quickly after hearing gunfire and meets the others after just a short time. "Sergeant! I hope that wasn't you behind that shotgun blast I heard just a moment ago"

"I hate you. I was sleeping until you showed up."

Talitha looked up at the speaking private. "I'm sorry, I didn't ask for you guys to come-" Another private cut her off.

"My buddy was stationed at Lambda."

She turned her head, slowly picking herself up from the floor, holding her hands up to try and calm them down.

"I did what I could... I tried-"

"No you didn't, cause he's dead!"

Next thing she knew, the irate privates were trying to meld her face with the wall as she was roughly slammed into it. She could taste blood on her lip as her hands were planted against the wall and her feet were spread, two sets of hands patting her down to make sure she didn't have anything else on her. She truly didn't, not even her ID on her, not even a spare grenade. The corporal pressed his pistol into the back of her neck to make sure she stayed where she was, but she just shook her head slightly.

Damn idealistic privates... fresh out of basic probably... filled with all of these notions... no idea what real war is like... heh...

The sergeant finishes the paperwork at the hospital's desk and turns around to face his superior. He salutes the lieutenant and begins to speak. "Sir, she had a knife to one of the medical officers here. The shot scared her into releasing the medic and we've got her in custody."

"A shotgun isn't exactly the proper weapon for handling a hostage situation."Lennalli sets his helmet on the reception desk and flips through the papers Sergeant Anderson just filled out. "I wanna know exactly what went on and who was involved in this. How's the hostage by the way?"

"Well, sir, at least it worked. The girl in custody is between 28 and 35. She had a ghost with her. The monster that took out Lambda seems to react uniquely to her. I believe she called it 'Riggs'. The hostage though is fine, no wounds, but possibly a minor concussion.
Come, sir. I'll take you to the woman in custody."

At the name 'Riggs' the color drains from the lieutenants face. "Riggs...Riggs is supposed to be dead...How can he be here..." Lennalli shakes his head and regains his composure. "Yes. I'd like to have a few words with her."

Umm, this way sir," he says as he points to the elevator. "But oddly, that's what the girl said."

Lennalli is silent as he steps onto the elevator. He waits for the doors to close before he starts talking. "This 'Man' Riggs. He was back on Cairn. Most of the injuries I sustained there were his doing. He's the reason I don't have my real right hand anymore. I doubted at first that the destruction of Lambda was because of one person but if he's involved I can certainly see it happening."


The elevator doors opened to the second floor, where down the hall the privates were holding a gun to the back of the woman's neck. "This way, sir. Just down the hall." They walked down the hall and met up with the privates. "Privates, stand at attention." The privates stood at attention in front of the lieutenant. The sergeant pointed to the girl with
her back to them. "That's her, sir."

Talitha's head perked up slightly as she heard the higher level Blues come up behind her, but she didn't turn around, keeping her hands against the wall, shifting her weight off her right leg slightly. The scab was itching like anything...

"At ease, privates." As the soldiers relax the lieutenant focuses on the woman. "I am Second Lieutenant James Lennalli. I'd like a few words with you. I understand you were at Lambda during the 'incident'. What exactly happened there?"

...nothing to lose now...

"...After shooting me in the leg, your Sarge here asked me to come back and help after he heard the distress call over the radio. I followed, and went with Corporal... Doytrev... I think it was... to secure the mess, but they called to evac, so I got out, then the fuel tanks exploded. I got thrown, broke my arm. Then... something was about to attack us, so I told it to stop, and it ran off."

...is that... yeah... that Blue that... oh shit... good thing I didn't say any more...

" 'Something'...hmm...What's your name miss? I recognize your voice but I can't remember from where."

"How long are you planning on holding me?"

Steer him away... but Lennalli isn't stupid... shitshitshitshit...

Lennalli ignores her and repeats himself. With more authority this time. "What's your name miss?"

She kept quiet, staring at the floor. This is not good... why can't you idiots just fricking believe me?!?

He can see that it's going nowhere. He softens his voice a bit. "I'm not accusing you of anything. I have to explain to 23 families why their loved ones aren't coming home. I want to know what that creature is, why it's here, and what connection you have with it. I need you to co-operate."

"I don't know why it's here. I thought he was dead... I wish I could have done more for your soldiers, Sar... Lieutenant, but I'm just a freelancer, trying to leave her past behind. Seems like it's caught up with me."

No point in playing dumb now. She obviously knows me. Yup. There's no mistaking it. She's the one from Cairn.

"In any case, you have at least some control over Riggs. We need your assistance. I ask you come with us to Blue Base Rho. I'm sure you could use the pay. I know how hard it is for independent freelancers to find work. Especially work from the blues for former red officers."

Her eyes flew wide as she turned her head, then smiled a bit.

"Heh... thought you'd remember me... just wasn't sure... your Sarge thought I was a spy without even knowing me. Can't be too careful."

She slowly turned around, watching the privates digest this news.

"I wouldn't mind the pay, that's for sure. I just want to make sure you don't change your mind later."

"Great. Well, I'll call for a vehicle and we can discuss all that back at Rho. I'm sure most of the troops there won't offer you much trust. I figure there must be some reason why you left the reds or you wouldn't be a freelancer." Lennalli tells Sergeant Anderson to call for a transport big enough to take her ghost back to Rho. "You're probly not up to walking back, are you."

"Meh. I've had worse. And I wasn't expecting anyone to trust me - hell, I thought a hostage was the only way I was getting out of here scot-free. Glad he's alright..."

She smiled thoughtfully, rubbing her arm slightly where it had been broken.

I had put my helmet on a soon as I'd reached the second floor. There she was...Talitha Richardson, another ghost from my past. And there was the Blue Lieutenant, too. Looks like there's been a bit of trouble, but as I'm walking past I stay close to the far wall and listen in on the conversation. Everything sounds under control, so I continue on to the waiting room I was directed to. I glance back one last time before entering the room...

"Yes sir." The sergeant looked at the freelancer one more time with a disapproving glance before going down into the reception area to put in the order. When he reached the lobby, he keyed his comm. "Blue Base Rho, come in, over. This is Sergeant Anderson."


"This is Blue Base Rho. Go ahead, sergeant."

"Lieutenant Lennalli and I need an M12T1 Transport Hog."

"Affirmative, sergeant. The vehicle is en route and will arrive in ten minutes."

"Thanks, Rho. Anderson, out."

The visit went just fine. My boys will be released in a week or so. I got the information I needed from them, and I feel confident that their loyalty lies with my organization. Well, now Sam and I are off to Macerr to finish setting up my operation on this planet. But first...well, let's just say we need to reclaim stolen goods.

We again pass by Talitha, Lennalli, and the rest of the Blue soldiers. Taking the elevator down to the lobby, I see a Blue Sergeant talking on his comm set. We exit the building and head towards the garage...

"Oh, it may or may not be scot-free, depending on if your hostage decides to press charges. Come with me downstairs. Our transport should be arriving periodically."

"Eheh... yeah... that... great... I'm gonna quick grab my knife..."

Talitha ducked back into her room, pulling her combat dagger out of the wall, then clicking it neatly into the sheath before following Lennalli down to the main lobby, fully conscious of the privates and the corporal behind her. She could almost feel their stares boring out holes in the back of her neck. She sighed.

Not here, you've caused enough damage already... at least these damn Blues aren't trying to make a fuss either... may not be the same when I'm an ex-Red in the middle of one of the biggest Blue bases in this quadrant... hopefully the pay's good... my Ghost is gonna need one hell of a tune-up.

As they pass the reception desk Lennalli grabs his helmet that he'd left there and turns to Talitha as they walk. "So tell me...What causes an officer to leave the red army and become a freelancer?"

"Well, it's a pretty long story, and I dunno how much of it I'd really wanna tell you."

Huh...Well I was just expecting her to tell me what I wanted to hear...I'm impressed, Miss Richardson.

"well then, I suppose I'll have to earn your trust too."

"Are you saying I have yours, Lieutenant?"

Talitha waited for the transport next to him on the stairs, her eyes stopping on him for just a few seconds before flickering over the populace of Kalaa. Sure, she'd been here a few times before, but never for this long. Most of the time it was get in, get your stuff you couldn't get from Macerr City, namely certain parts for her Ghost. She'd prefer the rest of the world not knowing she had that vehicle, especially since it was her only mode of transportation on the planet. Wouldn't do if someone stole it, then she might have to pay him or her a visit... Her eyes flicked back to Lennalli.

"Just to know how I stand here."

Sergeant Anderson approached the lieutenant. "Excuse me sir, but the vehicle is here."
Outside was an M12T1 LVP. A driver was waiting, with seating for seven.

"Logic says no. But my instincts say I have nothing to fear from you. Besides that, I need you. This Riggs guy seemed to have some personal vendetta against me. Now then, our transport is waiting."

"Works for me. Let's get back to your base - I have a few ideas, once we get the payment issue worked out, of course."

Talitha headed down the stairs, sliding into a seat near her Ghost, running her hand over the smooth purple translucent armor, scrubbing away at a small piece of dirt with a fingernail.

The fire team piled into the back of the transport hog. Sergeant Anderson saluted to the lieutenant and then went off to go retrieve the Hog they arrived in. He soon pulled into a spot behind the transport hog, waiting to depart.

As he always does, Lennalli climbs in last.

"Alright. Lets head home."

A few clicks beside Talitha, a whirr of internal mechanisms. Something was being projected from the screen of her Ghost, a steady double-beep resounding every few seconds. It was coming from Riggs' old comm-mod, the little self-built appliance projecting a map using the primary screen of the ghost.-

Beep beep.....beep beep......beep beep.......beep beep....


Chapter 13.Second Sighting
The darkness of the craft was almost despairing to any who laid eyes upon it, but it had once again returned to Macerr, this time with its second cargo. It descended silently through the atmosphere, coming to rest at the northern-most river that fed Macerr and Kalaa, North of the Red Base designated "Alpha." She wondered if it would have been more suiting to put Experiment Alpha here rather than Beta, but Alpha supposedly had red ties, so that might interrupt the project. She'd been going over the recordings with the council, most displeasing that someone had actually caused a lapse in the assignment of unit Alpha. That person would have to be eliminated, but at a later time. Now for Beta.


The rear bay doors of the Oni craft opened, the same five soldiers disembarking from their transport. They hauled out the next container, their lead science officer again stepping behind the crate. She entered her personal activation code into the terminal equipped to the crate, activating the waking procedures for her second test subject. She walked to the front of the crate as a softer thud resounded inside the now-opened crate.

"You will do no less than Alpha, if anything you have more capacity to perform, my experiment...my Lycan.."

She patted something with her gloved hand, her guards and herself heading back to the Oni ship. They departed, leaving their second parcel behind for the people of Macerr to discover, much to their inevitable horror. Once onboard the science officer went to her room aboard the vessel. She accessed Unit Alpha's recordings, taken by macrobinocular records set into his visor. She heard the woman speak, "Riggs! No Stop!" "Talitha Richardson" read the file that was displayed beside her primary holovid. This Richardson woman needed to be taken care of as soon as possible. She would not have anyone meddling with her Alpha her Orochi, her Riggs.

Only 30 minutes passed before another electrical current brought a second monstrosity to life. Noone around it at this time, noone nearby for it to prey upon. It was hungry, thirsty, it had to quench its most primitive of needs before it could begin its mission. It stood, a much lighter frame than Alpha. Sleek, white armor that slowly became translucent as its active camouflage system powered up. A small Greek letter, Beta disappeared from its left shoulder as the camo shrouded the beast. It took off for the river, a topographical map at its disposal whenever it needed.

A second howl resounded on Macerr, joined by the first somewhere to the East. Alpha and Beta, Orochi and Lycan...what could ever be next?

Red Base Alpha would not be given the chance to send a distress signal. The communications officers all had looks of bafflement upon their faces as one by one their long-range and short-range telecomm systems went offline, something interfering or damaging the equipment outside. Two officers headed out, knowing a quite nasty storm had set in. They'd heard several cracks of thunder, seen lightning outside the windows of the structure. Perhaps the howling wind and the pouring rain had battered or even broken the transmission dish and its surrounding antennae.

They climbed up the service ladder, finding themselves on the roof. Tiny wiper assemblies were attached to their visors, helping to keep out the rain as they clomped and walked their way to the communication equipment. An even greater look of confusion, the dish was completely gone, as were all of the antennae. One of the soldiers placed a finger to where the remains of one of the antennae stood, pulling his hand back as he could feel the heat burning through the armor of his glove.


Those soldiers wouldn't have time to scream, very few of them would. So silent was it that it had made its way behind them, only a meter away. They could feel the strange heat that overcame them, hear the hissing of evaporating rain. They turned slowly, but a moment to take their last breaths as a pair of thin, whiplike steel bands slashed into their visors, punctured through reinforced armor glass, metal, flesh, muscle, bone and brain tissue. The ends of the tendrils exploded from the back of each helmet, carrying forward fresh sprays of blood and bone. They pulled out, retracting into the wrists of the second beast here on Macerr, Oni's "Lycan" or "Beta" experiment.

It had watched the Warthogs leave earlier, a few days past. The Command of the Red Army here on Macerr had headed out for the city of Macerr, a military council convened to discuss what to do about the loss of Red Base Omicron to the Blues. They hadn't come back yet. No matter, its task was to destroy the personnel, the soldiers, not the top brass. It was actually told not to destroy them, and so it would strike now while they were away.

It turned, padding across the roof on all fours, its long tail swinging through the air behind it. It headed into the Alpha structure of the Red Army here on Macerr. Down into the bowels of the base, amongst the soldiers of the Reds, men, women, all here. The door slammed shut...the end of Red Base Alpha. No screams, no transmissions, no warnings or maydays. Just blood, sweat, bullets, and death. A few rampant shots heard in the distance, muffled by the rain and thunder. Two hours later the hatch reopened, Beta climbing up and closing it behind her. She stood in the rain, tilting her visor up to the clouds to allow the cascade of water to wipe away the blood dripping off her body. Not her blood, not a single wound.

Her thin metallic jaws opened, water trickling down her throat for a moment. A shrill howl like that of a wolf rippled amongst the thunder and lightning, louder than the thunder and rain. She leapt from the roof, into the night. The Reds wouldn't know of the incident until they came looking, whenever that would be. Ninety soldiers confirmed dead, many more wounded. A large faction of the base had gone with the Top Brass to the meeting as protection. Thank god they weren't here when the devil herself came knocking on that door.

It was about 1:00am, and Lt. Sanderson was in her quarters. She was about to go to sleep when her datapad starting beeping and buzzing. She turned it on to a distress message. She read through it.F-f-from Alpha? How? That's almost 300 soldiers! She quickly switched to the emergency conference channel on her radio. She caught the Major in one of his sermons, again.

"Ok. Something is going on, definitely strange. The Base AI is going nuts, and the message was received through emergency landlines. Now, first platoon, you're going in to secure the area. Get the squads together and be at the Pelican Bay in ten minutes."


Lieutenant Sanderson scrambled to get her stuff together, throwing her armor back on while sending an urgent page to all the members of the platoon.

"1st platoon, fall out, combat ready in ten minutes at the Pelican Bay.
Sanderson, out."

She grabbed her guns and sprinted down two levels to the Pelican Bay, waiting for the rest of the soldiers.

Sanderson's Pelican landed about 1/2 a mile south of Alpha base as Pelican 2 went and landed on the North side. As the soldiers unloaded, they began to march on foot towards the base. The Pelican's engines roared as it departed to a standby altitude. The perimeter is clear, but I wonder about the interior. She halted her part of the platoon. "Sergeant Crowe, do you copy? We've landed and are approaching the base. What's your status, over?"

He left Kaminari in his seat, as well as his pack of spare rockets. After landing the standard 1/2-mile from the site his forces, his Light Brigade and the two squads accompanying him moved out. BR-55's, M90's, M91's and dual M7 Caseless SMG's scanned the darkness, the group activating their helmet-mounted external lights to provide illumination. It was still raining, but only lightly now, though the wind hadn't died down.
Crowe instructed the entirety of his combined force to pan out, spreading from one large group to subgroups of 5, a medic assigned to each group in case things got hot. He let the targeting reticle in the center of his HUD pan across the surroundings, locking on the steady glow from the lights of Alpha base. They began to double-time it to the base, eating up the distance between them and their mission objective. He holstered his right SMG, bringing his gloved hand to his helmet.
"We touched down and are enroute to Alpha as we speak, maybe another minute, two at tops.

Sanderson's squad of seven arrived at the base's south entrance. She pushed in the access code for the door and it slowly opened. A dank stench of death poured out. The squad backed up a bit, trying to avoid the smell that even made it past the helmets' air purifiers. Sanderson peeked around the corner. Several corpses lay in the corridor. She saw a few moving, and much blood stained the walls. She ordered the squad to move in.
They did so reluctantly. She had them check every room and corridor. Many were wounded severely, and some dead. "Sergeant Crowe, come in. We've entered the base. We got lots of wounded and dead, so get in here with those medics, over."
Whatever it was, it wasn't blue.

"Ma'am, you think that sides a mess...the entire base is a slaughter-house...there are wounded though...far more wounded then dead...I don't think it was Blues.."

They'd entered the Northern Entrance of the base only a quarter of a minute after Sanderson and her squad had entered the South. The medics were already treating the wounded as best they could. Blood, limbs, and dead were everywhere, the wounded either screaming in agony or screaming in horror, reliving whatever hell took place here. Crowe just dropped to his knees and said a prayer for the survivors.

Sanderson heard something from command over her headset and relayed it to Crowe.
"Sergeant, command wants you to leave the medics and 4 soldiers here. We need to get the rest back to base and have them ready for tomorrow night. We're pulling out. Meet you at Iota, over."
Sanderson selected a few soldiers to guard the medics and stay at the base as the rest exited the base back onto the Pelican. Whatever it was, it'd have to wait. A more important even would soon occur.

"Understood ma'am. Crowe out."

He signaled to his soldiers, his Light Brigade and the two squads added. He ordered the medics to remain behind and continue to help the wounded. Two soldiers would go to Macerr in a Hog should any still exist in the garage. The medics would need extra equipment, more supplies if they were going to help clean up this mess. Two more soldiers were to stay and protect the Medics until the soldiers from Macerr returned. Pvt. 1st Class Hartfeld would stay behind with his M90, a soldier from the 2nd squad remaining with a BR-55. The two soldiers headed to Macerr were also equipped with BR-55's. They'd keep in constant contact with Crowe in case anything happened. He wasn't going to lose anyone this soon into the campaign.

Crowe and the remaining soldiers of his group and the other 2 groups moved out, back to their Pelican. He gave one last scan of the area, swinging his M7 Caseless SMG's back and forth before boarding the Pelican last. He strapped in, saying one more prayer to the poor souls who had been lost this night as the Light Brigade rose into the sky.


Chapter 14.Spaceport

The only real spaceport of the Blue Forces on planet, Epsilon can hold 10 pelicans and a squadron of LongSword Bombers. This is also the location where Blue Forces may call in for Air Support or a pick up. This is also home to Eliar Meine, Pelican pilot of the 181st division. Eliar dropped down next to his Pelican as he wiped the oil stains off his hands. He was dressed in his mechanics gear, a full black baggy body suit with patches of military engagements and his status were sown into his left sleeve. His hat had a Celtic design upon the front with nothing on the back as he twisted it around so he could get closer to his machine. He was having trouble with his number 4 engine, one that assisted in controlling vertical take offs and landings. He sighed as he ran a sleeve over his forehead and it came away damp with sweat. He had replaced the injectors, the intake manifold, the super-charger, and every fuse and wire he could think of, but it still only read as 99% efficiency.

He dropped down and sat on a crate of 50 caliber rounds and grabbed a canteen of water from his belt and took a long drag of cold water that chilled him even in the heat of the mechanics bay. He capped the top and slid the metal container back into its pouch before grabbing a wrench and ducting back into the engine core.

He hummed while he worked, playing off a favorite song of his that existed back in the year 2004. He loved the old music, none of this new techno culture that always blasted out on the radio waves. Eliar pulled himself from the engine and test fired it. It went off without a hitch on the first pull and the computers read 100% on Engine 4. The roar was deafening, but it meant he had done a good job. He cleaned his hands off again as he took his hat off and ran a hand through his black hair. Sweat beaded from his face as he shut the engines off. He checked the repair sheets on his Pelican he called "Issy" and checked off Engine 4. Nothing else left to do by continue the modifications.

By all standards and specs, a UNSC Pelican weighs 70 tons with a full fuel load, and weapons load. With his modifications to the engines, he gained a 15% better fuel efficiency so he had added additional armour plating around the engine housings and a much more efficient weapons system that gave a much more punch to. The standard two 70mm Heavy chain guns were mounted with armour piercing high explosive rounds that assisted in the two Gauss Cannons mounted underneath the nose the craft that could tear through a Tank in a single burst. The Two missile pods on the wings were loaded with Wide Spread Cluster missiles that had high yield explosive cores that multiplied the normal explosion area by 3 times. He had 6 Aerial Mines installed on the underneath side of each wing that could detach, fly for a short time, plant where they landed and detonate which was a good thing to have in some situations.

He sighed as he ran his hand across the front image on the side panel close to the cockpit he had spray painted on months ago after his first bird crashed. It was a circular design with lines sinking in towards the center of various colors. He smiled before he turned and jumped in through the back cargo hold as he called it and entered the cockpit. Everything was customized to his liking as he powered up all 12 engines on a pre-flight test and everything registered 100%. He shut them down as he sat in his Pilots chair, watching the sun set calmly off across the horizon.






Chapter 15.Kalaa Sentinel

...clipping from Metro section, 30 October, 2553...

...Yesterday three bodies were found inside a residential apartment on the ^%*%... block, downtown Kalaa. No suspects have been named in the case, although Kalaa PD has stated that they believe the incident to be gang related. All three persons bore the mark of the local chapter of the Southsider gang. This gang is believed to be responsible for numerous armed robberies in the area, and several members have been involved in shootouts with the local law enforcement...


Chapter 16.The Offer

The transport arrived at Base Rho after about a half-hour drive. It parked in the relatively large garage and Lennalli hops out immediatly and opens the base door.
"If you'll accompany me to my office, Miss Richardson, we can begin discussing things."

"Sounds like a plan. Just a second."
She helped the privates pull her Ghost out of the transport Hog, watching to see how they were handling it. Thankfully, they seemed to be treating it rather well, at least with their lieutenant watching. She undid the straps holding the commod to her dashboard and smiled, thanking a few of them before searching for Anderson.
"Sarge, if you would just leave my shotgun by my Ghost, that would be great. Thanks."
Talitha's grin didn't fade as she followed Lennalli to his office.

The sergeant grunted as she walked away with the smirk on her face. He really hated it when he was wrong. She just said shotgun, don't say nothin bout the ammo. The sergeant pumps the shotgun to unload the unfired shells, picking them up and dumping them in his utility pouch. He set the empty shotgun next to the Ghost and followed Lennalli and Talitha.

As the two walk through the halls on the large base, Lennalli turns to Talitha. "I know one hell of a mechanic if you ever need repairs on that. He specializes in non-conventional items. Though I'm sure he won't be cheap. Ah, here we are."

Lennalli turns and taps a few keys on a electronic lock on the wall next to a door with his name on it. He walks in and sits behind a large desk and motions for Talitha to sit in a chair in front of the desk.

"Now then. This Riggs fellow. He seems to take great pleasure in killing my men. In addition, I'm pretty sure he hates me. Now, I'm never one to cause human death when it's avoidable, I assume he is still human somewhere under there, but unless you can somehow detain him we're gonna have plenty more deaths and I will do everything in my power to make him one of those deaths. I'll be assigning you a crew of soldiers and putting you in charge of taking care of him. I personally will not be able to help much, with the way this army's being run of late. There are 16 officers on this planet that out-rank me or are my same rank. 14 are at Blue Base Alpha. The other two are at epsilon and beta. For some reason command saw fit to place me in charge of the other 16...ahem...15 bases on the planet. It's no secret around here that I don't much like the way things are run."

"I've been doing repairs on her for 12 years since I got her, I think I can handle it. Freelancing gives you a lot of time to spend on things you normally don't get to do."
She sat down in the chair, unconsciously crossing her legs to keep her blade in easy reach, leaning against the side of the chair.
"I don't wanna see your men die any more than you do, Lennalli. We should be out there killing Covies, not each other. I appreciate the help, but I think I'd be better off working alone here - using your soldiers as recon would just get them killed, and with my shottie, maybe an M19, I should be able to handle Riggs if he gets rowdy."
She swung her legs down, staring full at Lennalli.
"I'm not just doing this for you. He's killed civvies that had absolutely nothing to do with this by the mines. He didn't do that before, so I gotta find out why he's doing it now. I'll stop him, don't you worry about that."
She relaxed again, twirling a longer strand of her hair in thought.
"Now for price... I keep the rocket launcher, enough shells to refill my shotgun that your Sergeant so unthoughtfully removed, some power cells to recharge my Ghost, and 5000C. You give me that..."
She patted the beeping commod in her lap, smiling as she watched the signal that would lead her to Riggs.
"And I'll make sure he doesn't kill any more of your men."
"But I digress. You will of course be paid handsomely. What amount do you expect for an undertaking like this?"

"Very well. Rocket launcher with plenty of ammo, shotgun ammo, power cells for your ghost and 10000C. And no soldiers...If you decide to change your mind on that I'm sure I could arrange a decent squad."

Lennalli opens a drawer on his desk and rummages around a bit before pulling out a card key and handing it to Talitha.

"This will let you into room b-8. It's an un-occupied officer's quarters. You can stay there for free until your task is finished."

Whee! Four months instead of two! Maybe I can even pay off that back payment on the construction permit! YES!

Talitha smiled, taking the cardkey with one hand and slipping it into her pocket, reaching out with her right for a handshake to seal the deal.

"Good to do business with you."

"Likewise"
Lennalli grins and accepts the handshake.
"You let me know if there's anything else you need."

"I will, thanks."

She stood and headed for the door of Lennalli's office, watching the com-mod blipping and beeping Riggs' armor signature's location... he was in the mountains... that was all she could tell... but there was a second signal... huh... check that out later...

The door shut behind her, and she allowed herself a sigh of relief. Had the Blues really just offered to pay her 10000C?

I could have sworn Lennalli hated me... though we really didn't spend too much time getting to know each other... there was that one time at Cocaine's, but... heh...

She smiled as her memories drifted back to Cairn - the Halloween party, when Brahe had promoted her... but then his face quickly morphed and shifted, half of his skull blown off... the report that Riggs had disappeared... privates maimed and hacked to pieces by that deathbot... Sellings' open and terrified stare... an Elite waving a probe before her eyes before chuckling...

STOP IT!

She jolted herself out of her memories, her breath heavier than normal as her eyes darted around. She couldn't lose it here. Not in a base full of Blues. She raked her fingers back through her hair, wiping the sweat on the leg of her BDU before heading back into the garage, towards her Ghost. Her frown shifted to a grin as she saw the rockets lying there, with a new-looking M19 sitting on top, the Blue location transponder removed from the handgrip, leaving a metallic patch that reflected the overhead lighting. Another 12 shells for her shotgun lay beside it ontop of 6 megawatt power cells.
I'll say this for the Blues... damn efficient...

It took her about 15 minutes to hook up the power cell to the fusion core for her Ghost, but she managed, sitting in the cockpit and clicking the shells into place as the numbers slowly climbed back to 100%.
Kay... get loaded up... head back to my place... get my armor... then go find Riggs... cake.

A new whirr from the comm-mod, followed by some louder, longer tones. Coordinates could be displayed now, the small device rerouting power to its higher functions. That couldn't be right. The new signature was still reading far North, above the stream that fed the lake East of Kalaa. Riggs' signature was....between her and her house, and moving in a North Western pattern, towards her home.

The change in tone jolted her out of the light slumber she was in as the cells charged. Hmmm? Her legs uncrossed as she picked up the com-mod, blinking the sand out of her eyes.

What the... OH SHIT...

She hurriedly strapped her shotgun to her back, almost tripping over her new rocket launcher as she reached out to disconnect the fuel cell from the power core. A few tense minutes later, her Ghost was at 75% power and speeding her off through the darkness back towards her home.


Chapter 17.Riggs

It was following a trail moving through the waking hours of the day. Across fields, rocks, and through puddles of water it ran, arms swept back, spines bobbing on its back with each step. The landscape was a blurr to the macrobinocular cameras mounted in its visor, though the being within that nightmarish armor could still see with a seemingly more-than-20/20 vision. Onward it went, possibly directed to do so, maybe not. It could see the structure, the dome that the scent had originated from. Here it would wait, here it would hunt once again.-

"GrRrrrrrrrrrr....Tal.....tha........"

Her Ghost was sputtering, weaving. The boosters weren't working, the plasma cannons were completely shot.

Goddamn Blues... goddamn Blues...

But her home was in sight, the Ghost now making a whine loud enough that it could probably be heard from the mines.

It heard the sound, rounding the structure to see the approaching source. It slunk back behind the base, staying perfectly still, occasionally tilting its eyes behind its blood red visor. It listened, waited.

The comm-mod was going nuts. The signature was everywhere around her home, and the scent of ozone was rising from the grass around her. It was still here, the source more concentrated around her temporary house.

Talitha stopped her Ghost about 50 feet from her home, letting it drift to the slowly waving grass. She stood, her eyes flickering around as her nostrils were clogged by the thick ozone, making the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She unslung her shotgun, slowly creeping towards her home, ready to run for it if she saw anything move.




It continued to remain stationary, spreading the spikes of its back across the building, the two lowest pair impaling the ground. Vibrations were its sight, though it could not tell exact location. It knew she was walking towards it at least. A low snarl, maybe a growl, nothing more.

She was jumping at shadows in the early morning light, swiveling to point her shotgun at whatever threat her adrenaline-laden mind had thought was behind her. She was within 25 feet of the front door, ready to dash and lock herself inside.

That growl, it was all around her again, as well as the growing scent of ozone. The cloud seemed to thicken around her. Ticks and taps as something moved around her, that growl rising to try and cover its exact location. Was it behind her....or was the sound coming from above her? The comm-mod went nuts, the growl becoming more of a confused tone than an angry snarl.

"...Riggs... John... please... if that's you... show yourself... I don't want to hurt you..."

She turned her back towards her home, her eyes darting around for the active camo, coughing from the ozone, ready to defend herself if whatever was watching her wasn't the one thing she had regretted leaving behind on Cairn.

"GrrrRrrr..rrrr....Tal...I...tha......"
Its footsteps could be heard rounding the side of her home. It was in view in three strides, electricity crackling across its body as its active camouflage system deactivated. It stopped, its entire body trembling. It took a shaky, seemingly fought step towards her, its arms beginning to shake even more. Its fingers clenched into fists, each set of hooked blades exploding from their housings. He was still a good three meters from Talitha, another forced step, its back arching as though trying to pull itself away from her.

"...Riggs... what are you doing...?"

Her shotgun came back up as she took a step back, walking towards the door.

She forced him to take another step towards this woman, this Talitha Richardson. Rigged with a neurofiber harness, small electrode disks covering the largest muscles beneath her skin, beneath her black skin-tight suit. Another step, another. If he wouldn't obey her willingly, she'd make him kill her. Noone was going to ruin this experiment, noone would ruin her Orochi, her Riggs.

"Talitha....fire........"

The comm-mod kept buzzing and whirring, a slight magnetic pull even towards Riggs, Talitha could feel it in her hand. Riggs took another step, another, spreading his arms wide as his blades locked into position, fingers uncurling their rending talons. The jaws of his helmet moved with his words, his voice, ragged, almost a gurgle.

"Riggs... stop... STOP!"

She backed up another step, closing her eyes and firing a shot at his legs.

She screamed out as she felt the pain of her experiment, crumpling to the ground just as Riggs did. Several pellets from the 8-gauge M90 had ricocheted off the angled and smooth surfaces of the Orochi's armor. Even though it had been reinforced for durability his kneecaps, tendons, lower thighs and upper shins still took a serious pounding at this range. Blood poured through the black armor of the Orochi as it slumped to the ground, letting out a blood-curdling scream of pain.
"No.....Talitha........"
He managed to tap his helmet before he shook and quaked again. His claws dug into the ground, pulling himself towards her, his legs dragging behind him as his blood began to pool into the soft earth beneath him.

"I'm not killing you!"

She turned, heading inside, looking around for her medpack. Damnit, where'd I put that thing?

She tore apart her bedroom, finally finding the case under her bed, throwing it open and pulling a syringe free, then another. 50ccs of anesthetic in both, hopefully enough to knock him out.

Another scream. Something was seriously wrong now, she'd hear thuds, thumps, grunts of pain with each one. He was walking again, claws digging into the floor, leaving 4 long trails of shredded material and sparks behind them. Whatever was against him, whatever he was fighting didn't have control over his body, it had control over his armor, marching him after her despite his struggles to retain control.
"Talitha...you have to...stop me..."

"I'm trying! Oh god..."

Her eyes went wide as she saw him walking, moisture beading at the edges. She stood up, took a deep breath that she knew might be her last. She ran forward in a flying tackle as he tried to take another step, her hands moving for the locks on his helmet. She knew how to take it off, he had shown her so long ago... would she have enough time?

His spines flared out as she caught him off guard, caught whatever was controlling him off guard. The surprise allowed him to spread his arms to the sides, keeping them as far away from her as physically possible. On the other end she fought, straining to force Riggs to place his talons into her flesh, to rend her to pieces.-

"MOVE DAMN YOU! KILL HER NOW!"

He didn't, he fought, he gritted his teeth, his biceps, triceps, forearms and wrists all screaming in worse agony than his knees. The locks were the same, his helmet sliding off with a hiss. His face, his eyes squeezed shut, his lips pulled back as his teeth bore down on each other as he fought. Around his neck, the jade collar still remained. It was Riggs, his black hair matted to his head from sweat.

"Oh god... I knew it... I'm so sorry... wait..."

She got up off of Riggs, picking the com-mod up in her hand, the two syringes in the other one. Talitha looked back at Riggs, waiting for him to get up again.

"John, try and roll over!"

She could hear his legs shuffling in the tight-fitting armor around them, his body fighting against whatever held it, manipulated it beyond his control. A long grunt of pain and he managed to roll over onto his stomach, keeping his arms tucked beneath him and the weight of his armor.

She came up behind him quickly, planting the com-mod against the backplate in the little indentation made for it. Her hand still held the syringes, ready to put him under if he still had to fight.

An electrical charge exploded across his armor, the comm-mod falling silent. No more ozone, tiny red LEDs all across his armor turning black as he relaxed. He breathed raggedly, small droplet of blood exiting the armor around his knees. He said nothing, nodding to her slowly.

"I'm so sorry John... here..." She headed to her kitchen, filling up a glass of water and bringing it out for him, unsure if he had the strength to even hold it.

"Can't...move...legs...cold....."
She pounded on the console infront of her, actually denting the reflective alloy that made up the housing of the control module. How could this happen?! No video feed, no motor control, not even a damn location! It was as though he'd disappeared from their entire net.

"Huh? What's wrong? I wish I hadn't shot you... I'm so sorry..."
She crouched beside him, stroking through his hair as she searched for the locks to remove the rest of his armor.

They came off rather easily, no piece giving her trouble. He was only wearing a black pair of boxer-briefs, allowing her to see the extent of the damage. He had been bleeding heavily, the entrance wounds of several pellets of shot more than visible in his skin. He'd always been a fast healer, most of the holes at least ceasing to bleed. He wouldn't be walking any time soon that was for sure.

Further inspection would show the pellets hadn't gone too far, the deepest lodged against his kneecaps. None had broken bone however, a miracle indeed. Nothing seriously injured, the reason for so much blood was just the sheer number of pellets that had penetrated his flesh.

"How...h...hows it look...?"

"I've seen worse... like when you pulled me off that battlefield when that Blue merc attacked... heh..."

She put about 10ccs of anesthetic into each knee from the first syringe, just enough to dull the pain he had to be feeling, using a bit of the water to wipe the blood from his skin before using a pair of tweezers to begin to pull the shot free.

His fingers clenched with each one that came out. Despite the anesthia he still knew what was happening. He hadn't been shot up like this in a long time, and it pained him to see that their first time together again had to be under circumstances like this.
"....I.........I missed you..."

"...I thought you were dead... I got a report... that you had disappeared..."

Her face turned away, a drop of moisture falling from her face to mix with the blood on his leg as she continued to work.

"...I thought I was dead too....."

He couldn't bear to look at her either at the moment, turning his head. It was harder for him though to hide the moisture at the edges of his eyes, this being the worst scenario he'd ever have to press on her. He'd almost attacked her, and now she was forced to fix him up.

"...I knew you weren't... I knew you wouldn't die... I missed you too much..."

She stood up, throwing the bloody shot in the matter converter before punching up the creation sequences, turning the energy from the shot into a pint of blood that could heal him as she went back to her room, pulling out bandages, splints, and a refiller case of biofoam. She didn't head back out right away though, just sitting on her bed.
He's alive... he's alive... he's here... on Macerr... he's alive...

He looked over at his armor, feeling a shudder run through his body. He wasn't dead...he was here...her was here with her.... He wanted to remember how he got here, where he'd been. It had been like a dream, nightmares of dead Blues, of threatening her. That was real. Had he really slaughtered so many Blues..?

She came back out a few minutes later, her eyes dry, though her face was still dotted with tears. She smiled though as she sat back down, injecting biofoam into each little wound before wrapping it carefully with clean white gauze bandages.

"Feels..much better. Thank you...."

What else could he say? How much he wanted to say, but he didn't know how she'd take it, didn't know whether to open his mouth or keep it shut. Best to keep it shut for now, a faint smile towards her.

"You don't need to thank me... it's my fault these are here."

"Thank you...for stopping me..."

"Heh... you think I wanted to die?"
She smiled, trying to make light of the situation as she switched sides, working on his left knee now.

"No...guess not....heh...."

"Heh... easiest job I've ever taken... you came right back to me..."

"..wanted to make sure it wasn't a dream....wanted you to stop me...looks like we both got something out of this mess..."

"Hehe... yups..."
She laid the bandages aside, just sitting and smiling over at Riggs, disbelieving that he was here.

His hand found hers, his arms deep red from all the stress he'd put on them. He gave her hand a squeeze, blinking back a few small tears as he looked up at her. He didn't need to say anything. That bright green had returned to his eyes, that light they always had when they looked at her.

"Hey... it's alright..."
She reached down with her other hand, wiping away the tears as she gave his hand a squeeze.
"I know you've been through a lot... but it's over now..."

"You're right...its all over......I'm safe.......with you.."
Only a few more before he managed to contain himself. He gave her hand another squeeze, smoothing and rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb. He tried to sit up, maybe to hug her, he just wanted to embrace her now.




"Hey... easy..."

Her arms wrapped around him, pulling him up against her, making sure he didn't strain himself... or at least that's what she told herself she was doing...

I did miss him... I missed him a lot... it's been too long... but I cut myself away from that... hrrmmmm...

"Hehe...the floor is kinda cold..."

He squeezed her slightly in his arms, just holding her, his chin on her shoulder. This felt good, this felt right, after who knew how long everything had been wrong.

"Oh... I'm sorry... you should have said something... here..."
She gently lifted him in her arms, carrying him just like he had carried her off that battlefield... from that Pelican... so long ago... so much to thank him for... back to the spare bedroom she had, though it had been unoccupied in the year she had been here, and it showed with the spare parts and clutter that filled the room, using a foot to clear debris off the bed before lying him down on it.

"Thank you, Talitha......thank you...."

He shuffled a bit on the bed, just getting comfortable as he kept his eyes on hers. He didn't mind the clutter, he didn't even care, he was too busy seeing her, a thousand thoughts buzzing through his mind about her. He remembered carrying her off the battlefield, the Pelican...so so long ago...
She's probably found someone else....been gone so long...can't blame her...

"Do you need anything? I have to head into Blue Territory... pick up my supplies... and my paycheck..."
God those eyes... how could I forget them...

"I should be alright...maybe I'll catch a nap for the first time.......thank you, Talitha..for everything..."
Probably the only person I don't mind staring at me...hehe....wonder if she even notices...

"No need to thank me, John... I'll be back soon... help yourself to the fridge, okay?"

She gave him a smile, squeezing his hand one more time before she left the room, shutting the door behind her. She let a relieved sigh escape her, wiping her eyes and finding a bit of moisture on her fingers. He'll be safe now... hmmmm... good... She stopped before her armor, smiling into her visor before pulling each piece down and strapping, snapping, or flexing it into place, carrying her helmet and her shotgun out to her Ghost, using a bit of her rope to hold both hers and Riggs' helmet in the horrendously damaged storage pod before kicking on the engines one more time, taking it slow, no reason to push her, not now... such a good ship...

He gave her hand a squeeze in return, closing his eyes slowly, letting a content, relieved sigh escape his lips. He was with her, he never thought that would ever happen again. He thought he'd be trapped in that nightmare armor forever. He was free now, she'd be back soon. Just close your eyes, breathe easy, time for sleep...


Chapter 18.Paycheck

It took her nearly 5 hours to go from her home to Rho when before it had only taken 2, the Ghost whining, sputtering and weaving the whole way. It had been okay for the first hour or so, but then the powercore had shorted, and the front hoverpad had cut out... just a laundry list of problems. But Rho was on the horizon, and she'd probably be setting off the sensors right about now.

When Talitha finally reaches her destination she would find Lieutenant Lennalli waiting by the main entrance, armored to the neck as usual and his arms folded across is chest.

The Ghost was actually smoking as she stopped it about 10 yards from Blue Base, trying not to grimace as it sputtered and crackled against the grass. She waved to the Lieutenant as she jumped out of her Ghost, beginning to untie Riggs' helmet from the storage port, it had actually stayed put for the trip. Well, I really didn't go fast enough to make it jump out of here... She walked over to the base, carrying his helmet under her arm where hers normally resided, moving to the rhythm as the butt of her shotgun clicked against the rear of it.

Lennalli grins and motions towards the helmet under Talitha's arm.
"You mind letting me keep that? I've a few theories to test."

"As long as it's not permanent, I'm thinking Riggs might want it back."
She handed it over, waiting and watching the Lieutenant.

Lennalli takes the helmet and gives Talitha a strange look.
"He's not dead? He killed 2 dozen of my men. I could understand if he was still affiliated with the red army but..."
The lieutenant stops speaking abruptly and forces himself to regain composure.
"I'm not saying he should be killed... but I believe he should be tried. I want at the very least an explanation and repentance, not only for me but for the families of those soldiers."

"I wish I knew, Lennalli - that's one of the reasons I didn't kill him. I'm not trying to justify what he did, and I don't think he's proud of it either. I just know the Jonathan Riggs I knew on Cairn wouldn't have killed so many people so horrifically... and I have very good evidence that he was being controlled by an outside source."

Talitha took a deep breath, raking a hand through her short brown hair to try and collect her thoughts.
"Until I take payment, I'm still contracted to the Blue Army. I'll stick around while you're running your tests, fix up my Ghost a bit. Riggs is at my residence right now, and I'd be more than happy to take you there if you'd like to talk to him. But until then, I think I'll stick around for a bit - something tells me you might need me for more than just stopping a killer."

Lennalli's voice and eyes are firm but forcibly devoid of anger as he gives the freelancer his instructions.
"I want him brought here. I want his armor, weapons, and anything else he had on him when you found him, quite separately, brought in too. No harm will come to him as long as he co-operates. He is to be un-armed and in civilian clothes. If you don't have any you can take some of mine. I'll arrange a transport."

"Not until I figure out why he did it. I had to rough him up a bit in order to disable whatever the hell was controlling him, and I'm certainly not moving him until he's rested some."
Talitha crossed her arms, returning Lennalli's resolute stare. "And neither of us know that he's left the Red Army like I have."

The lieutenant averts his gaze for a moment and ponders.
"Fine. Give him a week to rest."
His cold blue eyes lock back on Talitha's and he crosses his arms across his chest, the helmet dangling under his left elbow.
"Bring him in here 7 days from now. Private First Class Samantha Williams will go with you to ensure Riggs doesn't decide to go anywhere until then. The blue army will pay for whatever it'll cost you to have another houseguest."

"Don't try to order me around Lennalli. You offered me payment to stop Riggs, and I did that. Unless you wanna pay me more, I'm not going to help you fulfill your vendetta, and I'm not sure if any amount of money will make me betray a friend."

"I've no intention of harming the man. I told you my intentions. It is as you said. Until you receive payment you're still under contract with the blues. If you want to be paid more for bringing him in, fine. You can have more."

"If bringing Riggs in is the only way I get paid, then maybe I don't want to be paid at all. Another 10000C would have been nice, but I think I can deal without."

Lennalli shakes his head and sighs.
"You aren't understanding me, are you? All I'm asking is to talk to the man. I offered a rejuvenation period with only the stipulation that someone goes to make sure he doesn't try to run off anywhere before he comes here."

"...alright... as long as it's just to talk. But I'm warning you now - you try to hold him here against his will, and I'll suddenly have a place to practice with that rocket launcher you gave me, get me?"

She finally uncrossed her arms, but the distrust still shimmered in her jade green eyes fixed firmly on Lennalli's sky blue pair. She let her threat hang in the air for a second before a slight smile curved the right side of her lips.

"I would appreciate the transport though - as you saw, my Ghost isn't in the best condition. If you have a Hog with the LAAG removed, I think that would be perfect for your Private and I to ride back to my residence."

"Yea. We've got one. Ms. Williams will prep the vehicle and bring it around. If you'd like to pull your ghost into the garage we'll fix it up. Or just not touch it if you prefer."

"I'd rather fix it up myself - it's kind of finicky if you've never worked with Covie technology before. But thank you for the offer."

"Alright. Just park it inside, we'll keep it the way you left it."
At this time a disarmed warthog pulls around and Private First Class Williams hops out and waits for the freelancer.
"There's your ride. Now if you'll excuse me I've an errand to run."

"Don't suppose you'll tell me what kind of errand?"
With help from Williams and a few other Blue techs in the garage, they were able to move the almost completely non-functional Ghost into the spot where she had left the remaining powercells and the rocket launcher. She left the former, hoisting the latter to her shoulder as she cradled four additional rockets under her arm, slinging these into the back of the 'Hog and strapping them down with the D-rings in the floor of the vehicle. She waited for Lennalli's reply before climbing into the driver's seat.

"It's a personal matter. Don't worry about it, and don't get my secretary killed."
With that he jumps into the driver's seat of another warthog and heads toward town.
PFC Williams climbs into the passenger seat of the un-armed warthog after securing a battle rifle in the rear and her pistol to a low-slung holster on her right hip. Once she's situated she removes her helmet and gives Talitha a friendly nod.

"I won't."
She watched Lennalli drive off towards Kalaa, waiting until his dust plume disappeared before hopping into the driver's seat, returning Williams' nod, her helmet still sitting back with her new rocket launcher.
"Well... let's get back to my place... no reason to hang around here..."
She gunned the engine, letting it roar as she drove towards Red Territory.




Chapter 19.Zero Hour Part 1

-=The Very Next Day...=-
There was a silence over Iota. Zero hour was upon them. That night 120 soldiers would ride on Pelicans to Omicron. Sanderson arose from her bed, already ready. She headed out of her quarters back down to the assembly hall, where the two platoons were to be briefed. She met up with 2nd Lt. Mariso and Antwone, who were busy organizing tactical data. She saluted to the captain and turned to Mariso. "Good morning, lieutenant, sir. When will the rest be here?"
The captain turned to Sanderson. "In about ten minutes. Have a seat."
"Yes sir."
Sanderson sat down in one of the chairs on the stage next to the marble podium. A few soldiers started coming in for the briefing. She sat waiting.

Ezekial Crowe and the entirety of his Light Brigade filtered into the assembly hall, armored with their helmets in the crooks of their arms. They sat in their appointed row, Crowe in the direct center of the squad. He nodded to Sanderson, activating the small holographic screen before him. He had his squad do the same, teaching them the basics of the assembly hall and briefing, how they could access the interactive topographical maps, move them, observe key features with the push of a button or finger.
He was focusing heavily on the topography of the area surrounding Red Base Omicron. A whole ton of flat land, perfect for his weaponry, but bad for squad cover. Foxholes, trenches here and there, a nice road South of the base. North was the river towards Kalaa. He didn't want to have to use the river, it would slow them down far too much. Across the ground, they'd have to keep low, fire when they knew they could hit something, so that that something couldn't fire back. He waited to see just what the higher-ups had in mind for this one.

Shit shit shit Jacobs thought as he scurried down the corridor towards the assembly hall. He had overslept, and was running late. It's probably already started. He dropped his helmet and it rolled down a ramp he was passing by. Fuck! He chased it down the ramp, finally grabbing it at the bottom. He fastened it onto his utility belt and ran up the ramp back down the corridor to the assembly hall. He arrived in the assembly hall and sat down in the back, trying not to be noticed too much. At least they hadn't started yet.

Sanderson observed Jacobs scurry in from the corner of her eye. She turned back towards Mariso and the Captain. The Captain began the briefing.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight's OP is very important. Our goal is to either retake Omicron or retrieve the Lt. Colonel and bring him home. Estimated reports
score the death total of Red soldiers at all but forty. Now, the Blues have set up ground turrets with MLA 50mm AutoCannons capable of taking out tanks in one hit. So we're going in via D77TC Pelican. Good news is 2nd Platoon got reinforced last night, so they'll be heading in also. First platoon, lead by Lt. Sanderson, will be the primary strike force. Jonston, who was briefed last night and is currently in Macerr City, and his men will be tasked with destroying the 5 MLA AutoCannons set up around the base and highway. Lt. Mariso's platoon will be guarding the Extraction Point. Now, if you will all observe the maps that should now be displayed.(Refer to map below.) As you can see, it
is crucial Jonston's forces take out the first MLA so Mariso's platoon can secure the EP. Mariso's forces will take two M12T1s for quicker transit to the EP. Should the EP fall before extraction time, then all forces are to go to Alpha. Now I know what you're thinking. Alpha is 25 kilometers from Omicron. However, we will have patrols out to pick you up should this plan be put in use. That is all. Godspeed."

The captain saluted and sat down. Sanderson stood up and went to the podium. "I need to see Crowe, Eriec, and McCarly for a personal briefing. The rest of you from my platoon are dismissed."

He dismissed the Light Brigade, ordering them on weapons detail for each other. They would have to prepare, and he'd have more information for them after this meeting with the Captain. Once the Light Brigade filed out he headed down to the Sanderson, his helmet in the crook of his arm. He stood at attention, saluting Sanderson until relieved.
"You wished to see me, ma'am?"

The two other sergeants, Eriec and McCarly followed behind Crowe and saluted as well.
Sanderson returned the salute. "As ease. Now, I'll be quick. The main facility of Omicron is three stories. So Crowe will be taking the 3rd floor, Eriec the 2nd, and McCarly the 1st. Jacobs, the 'bodyguard' they sent me, and I will secure the computer databases located in the bunker under the main complex. That is all." Sanderson saluted and returned to her quarters.

"Understood ma'am."
Ezekial saluted once more before filing out to join his squad. They'd need their usual ranged weapons on top of close quarter combat weaponry, it would be tight quarters in the base. He'd take Kaminari along, as well as his pair of M7 Caseless SMG's. He'd advise his squad to do the same, or fill out with M6D's.

Sanderson spent the afternoon in her quarters, resting up. With all the stuff that's happened in the last few days, she hasn't gotten much sleep. Her BR-55 and M/7 were both thoroughly cleaned and ready for combat. She went over the tactical map, looking for anything that could go wrong. She watched the clock tick away, the OP was drawing near.


Chapter 20.Zero Hour Part 2

11:00PM had arrived. It was time. Sanderson left her quarters in full battle gear and headed down to the Pelican Bay. Funny, this seems familiar. The thought. Yes that
thought. It was Aiur. Tarsonis. Planet. James. No, she could not get distracted by the man. That man. The one who saved her, the one. But, it felt so similar. Fixed target, riding in, possibly of getting blown away by stationary targets, it was once again here. History. Repeating. Once again. She shook her head. It's not a good time to get distracted by the worries. Just, the last time, hell broke loose. Thirty-eight KIA, two wounded. Only now she was in his shoes. No. She wouldn't let these recruits die. She would not allow history. The repetion. It was different. A new mission. Fifteen Pelicans going in. Five per platoon. Time to fly. She arrived in the bay and waited for the troops to assemble. Its time...

1st Squad, Ezekial Crowe's Light Brigade was ready and waiting, armored up, helmets on. They were running final weapon checks, Crowe's M7057 Defoliant Projector "Gojira" in hand, a fresh canister of liquid napalm loaded up. At his feet was a large black box, containing his M19 SSM Rocket Launcher "Kaminari." At each hip was an M7 Caseless SMG. He was armed and armored for war, and his squad showed it. Either a BR-55 or an M90 in their hands or strapped to their backs, a few soldiers carrying an M7 sidearm or an M6C or D just in case tight quarters occurred in the base.
Ezekial saluted Sanderson as soon as she came into view, as did the rest of the Light Brigade. They were all set to go, all set for the hell they'd be entering. They were ready for a victory, not to kill the Blues. He'd trained them for disabling shots, killing blows frowned upon in the eyes of Ezekial Seraphim Crowe. If they couldn't stop a person they'd kill him, but that was the only condition. Any wounded would be treated by his medics, any dead collected to be sent back to the Blues so that their families could be notified, could be given the bodies of their sons, daughters, wives, husbands, mothers and fathers.

Jacobs entered the Pelican Bay, armed with his M/7, his S2 and plenty of ammo. He saluted to Sanderson and stood in front of her, waiting for the rest.

Sanderson watched as 2nd and 3rd squad entered. Her platoon was assembled. She watched as the other two platoons assembled in their respective areas. She stood on one of the ramps, able to see her whole platoon. "First Platoon, fall in! Get into your designated dropships. And may God have mercy on your soul!" She hopped into one of the Pelican's front seats so she could observe from the rear. She watched as soldiers began loading in, Jacobs across from her. This was it. Now.

The 9 members of the Light Brigade, 1st Squad stuck together in one Pelican, Crowe the last one up after another 3 soldiers from 1st platoon filed in. He pressed his palm to the Pelican rear door control, watching the bay door of the Pelican rise vertically to seal them in. He took his seat as the very rear of the Pelican; he'd be the first one down to secure the area for his squad. Via their HUDs and communications he informed them of their goal, the safety and securing of Omicron's uppermost level, the 3rd floor. He gave them the projected layout, telling them that any number of Blues could be on the level, in any corner and in any room. They'd have to be sharp.
Any soldiers on the base's roof would be disabled if possible, removed from the Blue's infantry pool permanently if debilitation wasn't working. Inside it would be all close quarter fighting, Crowe recommending they switch to their smaller sidearms and prepare for the worst. He, like the rest of his squad had a 9-inch vibroharmonic K-Bar knife in his right shin brace, if for some reason his pair of M7 SMGs couldn't handle the job. They all nodded in acknowledgement of their mission. He ended with words he'd taught every squad, especially the Light Brigade. He began with the opening lines to the classic work of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whom he'd adopted the title of his squad.

"Half a league, half a league, half a league onward, all in the valley of Death rode the six hundred. 'Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!' he said: Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred."

Corporal Iome Earindal and Corporal Michelle Najees began the second verse together.

"'Forward, the Light Brigade!' Was there a man dismay'd ? Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd: Their's not to make reply, Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred."

Next came Lance Corporal Justin Marknene(Medical Officer) and Lance Corporal Stephen Graye with the third, speaking in perfect stride note for note, word for word.

"Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell Rode the six hundred."

Lance Corporal Michael Jameson and Private First Class Emily Hanover had the fourth verse.

"Flash'd all their sabres bare, Flash'd as they turn'd in air Sabring the gunners there, Charging an army, while All the world wonder'd: Plunged in the battery-smoke Right thro' the line they broke; Cossack and Russian Reel'd from the sabre-stroke Shatter'd and sunder'd. Then they rode back, but not, not the six hundred."

Private First Class Connor Barnes and Private First Class Alexander Hartfeld picked up the fifth verse.

"Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon behind them Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell, They that had fought so well Came thro' the jaws of Death, Back from the mouth of Hell, All that was left of them, Left of six hundred."

Crowe was going to begin the sixth and final verse alone as he had taught his squad . He was surprised however when all 8 of his soldiers spoke in unison, joined by his voice a moment later. The 9 members of 1st Squad, Ezekial "Seraphim" Crowe's Light Brigade finished the poem together. He knew it would be a moral boost, so Crowe opened his comm to an open Red channel so that all of the soldiers flying to Red Base Omicron would hear it, loud and proud.

"When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wonder'd. Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred! For the glory of mankind and peace for all in this universe, onward we charge, soldiers of the Red Army!"

Sanderson listened to the squad over the radio, all in perfect unison. She chuckled a bit.
"Not bad, 1st squad. Anways, we'll be hitting the LZ in ten minutes, so watch for any flak, and to keep your cookies in for any of you rookies." Sanderson looked out the rear of the Pelican and smiled again, the outline of the highways visible by the lights. "Check weapons and keep cool. Sanderson, out."

Safeties off, clicks and clacks emanating from inside the Pelican. Ezekial removed "Kaminari," his M9 SSM Rocket Launcher and loaded up two heat-seeking rockets. He'd be using this to clear the roof, maybe he could at least disorient the Blue soldiers. He realized how unethical using this weapon would be, even worse if he brought "Gojira" the defoliant projector into the building. It had to be done though, and he'd say a prayer for each and every soul that passed here, hoping to guide them to the light of heaven, to help the Lord see their accomplishments and positives rather than the negatives of this war. He only hoped that when he passed he would be judged the same.

Sanderson watched out the rear of the Pelican. Two other Pelicans were behind the Pelican she was in. She checked the mission clock. Thirty seconds. "Thirty seconds!" she shouted over the radio. Suddenly, a 102mm rocket impacts the rear Pelican on the Front Right of the Cockpit. The black smoke and dark night made it impossible to see what had happened. But they were going down. "All Pelicans, all pelicans. Foxtrot Niner Niner is hit and is going down. I repeat. Eriec's Pelican is hit and is going down." Shit. "McCarly, have your bird swoop down and secure the crash site. All other birds be advised. We'll be hitting the LZ in ten."

The flak from the MLA 50mm autocannons could be seen zipping through the sky. Her Pelican touched down, and she hopped out, followed by Jacobs. She took a knee and keyed her radio. "Crowe, proceed on mission. Clear the entire complex. Jacobs and I will secure the LZ. Good luck. Sanderson, out."

"You heard her soldiers, were taking that building alone! Warriors of the Light Brigade, send these Blue Bastards to the abyss!"
Crowe stood, bracing himself as he hit the Pelican's rear door. He ordered the pilot to lower them towards the roof, slinging "Kaminari" onto his shoulder. He scanned for any targets, he didn't want to be setting the Pelican down onto enemies. Corporal Earindal and Pvt. 1st Class Emily Hanover stood beside him, each with a BR-55 on the watch for anyone they could take down at the uppermost level of the base. They could hear the flak exploding in the air, the soldiers ready to leap out of the back of the Pelican to the roof below.

Four Blue defenders on the roof, the rocketeer who had brought down the first Pelican, reloading his M19 with two more 102mm shaped charges, another on a mounted mobile turret, spitting out 7.62mm rounds at the Pelican, another with a sniper rifle, trying to get a bead on the crews milling around the crashed Pelican. The fourth appeared to be an officer, yelling barely audible commands over the din of hell. Warthogs were roaring out, heading for Sanderson and the rest of her party.

Jacobs turned to see the Warthogs approaching from the Southeast through the scope of his S2. He raised his rifle and shot 4 14.5x114mm bullets towards the heads of the warthog drivers. The shots rang out almost simultaneously. He watched through his scope to see if the rounds hit.

Two thudded into the windshield, the first cracking and shattering the glass, the second creating a fist sized hole in the supports before slicing into the shoulder of the left hand driver. The squeal of his tires almost overwhelmed his scream of pain and terror. But the second driver didn't live long enough to even whimper, a bloody hole right above his nose, blood spurting all over the gunner and the officer sitting in the passenger seat. Sergeant Luyten wiped the gore off his glasses before shouting for the private on the LAAG to open fire, directing a hail of bullets towards the Pelicans as he jumped out and tried to pry the corporal's lifeless body from his restraints.

Crowe had a bead on the mobile turret as it hammered their Pelican with armor piercing rounds. One rocket for that soldier; he wouldn't be endangering Crowe's soldiers any longer. Corporal Earindal began firing single shots from his BR-55, preferring a more sniper-like approach than the standard 3-round burst the rifle had to offer. His job was to take down that M19, preferably the soldier wielding it. He aimed for the legs of soldier, preferably the ankles and shins, for the most part firing around the Blue's feet. A few shots at his M19, maybe he could hit something important and disable the weapon entirely.
Pvt. 1st Class Hanover was next up, her BR-55 on 3-round burst. She spray-fired for the sniper's hands and S2, concentrated bursts of molten metal sent flying for pretty much every part of the sniper rifle visible at this angle. They'd been trained to disable, not to kill. Only kill if they're trying to kill you, otherwise take them hostage, and show them the same treatment we show our soldiers. The remainder of the Light Brigade waited patiently, weapons at the ready for when the roof was secured.

Private Dayton threw down his M19 as rounds began to sprang around his feet, watching in horror as one of Earindal's rounds penetrated the rear of the charge, igniting it in a double boom as he was thrown backwards, just as PFC Rushi was vaporized in Crowe's rocket and the ensuing ammunition explosion. Corporal Cirris turned to hear her final scream, and the distraction was long enough for all three of Hanover's rounds from a burst to slice into his left hand. He held back a hiss as he reached for the SMG holstered at his hip, tossing it to Sergeant Zukav before pulling the other one free as well. They both let loose with the concussive caseless rounds, the Sarge saving his pistol as he backpedaled towards Dayton's moaning form.

Rounds sprang and ricocheted off the armored panels of the Pelican, a few whizzing past Crowe's visor as he pushed his forces back into the safety of the bay. He counted down, three...two...one...He whipped around, a quick-shot letting loose his second rocket, aimed between the two remaining armed Blues. It wasn't a shot to kill either one of them, hopefully the blast would either knock them off the roof or disable them long enough for his soldiers to get onto the roof and secure them. He felt an SMG round ricochet off the right vent of his helmet, leaving a nice silver gash in its path before he ducked back, listening for the sound of his missile's impact.

"Cirris! GET DOWN!"
Zukav threw himself over Dayton, protecting the private from the explosion, feeling it singe the armor on the back of his legs. He looked up a few seconds later, scooting over to the edge of the base and extending a hand to the dangling Corporal, hanging on for dear life from an access ladder with his good hand.

A hand passed the Blue Soldiers, orange armor with a white series of emblems and cryptic figures. It took the hand of the Blue hanging by the access ladder, followed by maroon armor, red armor. They hauled the soldier up onto the roof, medical officer Michelle Najees was there with an injection of biofoam for each of the holes, removing the soldiers glove before wrapping it up tightly in a pressure bandage. Crowe looked down at the Blue who had seemed to be in charge.
"How many in the base? This can go two ways. The first way is you tell your men inside to stand down, and all of you live. The second way is you don't tell me, I knock you unconscious and we go balls-to-the-wall on anyone inside. Its your choice soldier."

Zukav didn't say anything at first, just letting his eyes flicker over the scene, taking in the Corporal, his pistol and SMG lying next to Dayton. Hopefully the kid would be alright, these Red bastards hadn't killed them, yet. He let a smirk twist his features behind his visor.
"Heh, you must be as stupid as your colonel if you think I'm gonna surrender."
Just then, Dayton's hand lanced out for the SMG, hoping he could get it and open fire before the Reds noticed.

Four clicks, two so close the Blue going for the SMG could feel the reverberations in his helmet. If he looked he'd have 3 BR-55's and an M90 Shotgun aimed directly at his face. The only thing that kept the Reds from perforating the poor bastard's skull was Crowe's raised hand. His soldiers kept one eye on that hand, one eye on the Blue. If Crowe lowered his hand without telling them to pull back they knew they could open fire without discretion on this unlucky Blue, and so they waited for the call from their commanding officer.
"Well? Are you going to play nice, or do I need to start with the executions?"

"...Sarge..."

"Shut UP, Dayton! You don't want to disappoint Melissa, do you?"

The private pulled his hand away from the SMG, sliding back a bit from the weapons pointed at his faceplate, concentrating on not throwing up in his helmet. Cirris looked down at his bandaged hand, clenching it until moisture welled up in his eyes from the pain and blood oozed out from the bandages.
"...two squads down below-"
"CORPORAL!"
"With all due respect sir, I don't think your threat of a court-martial will do much now."

"Are you going to tell them to lay down their arms and play nice? If not...well....Graye!"

Lance Corporal Stephen Graye came up behind Crowe, holding something rather large in his hands. Crowe turned and took it, nodding to the Lance Corporal who went to the door of the building. He began to attach C6 mines to the door at the very top of the base, ready to make them a rather sizeable entrance into the facility.
Crowe spun and looked down at the soldier, the pilot light of an M7057 Defoliant Projector inches from his face. Crowe tweaked the napalm canister, adjusting the flow to maximum output on the small left-hand control grip.
"If not, 'Gojira' and I have a date with the Blues."

"No can do, you goddamn Red. I'm not in command here, and I wouldn't order them to stand down and await your "mercy" even if I was! FENWICK! NOW!!"
The door slammed open without Graye's C6 charges even going off, half a dozen grenades thrown haphazardly onto the roof.

"Soldiers, drop and scatter!"
They had to get as far away from the grenades as physically possible, they'd been informed on dispersionary tactics incase of grenade use. The three Red soldiers armed with BR-55's, Corporal Earindal, Pvt. 1st Class Hanover and Corporal Najees dove for the door, tucking and rolling past the frame as quickly as possible. Lance Corporal Graye and Ezekial dove for the sides, Crowe towards the remains of the machinegun emplacement, Graye for the opposite side of the roof.
Crowe twisted in midair. He couldn't afford to land on "Gojira" and damage any of the defoliant projector's outer equipment. This Blue had possibly cost him a soldier's life, had endangered himself but more importantly his squad. His right hand squeezed down on the trigger, letting a cleansing burst of flaming napalm spew forth from the mouth of the Defoliant Projector. "Gojira" let loose the tongue of flame towards the man who had called for the door, possibly the first victim of its wrath here on Macerr.

Sanderson and Jacobs exited the LZ and headed for the cover of the outer walls of the base. She heard the flamethrower and grenades go off on the roof above, debris falling to the ground. She quickly keyed her radio. "Crowe, you alright up there?" She spun around and saw a Blue soldier standing in front of an open access door to the base's bunker. He had an M6C at eye level, pointed straight at Sanderson's cerebrum. She stood, frozen at gunpoint, with Jacobs behind her.
"You two, throw the M/7 and BR-55 to the ground, now!"
Obviously he hadn't seen the M/7 Sanderson had behind her attached to her utility belt.
She threw her weapon away and put her hands on her head.

Jacobs through his M/7 away. But as he brought his hands up, he quickly grabbed Sanderson's M/7 and fired it over her shoulder at the Blue. The quickly spray caught the Blue soldier in the neck, piercing his trachea. The wound made a wet whistle sort of noise, as the combination of blood and oxygen escaped from his body. He fell back into the doorway, dead.
"Shall we move on, ma'am?"

"good move, Jacobs. Grab your weapon. I'll take that."
Sanderson grabbed her M/7 from Jacobs's hands and reattached it to its previous location. She picked up her BR-55 and walked towards the door, kicking away the Blue soldier's corpse. She proceeded down the flight of stairs to the base's subterranean bunker. It was dank and not kept up well. She proceeded down the dark corridor along with Jacobs, which then lead into a large circular room. A few rifles here and there, but it looked as if someone packed up and left a long time ago. She stopped in the chamber and checked her radio. She wasn't getting a signal down there. She walked over to the grate in the roof, which lead to an escape ladder up to the first floor. She climbed up and opened the grate to try and get a signal. Nothing. She climbed higher up, right under the first floor. Suddenly someone stepped on the grate above her. It was a blue soldier. More followed. But then someone who wasn't in blue armor. But a red uniform.
Shit. It's the Lt. Colonel. She slid back down the ladder to meet up with Jacobs.
"We got a problem. The blues are moving the Lt. Colonel west through the complex. We're going up into the main complex." She began to climb back up the ladder, waiting for Jacobs.

The grenades went off with an earth-shattering boom. Dayton screamed as he went fetal, trying to shield himself from the shrapnel whizzing around him, jumping and whimpering as they cut into his armor and poked against his flesh. Why the hell did I join up...?
Cirris was clearer, able to hide behind one of the barriers shielding the edge of the base, then vaulting over it and scooping up the SMG he had dropped. But a slight whimper made him turn, and his eyes bugged out of his head as he saw Zukav's teal armor disappearing beneath the white-hot napalm flame. The Sergeant managed a salute as he forced himself to his feet. "Keep... Dayton... 'live..." The blood oozing from the grenade wounds only fed the flames as he forced himself into a shuffling run, hoping to return the favor and spread the flame onto the Red's officer.

Crowe did not have time to reply to Sanderson's message, having to deal with the Blues at the moment on the roof. His finger left the trigger as he saw the burning soldier running towards him, cutting the trail of flame. He rolled to his right, kicking out with his right foot towards the man's rear. He was trying to boot him off the roof to the ground so far below rather than waste any more precious ammunition on the soon-to-be-dead Blue.
Lance Corporal Graye had struggled to his feet, still disoriented after the sextet of blasts had rung in his helmet. He saw the Blue with the SMG, saw the burning man running towards Crowe. He observed Crowe's roll and kick, knowing his commanding officer could handle himself. This Blue with the M7 however had to be dealt with. Graye flipped his shotgun in his hands, setting the safety on as he took the stock and pump. He swung the butt of the shotgun like a baseball bat towards the left side of the Blue's head, throwing all of his strength behind that one solid swing.

Zukav began to stumble as he approached the edge of the roof and his quarry, barely even noticing as his legs gave out, Crowe's kick catching him in the small of the back and throwing him off the roof. But the Sergeant didn't even live long enough to feel himself hit the ground 15 meters below.

Cirris barely managed to duck underneath Graye's blow, standing back up and trying to return the favor with the butt of the SMG. Another half-dozen Blues thundered up the stairs, five of them charging the small group of Reds with SMGs and M90s blazing, trying to beat back the attackers until their superiors could evacuate their hostage, one moving to help Cirris as Dayton began to crawl for Zukav's M6C.

The butt of the SMG caught Graye right in the center of his helmet's faceplate, actually lifting him off of his feet slightly. He landed on his rear with a thud, stunned slightly as his vision blurred. He brought his M90 between himself and the aggressor, unable to focus enough to aim. Close range, he hoped he could get this first guy off of him. He pulled the trigger, the boom of the 8-gauge shotgun ringing as loudly as one of those grenades had. Shot the size of ball bearings exploded from the muzzle of the shotgun, spraying out at Cirris without any order.
Crowe had brought himself to his feet once the Blue had teetered over the edge. He felt the heat on his right boot, knew some of the napalm had transferred over to him. He'd have to deal with it later, his armor would hold for a few seconds if it was just a small flame. The Blue's coming up to the roof guns blazing had to be dealt with now. Crowe gave the signal as his three Reds behind the doorway made it to their feet. Weapons hot, shoot-to-kill. BR-55s shot 3-round bursts of ammunition towards the backs, helmets, arms and torsos of the Blues that made it through the door. Crowe let loose another blast of napalm towards them, "Gojira's" breathes igniting the air itself as it spewed forth towards the Blues.

Sanderson checked the hallway through the slits in the grate before popping it out. She climbed up through the manhole and helped Jacobs up. Now that they both were on the first floor, she slid the grate back into position with a metallic "Clack!". They proceeded down the corridor with their sights at eye level, scanning the hall for any blues. Suddenly a Blue with an M91 ran out of a room, dead in front of them. He had caught them off guard. He put his shotgun point blank into Sanderson's chest and fired. She stumbled back, flabbergasted, and fell down to the ground. Her armor had absorbed most of the shot, but not most of the energy. It had knocked the wind out of her, and she was gasping for air. The Blue pointed his shotgun to Jacobs, but the thing jammed.

Jacobs's opens fire with his M/7, cutting down the Blue to shreds. As the Blue falls to the floor, he continues firing at the Blues head. By the time he was out, all 60 rounds had passed through the Blue's cerebrum. He reloaded and walked over to the lieutenant to help her. "Are you ok, ma'am?"

Cirris' cry almost overshadowed the roar of gunfire on the top of the base, the SMG clattering back to the concrete as he clutched his right arm to his chest, crimson freely flowing over his cobalt armor. He looked up, trying to be ready for that second shot, but it didn't look like it would come. Dayton had finally gotten his bearings, and had Zukav's pistol shakily pointed at Graye's forehead.

The five PFCs that had come up to the roof tried to duck behind the intermediate barriers, two using the door itself as cover, two more diving and rolling for the left, a lance corporal heading for the right as the private with him caught half a dozen bullets with his chest and collapsed twitching to the roof. One private took two shots to his leg as he fell short of his bunker, hastily trying to move for cover before Gojira's breath found him, engulfing him in flames that did nothing to mask his screams. The four other members of Fire Team Delta were red-hot, pouring SMG and BR-55 rounds at the Reds, more to keep their heads down than retaliate for the loss of two members of their squad.
Graye heard the click as the hammer of the pistol cocked back, knew this might be the end for him. From the bay of the Pelican, armed and ready the remaining 4 members of the Light Brigade armed their weapons. They had to support their commanding officer and their fellow soldiers, and they'd do just that. Lance Corporal Michael Jameson was the first on the roof, BR-55 raised and at the ready. The first thing he took note of was Lance Corporal Graye's situation. He fired over Graye's helmet, 3 pulls of the trigger sending 9 molten projectiles towards the Blue with the pistol aimed at his friend and allie's head.
Earindal looked up at the wrong time in the wrong place, ready to return fire to the Blue's only to catch 4 shots from an SMG in the faceplate. He teetered back, grabbing at his mask and screaming in pain, blood oozing up from its silver, shattered facemask. Corporal Najees was quick to assess the damage, pulling Earindal back behind the safety of the rear of the door's expansion to the roof. She pulled his helmet off, noting that one round had made a shallow slash past his left temple, one had broken his nose. Another round had cracked in three of his teeth, and she was quick with a pair of forceps to remove that round from the back of his throat less it do more damage. Biofoam for his nose, she'd have to extract that round later. The fourth round was rattling around inside his helmet, possibly the first round that had its energy sapped by the faceplate.
"Sergeant Ezekial! Earindal is down!"
The "Seraphim" seemed to take this news rather well, well, perhaps well isn't the word to use. The correct word would be seething with malice. He had to give Najees enough time to help Earindal, enough time for Lance Corporal Marknene to help if it was a grievous wound. He saw his men jumping from the back of the Pelican, BR-55's raised and at the ready, pouring lead at the remaining Blue's. Ezekial ordered Marknene to prepare for a run to Earindal and Najees, standing from behind the small barricade at the edge of the roof he'd taken as cover. He squeezed the trigger of his Defoliant Projector "Gojira" for one long while, letting multiple tongues of flame lash out at the Blue's and their own protective walls and the door, hoping to either baste them or the Blue soldiers in sticky napalm.

Dayton hesitated, shaking some, adrenaline the only thing keeping him up as the fear tried to drag him down. He was about to speak when the first three shot round whizzed past his head, and his fingers reflexively pulled the trigger. The second burst caught him in the elbow, forcing him to drop the pistol. But the third set caught him in the chest, all three rounds savaging his right lung and dropping him to the roof. The Private only had time for a few bone rattling coughs before his back arched with a long sigh as his eyes rolled back in his head.

Lance Corporal McCray heard Cirris' cry of anguish as the Corporal watched the private fall, but he had more important things on his mind, namely the napalm threatening to roast all of Fire Team Delta alive. "COVER!" He pulled back, wincing as he heard another scream as yet another of the privates met a warm sticky end. He felt the intense heat on his left side, noting a small patch of flame on his elbow. His hand immediately moved to smother the flame, his left hand moving for the lucky grenade he always kept with him, the one he had since Sigma Draconis... he primed it, then quickly stood and threw it, hoping the Reds wouldn't hit the obvious target his white form presented before he could duck back behind his shelter.

Sanderson, threw her helmet off, gasping for air. She coughed up blood, signs of internal bleeding and damage, even if only a few pellets punctured her chest. She took a minute to collect herself, and then focus. "Yeah, I'll be alright. We need to get moving." She picked up her helmet and reattached it to her armor, activating her radio. "Crowe, abandon current objective and proceed to first floor. They have the Lt. Colonel and are making their escape through the terminal. We can't let them lea-" she was interrupted by an emergency broadcast. "-pzsh- this is Mariso! Objective failed! The guns are still in place, and Jonston's platoon has been wiped out! We're retreati - oh god!- pzszshzshhhshshh"

Sanderson, hung still for a moment. That was 80 soldiers. Plus, Eriec and McCarly. Quickly she switched channels. "McCarly, Eriec, do you copy?"

Only static replied.
Shit.
She switched back channels. "Ok, we're all that's left. Find the lt. colonel, and we gotta leg it out of the hot zone. Jacobs and I will commandeer some Hogs. Sanderson, out."

Graye moved as soon as his soldiers began to fire, but it didn't help too much. The bullet from the Blue's pistol ripped through his faceplate, shattering his nose and right cheek. He fell to the ground, letting out a gurgling cry of pain as his shotgun clattered to the ground. Marknene had just exited the Pelican when he saw the gruesome point-blank shot. He hurried for Graye, pulling him behind a heating block to keep him safe as he removed the LC's helmet to begin working on the grievous wounds he'd taken.
Ezekial didn't have time to even pull the trigger of his Defoliant Projector when he saw the grenade clattering across the ground towards him. He tossed "Gojira" towards Najees and Earindal as he took off across the roof of the Red Base. His soldiers opened fire with BR-55's on the remaining Blues' cover, giving Ezekial enough time to put some distance between himself and the grenade. He rolled when it exploded, knocked off his feet from the shockwave. He swore he could feel small pieces of shrapnel just begin to poke into his shoulders and back, but he had more pressing matters to deal with. He unslung his dual M7 Caseless SMG's, time to deal with these Blues the hard way.

To Be Continued...

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Macerr Chapters 21-22
Date: 10 September 2006, 12:22 am

Chapter 21.Cleanup Crew

McCray grinned as he heard the grenade go off, listening to the Red CO dive out of the way, but his smile dropped almost instantly as he heard the rapid bursts of rifle fire coming his way. He dropped as a bullet whizzed past his right ear, slamming another clip into his pistol, his last one as another private took a bullet to his shoulder. Any other time he would look for a way to get his troops out, but his orders were clear, hold the attackers until his commanders had gotten the Red commander out. No matter what.

Cirris shuddered hard, crimson blood leaking out from between the plates of his right arm, fading out fast. He looked over to the medic taking care of Graye, hoping for some odd reason that the kid would be alright. Maybe the Reds aren't as bad as I thought they'd be... heh... He chuckled almost audibly, feeling his brain swim in his delirium.

Ezekial held up one M7, the fire dying down from the Red's as they hunkered down behind their barricades. He was about to speak to the Blue's, try to talk to them and end this pointless battle when Marknene's voice cut through the fire.-

"Sir, Graye's dead.."

-Ezekial took a moment to catch his breath, as it suddenly felt like someone had hit him in the chest with a Warthog full force. The full weight of the first casualty on his side hit hard, and all it did was set a flame in Ezekial's blood as he thumbed the safeties off on his M7's as he shouted his orders.-

"All soldiers, switch to Shredders! Perforate the Blue Bastards!"

-Over half a dozen clips clattered to the ground from Battle Rifles and SMG's as the Reds pulled their shredder clips from their pouches and ammo packs. Clicks and clacks as they pulled back breeches, loaded rounds, and then the night was lit up with a thousand points of fire from what seemed like a hundred different places. What was only a few areas of concentrated fire from the Reds became a shitstorm of ammunition fragments as the shredders impacted the Blue barricades, punched holes and send thousands of tiny pieces towards the hidden Blues.-

-Ezekial looked up over his own defensive piece of metal and let loose a hail of SMG shredder rounds to join his troops. Since Graye was without a doubt in another world now, Marknene had taken up a spot beside Ezekial, laying down a good line of BR-55 shredder ammunition with his CO. If they didn't kill the Blue's outright with the shredder rounds they'd shoot them into submission.

SHREDDERS!?!? No matter what, he wasn't having the rest of his troops sent back in matchboxes!

"Fire Team Delta, hold fire!" He yelled loud enough that hopefully the Reds would hear and stop shooting. Hang in there Corp... we're gonna get you out of here...

"Light Brigade, hold fire!"

-The Reds ceased firing, but did not lower their weapons. They kept them trained on the spots they knew Blue's had hid behind, Crowe watching intently.-

"Blues, unload your weapons. I want all ammunition clips and empty weapons thrown between us, and I want you to stand with your hands in the air where we can see them. We will not fire on you if you truly wish to surrender. Any sign of hostility and I swear I will have no problem blowing every single one of you to hell myself. I want all grenades thrown behind you, off the building, with pins in and primers off. You have 1 minute."

"...you heard him, privates. Do it."

A pistol, two battle rifles and an SMG clattered to the deck by the Red's feet, shortly followed by six clips of ammo. No grenades, no explosions. Three blue figures and one white stood up, one of the blue armored figures shaking so badly he could barely hold his hands above his head. McCray spoke up, gesturing behind him with a white armored hand as he held them in sight but not raised.

"I don't think the Corp's in any condition to be standing, your Private got him real good with that shottie."

"Attend to your wounded. Marknene!"

-A red soldier with a white medic's cross on his shoulder ran up to Ezekial's side.-

"Yes sir?"

"Help them patch up their wounded. Jameson, stay up here and make sure we don't have any funny business."

-Ezekial holstered his M7's as he walked up to the Blue CO, or at least the person with the highest rank he could visibly make out on their armor.-

"Thank you. How many more Blues in the base?"

"I dunno. I'm protecting my men, Red, that doesn't mean I'll betray my COs."

The three privates took off their helmets as they moved back to Cirris, one pulling off his chestplate to get to his T-shirt, studiously ignoring the Reds.
"Soldiers, keep your shredders in, time to dive into the snake hole. Marknene, do your damn best to patch that Blue up, Jameson, keep an eye. If one of them draws a weapon they didn't throw down or goes for the pile, you have my command to fire at will. The rest of you with me, save Najees. Condition on Earindal?"

"He'll make it, sir. He's unconscious at the moment, we just need to get him to the med ward back at base to help heal his wounds. Other than that, maybe a bit of reconstructive surgery and he should be fine."

-Ezekial nodded, then took one last look at the Blues. Jameson had picked up Graye's shotgun, loading it with one of the rounds he pulled from Graye's ammunition pack. Graye would surely have his vengeance and then some if one of the Blue's tried anything. He pumped the shotgun once and took a few steps back, putting himself between the ammunition, weapons, and the Blues. Marknene began to pull biofoam and tweezers from his medpack, ready to help the Blue as commanded.-

-The Light Brigade held their weapons at the ready, Ezekial with his dual M7's, fully loaded as were all of the Red's weapons once again with fresh shredder clips. They descended down the staircase slowly, making very little sound save a few clinks from their boots on the metal staircase. They scanned the way down, Ezekial leading with a BR-55 over each of his shoulders from Barnes and Hartfield.-

"Into the Jaws of Death, into the Mouth of hell, rode the 600..."

Sanderson and Jacobs move swiftly and silently through the 1st floor of the terminal, no Blues in sight. They reached the front entrance with no resistance. Odd. Sanderson and Jacobs took cover behind the walls next to the door, and Sanderson scoped out the outer area of the terminal. Let's see, hmm, Pelicans on the road a bit aways. There's the MLA cannons, still intact. What the? There was a lone red soldier outside behind a
road barrier, leaning around the corner. She nodded and gestured toward Jacobs. Sanderson pushed open the doors and crawled out, trying to keep a low profile. She reached the piling, and touched the soldier on the shoulder.
"Hey, buddy, what happened?" No response came. She pulled him around, and he slouched down. Red goo oozed out of a shattered visor, onto Sanderson's thigh. She quickly pushed him back, wiping off the goo. Jesus Christ, what happened here!? She looked over to Jacobs, who was nodding to the outer wall adjacent to the door.

Red soldiers, lined up dead along the wall. The gaping wounds were visible, blood smeared all over. At least 10 men. She picked out a few she remembered, well, what was left of them. Sanderson took a second. It was too much to take in. She keyed her radio.

"Crowe, I'm not sure if you're there. If you are, we've got a problem. Hell, it's a mess. I found some of our guys. They're down on the south wall near the main entrance. We might need some boxes. If you hear from Mariso, or spot them, report to me. We're en route to the Parking Garage. The MLAs are still up, so Pelican extraction won't be a possibility. Just get down here to the first floor. Meet up by the front entrance. Over."

Just as she finished, Jacobs spoke up. "Ma'am? I see the Lt. Colonel, I think. He's being loaded onto one of the Pelicans. I'd say the blues are trying to get out fast. Maybe they think we were a diversionary force?"

"I don't know. Be we should sit tight for a bit to see if Crowe's squad is still alive."

"Ma'am, this is Crowe. I'm one man down and entering Omicron from the roof as we speak. We ran into a firefight on the roof, and we have Blue prisoners in custody. Do you have a visual on the target? First floor? Ma'am, is the target still in the building?"

-Crowe turned and pointed back up to the roof. The fastest way to floor one wasn't to take the stairs, that was for sure. His troops nodded and headed back up to the roof, all knowing what Crowe had in mind.

"The Lt. Colonel is not in the terminal. I repeat, not in the terminal. Jacobs and I have wiped the data systems in the basement, and we only encountered one blue when moving through the first floor. We have a visual on the Blue Pelicans, but we don't see the Lt. Colonel. Over."

"And the MLA's are still up? Alright, we'll be there double-time."

-The Light Brigade reached the roof, fanning out and watching the Blue's they'd captured. Crowe approached the soldier he'd spoke to earlier as Hanover headed over behind a crumpled piece of metal. She pulled something up with a grunt, walking over to Crowe and handing him his M19 "Kaminari."-

"Where is the armory in this facility?"

"It's your own base, Red. Find it yourself."

"Marknene, Whats the condition on that Blue soldier?"

-Marknene looked up and gave Ezekial a thumbs up. Crowe nodded, then nodded to Jameson who then aimed the shotgun down at the wounded Blue.-

"Wrong answer. That's 2 strikes. You strike out, you're down one Blue. Where is the armory?"

One of the privates spoke up, the one who had torn his T shirt into strips to use as bandages for his superior. "The closest one is on the third floor... second door on your right after you go down those stairs."

Ezekial took Kaminari, attaching the M19 to his back with a shoulder strap he'd fashioned when he was given the weapon. He nodded to the Blue who had spoken up, signaling to his soldiers in their own code. The Reds went about with snap-strips, securing the Blue's wrists behind their backs Jameson took a step back.-

"I want Jameson and Marknene on watch, the rest of you head down to the armory. Collect ammunition for the squad for BR-55's, SMG's and pistols. I want 6 M19 rockets as well, 4 in a carry pack. Light Brigade, deploy."

-Save for Ezekial, Jameson and Marknene the soldiers of the Light Brigade headed into the base, Crowe walking the lines between the Blues.-

"You're all going to be fine. I assure you, no harm will come to you, and you will be returned to your ranks as soon as possible. Do you understand?"

"Yeah, we get you, but I personally don't believe you. Not after you were going to shoot the Corp just because you didn't know the way around your own base!"

McCray twisted around, staring up at Crowe as he shifted his arms into a more comfortable position.

"Its my first day on the job, cut me some slack."

-The Light Brigade returned, distributing the ammunition they'd acquired. Crowe took the rocket pack and unslung Kaminari, loading a rocket into each tube of the M19. He slung the spares in their combat pack on his back, clipping it down before he slung M19 across his shoulder once again. He holstered his M7's as his soldiers slung their weapons on their shoulders.-

"Jameson, Marknene, keep an eye on them. Stay low. If any more arrive, radio in immediately. If things get ugly, you're authorized to use deadly force. Light Brigade, lets move!"

-The Reds walked to the edge of the wall, securing harnesses from their packs to the ceiling. They then squeezed the releases, repelling down the wall as a team. Only a few jumps and they were on the ground, heading for Sanderson and Jacob's beacons.

He exhaled as his reticle followed the red soldiers moving along the perimeter of the terminal. He slowly slid back the bolt on his SRS99C S2AM, chambering one 14.5x114mm APFSDS round. He adjusted the draw on the scope, and put his reticle on the one with the medical symbol. He pulled the trigger, and fired a single shot, aimed for the neck.

A sleek black Civilian 'Hog pulled to a stop just outside the battlezone. The driver watched through NVGs, as the Red forces were slowly being taken out. His hand tremored as he brought up a container of water, taking a sip. He was clad in gray clothing, his breathing almost mechanical.

The sniper round whizzed past the armor guarding the back of Najees's neck, removing several small panels before it struck the wall of Red Base Omicron. The Reds immediately dove for cover, some behind rubble that had fallen in the firefight at the roof, 3 or 4 leaping through the windows of the base to take cover inside. Ezekial dove for a large chunk of the roof that his first rocket shot had removed, signaling for everyone to stay down. Najees was wiping blood away from the back of her neck, gasping slightly from the sudden surge of adrenaline that flooded her system.-

-Ezekial spoke just above a whisper in his comm, keying to the specified Light Brigade frequency.-

"Barnes, you're our eyes. Give us the info.."

-Private First Class Connor Barnes had the best eyes in the group and one of the steadiest hands in the Light Brigade, and he was carrying his SRS99C S2AM Sniper Rifle in the pack on his back and his spotter, Private First Class Alexander Hartfield's carry pack. They had dove together, crouched behind another chunk of the roof together. They began to open their packs, pulling out each piece of the weapon with the utmost care. PFC Barnes took a fiberoptic from his helmet, placing it on the edge of his barricade. He began to sweep with it, searching for any unusual bumps or rises in the terrain beyond them.

he sniper cursed as he slid down out of view, moving behind the small concrete wall that lined the perimeters of the upper floors of the parking garage across the street from the terminal. He went up a level of the 10 story parking garage and relocated to a small corner. He aimed for the back of the soldier he had just shot at, who he could see just barely hiding behind the large chunk of roofing. He knew that the rounds in the S2AM were APFSDS(Armor piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot) Anti-Material round, and that they should punch through the concrete and hit her. He slid back the bolt and shouldered the weapon. He looked down the sight, and prepared to fire.

It was PFC Hartfield who made the initial shots, rapid bursts from his BR-55 eating duracrete and rebar ahead of the notable S2 sniper rifle barrel in the parking garage. Only when the weapon had fallen had he picked up on the movement, the black barrel against the gray concrete and the overhead illumination strips being his guide. The sniper would more than certainly hear the rounds striking and boring into the concrete beneath him or her and whizzing past his weapon, none of which connecting. Though Barnes was preparing to make his own shot, Crowe raised a hand to him as he unslung Kaminari.-

-The barrage of BR-55 rounds stopped only for a moment before the sniper would here the familiar "Fwoosh" of an M19 Rocket Launcher, Crowe letting one loose from Kaminari. The missile flew as straight as an arrow, no lock-on available due to a lack of heat from the target, it being the corner Hartfield had lit up as his target. As the rocket departed he motioned forward, the Light Brigade picking up at a full run for their waypoint to join up with Sanderson and Jacobs.

The sniper looked up, but only for one second, as the rocket struck him in the chest. However, it did not explode, as it was a dud warhead. He stumbled back for a second, his last thoughts of the rocket sticking 6 inches out of his back. He then stumbled forward, falling over the concrete siding, ten stories to the ground, his body landing with a sickening crunch.

This took too long. They've already left. Sanderson surveyed the situation, and prepared to move out. As 1st Squad arrived at her location, she made a group announcement.

"Ok, its just us now. Shit hit the fan, then the blender, then was baked at 350 degrees Celsius. We're gonna make a run for it to the highway, and get the hell out of here. Crowe, take point. Hanover, take the rear. We need to get the hell out of here, and do it now."

The Pelican carrying Lehrman's squad departed from Rho the same time Sanderson and Jacobs entered the complex. It arrived at Omicron about 10 minutes later. She stood at the front of the Pelican in the pit, surveying the battle. "Take us around the perimeter." The Pelican flew around the perimeter. Upon passing the Northeastern sector of the base, she saw a sight not many see. "Take, take us down."

The pelican touched down in a field at the end of the tarmac. There wasn't much land you could walk on without stepping on a body. The field was littered with them. A moan here and there signified the pain that a few still felt. She ordered the squad to search for survivors. The sight, it drilled into her mind. Crimson overtook the lush green grass that covered the ground. She sat down on the grass, taking it in. There had to be at least fifty here. Shredded. Torn apart. Two soldiers approached her, each dragging bodies. "We've found what we believe to be the CO's here. A 2nd lt. Mariso and a 2nd lt. Jonston. Both are . No survivors have been found yet. We'll keep looking."

"Yes, good work." She stared at the two bodies that lay in front of her. One was minus a leg. The other, a hand. One of the soldiers scouting the field shouted, "Hey! We got a survivor!" Two soldiers pulled up the lone red soldier, who was minus a helmet. They dragged him over to the sergeant. He was almost unscathed, except for a few cuts on his face. "We found him under a body. He must've been hiding."

Lehrman stood up, collecting herself. "Keep searching. Leave him here." The two soldiers returned to searching the field. "What's your name and rank, soldier?"

He stuttered a bit. "Private First Class Matthew Barletta."

"What were you doing under that soldier?"

Barletta stared at the ground. "I, I guess I was hiding from what attacked us."

"Are you scared?"

Barletta looked up at the sergeant. "I, I guess. I'm not sure. Just shell-shocked."

Lehrman was content. Poor soul. He shouldn't be here. He's just a damn kid. "Don't worry. We won't kill you." She pointed to two soldiers, then to Barletta. They picked him up off his knees, helping him stand up. They took him over to the pelican and sat him down. She keyed her radio. "This is Blue Jay to Almighty, come in Almighty."

"This is Almighty. Go ahead, over."

"We've got a prisoner. I'm sending him to Alpha. That's all. Blue Jay out."

She turned to her squad, who finished searching. "Ok. We're sending that guy off to Alpha. The rest of you. We're moving in to check out the terminal on foot. Fall in behind me. Let's move out!"

Crowe keyed his mic, trying to contact Jameson and Marknene. He'd need them to carry Earindal double-time, he wasn't going to leave wounded behind. When he had a good signal he immediately clasped his hands to the ear plates of his helmet as though he could keep the sound from blowing his eardrums. Screams, from Marknene, from Jameson, from the Blues, gunfire everywhere. A string whistling sound cut through the fire and he could audibly tell that several people had stopped screaming, even more weapons had stopped firing. A few more whistles and it was all over, nothing but dead static in Ezekial's helmet. He turned to the rest of the Light Brigade, to Sanderson.-

"Jameson and Marknene...and Earindal are down, as well as Graye...I don't know what happened on that roof, but they're gone...I suggest we follow your plan now. Light Brigade spread, double-time!"

-Hanover and Najees took the rear, Ezekial moving to the front with Hartfield. This mission had been a complete disaster, and he was going to let the top brass know that. He'd have the recordings from his mic analyzed, try to figure out what that whistling was. Best not to think about it now. He slung Kaminari onto his back, removing his dual SMGs before taking off with Hartfield beside him. The Red forces needed to move, now.-

-It was licking its whips clean with a prehensile, silver tongue. Each one retracted into its wrists, clawed fingers crackling and popping as she flexed and stretched. Black and brown armor suddenly disappeared from sight as she wiped the remaining blood from his body, an incredible heat and humidity befalling the immediate area. She climbed down the side of the base, following the path the soldiers has repelled. Beta was on the prowl once again.

The squad took off for the highway, that'd be the best way out. Jacobs was close behind her. They were both about in the center of the squad. While they were moving out, she got distracted for a moment by a memory. Its worse than Tarsonis. Damnit, Whats going on with me!? Nows not the time for that.


He watched the squad moving from his Warthog with binoculars. Everything was going according to plan. If everything was going according to plan, Garrigan should be getting the weapons right now.

Crowe opened his mic to Sanderson only, after having received a transmission from Hanover and Najees, neither of the Private First Class nor the Corporal wanting to alarm the group. They'd been receiving strange radar readings to the rear, a blue signature that appeared and disappeared every so often.-

"Lieutenant Sanderson, we've picked up a bogey on our 6. Hanover and Najees report a radar anomaly, but its definitely showing as a Blue to them. We need to pick up the pace, its been steadily gaining since we took off."

-Crowe switched to an open red channel, he didn't want to spook any of the troops so he decided to keep them in the dark about the enemy signal. He calmed his voice for a moment, still running off of a heavy dose of adrenaline from the fire fights.-

"Light Brigade, lets pick up the pace a bit. We need to get out of here before the Blue's regroup. We'll take Omicron another day. For now, lets move!"

"Just keep moving., we're only half a click from the junction. We should be able to hitch a ride back to base there."


Sanderson tapped Jacobs on the shoulder, and whispered into his ear.

"Take the rear. Something's tailing us."

"Yes, ma'am."

Jacobs fell back, switching to his S2.

She keyed her mic to the remaining platoon members.

"Keep moving, we're almost out of the hot zone."


Lehrman kicked in the rear entrance to the terminal. The lighting flickered, the bulb almost burnt. The place had never been in good shape, and the war only made it worse.
The squad entered the dilapidated room, a door leading to the stairs at the opposite end. It was an old locker room for the employees that used to work there. It had a unique stench, but a stench nonetheless. They approached the stairs. They entered the stair shaft, which also had its own stench. They moved up to the first floor.

"Puma, Yetter, Schepers, check this floor." The three departed from the squad and entered the first floor, the primary floor of the terminal. The rest continued up to the second floor. "Rollin, Erikson, Delvecchio, this floor." The remaining members continued to the third floor, location of the armory and roof access. Lehrman peeked through the small window in the door. Blood stained the walls of the hall.

"Shit. Neece, Seegmiller up front. Neece, open the door, Seegmiller, check it." Seegmiller nodded. He positioned himself to the opening side of the door. Neece opened the door back, Seegmiller scanning it. "All clear, ma'am."

"Good. Move and check out this hall." The soldiers moved in cautiously, aware of the profuse amount of blood that stained the corridor. It led to the roof access, the handles stained in blood.

"Neece, sample this, have the lab run the DNA. Seegmiller, Ismail, open the roof access doors."

A ping in Crowe's helmet as they arrived at the navpoint for the pick-up zone. The Light Brigade set up perimeter watch, taking cover behind rocks, shrubs, anything that could break up their appearance and hide them from the outside. Crowe found a particular piece of sheet metal to hide behind, his SMG's placed in their holsters as he slung Kaminari around. If they were attacked by anything, he wanted the rocket launcher with him for the first shot. The sensor readings had dropped back for the time being, perhaps there was a malfunction in their gear after the firefight or some magnetic disturbance in the area.-

-Crowe was edgy, feeling a bit worn but still able to keep his composure. He'd lost men and women today, good soldiers, and it pained him to know that he'd let them down. They'd be avenged, they'd be given a soldier's burial and the respect they deserved. Maybe the Blues wouldn't be bad and would bring the bodies to the Reds once they returned to this base. It'd have to stay with the Blues for now, they couldn't take it with their numbers.

Jacobs and Sanderson scrambled into a roadside ditch. Jacobs set up his rifle, scanning the edge of the terminals in the distance. Sanderson set her radio to a secure Red Army
frequency, keying her radio.

"Red Dog, Red Dog, this is Aurora. Do you copy, over?"

"-Radio Static- We're reading radio and GPS, go ahead Aurora, over."

"Aurora reporting in with current situation report, over."

"Go ahead, over."

"Situation normal all fucked up, over."

"What's going on out their, Aurora?"

"We have two platoons with 100% casualties, and two of my squads are at 0% function, and my remaining squad is at 40%. Requesting evac at my location, over."

"Reading location. Negative on the pickup. The MLA autocannons are still up and the airspace is a killzone for our birds. Move to GRID, C-10 for pickup, over."

"C-10!? That's an hour away! We'll be killed before we make it out there!"

"That's the only option, or wait four hours our nearest ground transport to give you a lift. Over."

"We'll take the first option. Aurora, out."

Damnit, why does shit like this always happen to me? No time to ponder, we gotta move fast.

"First squad, listen up! We've got orders to abandon the mission, we're heading back to base. But on foot, thanks to the fact that the MLAs are still up. Form up on the south side of the road, we're moving out!"


They were slowly moving toward him. Finally, at last. It had been almost two years since he had seen her. He missed her, but unfortunately, it was part of the plan. He keyed the ignition, keeping the headlights off, he was running low on headlight fluid, needed to pick some up.

But that's not the point.

He slowly turned onto the road from the grassy side which he had been parked on, driving rather slow compared to the 100km/hr limit. He slowed when he neared the soldiers.


Sanderson put her hand up, signaling them to halt and take cover. As she saw it was a civilian Hog, she ran out into the road to stop it, hoping to get a ride. The hog pulled to a stop, and Sanderson ran over to the driver's side.

"Excuse me, sir, but could we get a lift to a red base?"

The man coughed, his mechanical respirator evident, an old piece of technology.

"I can give you a ride to Macerr City, I have to pick up an item north of here near Devil's Tower."

"I guess that'll do. Just as long as we get out of here. Got room for seven?"

The man looked back, the six seats in his T1, all empty.

"Right, dumb question. Just a second."

Sanderson waved over the rest of the squad.

"Alright no time to go into detail, but this man's gonna give us a lift to Macerr City. So hop in the back, we're getting out of this god-forsaken place."

Sanderson climbed into the passenger seat adjacent to the man as the rest hopped into the back. As the last few loaded in, Sanderson turned to the driver.

"Let's go."

The Hog sped off into the night, leaving Omicron.




Ismail and Seegmiller opened the roof access doors, raising their rifles to scan for enemies. Meanwhile, the rest of the squad searched the hallway. Bodiford noticed a door with large lacerations going all the way through. He raised his rifle, and opened the door. It was a small munitions closet. McCray was sitting inside, breathing heavily, clutching an M9 HE-DP hand grenade, the spoon still in position, but the pin was absent. There were several noticeable lacerations on his chest, and he had been bleeding profusely for the past 5 to 10 minutes. He was surrounded by boxes of ammunition, compound B, and steel powder kegs.

"I...I don't think I can hold this much longer..."

Bodiford's eyes widened, realizing what would soon occur. He turned, back, and began sprinting towards the stairs, screaming, "Run! Get outta here!" He plowed down the stairs and out of the building. Another soldier peeked his head inside the closet.

"Run...you idiot..."

McCray's grip loosened on the grenade, the spoon flying off.

"Oh, son of a b-"

The third floor erupted, instantly killing everyone inside. The blast threw Lehrman off the roof, where she landed on her back, breaking it. Ismail and Seegmiller were thrown the opposite direction, landing on the hard concrete, rather than the grassy edges around the other side of the building. They both broke their necks, and died. The fireball could be seen for miles, as domino explosions occurred around the terminal. The armories, the fuel station, the electronics, all going up in flames.


Sanderson turned around, the shockwave knocking her forward slightly.

"Holy shit! Omicron just went up in flames!"

The rest of the soldiers watched in awe as the conflagration burned down what was left of the terminal.

The man cleared his throat.
"Ignore it, Melissa."

"What, what'd you just call me?"

"Melissa."

"How do you know my name?"

"Because you know mine."


Chapter 22.Here and Gone Again

A nondescript man walked into the club. he bypassed the small amount of people in the club and approached the bar. It was odd, for a man to wear sunglasses at night, and yet he kept them on. He called the barkeeper over and asked him, "where can I find Cocaine?"

The man behind the bar turned to the newest patron. He frowned, Sunglasses? Ah, what the hell do I care anyways?

The man finished polishing the shot glass in his hand. Setting it down on the bartop, he answered, "Cocaine's around, but he doesn't just up and see total strangers. I'll take him a message for you...What is it you desire?"

A normal person wouldn't be able to understand what he meant, almost as if he was speaking in some sort of code. But the man replied, "I need pens, mothers, and sons. Its for a gala event. Would you happen to know the prices on any of them?"

"Of course...just a moment," was the quick reply. The man sauntered off into a back room, returning moments later to walk around the bar to where the man was sitting. "Right this way please...," the man gestured towards the door, motioning for the newcomer to follow.

The man followed him to the door, and waited for him to open it.

The man opened the door and passed through. Above, along the archway of the door, one could see the lines of a poem etched faintly into the woodwork: "Do not stand at my grave and weep."

Behind the door was a small room with a desk and a few cabinets off to the side. The desk was bare, save for a few papers and a bottle of whiskey. A man was seated behind the desk, turned away from the door, watching the news on a small display.

The barkeep stood to the side, and motioned for the man to have a seat in front of the desk. "Here you are, sir." He retreated back to the bar, leaving the man with the one known as Cocaine.

Its a pleasure to meet you, Cocaine. I've heard much about you. But enough. I'm here to purchase some heavy firearms, I'm told you have in stock. What are the prices?"

The chair spun slowly around to face the potential buyer. "Well, I guess that would depend on which weapons you were interested in, Mr. ...?" Cocaine stood, pressed several buttons on his desktop, and then moved around the table to sit on the corner. He crossed his arms as he awaited an introduction.

"Call me, err...Christian. I'm interested in some heavy weaponry. Tank killers."

The man sat down opposite Cocaine and waited for a reply.

Cocaine nodded, "Ok, Mr. Christian. Tank killers...hmm..." He put his hand to his chin, pausing a moment to reflect on his current stock of illicit weaponry and military devices. After a moment's thought, "I suppose you are most likely looking for an M-19 then? Probably the most effective in service right now. 'Course, there's always mines if you prefer something less conspicuous." He paused to scratch his chin, then looked to Mr. Christian for his reply.

Yes. I would like ten M19s, would you possibly have any M68 Gauss Cannons?"

Cocaine sat straight up at the reply. "Ten! My god, man!" then regaining his composure, "Er, yes, I think I can put that together."
He got up and returned to his seat behind the desk, saying, "And about those M68s..." He pressed a few buttons, quickly scanning over several screens on his desk display, "Yeah, I've got those in stock...how many would you be seeking?"

"Heheh, that's good. Just two cannons." Christian sits down opposite Cocaine. He removes his sunglasses, revealing two empty pits where his eyes should be. The facial scarring around them shows that its as if they've been clawed out. "I don't have much cash, but I'm willing to trade you. I'm sure you'd quite like what I have."

Cocaine looked at the man's empty sockets then looked back at his display. He punched another button and it turned black. After a few moments he replied, "What do you have to offer me?" His interest had most certainly been piqued. He rarely ever had a customer that thought they might procure arms in exchange for something of possible value. He leaned forward in his seat in anticipation, staring at and studying the man's two most unfortunate wounds.

Christian cleared his throat and pulled out a memory crystal from his pocket. "Do you mind?" He inserted it into a memory crystal slot on the desk, and the screen brought up
a display, showing these two images.

"I designed myself. I'm waiting for military tests to come back, so currently, its called the XM112 Gauss Rifle. It fires 10cm-diameter Iron spheres, coated with a shell of depleted uranium. Three of these can be loaded into the cylinder magazine for semi-automatic fire. It can also fire 10cm conical shells, perfect for armor piercing, as they have depleted uranium penetrators. Unfortunately, these can only be used as single shot. Both of these can have HE variants for anti-personnel use. It can be opened up using the handle for cleaning and/or replacement of magnets. This is also how you load the conical rounds. This rifle delivers rounds at speeds up to three hundred and fifty meters per second. That's just shy of supersonic. A spherical round could punch through two heavily armored vehicles before slowing down to speeds below one hundered meters per second. It uses a touchscreen foldable LCD panel for targeting, and has a small camera on it. The magnets are charged via a 50 cell 6500 MaH charger pack(the black square.) In all, it weighs about 20 Kg, which is surprisingly light. Its smokeless, produces little light or vapors, and is caseless. It has little recoil as well. Its almost a perfect weapon, but its complicated to build. Currently, I and my associates have 15 that we are willing to trade. I can have them available in thirty minutes, if you have your stocks. What do you say? Do we have a deal?"

Cocaine's eyed widened ever so slightly at the sight of the new weapon system. He leaned over the desk, studying the design and all of it's intricacies. He didn't answer immediately, his full attention absorbed by the images being displayed on his screen, appearing almost as though one entranced.
Presently he looked up, muttered, "Oh." Then pulled out the display chip and handing it to Christian, he said at last, "Yes, I think this will be a fine arrangement. I can have your items brought out of storage and available for exchange within the hour. Also, I can arrange for a safe location to made the trade unless you have one prepared." Cocaine's eyes remained on the disk in Christian's hands, his thoughts could have been focused on nothing but the prospect of his new toy.

Christian put the memory crystal back in his pocket, while pulling out a small pocket map of Macerr City. He unfolded it. He put it on the desk. "Yes, I have a location prepared. Macerr City Docks, pier 31. I'll arrange for usage clearance. I've heard authorities are cracking down as of recent. I'll have a ship there. -He pointed to it.- Is that good?"

Cocaine peered at the map, then leaned in closely. He stood straight, "Yes, that will be just fine. I shall arrive in about 30 to 40 minutes with your goods." He pressed a button on his desk and after a moment, the bartender reappeared through the door.
"If you please," he said to Christian, gesturing towards the door, in effect stating that the meeting was concluded.

"Good doing business with you." Christian put his sunglasses on before turning towards the bartender, and exiting the room. He exited the club, which had thinned out a bit. As he walked out onto the street, he hailed a taxi. He got in and leaned towards the driver.
"Take me to the Macerr City docks. Pier 31." The taxi sped off.

The bartender returned to Cocaine's backroom. "Get the boys together," Cocaine sent him out again, and with a gruff, "Yessir," the man went off to his comm.

Cocaine went back to his display and pulled up his set of maps. He navigated to the docks and zoomed in on Pier 31 and the surrounding buildings. He started ticking off locations on the map, marking out little exes, circles, and plotting lines of sight and movement.
Haven't heard anything about UNSC movements lately...better be extra careful. Let's see...put him here, and another over here...

Cocaine continued to plan out his defense and eventual escape plan should things turn south as his bartender rounded up his forces.

Meanwhile, at a nondescript storage garage located somewhere else in the city, six men pulled up with two jeeps and a large van. The van backed up to the garage and one man got out to open the bay door. The door slid open slowly, swallowing the van and the other five men as they entered and closed the bay doors behind them.

The van pulled up into the alley behind Cocaine's bar. The man in the passenger seat got out and entered the building.

***

The two jeeps parked on the side of the road, near the alleyway pulled out and turned around to head towards the docks.

***

Cocaine stepped out of the back door, a shotgun hooked over his right elbow. If one looked closely, they could just make out the bulk of a heavy handgun protruding from his jacket. Cocaine got into the passenger seat of the van and immediately picked up the radio, conveying direction to his men. They would be set up and waiting for at least 10 minutes before Cocaine arrived with the goods.

The van backed out of the alleyway and into traffic.

The taxi pulled up to the docks. Christian exited the taxi, paying the driver. As the taxi sped off, he approached the two men standing at the pier entrance.
"Never go to war, especially with yourself."

The two men saluted Christian.

"Welcome back, sir. Admiral Austin hasn't returned yet. Mossman and Imburgia have yet to arrive as well."

"I see. The deal went as planned. He doesn't suspect a thing. Have the rifles arrived?"

"Yes sir. All of them."

"Good. The weaponry will arrive in 40-50 minutes. We sit tight until then. I'm going to go inspect the rifles."

"Yes sir. Right this way."

One of the men lead Christian to 15 large crates at the end of the pier. They were labeled "Caution: Radioactive waste inside."

"Heh. I like how they label shipments these days. No underpaid customs agent is going to bother to look in a crate labeled "radioactive waste" just to verify the contents. Good work. Return to your post."

Christian opened up a crate. He pulled out an XM112 Gauss Rifle. He inserted a battery pack, and charged the magnets. He pulled out a shot, and loaded it into the rifle. He shouldered the rifle, and fired it off.

The pier was only about 50 yards long, 20 yards wide. A large yacht-like boat was docked to the left. On top, a man was manning an M247 GMPG. At the front of the pier were two piles of boxes on either side. At the entrance, two men were standing guard, seemingly unarmed. Only about 4 other men were actually on the pier, just meandering about. At the end, sat Garrigan, relaxing at a folding table and chair. One man approached Garrigan.
"Sir. The weapons dealer has arrived."

"Fantastic. Let him through. Make sure the perimeter is secure."

"Yes sir."

As the van pulled up to the pier, Cocaine's personal messenger beeped ominously. He took the device from it's clip at his hip and tapped the button just to the left of the display. It was a wanted ad...

"This just in, about two months ago, war criminal General C. Garrigan..."
Cocaine finished reading just as the van pulled onto the dock. Interesting...might be a good bargaining chip.

He could see already see Christian's men milling about on the pier, but he hadn't spotted the General himself.

His mind returned to the three men on the surrounding rooftops. Would he need them? Would the UNSC be coming crashing down on this very location soon? Would Christian turn out to be trustworthy or would this turn into a possible three-way brawl?

The van parked. Cocaine and the driver exited the vehicle, guns at the ready...

The van pulled down the pier towards the yacht. As the van pulled to a stop, Cocaine hopped out, shotgun in hand. He raised his arm in greeting, "We arrive at last, friend!"

Christian took a drag from the cigar which he had just lit, and sat in down in an ashtray on the table. He took his feet off the table and sat up. "Take a seat."

Cocaine sat at the offered seat, resting the butt of his shotgun on his knee. He sat back in the chair and called to his driver, "Start unloading the van."

The man went to work, opened the back door and was presently joined by two other armed thugs. The two, having walked up from a parked jeep at the edge of the pier, had simple handguns attached to their belts, but something was infinitely better than nothing in this line of work.

Cocaine smiled at the General, "So...you have your end?"

Garrigan picked up an XM112 from behind him and placed it on the table. He then picked up two shots, one conical, one spherical, and placed them on the table. "Fifteen. Feel free to test it."

Cocaine smiled with delight at the sight of his soon-to-be new toy. "Don't mind if I do," he stated plainly, setting his shotgun neatly on the table top.

Cocaine picked up the weapon, hefting it to test the weight. It felt great in his hands. Might even find a use for it himself. He loaded the spherical shot into the rifle and walked to the edge of the pier. Looking out on the water there was only a buoy in sight. Cocaine took aim at the flashing tip and fired. The blast was thunderous as the rifle kicked back into the pit of Cocaine's shoulder. He grunted slightly, underestimating the backlash. The shot missed to the left by a hair, sending water spraying in all directions.

He returned to the table and placed the weapon gently back where the General had put it. "It's wonderful," was all he said, as he retook his seat. Glancing back, all of the crates were unloaded outside of the van. "Where shall I have my men put these?" he asked.

Garrigan glanced at the machinegunner on the boat. "Have them taken to the cargo deck on the boat."

"Fine." Cocaine motioned to his men, and they began to move the crates towards to boat. "And as for your end?"

"Your crates of radioactive waste are right behind me."

Cocaine started, then regained control after his momentary lapse..."Radioactive waste?" he asked menacingly. He raised his eyebrows as he spoke.
This stupid f*ck...can't be happening again...the last time I... A million thoughts raced through his head as he contemplated his next move should this truly turn out to be raw.

"Heh, its a joke. The labeling is used to discourage searches at starports. Check inside."

Garrigan glanced at his two men standing on the boat, then at the gunner. Soon would he spring his trap.

Cocaine squinted in the darkness. Hmm...better stay alert...I smell trouble. Damned UNSC...
"Alright then. Well, have your men load it into my truck while mine are finishing loading out your boat then." Cocaine stood from his seat and scanned the horizon. Seeing nothing, he turned his back on the general to study the cityscape surrounding them landside. [I]My men should catch them if they're on the approach. I wonder how much time we've got? Five...maybe ten minutes...who knows?[/I]

Garrigan stood up as well, signaling two men to begin moving containers.
"So do we have a deal?" he said, holding out his hand.

Yes, we have a deal."

Cocaine shook hands with Garrigan, faking a smirk of trust, knowing something wasn't right about this situation. Garrigan held a light grin, satisfied with how the deal has gone so far. Cocaine walked over to one of the crates that had till just then two crates on top of it. He opened it, having his back to Garrigan, and found nothing but straw and smoal.
He ran his hands through it, realized he had been fooled. He spun around, only to face Garrigan with an M6C in his hand, pointed directly at Cocaine.

"Your crime ends here, Mr. Hewitt."

The Hog slowly came to a stop as it approached the toll bridge into Macerr City. It pulled up to the booth, the license registering on the database. The light turned green, the Hog speeding over the bridge and into the Port District. Austin turned onto the riverside roadway, speeding up, in a hurry to get to somewhere, but where?

Sanderson looked over to Austin, still stunned, still broken.

"Where are we going?" she inquired.

"We have to stop somewhere first."

"Can I trust your word?"

"You always can, Melissa."

"James, a hurt like that I've been nursing for a year can't just suddenly go away."

"I'm sorry, but, I need your help."

"With what?"

"Problems."

The Hog stopped at the entrance, Austin once again pulling out his binoculars.

"Shit. He's already started. I knew I shouldn't have trusted that bastard. Pull out the M/7 under your seat." The tires squealed as Austin floored it, driving past pier 32, stopping at the entrance to Pier 31. He exited the Hog, Sanderson following loosely behind. Austin nodded to the two at the entrance, now running lightly down to where Garrigan was.

"Christian, what are you doing!?"

Garrigan turned slightly, still keeping his M6 beaded on Cocaine.

"Stay out of this, James. This isn't your part."

"We're a team! Listen to me!"


Cocaine's sniper on the roof zeroed in on one of the three targets. The old man, the girl, or the one with the M/7? He checked the windage and elevation for Garrigan. He was to be the first target. He clicked his small radio on.

"Permission to fire, sir."

Whispering, Cocaine replied. "Fire, fire fir-"

A crack, followed by a whistle rang out as a bullet exploded Garrigan's neck, decapitating him. The large caliber bullet left nothing more than an oozing, spongy red stump with mixed bits of white bone fragments in the concoction. Cocaine glanced at Austin and Melissa for a second, registering their faces in his mind. He didn't have time to unsling his shotgun, the M247 on the yacht opening up on him. He dove into the chilly waters of the Dios, the rounds knicking the top of the water before being thrown off course. A second shot rang out, decapacitating the gunner. The two at the entrance fled, as Cocaine's men loaded up into the van, driving off. The red soldiers scrambled out of the T1 and for cover, as it was riddled with rounds from Garrigan's thugs. A 3-way brawl broke out, between Cocaine's sniper, Garrigan's thugs, and the Reds. Sanderson and Austin ducked behind a pile of crates that had been offloaded on the docks. Two of the thugs on the yacht were firing on them, the rounds pinging off the steel sidings of the crates. Sanderson unslung her BR-55 Battle Rifle, turning to Austin, who was grasping an M/7.

"Just like old times, eh?"

"Yeah, old times."

Sanderson and Austin opened up on the thugs, laying down a field of fire, blanketing the port side of the ship. They ducked back down to put in more rounds. Sanderson put her head up and fired off 12 rounds, when the rifle jammed. She ducked down to clear the typical stovepipe jam, racking back the bolt. She fired a bit more again before reloading. While she reloading, she noticed Austin wasn't shooting.

"James, keep firing."

Austin pulled his hand from his abdomen, it was smeared with blood.

"No..."

Sanderson put her rifle down and moved over to help Austin. He was hit badly. The bullet had pierced a good portion of his liver, and hadn't fully exited.

"Its bad, isn't it?"

"Yeah. Shit...agh."

Austin began collapsing to his right side. He was slowly being lost, once again. Melissa, brought him back up, but he was already gone. Blood continued to seep from the wound, slowly pooling on and around Austin. Melissa let a single tear go, before laying him down. She picked up her BR-55, racking the bolt back. She stood up and fired at the two thugs on the boat, before turning and running towards the Hog. She reached the rest of the reds, who were still taking sporadic fire. She moved over to Crowe's position, behind the Hog.

"We're getting out of here."

The reds loaded into the Hog, Sanderson in the Driver's seat. It churned to a start, the tires squealing as it hurried away from the docks.

"Damn, this Op was cursed from the start. I'm giving y'all a 2 day leave, do what you want. We're heading back to base from here."


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Note: This entry is toned down considerably from before. However, the two chapters are rather large, totalling 8,000+ words.



Macerr Chapters 23-24
Date: 19 September 2006, 4:24 am

Chapter 23.Third Arrival

It had all the proper clearance as it entered the Star Port of Kalaa, situated at Blue Base Epsilon. In it came, all of the proper insignia of Blue Base Command, top brass possibly. Eliar would more than likely be able to note them from his spot at his personal craft. It looked like a Pelican Transport, similar in shape and size, but its rubbers seemed a bit sharper, its body more angled than the usual rounded appearance. It set down without any bump, its engines still running hot.

-The rear doors opened, and out walked one strikingly gorgeous woman. She was clad in a black flightsuit, deep brown hair slung back in a ponytail, held by a deep green ribbon. She looked young, maybe only her mid to late 20's, small thin hands working at a datapad, looking at a timepiece set on her right wrist. She seemed pressed, almost distressed, cursing and muttering under her breath-

-She motioned for a loadlifter, then to the Pelican's bay. Four heavily armored Blue soldiers walked off the transport, each hauling the corner of an incredibly large black crate of some sort. They set it down on the forks of the loadlifter, the woman hopping up to hold onto the crate, the soldiers following her as the crate was brought away.

"Hold" Eliar said as he walked out of one of the hangars holding a Longsword fighter. He made two quick motions and two mechanics pressed their hands on the box to make it stop.

"Welcome to Blue Epsilon Base" he said as he approached the woman. He was dressed in his mechanics uniform with his rank insignia and the various battle patches he had acquired from his fights. "I'll be needing records of the contents of what is in box, and everyones rank, registration number and so on and so forth" he offered in a dull voice. He had done it a hundred times over, with various clearance records, somedays he just didn't care, but he had to do it. He was put in charge of the Spaceport Imports along with his other duties to keep him occupied after he jury-rigged two Pelicans to a slave-program and did a couple dozen acrobatic maneuvers with two different control consoles to keep his senses sharp. He had brig time for the stunt, but it quickly passed when a mission needed going on.

"What's your name Ma'Am?" he questioned.

The woman looked even angrier than before, a glower on her lips that could freeze a man's blood in his veins. Almost a snarl from her lips before she waved to the soldiers guarding the crate. They stood between the aids Eliar had called and the cargo, preventing them from laying any further hands upon it. He'd then see the insignia upon her right breast. She'd looked top brass, but her rank was far higher. Blue Intelligence, Oni section. She took a moment to eyeball the scruffy looking man before speaking. A voice almost like the hiss of a cobra, yet a subtle, light feminine tone existed.-

"How about I ask you your name and have you deported to cleanup duty on whats left of Cairn? Registration is designated as Omega Nu Iota 7-1-7-4 Gamma. Thats all you need to report."

-She motioned forward, the guards pushing the loadlifter until it started on its way once again. No more interuptions, no more distractions. This one had to be put here now. It was the only way the project would still meet its deadline. The crate itself, when Eliar could get a good look at it was atleast 12ft tall, 6ft wide and the darkest shade of black imaginable. It had no discerning marks, save for a green holographic projection on its front labeled "GAMMA." They carted it away to the storage facilities, as far back as they could.

Eliar sighed. He hated Oni, always getting in the way of the military and always slipping in and out when they weren't wanted. He let the mechanics go back to their duties as he returned to his office. He walked in and eyed his armour he was working on. Fashioned from Diamonte Polymer, it was incredibly durable. More so then any other armour out there and was lighter then most of the alloys around. It cost him more then he wanted, but it had saved his life on more then one occasion. He walked over and eyed the forearm section of the armour before he picked it up and studied the extendable Sonic blade at the elbow tip. The blade snapped out and glowed a dull blue noting the power cell was fully charged. He deactivated the blade and it slid back into the housing.

"Gate, run a check on Omega Nu Iota 7-1-7-4 Gamma. I don't care about clearance. I want to know what the hell Oni is sticking on my base and what they are up too" he said aloud.

A holographic image of an AI dressed as a DragonSlayer of Ancient times appeared on his desk and folded his arms.

~ Since when did Epsilon become your base ~ the Artifical Unit asked.

Eliar glanced over as he peeled out of his mechanics uniform and adorned the combat suit and started to intergrate the armour sections and sealed them to his body. "You going to get me what I asked" he demanded as he fastened his shin armour with two snaps.

~ Registration Number Omega Nu Iota 7-1-7-4 Gamma is a Legitimate Project by Oni that was Sent from High Blue Command that's supposed to stay here until they arrive ~ the AI said.

"Who is they?"

~ Insufficient Clearance, and don't ask me to crack it. I can't ~

"Fine, whatever. Who is the woman?"

~ Insufficient Clearance ~

"Well don't you suck today" Eliar frowned. "Will you at least alert me to the location of whatever they are sticking that package?" he asked.

~ Insufficient Clearance ~

"Fine, I'll find it myself" he said as he grabbed his shotgun and pulled the power conduits from the armour ports and he felt the systems power up in the suit. He put his helmet on as he checked the seals and found he was secured. "Shut Down Program Delta-0-1-5" he said and Gate disappeared without a word as he exited his office.

Gate was standing beside the box as Eliar moved through the rows and stacks. It was shoved in a corner as far back as physically possible, despite its blatantly obvious appearance. So dark it seemed to drain what little light even reached the corner, so tall it was a monolith amongst the smaller crates and storage units around it. Gate was running one projected hand along the side of the box, eyes closed as he processed data inside that medieval armor. Perhaps he'd been able to dig a little bit into the contents, perhaps not.-

-Now that he had an even better look, Eliar could discern a large vertically-opening door infront of him, maybe even a removeable blast door. The crate looked more and more like an ODST orbital drop pod, just blow out of proportion and certainly much more reinforced. There was the slightest hesitation before the AI projection opened its eyes and looked to Eliar.-

~ I have been able to run a slight background check on this container. Apparently its designation is ONI Project GAMMA...its part three of a tridrop shipment. An ALPHA and a BETA are somewhere on Macerr, but I can't find those locations. Also, its got a subtitle, maybe a sort of name. "Rex." ~

Eliar looked over the box. "Can you run a tracer on Rex and see if any files or folders of Oni contain that word. Base your search around military projects and Offensive Deployments" he informed the AI, "Gate, run Override Protocol Zulu Tango 4-9-1, Codeword 'DragonWings', I want to know what the heck they are up too even if it costs me my position. Even if you skim the surface works for me" he said.

~ Processing......numerous weapons files, ballistics, nonconventional weapons, the list goes on and on. Armor notes and designs..well...their files...I can't get into any of them....but I can discern a few....one is for some sort of plasma-based perdition flamethrower, much like the M7057 Defoliant Projector, but smaller while retaining the same punch, even a longer range apparently...the only other one I can get is for a ballistic weapon....wow....its a gattling gun, an 5-barreled .50 caliber gattling gun...an ammo drum about as wide as your torso...CASE cellular ammunition to prevent cooking of the ammo in case the drum is severely damaged....my best guess is this is some sort of heavy weapons shipment. ~

"Alright, lock out, cover your tracks and erase memory banks C-32 to C-45" he told the AI before turning and heading out of the area, locking the entire section down with his command code and used his voice authorization.

"Fierfek, I hate Oni. They are up to something and I don't like how it is going" he thought to himself as he broke onto the Flight deck and surveyed the mechanics and pilots milling around, even a few soldiers checking in with friends. He was out of place, dressed in customized armour that no one had and the detail made him look like a mythological creature then anything. The joints and flexible sections of his armour were covered in talons and claws, sharpened points were across his body, and even his helmet had spikes facing forward on either side. He slowly shook his head as he unsealed his helmet and clipped it to his belt. He walked over to his Pelican and ran a clawed hand across the smooth armour hull.

Just what was happening on this rock.

Several days and nothing from the crate, no information to gather that couldn't be hacked or bought, and still it amounted to nothing. Midnight struck when it happened, the good doctor's activation codes beamed down to the monolith that was their 3rd black container. Steam hissed from seams that popped open from top to bottom, the entire front of the crate pushing forward and rising up. Electricity crackled across jade green armor, a deep rumble filled the box as it stretched, flexed its broad claws and toe pads. How long had it been asleep? How long had it been waiting dormant in its steel sanctuary?-

-Footfalls echoed through the storage chamber it had been placed in, its clawed toepads digging through the plates of the floor to leave holes about the width of popcans as it walked. Its mechanical tail curled behind it, aiding its balance as it hunched forward slightly. It was different from the others, its entire bodyshape only barely resembling a humanoid form. After that everything ended, what with the saurian bodyframe and the long tail extending from the back of its hips. Its jaws opened in a broad yawn, rows of serrated teeth rising from its lower jaw, dropping from the upper into place. As it stopped to shake the effects of its forced sleep from its mind.-

-System check, light after light turning green in its mind until it was full across the board. The 5-barreled air-cooled .50 caliber gattling gun attached to its right arm whirred for a moment, pulling the first links of the ammunition chain from the large drum over the mechanical monstrosities left shoulder. The first round clicked into place, the barrel ceasing its rotations as the right arm swung around, the line of optical sensors above the upper jaw scanning over the weapon. No damage, 100% nominal. Perdition plasma boiled through the suit like boiling blood, the pilot light inside the mouth of the beast clicking on and off to test the feed. Perfect. Its neck locked back down to its collar to protect the feed line.-

-Data flooded its mind, its mission set. Designated targets, defense protocols, limiting protocols, a very short list for that one...

Designated Targets:
Armed Personnel
Armed Citizens
Any and all equipment that may damage Unit Gamma
Any and all persons in immediate vicinity that may damage Unit Gamma


Defense Protocols:
Lethal Force Recommended for all situations

Primary Directive:
........Execute Command_Play

Secondary Directive:
Find and eliminate Units Alpha and Beta

A insistent beep woke Eliar up as movement was detected where the black crate was stored. No other working shifts were on duty which caused him to hit the alarm.

He pulled out of bed and grabbed his rifle, switching into his combat suit in under 5 minutes, closing clips across his body to seal himself within the armour. He moved into the hallway. He was only a pilot, but he was one of the top ranking officers. He had dealt with situations as he passed the medical station. His gut told him something bad was going down.

***

Outside on the main deck, soldiers cocked rifles, set up barricades as two snipers took up positions in the Control Tower. They set up and watched for movement. Eliar broke out onto the main area. Watching as a sargeant moved troops around he realized that Oni was messing with his base. That made things personal.

Footfalls shook the storage room as it plodded between and around boxes, crunching smaller ones under its saurian feet. Metallic talons left punctures in the floor, 3 facing forward with one smaller hole from a rear support toe. The massing Blue soldiers outside the storage facility could tell it was comming closer, the smashing of crates and the footfalls approaching at a slow, methodical rate. A low hiss began to rise in the air, comming from just out of view inside the storage room.-

-The first thing that came into view were barrels, 5 total linked with a circular attachment plate, each one reaching back almost 4ft in length. They were painted black and polished to a shine, a clawed mechanical hand gripping a vertical trigger system for the underslung armature. A 5-barreled gattling gun, just what the Blues needed to see, but what else came from that storage room could make men shit themselves. The fact that the barrels were almost 6 ft off the ground, at an almost perfect 180 degree angle.-

Those large saurian feet were now in view, wicked talons several inches in length crunching into the deck plates on the ground, a bowed double-kneed leg carrying each one as the beast heaved its bulk into view. It was just over 12 ft in height, dragging behind it a thick segmented tail 10 ft in length from the back of its waist. Its left hand was free, curling and uncurling 3 long fingers and a thumb, all hooked with the same wicked talons. Its entire body was a deep shade of jade green, mottled with black across its frame from its toes to a blade rising up from each shoulder. Its shoulders were 4ft across, a bulky triangular head hunched just below its shoulder line.-

-Mechanical jaws split the triangle, a thin lower jaw creaking open as pneumatic pistons hissed and let loose small puffs of CO2. Hundreds of small triangular teeth lined its jaws, serrated on their back edges to slice and tear through whatever was unfortunate enough to be trapped in those jaws. Its tail lashed the floor, denting in several plates beneath it as it spread its arms, swinging that gattling gun like it was nothing as its jaws spread a full 90 degrees. A bellowing roar shook the ground beneath it, sending tremors across the ground to the Blues.-



Blue soldiers shifted positions, finding better cover behind re-enforced barricades that were set up, guns were trained on the creature as the Sargeant moved forward with his weapon slung over his back.

"My name is Sargeant William Burke of Epsilon Base Defense Corp. What is your designation, rank" he said sternly before he shyed away slightly, "Are you friend or foe?"

Meanwhile, Eliar was on the other side of the hangar behind other troops with Rifles and Rocket launchers. Him being a pilot, he hated being on the ground, though he took hold of his rifle and zoomed in on the creature. "What the fierfek is that?" he thought before he waited for the creatures next move.

Nokamura picked his nose as he watched the countryside pass by the 'hog. he yelled on the radio to his entire squad.

"WHEN WE GET IN THERE, IF YOU ENCOUNTER THE TARGET, KEEP RETREATING TOWARDS THE DESIGNATED POINT CAPICHE? WHILE RETREATING KEEP UP A CONSTANT FRIGGIN FIRE ON THE DAMN THING. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES COMMENCE AGGRESSIVE ATTACKS ON THE TARGET, ALWAYS MOVE IN GROUPS. IF YOU EVEN THINK OF TRYING TO GET SOME DAMN MEDAL OR IMPRESSING SOME DAMN BARGIRL BY TRYING TO SHOW YOU GOT BIGGER CAJONES THAN THE REST OF YOUR SQUAD, I WILL FRY YOUR BALLS IF THEY REMAIN AND COURTMARTIAL THE REST OF YOU!"

Nokamura looked at the crate of pinches.

All Sargeant Burke would receive was another ear-piercing roar that sent another round of tremors under foot. Its head turned in a wide arc from side to side, unseen eyes scanning over every weapon in sight that was pointed at the brutish machine. Gamma began to run damage assessments, going over as many areas of himself and comparing the amount of punishment he'd absorb to what he could tolerate. Sufficient, he wouldn't have too much trouble from the standard BR-55. Some worry was brought to the M9 Rocket Launchers, but those would merely slow him. The machine of war was set into motion.-

-The next sound did not answer any of Sargeant Burke's question's either, a mechanical crip whirring noise filling the air as Gamma's right arm rose. The 5 long barrels of the chain gun attached to Gamma's forearm swung out to the far right, as far as targettable armed Blue soldiers were. The whirring rose to a fever pitch, the soldiers having 1....2.....3 seconds before the whirring was replaced with a shattering roar almost as loud as the monster's.-

-The chain gun spat hundreds of armor piercing rounds towards the Blues and their barricades, steam pooling up and away from the rotating barrels as wreaths of fire exploded outward with every shot. Red tracer rounds occassionally cut through the air, but for the most part it was white-hot depleted uranium burning through the air, raising the temperature drastically in the immediate area. If any Blues were still watching Gamma when he swung his arm to the left, arcing the ridiculous amount of spray across the Blue line they'd almost see the beast smiling with the sheer glory of the slaughter. The beast kept the spray even across the Blue line, swinging its weapon back to the right for one more pass before the weapon would stop its roar, returning to the dull whirr as it examined its first volley and just how much damage it had done.

Sargeant Burke was the first to die as another 26 Blue soldiers were dead before weapons could be fired, another 18 injured with missing ligaments as they tried to avoid the fire before those that were still alive aimed and fired. BR-55 rounds lanced towards the mammoth target as the two snipers squeezed off 8 shots at the joints of the beast.

Rockets flew past Eliar as he realized this thing was a tank. He shifted positions, knowing he would only have one chance if any, and that was to get in behind where that Gun couldn't catch him.

"Hold this Line" he demanded, knowing he was in charge again. "Keep up the fire, go for the joints and bring it down!" he yelled before the position he was in was filled up by two Blue soldiers and fired their rifles.

He pushed into his bunker, tearing components from his forearm armour and reattaching sections. He cursed and swore as he clipped his sword to his belt and ran out, forgetting his rifle as the adrenaline kicked in. He'd have to get in nice and close to kill the thing.
The monsters mass of metal and bullets turned its head to the incomming missiles, perhaps some sort of Point Defense System alerting it to the threats that streaked contrails through the air towards it. As Gamma turned its body towards the missiles its right arm let loose a blithering hail of armor piercing rounds and tracers towards the snipers posted in the control tower. At that range the accuracy of the chain gun was minimal at best, but with the number of rounds fired in the general direction he hoped to score a few hits to keep them from firing at his more sensitive joints.-

-The sniper volleys had managed to pick away at the armor covering the joints of the engine of destruction, but had failed to expose any mechanical servomotors or control surfaces. Whoever had built this thing had built it well, designed it to withstand whatever the Blues could throw at it while still remaining combat effective. Now Gamma had to deal with the missiles, and the advanced tactical algorithms in its harddrive mind calculated the best means of counter-offense.-

-The first rocket's trajectory was harder to track, and the mammoth machine's gattling gun was still in a cooling phase. Because of this Gamma feinted to the left before ducking forward, allowing the first rocket to pass above him, missing the beast by mere inches before exploding on the ground behind him. The second rocket was easier to follow, and Gamma planned to initiate his commands on this one as a show of force.-

-As the rocket approached Gamma would cant his body to the left, the rocket passing directly infront of him. He leaned out, his lower jaw dropping open before closing on the midsection of the rocket, holding it in place. He brought his open left hand up, snapping the warhead from the rocket to allow it to explode at his feet, adding scorched carbon to the dark color of his body. The mecha crunched the still-lit booster engine of the rocket in its jaws, looking as though it swallowed the smashed engine before receiving a green light on its gattling gun.-

-Gamma tracked back to where the rockets had originated using their contrails as a guide before unleashing all hell in the form of a bullet-storm on the Blue soldiers who had launched the rockets at him in the first place. He began to scan with his head, trying to gain an assessment on the surviving Blue forces.

hearing the distinctive whistling sound of a flying missle, the warthogs' drivers turned towards the sound. A flying missle is a truly unmistakeable sound. it is the herald of the apocalypse, trumpeting and fury from its steed of a gassy cylinder.

As the warthogs began to approach the mechanical beast, the rear gunners strafed the target with .50 caliber bullets, one aiming at the chain gun on the creatures arm.

The gunners on the hogs let loose their repetoire of ammunition, allowing the silver hawks of death streak through the sky. They fired at the creature which was covered by the black box, that great collasal impenetrable mass, which nullified the fury of the bullets.-

-Nokamura had ordered the driver off and himself taken the driver's seat. Nokamura revved the engine and drove straight for the monster, driving in a somewhat reckless zigzagged pattern that made Nokamura seem drunk. The gunner's name was Cynnear, a man who knew Nokamura's line of thinking, that crazy random ferocity which had earned him respect in other battles. Ordinarily in the maneuver Nokamura attempted, most sane men would jump off. The men in Nokamura's unit were veterans, trusting their sergeant to be able to pull of this maneuver. So instead of jumping off, he tried his best to fire at the monster hidden behind the crate, although his shots were entirely missing due to the erratic driving of the sergeant.-

-All this time, the other hogs and their respective passengers had maintained a constant fire on the creature, the drivers grabbing weapons and firing from above the windshield of the hog. the gunners from the side, and the rear gunners letting loose their weapons. The incoming crate was a shock to them. A huge immovable object now thrown with such ease. Maybe it was deer in the headlights syndrome, but the crate landed on one of the hogs, semi flattening it. the driver was crushed, the side gunner had the black box on his lower body, blood seeping from his forehead onto the ground, a pair of glasses shattered nearby. The rear gunner survived, luckily, he was blown off by the force of the box, suffering a minor concussion from the blow.-

-Nokamura looked in the rear view mirror and saw the wreckage of the hog. It was a pity to lose men. But he had lost better. He thought of the lessons he had learn in the officers academy. His teacher speaking in his gruff voice.-

-"Never lose your calm from a subordinate dying in battle. When you do so, you lose the fight. Don't make it personal. To die in battle is an honor. When one man falls, then another must respect this man's sacrifice by taking his place. Soldiers must go into battle prepared for their deaths or their determination will be lost easily through fear. A man who does not want to fight will not fight, he will run. Protecting one's men is important enough, but when it jeapordizes the"-

-Nokamura only remembered that much. He fell asleep the first 3 minutes of the lecture that day. Only thing else he remembered was seeing the hot chick in the row in front of and 4 seats to the left of him. Nokamura shrugged.-

When the hell have i ever listened to him anyways.. and that girl was hot.. i wonder if i got her number..

-Snapping back to reality, he glared at the creature and muttered to himself.-

-"Dont fuckin lose it my ass. That guys brains is all over the winshield! Yo! get off! gimme the fuckin wheel."-

-The driver complied with the order. Nokamura slid into the drivers seat and revved the engine and drove straight for the monster, driving in a somewhat reckless zigzagged pattern that made Nokamura seem drunk. The gunner's name was Cynnear, a man who knew Nokamura's line of thinking, that crazy random ferocity which had earned him respect in other battles. Ordinarily in the maneuver Nokamura attempted, most sane men would jump off. The men in Nokamura's unit were veterans, trusting their sergeant to be able to pull of this maneuver. So instead of jumping off, he tried his best to fire at the monster hidden behind the crate, although his shots were entirely missing due to the erratic driving of the sergeant.-

-Closing in on the monster, Nokamura looked like he was about to drive into the creature in a kamikaze attempt, but at the last moment, slammed the brakes, yanked the wheel left, initiated a spin around the creature, ending up facing the creatures back. Cynnear reached down into the crate of pinches on the hog, took one out, and primed it. Facing the back of the creature, Nokamura drove straight towards it, This time truly going to crash into the creature.-

-A bit before impact with the creature, nokamura jumped out of the vehicle, so did cynnear, who at the moment of jumping out, hurled the pinch at the creature.

Pistons let loose whisps of steam from special vents along the plates of armor around the monster's long, segmented tail. It ducked to the ground, its tail lancing up as the Hog approached from behind. It hooked the bottom of the hog's engine block, the long curved blade at the tip of its tail slicing up high into the Warthog's engine, almost shredding it in half. The pistons turned, bundles of mechanical muscle flexing or contracting to hurl the Warthog up and away from the creature. It was not at that moment tracking the lone pinch that Cynnear had thrown, and in the process brought the Warthog between itself and the pinch.-

-The detonation of the pinch set off the box in the Warthog which in turn caused the Warthog to explode violently, a hellish ball of flame erupting where the black and green mechanoid saurian stood. Smoke billowed up in the night sky, thick and oily from the Warthog's fuel and chemicals. Nothing moved but the dancing flames, a large crater filled with fire climbing towards the stars in the wake of the explosion. No sound but the crackling of the tongues of orange heat that licked at the ground, spreading black carbon burns as it spread.-

-Pieces of the Warthog had been spread everywhere from the explosion, the front right tire bouncing away past the remaining troops that had survived the monster's first volley, or had just arrived. A carbeurator here, a broken piston there, a break disk cracked in half sliding across the ground. Everything was red hot, some pieces molten slag boiling into silver puddles around the crater. Then...the flames seemed to flicker, burned a bit brighter...and something in that mess of destruction moved.-

-A low growl came first, announcing the beast's survival in that hellhole. Black, scarred metal slowly rose in the center of the flames, some plates melted and refused all across its body. It was pitted with cracks and holes in its armor, weakened or punctured by pieces of the Warthog fired at supersonic velocities from the explosion. Despite these wounds it was still alive, and it only looked more enraged than ever before. It spread its arms wide, its tail lashing the crater as it let loose a feral roar in the night, climbing above the crackling flames, louder than the explosion that seemed to not kill but rebirth this beast back into existance.

When Nokamura dived, he had grabbed his gun from the rack inbetween the seats. He hit the ground and ran while looking over his shoulder and seeing the creature get hit by the Hog, and then saw the pinch explode. From the dead body of a soldier near him, Nokamura grabbed a round of rocket ammunition, took 2 pinches from his pocket, his lighter and his "water" canteen which contained nothing but whiskey. He shoved the rocket into the ground and angled it at the creature. He opened the canteen and poured whiskey in a line as he ran starting from the missile in an arc to 60 degrees around the creature. There he yelled random amounts and kinds of profanity and fired gunshots at the creature. He then dove for another 8 degrees and threw a pinch. Before he dove, he lit the whiskey and it burned in an 60 degree arc until it met the rocket which it ignited.-

Meanwhile Nokamura's squad stood around in awe of the explosion, then in shock, then a few panicked and ran. One or two were grabbed and shoved back to their positions by the Corporals. The gunners reopened fire on the creature.

The gunshots and screams failed to draw the creature's attention. It had focused however on one thing, the rocket the Blue soldier had planted in the ground, aimed directly towards it. The beast began to leave the crater, its clawed toes digging into the ground. The pinch thrown towards it temporarily distracted it however, the explosion of the pinch and the resulting EMP released scrambling its already damaged sensory array. It faltered, collapsing back into the crater as the missile's engine burned a plume of exhaust right towards it.-

-Into the crater fell the monster, the rocket catching one of the blade-like protrusions that rose from its back and shoulders. The rocket was deflected upwards, exploding high over the beast as internal dampners began the work of scrubbing the effects of the EMP from its systems. A chrono ticked down in its mind, scrubbing complete after a 30 second cycle. It still had control of its body, one clawed hand gripping the lip of the crater.-

-It began to pull itself up from the deep hole in the ground, weathering the incomming fire from the Blue soldiers. Its navigational systems restored themselves first, angling the creature towards where it had stored its primary weapon, the gattling cannon. It would sustain too much damage at its current distance, its armor integrity already severely weakened by the successive explosions that had caked and cracked its armor. Secondary survival protocols were unlocked and accepted, several panels opening across the back and shoulders of the monster.-

-Cylindrical canisters roughly the size of pop cans launched on tiny rocket motors from special ports across the creature's frame, thrown far from the beast before detonating in a 360 degree arc angled towards the points of fire striking the monster's frame. Thin, metallic black fletchettes, anti-personnel rounds exploded from each canister, sent hurtling like ammunition from a Needler at the soldiers, though they were superior in both speed and penetrating power.-

-They rained down all around Gamma, several misfires pinging off its cracked and blackened armor or sticking roughly one inch in before striking its secondary protective plating. Hopefully this would clear some of the fire and give Gamma time to finish scrubbing its systems.

Nokamura quickly grabbed a dead soldiers body and hid under it as he saw the canisters launch. The needles flew out, one puncturing his left leg, 2 on his right.-

Chikuso!...

Nokamura quickly yanked the needles out of his legs, letting a flow of blood come out, luckily the wound was only semi deep, having gone through 3 layers of armor. He ran foward at the monster, wincing in pain at some of the steps, approaching the disabled monster, he took a mine out, set it, and dropped it by the monsters foot, then grabbed a grenade shoved it at the monsters mouth, and ran. He checked for any more pinches, but had only now his combat knife. He dived and threw the combat knife at the mine, setting off the trigger.

At this proximity Gamma could not help but notice Seiji. If he had been fully deactivated by the pinch perhaps the soldier would have succeeded in placing his armaments down at the creature's feet and in its mouth, but this was not the case with Gamma. A black arm slammed into the ground ahead of the mine, the knife pinging and ricocheting off the curved black plates of the monster's left arm. With its right it retrieved the grenade, its mouth having been closed so it had fallen to the ground. It picked the grenade up gingerly in its right hand, crushing the tiny incendiary device.-

-Light burst through the cracks between the monsters fingers, smoke following as it opened its hand. It was on full alert now, its system scrubbed as it stepped over the mine and approached Seiji. It bent forward, placing its hands on the ground ahead of it before letting loose another cacaphonating roar. Its jaws opened wide, a tiny piston pushing forward along its lower jaw towards Seiji. A hole irised open in the center of the piston, an orange light comming from within.-

-Seiji had just seconds to evade the tongue of sticky napalm that shot from the mouth of the beast towards him. It ignited in the air, a trail of flame leaping for the Blue soldier as the dragon's tail lashed the air behind it. Fire mirages appeared all around the creature from the intense heat, its black scorched, burned and corroded body glowing orange and neon green in the firey inferno that approached Seiji.

"ohh, crap ohh crap oh crap oh crap"

-Seiji jumped to the side immediately but before he got much farther, his foot kicked a rock. He fell rolled over a dead soldiers body and grabbed the rifle in the hands of the dead man. He fired a few rounds at the sensor of the mine and then got up and ran.
Gamma turned his head, trying to follow Seiji with the expanding plasma blue and orange flames expanding from the defoliator in the mouth of the beast. Seiji's bullets found their mark, a startled cry emanating from the monster as the mine detonated behind it. Fire erupted from beneath the creature's raised tail and stomach, propelling it forward as the ground beneath its claws cracked and splintered. It began to skid across the ground for several feet, its mutli-metric ton bulk however slowing it to a crawl as sparks fell around it.-

-Gamma's body was screaming as it remained motionless, several subsystems clicking off due to structural damage or internal damage from the hundreds of rounds and rockets thrown at it. Fire belched from its mouth however as its stalwart will caused its clawed fingers to dig into the ground. Pistons screamed in its frame as it pushed itself to its feet, forgetting about Seiji once again as it let another howl off in the night.-

-Its tail thrashed the asphalt behind it, cracking the ground and throwing sizeable chunks into the air as its optical sensors began to scan for targets. Power was rerouted, internal components scanned and rescanned, comming online once again as the beast shuddered. It was fighting at less than 50% structural integrity, and it wouldn't stop until that number passed far below 0.

Seiji had taken the time to dive behind some debris, next to the bodies of several deceased soldiers. It was maybe a 4 foot tall chunk of road which had been uprooted and stuck perpindicularly into the ground. It was a large gray scorched mass, with a crack down the center. Seiji held his back to the chunk of road, he saw that his squad survived, if barely, 100 degrees to his right.-

"What the fuck is that thing made out of!"

-He checked the inventory of one of the dead soldiers, picking up a few round grenades and a second pistol. The rest of the pinches were with the hogs, 2 crates remaining. One to a hog. He lobbed a several large chunks of rocks into the air letting them soar in diffrent directions, and throwing his 4 or 5 grenades he had left at the creature and with a flashbang that emitted a blinding flash of light followed by loud explosions near the creatures feet. He enabled the light shading function on his helmet letting the world darken several shades into a near dusk light color, the light from the flashbang made it seem but like day, and dashed for his squad. He tossed a second flash bang which exploded with another brilliant flash of color while running from the creature. Then turning and empying his pistol clip at the creatures head, with intent to pierce that damned optical unit, that eye in the sky which controlled the monstrosity.

Upon reaching the men, he ordered those who were in good condition to hop onto the hogs and enabled the flash shielding on their helmet visors. only 5 men were needed. Nokamura hopped into the back of the hog on the rear gunner position. The side gunner on the other hog held a rocket launcher. He had broken out the heavy armanent. Larger more powerful rockets capable of shredding tanks with a few shots. On Nokamura's hog were the two crates of pinches. The rocketeer fired initial shots which burst at the saurian with a fiery anger, screaming out of the launching tube. Then the other hog gunned its engines and drove straight for the saurian, Nokamuras hog directly behind. The first hog's rear gunner let loose its armanent of .50 caliber bullets and the side gunner managed to fire off two more rocket rounds. Upon reaching the saurian, out of range of its flamethrower, the first hog did braked hard and turned left, the gunner on nokamura's hog fired his shotgun, and leapt off, taking cover behind some rocks, Tossing a flashbang. The driver did a hard spin to the right, while Nokamura armed the pinches in the crate. from the left side, the rocketeer fired a round at the saurian and Nokamura threw the pinches out of the crate in one motion (5), the flashbang exploding in a bright flash of light before that.

Secondary protocol commands! This fight was bunk, a countdown chrono appearing in the righthand corner of Gamma's viewscreen as the flashbang and grenades thrown by the Blue soldier exploded around it. Scorched armor chipped or cracked off, all black top-layer armor exposing a second layer of hex-combed silver metal. Rounds from the Hog's LAAG's pounded through the pitted first layer of armor, stopping or ricocheting off the second however as Gamma actually turned to flee from the battle. Its tracking-systems had locked on the 5 incomming rockets, the rounds from the Hog's not a problem as rear-mounted sensors took over for its eyes.-

-Pinches seemed to have little or no effect as their EMPs washed over the silver armor, Gamma's scrubbers working at maximum capacity again to clean up and degauss his electrical components. Pistons screamed and discharged steam as they pushed the massive saurian away from the hogs, armor piercing rounds finding their marks through its damaged first layer but finding no penetration in the second.-

-On the way Gamma stooped to pick up a large chunk of asphalt, turning to hurl it behind him at the first of the incomming rockets. His trajectory was off by only a hairs however, striking the rocket and causing it to detonate safely away from him. He managed the second rocket in this manner as well. The remaining three rockets needed to be dealt with quickly. Gamma turned to face them, its lower jaw dropping open as a condensed ball of fire perdition plasma exploded from its mouth.-

-It turned as the fireball caught the first of the three rockets, detonating the rocket and causing the other 2 to fly through the firestorm caused by that rocket. All three however chalked up damage on Gamma's back however, blasting away the remains of its topmost layer of armor to reveal the pristine second layer of unknown metal. The explosion actually pushed the beast forward, accelerating it as it ran back into the warehouse from which it came. On the way it grabbed its gattling gun and the ammo drum, reattaching them as it tore through the warehouse.-

-Back outside the seemingly undamaged black crate that had ferried Gamma here began to audibly beep, louder than the roar of the Warthogs, rockets and LAAG's. It began to visibly shake, a chrono counting down from 20 on every side facing outward, bright green hololetters ticking away. Gamma had dissapeared out the other side of the warehouse, heading South towards its secondary protocol.

Secondary Protocol...exe. FINAL DESTINATION

Nokamura sighed, he had thought he was really going to kill the beast. He was about to take a rest for a second, when the crate's ominous noise caught his ear. He peered around a piece of concrete to see the crate counting down, now at 121110

Kuso!

"Run! Bomb!" Seiji tried to scramble away as the crate ticked down its chrono, second by second.

8.

Seiji kept up his sprinting pace, the rest following behind, even while his abdomen flared in pain.

7.

He hoped that the crate would not have too much explosive, as he kept running, possibly escaping the blast radius.

6.5.4.3.2.1.

The crate erupted into a ball for light and fire, engulfing everything within is 200 meter radius. It engulfed the corpses of Nunemaker, Erions, and Guillottes. It also engulfed Cynnear, who was wounded, and Galley. Nokamura was thrown forward, eating concrete as he landed helmet first, the concrete scraping away the paint of the helmet. Nokamura blacked out.

A Pelican was circling overhead as the blast erupted, knocking it off course a bit.
"Holy crap! Ladies and gentleman, a bomb just erupted at Blue Base Epsilon, the monster assaulting Blue forces has disspeared from view, oh my God, those blue soldiers were just destroyed! This is Darren Stines for the Kalaa New Network, and I'm circling overhead Blue Base Epsilon. The base has come under attack, and all flights to and from the Kalaa starports are now grounded by the UNSCMPs. We'll have more to come as we get it."

omething rather unusual arrived soon after at Epsilon. This wasn't any ordinary force, it was an ONI cleanup crew. Before any more Blue Forces had arrived, they'd already gone through the wreckage, cleaning out any evidence of that could've even remotely linked this to them. When the Blues arrived to pick up the pieces of the squads that defended Blue Base, most of what they found lie in and around the crater that originated from the few remaining pieces of the Storage Hangar. Sgt. Nokamura's squad had take 75% casualties, and he was badly wounded himself. The Blue Base itself was literally irreparable, but many of the civillian terminals and hangars were intact.


Too far, ONI had gone this time. Too far.


Chapter 24.The Truth

he 'Hog's engine revved one more time as Talitha coasted it to a stop next to her home, pulling out the keys and pocketing them as she hopped out of the vehicle, pulling out her newly acquired rocket launcher and the four extra rockets.

"Wait here, Private. Let me explain it to Riggs before you come in, alright? I don't think he's going to be overjoyed to see you."

She pressed her thumb to a pad next to the door, letting it read her biometrics before going inside. She checked the chrono on the wall - she had been gone for about six hours.

"John? Are you awake?"

No sound from inside. Perhaps he was finally getting some rest. He'd looked like he hadn't slept for months when she pulled him out of that armor, but from what little he had told her it was as though he was in a dream-like state, completely incapable of guiding himself.

Good, he's still asleep... he needs his rest... She popped her head back outside.

"You can come in now Sam, he's asleep. I'll set you up a bed on the couch, I only have two rooms up here, and Riggs is in the spare."

She headed back in, moving towards the small two seater, folding it out, trying to ignore the damage to her home and the blood on the floor from her and Riggs' struggle.

Most of the blood seemed cleaned up now, a roll of paper towels and a bottle of carpet cleaner Talitha had sitting close to the wall across from the stains. Riggs had done his best in his condition to clean up the mess he'd made, and after that had probably retired to the bed she'd brought him to earlier to rest.

Samantha hops down from the warthog after grabbing her belongings from the back.

This bag's heavier than I remember...Oh, right...That box of explosive sniper rounds the leuteniant put in there...I hope this guy's not as dangerous as he told me...

She shuffles into the house and drops her bag and sniper rifle next to the couch she was directed to. She drops her helmet on her bag and lets her hair down then cracks a slight smile as she looks around

"Well it's better then what i have to sleep on back at base. Thank you."

"Sure thing. There's not much, but help yourself to the fridge and the synthesizer."

Talitha threw a blanket and two pillows on the bed, starting to lay it all out for the PFC. The room was pretty sparse, only a few pieces of furniture, the couch and an armchair facing the viewscreen, two Purple Hearts in their boxes on a pedestal in the corner on either side of a framed Silver Star. Even though she had turned away from the military lifestyle, she still looked back on the good times and smiled, hoping the future on this planet would go better than the rest of her life had.

A curse from the spare bedroom where she'd put Riggs earlier, the sound of metal scratching metal. He was in there, what he was doing however was a mystery. A few clinks, a slight thunk, he was definitely at work on something at the moment, keeping himself as busy as he could.-

"Sonuva....damnit...come on...get out of there..........got it.."

Hmmm? "Make yourself at home, Private, give a holler if you need something."

Talitha headed back to the spare bedroom, knocking on the door lightly.

"Come in..."

His voice was shaky, several more pops and pings heard as he continued to toil at whatever he was doing. He didn't sound relaxed, didn't sound rested at all, his voice still gravely, hoarse, even trembling as he tried to keep just above a whisper.

"Whatcha working on?" Talitha popped her head in, smiling as she looked over to the bed, depressed that he hadn't gotten enough rest while she had been gone.

The shin guards of his armor were on his lap. He had a pair of tools in his hands, pliers and a small cutting laser. He was pulling the shot from the knees and shins, tossing the ball-bearing sized pieces into a bowl at the foot of the bed. He'd racked up quite a few, but still more had to be removed. Afterwards he'd superheat the armor around each hole or dent, watching as it would either seal or reform into its original appearance.-

"Just..getting some stuff out....um...whose with you...?"

"...umm... well... this is kinda hard to explain... but the long and the short of it is, Lenalli knows you're here. And he wants a chat, so he forced me to take that PFC along to make sure you didn't try to run...."

Her voice dropped as she explained, unable to bring her eyes to John's, the last few words almost a mumble.
".........what......?"

-He just looked up at her, dropping his tools as his jaw dropped open. His voice was lost as he stuttered for words. What had she done...? Who...? Had she...had she betrayed him to the Blues for something he couldn't even remember doing..? Why..? He looked ghostly pale, his eyes remaining on her, slightly glazed as he found himself unable to say anything in reply.

"I'm sorry... I didn't want to... but... dammit..."

Her shoulders slumped even further, wishing she had never taken that damn job, even though she hadn't had much of a choice... this whole thing was pushed on her... getting away from that was the whole reason she left the Reds in the first place! And now...

"I....I need to work on this...please close the door."

-What little emotion he had left in his voice had dropped away along with the color in his face. He looked back at the armor, picking up his tools to continue work on the knees. He had to fix these holes or it wouldn't fit right, it'd poke and prod him when he wore it. Where was his helmet?-

"Where is my helmet?"

"...it... I... Lenn... has it..."

Her voice was barely above a strained whisper before she pulled her head out, shutting the door quietly, heading back for her room, half hoping that he would tell her to stop, to come back and help him, but the other half of her knew it probably wouldn't come....

He didn't ask for her to come back, he wanted to, a part of him wanted her to be right by him, wanted her help, wanted to tell her it was all right. The other half just punched the good side in the face and told him he needed to get out of here, now. He worked at a feverish pace now, pulling shot, tossing the pieces off and fixing the holes and dents. He had to go...had to be safe...he thought he'd be safe here, he wasn't. He had to run.

After a few minutes had gone by, her footsteps moved back past Riggs' door, only pausing to slip a sheet of paper beneath it, before heading out to the kitchen, boiling water to prepare a cup of green tea, ready to take it out onto the porch for a long bout of soulsearching in that dark moonless night.

A stinging hiss as he stood, feeling his knees screaming beneath him as he walked to the door, extremely shakey at first. He bent down, almost collapsing from the pain before taking the note. He didn't immediately look at it, heading back to the bed to continue his work. He's picked all of the shot from the left kneepad, shin guard and thigh guard, now he just had to finish the right. He looked at the note as he situated himself.

It was even messier than her normal handwriting, her hand had been shaky as she started, but it grew clearer towards the end of the note.


"Lenalli gave me his word that he only wanted to talk, not to harm you, and I swear on all those people I lost at Epsilon Eridani that I wouldn't let him hurt you any more than this war already has. But if you don't trust him... or... or me... you have six days... the code on your window is 4686... the Leap is in a cave seven klicks south of here... you can get supplies from there before you head... wherever you wanna go...

...I'm sorry John... I tried to protect both of us, but I only ended up protecting myself.

Tal"


There was a tear at the bottom of the sheet, with some scribbles extending upwards. Maybe she had written something at the bottom of the sheet as a PS, then changed her mind about including it.

Goddamn Blues...


ohn folded the note, placing it into a pocket on the inside of his chestplate, just below his collar. He picked the last piece of shot from his right knee plate, only a few more visible in the shin guard. It looked as though he hadn't been hit at all, that would help quite a bit for his camofluage system...damnit...she gave his helmet to the Blues...the camo system wouldn't work for shit then even though the internal circuitry hadn't taken damage.-

"Vilg....this'll be harder than I thought....don't even have a damn helmet..."

The moon was low on the eastern horizon, rising almost visibly across the sky, at least to Talitha. Her tea had lost all of its heat to the chill in the night air, even though her glass was still mostly full. She rocked back and forth on the one person hammock she had set up, but no amount of thought could soothe the turmoil brewing through her mind. So as soon as she saw Samantha turn out her light above the couch, she looked down at her chrono. She closed her eyes, and breathed out. Then looked at it again after the moon had moved to just touch the trees bordering the Sea of Macerr.

Twenty minutes exactly... heh... still got it...

She rose, shutting the door silently, locking it with the faintest click, moving with all the stealth of a scout and now a mercenary, dumping the liquid into the sink before heading back for her room, closing her eyes, hoping that somehow this would all be resolved in the morning.

He waited a full three hours after hearing the click of the door lock. Time to go. Six days was a lie, at least from the Blues. He knew they'd be early, apparently he'd done something terrible. If he knew the Blues from his past, they'd be here the next day to take him. They'd pay Talitha off or not at all and take him, and he'd never see her again. He couldn't allow that, he couldn't. If he dissapeared, it wouldn't be her fault, especially if he left no evidence. -

-He opened his door with the utmost silence, seeing the guest room that must have been taken by the Blue closed and the light off. He padded across the house in his armor, making his way for Talitha's room. He had to say goodbye...he didn't know when he'd see her again. He entered her room, pushing the door open just enough so that his black armor didn't scrape against the walls or door frame. He saw her asleep, or at the least close to sleep on her bed. So many things he wanted to say, so many he couldn't...so many he had to keep silent for her safety.-

-He leaned down beside her, kissing her forehead as softly as he could, hopefully not waking her in the process.-

"E muja oui, Talitha.."

-He turned, leaving the room, closing the door behind him as silently as he had opened it. He went into the living room, taking a few moments before spotting just what he needed. He took her helmet off the shelf in its closet, placing it on his head before locking it into the system hardjacks on his jade collar. He'd have to work on it a little so it would display what he wanted, but this would do for now.-

-Back into his room, closing the door after entering. He headed for the window, keying in "4-6-8-6" on the internal lock. The window opened for him, but he thought that might have been too easy, too much of a hint. He scrolled around a bit using Talitha's HUD, finding rudimentary and horribly basic commands in place of the exact, precise directives his helmet had. They'd do, selecting the command to extend the retractable claws on each fingertip of his gloves. He pried off the access panel to the locking mechanism, cutting and splicing wires before retracting his claws. That would make it look exactly like he had hardwired it to open it. He even fused the wires with the heat-edges on the retractable blades on each wrist to further enhance the image of his un-aided escape.-

-Out the window, only making one light scrape as his right upper spine edged along the interior of the window frame. His knees were already causing moisture to bead at the edges of his eyes, but he had to go. He took one last look at Talitha's home, then the Orochi ran off into the night, joining the darkness once again.

The sun rose on a gorgeous spring day, not a single cloud in the sky. A gentle breeze wafted in through the crack at the bottom of the window in Talitha's room, her hand brushing away a blade of grass that came to rest on her cheek, then the moisture still left on her forehead. Was it just a dream?

She rose, taking a datapad as she headed out towards the kitchen, taking a moment to peer inside the guest room, her heart sinking as she saw the empty bed. It hadn't been a dream. He was gone, thinking she had betrayed him. And he was right. But she didn't intend to do so further, so she blinked a few extra times, a slight smile cracking her lips as she saw her helmet gone - she hated the damn thing anyway. She'd let the Blues and the PFC figure out that Riggs had run on their own. If she had to go and look for him, fine. But she wasn't bringing him back. Griddle on, time for some scrambled eggs. As the steam from the boiling water misted up into her face, she allowed herself one chuckle.

"Heh... I almost hope he does find Tuono in the lower bulkhead..."

Samantha rose slowly at the smell and sizzle of food. She put the few pieces of armor she'd taken off back on and akwardly wandered about, following the smell to the kitchen. "Hello, Ms. Richardson. I'm afraid i slept a little too long. The accomodations were quite cofortable, thank you."

She kind of shifts her weight uneasily and looks around. "...I uh...Would there be any chance of me getting to talk with this 'Mr. Riggs' that I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on today?"

"Sure. He should be awake by now, second door on your left."

Let's see how she reacts... hope she doesn't try anything stupid...

She turned back to the stove, lightly salting the eggs with a flick of her wrist, stirring them with a spatula, throwing a few slices of toast into the toaster.

amantha nods to talitha and walks over to the door she was directed to and knocks twice from which it creaks open. When she sees the empty room and the window that's been jimmied open she goes pale and her knees get weak.

She runs back to where she had stashed her belongings, muttering something about being trusted and someone being dissapointed. She quickly grabs her helmet and puts it on, activating the radio. She tries to keep her voice from cracking when someone at Rho finally answers.

"Warrent Officer Torrick? It's PFC Williams. I need to speak with the Leuteniant immediatly."

"Everything okay, Private?"

Talitha shouted over the noise of the water she was running into the slightly dented kettle, setting it on the stove to boil. Eggs were done, and she separated them onto two separate... better make that three separate plates. Towel from the handle on the door to the cellar, wiping her hands as she headed out into the living room.

"You look like you've just been scared out of your mind."

"Sorry, Private. He's got his radio turned off, can't reach him. Probably still asleep. Anything wrong?"

"Hold that thought."

Williams turned to Talitha, her fear slowly turning to anger, rage. Williams had one simple task, and she blew it. But she was going to find out why.

"Where is he?"

"He's not in his room?"

Long years of infiltration allowed her to mix the perfect amount of confusion into her voice, moving back towards his room, her eyes immediately drawn to the open window, the hacked wiring. Wow... I didn't think he'd take it that far... I thought he'd just run... leave me the blame...

Williams' mixed feelings of anger, fear, and confusion convulated her thoughts into a pool of murkiness.

"No, he...he isn't."

Damn, this isn't good. The Lieuteniants gonna have my ass.

Williams turned back to her belongings, extracting her gun belt from the bag, along with an M6C. She click the belt into place, sliding the M6 into the holster. Meanwhile, she spoke up.

"Damnit, I'm not sure if you know what happened or not, but Lennalli made it clear that if Riggs escaped, he was to be killed."

WHAT?! There was no disguising the surprise and horror crossing her face at this statement. She barely managed to control herself as she strode back into the living room.

"I think you're mistaken Private. Your commanding officer made it clear he only wanted conversation."

This is gonna get ugly. Man, karma is a BITCH.

Williams scoffed at Miss Richardson's reply.

"Yeah, well, that's not what he told me."

Williams clicked her radio back on, in contact with Warrant Officer Torrick.

"I'm sorry, but I'm calling for a support squad."
NO!"

She threw herself forward, hand reaching for that radio. She had to stop them, had to warn John... had to find him... had to apologize... had to do something to make up for what she had done... had to stop them!

Williams stood up and turned towards Talitha just as she dove for the radio. Talitha knocked the handheld from Williams grip, and knocked Williams into the pedestal holding Talitha's medals, then to the floor. The pedestal rocked back and forth, soon falling onto Williams ankle, cutting a large gash into it and fracturing her ankle.

A searing pain drove up William's left leg, not only from the gash but from the profuse amount of blood coming from it. Williams tried to contain her pain, looking up at Talitha.

"Shit....I need help, please, help me."

"Oh geez... shit... I'm sorry... I don't know what came over me..." She squatted down next to Sam, grabbing a roll of bandages left over from when she had helped patch up Riggs, applying pressure with her hand before beginning to patch the PFC up.

Crackles came from the handheld radio as Torrick tried to contact Williams.

"Williams? Williams? You there? Damnit, Samantha, answer me! I'm sending a squad..."

Williams was too busy with the wound to listen to Torrick, pushing away the bloodied pedestal, the glass cases of the medals shattered.

"Yeah, sorry bout the medals."

"It's alright... It's not the first time I've knocked that thing over... as soon as I got some extra money, I was gonna wall mount it... but I don't think that's gonna happen any time soon... I knew I was being used again..."

She looked over at the radio as she heard Torrick, sighing. She didn't know what to do now, for the first time in a while.

"I'd really prefer if they didn't show up here. Call them off and tell them everything's fine."

"I...I'm sorry. This is all my fault, but, I.....I'm obligated to my duty. I'm sorry. No."

"Please? I'm only going to ask once."

She picked up the radio, passing it to Samantha.

"Giving him a few more days isn't going to change anything. Lenalli still wants him there in five days, right?"


Samantha exhales heavily, taking the radio. The sounds eminating from it suggest the warrant officer is fumbling about trying to hastily gather a squad to send.

"I'm OK, Torrie, Hold on a minute."

As she sets the radio down an annoyed sigh comes out of it, Torrick noticing that she'd picked up on the leuteniant's nickname for him, and she looks hard at Talitha. A very uncharacteristic authority is in her voice.

"You can find him in 5 days?"

"I didn't say that. I don't care how much money you try to buy me off with, I'm not helping you find him. I was just asking if you would wait."

Even as she said it, it sounded stupid to her. The old hatred of the Blue faction was flaring up within her again, but she fought to keep it in check.

"If he's here, the army stays home and Jim will show up alone to speak with him in five days. If he's not here, he's got the entire blue army chasing him with a shoot-to-kill order. And if you're not gonna help get him here, then I'm not gonna buy him any extra time to get away."

With out even pausing for a response she reaches, none too slowly, for the radio.

Talitha's foot lanced out, kicking the radio away with a quick sweep of her sock, not caring this time what she hit in addition to it.

"My house, my rules."

"Fine."

Within seconds the gun barrel of her M6C is pointed between Talitha's eyes and the comm in samantha's helmet is active.

"Torrick, Riggs escaped and I'm injured. Send that squad and tell them to haul ass. Hopefully when they get here, I won't be dead. Get to finding that monster and tell Jimmy I'm sorry."

"Ain't your house for long, Bitch. And your boyfriends as good as dead."

With that and a million thoughs spinning through her head, She pulls the trigger.
Her eyes flew wide as she saw the pistol come up and level itself for between them. Talitha backed away into the counter as she heard the Blue give the order to find Riggs. She hadn't stopped them... she failed again... and she fell to her knees as Samantha pulled the trigger, but even this motion wasn't enough to save her from injury, gouging out a furrow through her scalp, scraping against the bone, even ploughing through the top layers of that. The shock ripped a scream from her lips as she fell forward, grasping fistfuls of the carpet with her hands as she tried to stave off the pain, her blood leaking down into her eyes. She managed to gasp out a few words as her consciousness started to fade.

"No... please... I'll... hellp..."

I'll help... so I can see him... one more time...

"Yeah, Now that you find I'm not just a scared little girl, you'll help."

Her own leg patched up enough, she gets up and hobbles over to the unconcious mercenary. She bandages Talitha's head up, enough to stop her from bleeding to death, restrains her with whatever she can find lying around, then reclines back to wait for assistance, keeping her gun ready, just in case.

Ugh... lay off the pulse hammer, alright...? Geez...

The pounding in her skull and the nausea from the biofoam so close to her nose were enough to bring her back out of the shock-induced lapse in consciousness, but the dried blood on the carpet she felt tickling her nostrils was enough to tell her she had been out for a while.

... can't believe she shot me... can't believe I'm not dead...

She went to reach a hand to wipe away the blood from her face, knowing better than to touch the wound, but the throbbing in her wrists was immediately explained when she found she couldn't move them far from the small of her back. A slight shuffle of her feet confirmed that the tightness around her ankles was from the same source.

Oh damn... hope she didn't just leave me here... then again... I kinda hope she did...

She held her breath as long as her screaming headache would allow, listening for the Private's breath. She thought she could hear it over the blood pounding in her ears, but even that was sketchy. Hell, maybe her hearing got damaged by that bullet. She exhaled slowly, squinching her eyes shut as another wave of that horrid smell assaulted her nostrils, concentrating now on not throwing up.

Okay Tal... I think you're in trouble now...

A crackle would suddenly come from Sam's radio, followed by a rather loud shriek of static. It fizzled out for a moment, grew once more, then finally dissapeared as a brooding, snarling voice filled the air around the Blue.-

"If that bullet so much as harmed a hair on Talitha's head, you'll be dead LONG before your reinforcements arrive. You're going to call off that order right now. You're going to call Lenalli personally and have him bring my helmet. I'll speak with him today. If you do not do this, the Blue team will be short another soldier, and my kill count will rise just a little bit higher. Understand?"

-The radio clicked off, but whoever had just spoken, assuming it was Riggs was listening for a reply. He had to have been close. How he tapped into the blue comm would be a mystery, unknown to the blue he had full access to his communication modulator, the Comm-Mod that was preventing him from reverting into a beast at the moment. He hoped the Blue would make the right decision.

Assuming she's still being watched, Sam starts shouting into the air.

"Trying to get me scared again are you, Johnny-boy? Well, I'm far past that ruse. Heh, I didn't think you'd be worth too much without that special helmet of yours, just like Jimmy said. And I'm sure without that and with the entire blue army chasing you for what you did to the CO's favorite private, you won't last long."

Sam then reaches into a pouch on her belt and readies a small, pressure-sensitive explosive device she'd brought just in case and sets it on the small of Talitha's back after arming it. She then straddles the helpless mercenary, activating the pressure device, then places her pistol barrel at the base of Talitha's skull.

"We're gonna play things my way now. You do something I don't like, and I kill your girlfriend. You try to take me down, and I just may fall off this pressure-sensitve bomb and blow us all to hell. Just in case you're thinking of something fancy, you know you can't kill me fast enough to stop me from pulling this trigger.

Now then, you ready to listen, Beasty-boy?"

"If you'd looked under the bed you might have noticed the big honking black armored bastard beneath it. Don't turn around. Were at a stalemate, and I don't want her harmed."

-The sound of Riggs's heavy footsteps echoed through the house, comming from his room and down the hall. He stopped, standing probably 9ft behind Sam. There was a click and an odd whirring sound, like a power conductor charging up to full capacity. Talitha had heard the sound before, few had and lived to know what it was.-

-Riggs was helmetless, holding the 5ft long experimental Linear Railgun Tuono Nero, the "Black Thunder" from Cairn. A sabot had just been loaded into the action, the twin rails of the cannon comming to life as a magnetic charge was brought between them. Any small metallic objects were suddenly being pulled in Riggs' direction.-

"Just so you know...mine's bigger."

Sam doesn't even acknowledge that there's someone else in the room. She chuckles and tightens her grip on her pistol.

"So what are you gonna do, Johnny? Blow me away, possibly killing the already fragile Talitha here, only to have the bomb go off and finish us all? Oh, no, Johnny. We don't have a stale mate. In case you hadn't noticed, I never called off that squad. It's been what, 15, 20 minutes since I called for them? At the rate they're prolly goin', I'd say you've got anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes before you're surrounded by alot more guns."

Talitha struggled to turn around and see, squinting now against the blinding light of the sun in her eyes, shifting to the side, moving her hands into a more comfortable position away from the bomb... No, Tal... it's too risky... John knows what he's doing...

She cracked her toes, really unable to do much more as she shifted the positioning of the muzzle in the back of her neck, no wisecracks coming to mind, shuddering slightly as she practically felt the Blue patrol breathing down their necks.

John... dammit... get out of here... just give me time to convince them... I shoulda taken that Warthog when I had the chance... gotten away on the pretense of searching for you...

"If what you say is true I slaughtered an entire base of you Blues without a firearm. I have a linear cannon in my hands right now. Imagine what I can do with that. You're one sadistic bitch for pulling this, I'll give you that, but you haven't thought of everything."

-Riggs could be heard moving again, actually sitting down in Talitha's arm chair. He still had his weapon trained on Sam, the hum remaining steady as Riggs kept the barrel pointed straight at the back of the Blue's head. He spoke up, his voice softer, actually more human then before.-

"Let me tell you a story Sam. A story from my past. I used to have a fiance. Her name was Jenna. When I was a kid I ran afoul with a gang, a gang who gunned down my parents. The day of my parents' funeral, rather than mourn their death I found that gang and I killed every member except for one. That one member came back with a vengeance, and he had every intent to make my life a living hell. He reassembled his gang and came back for me, but they found Jenna instead."

"I thought they killed her, that was what I saw, what I believed for the longest time, but you know something? I was wrong. My fiance, the love of my life, was part of that gang. Want to know what that gang's name was then and is now? Its ONI, Sam. Not only was my fiance NOT dead and a part of a group I thought killed her, she had her ONI goons, former FRIENDS OF MINE take me when Cairn was glassed. For an entire year my fiance experimented on me in ways that would make you kill yourself just thinking about. For one year the woman I loved turned me into a monster."

"Now I come back to sense, to the real world from my nightmare torment and I find that I've killed the entire standing presence of a blue base, and an old enemy wants a chat with me. I'm held up here with the one saving grace in my life, the woman you just shot AND are now prepared to shoot again, with a pressure bomb held between the two of you. You have to ask yourself Sam, do I care about anything right now? Is it possible that I'm in another stimmed-up stupor? I don't need the helmet to jack myself back into being a monster. I already am one."

"If I pulled this trigger, you'd be in hell long before you heard the thunder. I'd probably be joining you shortly after, I can't outrun a bomb. All I wanted was to rebuild my life. Now you have your blue squad comming to take me away for a crime I can't remember, for things I've done that I don't know I've done..."

-Riggs sighed, the hum diminishing, followed by several clanks and metal pings, two hisses of released pressure. The sizeable linear cannon landed in Sam's sight, a few feet to her left. Two large blocky devices, Riggs's arm blades followed. Several more clanks and pings. A chest plate, a back plate, spines several feet long tucked to the back tightly. The comm-mod was visible in the center, a small rectangular black block with a silver fan taking up most of its upper half. Shoulder pades, elbow guards, forearm plates, gloves, midsection plates, belt, thigh armor, knee pads, shin armor, boots, all of them were in sight.-

"Please....don't shoot her...turn the bomb off...you have me......please...don't hurt her...she hasn't done anything. I killed those Blues, even if I can't remember it...she just wanted to protect me....if you're going to point that gun somewhere, point it at me....please...she's all I have left..."

"John, NO! We'll figure this out, we'll work it out... it's not your fault!"

Talitha thrashed against her bonds, barely caring about anything, not the wound in her head, not the pistol at her neck, not even the pressure bomb. She couldn't stand seeing John like this... it tore at her worse than even Epsilon Eridani had... this couldn't be happening...!

Samantha watches as each peice of armor falls to her side, and for the first time, without it being with the intent of manipulation, she's speachless. She silently reaches underneath her and types four numbers into the exposed keypad on the pressure bomb. Her right hand moves to remove her helmet as she stands and turns around to look her "nemisis" in the eye.

Her mouth opens and closes a few times, as if the words were escaping just before they take shape, and tears start to well up in her eyes. Her head droops followed by a single brown braid snaking over her sholder. Her arms follow suit and hang limp at her sides, and the gun she was holding in her left hand clatters to the floor, just as 7 blue soldiers bust through the door and direct their weapons at the man in the chair.

It all seemed to be going in slow-motion for Samantha, as she tried to justify to herself what she'd done. She finally squeeks out two words, lost over the sound of the soldiers moving in to restrain their quarry. Even though she knows it was too quiet to be heard over the ruckuss, and chances he read her lips were slim, she doesn't repeat herself. She just slowly turns and hobbles out to one of the warthogs, sits in the passenger seat, and finally lets out the tears she'd been holding back since she'd first seen that open window.

"...I'm sorry..."

Rodrigues and Peterson are the first two to burst in, immediately surveying the situation.
The rest followed in suit, filing behind the two, then surrounding their target in the chair.

"Freeze, dirtbag!" shouted Rodrigues as he cocked his M90 shotgun, right in Rigg's face.
Private First Class Ried followed behind, lowering his weapon upon finding the bloodied stains on the carpet.
Just then, he noticed the shuffling behind him, the woman bound. He slid back a bit, eyeing the wound on her head. He further examined it, removing the bloodied bandage, finding a deep gash. He concluded his thoughts, and then stated to the squad,

"Shit. This girl here needs a hospital, fast."

Ried turned his back to the squad for a moment, who were still encircling Riggs, pointing their rifles at him, as Ried keyed his radio to contact Lennalli.

"Sir, do you copy? We have Riggs and a woman in custody. What do you want us to do?"

Riggs had a stoic expression on his face, but it was obviously drained of color long before the soldiers had even come into the house. He simply held his hands up, saying nothing, his eyes straight forward. He didn't flinch when the shotgun was level with his face, not when any weapon clicked or locked or prepared to put a bullet into his head if he so much as twitched an eyebrow in their direction. He just held his hands up...no more running.

Lennalli pauses in his lecture at the warrant officer to respond, now enraged at the fact that something had been happening with this situation and no one notified him.

"What do you mean 'what do I want you to do?' !? Get them the hell In here! Sonuvabitch, rookie, use that head on your shoulders!

How's Samantha? She's not answering her radio."

"OW! Be careful, you Neanderthal!" The pain almost caused her to pass out again as the Blue ripped the bandage from her head, letting all the old hatred for the Blues come to the forefront. She stared over at Riggs, trying to meet his eyes, not knowing when she'd see him again. She had something to say... and she wanted him to know... her lips moved, but no sound came out.

E muja oui, John...

"Get on the ground, sir." ordered Rodrigues to Riggs as he motioned his shotgun in a downward motion, indicating what he had just said. The squad knew what he was capable of, and they were taking no chances. Two members of the squad stepped back to collect the armor Riggs had thrown to the ground. The two muttered to themselves about how heavy all the gear was.

Ried drew back, due to the Lieuteniant's shouting through the radio.

"Err, sorry sir. As for Williams, there's a bad gash on her ankle thats been bandaged, but that's all I can see from here. Looks like she's got a concussion, also. Doesn't seem like shes conscious. We'll finish up here and bring the two captives back. This one needs a visit to the infirmary, though."

Ried turned his attention back to Richardson. He took out his combat knife and cut the bindings on her legs, allowing her to stand, if she had the strength to.

Riggs did as ordered, lying on his stomach with his hands behind him in the small of his back. He looked straight forward, his chin on the floor as he breathed easily. He was down to a white t-shirt and a pair of skin-tight black boxers. Thats all he was allowed so he could interface with his suit. Around his neck was a collar of jade crystal, a thin strip of metal sandwiched between two layers of jade. It had no visible locks or holding mechanisms, so removing it without breaking Riggs's neck off of his shoulders was impossible.

She wasn't sure herself if she could stand. Talitha scrunched her body back, getting to her knees first, keeping her head on the ground as long as she could before slowly putting one bare foot on the ground, then one socked foot, having kicked the other off as she tended to do while asleep. She staggered woozily, the blood rushing from her head, and she almost collapsed, managing to grab onto the counter. But her eyes were on Riggs the entire time.

You kept me safe... now I gotta return the favor... please don't send me to Kalaa... don't separate us...

Rodrigues motioned for two of the squad members to secure Riggs while he pulled out a a pair of flex cuffs to tie his wrists. Peterson and Kusman grabbed an arm of Riggs, while Rodrigues stood over him, and secured Riggs' wrists with the cuffs. Rodrigues moved back, as the 5 squad members stood around Riggs. Rodrigues paused for a second, and then spoke to the squad.

"Ok. We're leaving this place in one minute. Peterson, Kusman, you're in charge of prisoner control. Make sure he doesn't get a chance to pull anything. Ried, you're in charge of the wounded prisoner. One we arrive at Rho, take her to the infirmary. Pack up boys, we need to get this show on the road. Now lets move!"

The two soldiers carrying the armor and gear went outside and loaded it onto one of the M12T1s parked outside. Peterson and Kusman held onto Riggs, and lead him out to the waiting vehicle. Ried kneeled down, helping up Richardson, and leading her out to the waiting vehicles as well, putting her on a different Hog than Riggs, however. Ried checked the house. With it being clear, he locked it, loaded up into the Hog with Richardson and Williams, and the Hogs sped off towards Rho.


To Be Continued...

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Macerr Chapter 25
Date: 26 September 2006, 4:51 am

Chapter 25.I Will Say Goodnight

Melissa collapsed on her bed, bewildered, finally a rest. Or so she thought. Only seconds later, a knock on the door followed. She groaned quietly to herself, before getting up and answering it. It was Antwone.

"How are you feeling, Leuteniant?"

"Is this necessary, sir?"

"I'm sorry, but Command is cancelling your personal 2 day leave. They want a full, detailed after action report."

"You're shitting me, right?"

"Would I?"

"Fuck...What do they want me to do?"

Antwone produced a small disc from his shirt pocket, handing it to Melissa.

"These are your guidelines for filing your reprort."

"Whats wrong with the usual outline?"

"These are 'special' for this report."

"Guess that means they're pissed, eh?"

"Probably. Get some sleep, Melissa."

"I'm going into town tonight, check on my place."

Antwone sighed, as he was about to leave.

"Fine, I'll permit that."

Antwone salutes and leave, Melissa closing the door. She laid the disc down on the desk in her quarters, not really caring about her duties. She changed out of her armor into street clothes. Nothing special, a grey tank and grey cargo pants, along with her knapsack, containing nothing more than a few personal items. She stands up trying to wipe the tiredness off her face with her hands. As she's about to leave, she spots an M6C on the floor. She picks it up and puts it in the knapsack. Can never be too careful. She exits her quarters, walking down 2 floors to the garage. She hops in an M12, pressing her thumb to the pad to key the ignition. The Hog purrs to life, and begins to roar as she pulls out of the garage, out of the base, and to Macerr City.

Melissa pulls of the freeway, onto a smaller main drag that runs along the river. The night is rather calm on the riverwalk. The traffic is light, and it adds a soft noise, almost pleasent. The ripple of the water can sometimes be heard over the noise of the city. And the mass of lights only adds to the environment.


The Riverwalk Highrise Apartments is a 102 story apartment building, built 2548 along the Dios River, in a very wealthy area. Its surrounded by commercial and retail buildings, and many wealthy people own rooms in the place, where there are 10,262 apartments for rent, and 1 large 3 story penthouse.

My middle-aged driver pulls the night blue bentley over to the concrete curb in front of the imposing Riverwalk Highrise, he then tentatively steps out, runs around the back and opens my door. I'm still reading the orders from the Tokyo Underground Commission. Amazingly, the Commission still uses paper to send their messages of "utmost importance". I violently twist the message into a thick strand and then fold it in half, I've already memorized it. The tall bodyguard is taking the luggage out of the trunk. Apparently he's from the northern island of Hokkaido. With my right hand I reach into my black suit and take out a long cigar, which i promptly set up nicely in my mouth. Reaching into my pocket i take out my lighter. I set fire to the message and then light my cigar. I let the paper burn out in the gutter. I take in a breath of air through the cigar. The tobacco seeps through my body, supplying a soothing wave. It reminds me of times long gone, and provides a slight escape for a moment from the world. Stepping out onto the slightly wet sidewalk, i survey the nightscape. Its a rather interesting city, Macerr, it looks almost like New York. My bodyguard enters the highrise and surveys the lobby. I run through the message again in my head.

ayashimizu-san,
We, the Comission, regret to pull you out of your retirement, but the other members are tied up in matters with the Triads, those out of Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Seoul. so we ask you to take care of a matter for us. The Commision is asking you to set up a branch of control on Macerr. The Triads have begun to expand to other planets, so in an underworld race for control of planets, we are most intrested in this planet and its Uranium ore deposits. If we can come to control these mines, the triads and the world will understand the threat of our great people, and the fools in the government shall bow to us. The entire of the underworld will be united under a consortium, and we shall rule the universe. We beg your participation in the plan of utmost importance. If you will accept this mission, we have prepared acoomodations for you in the RiverWalk Highrise in Macerr City on Macerr.

-The interior of the building is quite pleasing. Random lilting music plays, filling the lobby with a rather.. emptiness I note. But then again, it could be attributed to the fact that its 2 a.m. I stroll across the hallway, treading on the plush red carpet. Nobody is at the front desk, and a resteraunt/bar to the side from a hallway seems rather devoid of life as well, filled with only maybe 2 or 3 patrons. I arrive at the elevator door and press the small clear well used button on the side. Elevator music similar to that i just heard in the lobby plays. The smell of the elevator hits me with a draft of cool air. My cigar is happily burning away, only 2/3rds of it remains. I glance at the side panel in the elevator. After i had replied to the letter, a keycard was sent to me with several instructions. I insert the key into a slot on the side and pull it out swiftly.

"Hey! Hold the elevator!"

Melissa ran to catch the elevator, hoping she could catch it up to her place on the 38th floor. She squeezed through the doors as they were about to close, making it onto the elevator, half-panting, as she was nearly devoid of any energy whatsoever, drained from the recent skirmish. She put her keycard, the number of her floor being displayed on the video panel above the stainless steel elevator doors. The elevator began to move, the mechanical drone could be heard, signifying that the elevator was moving. Sanderson leaned against the side of the elevator, sighing. She glanced at the other man in the elevator, then at the no smoking sign that was plastered on the part of the elevator below the card reader.

"Thanks."

The elevator came up to the 38th floor, stopping with a slow halt. The doors slid open, and Melissa departed. She walked down to the hall, 8 doors to her left, room #388. She slid the keycard into the card reader, a green light being displayed, following by a noise indicating that the door was unlocked. She walked into the room, setting her things down on her bed. She hadn't been there in a while, and a thin layer of dust covered a few things. She looked at the clock. 2:15am? Damn, its late.

The room was somewhat like her quarters back at the base. Little time to personalize it left the room stark and Spartan, a light gray. She fell down onto the bed, going instantly to sleep.

I had an interesting meeting in the elevator, but that was not of much importance. Soft lilting elevator music plays in the rising metal box. I dislike elevator music. In these times of chaos and strife its too unnatural. Its always the same type of tune playing. It always seems to just hang there in the air, nonchalantly, unfazed by the storm around it. Not to mention it always sucks.

The steel elevator doors slide back with a hiss, giving way to a hallway, painted a light yellow, well illuminated by six wall sconces. Six wall sconces that illuminate the gateway into years of hell. Six wall sconces that illuminate the path to eternal glory in heaven. To some, I am a criminal. No, that is incorrect. I am a criminal. I kill, I steal, I reject the authority of the corrupt government, though I have killed my share of the righteous. But why is it that when I walk the streets of Kyoto, still I see the military police forcing their way on innocent young girls. The young sons of the millionaires ride out in their expensive cars and gun down whom they wish. And afterwards, the weeping families of the victims stand in the silent courts and beg for justice to be done. Yet the fathers of the children have bribed all the judges. The jurisdiction results in suspended sentence, a slap on the hand for killing the sole provider of a family of 5. The world is a cold place; ignorant people just pull their own coats tighter around their own bodies. They pass by the dead and the suffering, walking on the path before them illuminated by the foul light of the corrupt government. And once they are see that the light they walk in stems from the light of hell, they flock to us. They beg us for our justice. For the angels of death to walk forth and deal divine retribution to these haughty bastards. The people cry out to us, can we ignore it? All we ask for is a favor in return. So that in turn our families may live their lives peacefully and that maybe one day, one day far in the future, the path of life may be illuminated by the glory of Heaven. Six wall sconces illuminate my path. A red carpet calls out to me. Beyond the yonder door is revolution. Beyond the yonder door is eternal glory, the chance for my name to be recorded in the annals of history for all eternity. It calls out to me. How could I possibly resist? I rush forward, and grab both great marble doors with eager glee.-

-The plan is simple. Macerr is a valuable planet. Its vast uranium deposits are the first step. There are weapons to be stolen, men to be recruited, money to be made, Goods to be extorted and then retailed on other planets. But my goal is clear. I am to gain control of the deposits and ship enough uranium back to Japan so that the Commission can create as many nukes as they want. I fear you take us as a gathering of simple criminals. Allow me to disillusion you. On the Board sits prominent generals, high government officials, undercity warlords. But each and every single one of them is a revolutionary. Every one of them is as worthy as a leader of the Ishin patriots or the Satsuma clan. Should that fail, there are other. I digress. The sound of rushing water washes over me. My hand reaches for the light switch. Furniture has already been moved in. In the center of the room is a large koi pond. More wall sconces illuminate the room. I walk through both floors of the penthouse. Checking the hidden armory beside my bedroom, to examining some of my books in my library. I flick on the lights in my kitchen. Black marble countertops and well-furnished cabinets meet my eye. I explore each cabinet until I find the liquor cabinet and pull out a bottle of whiskey. Whoever furnished this penthouse knew me well. I hear the door open. Its my driver with my luggage. My bodyguard is behind him. The driver sets my luggage down and leaves.-

"When will the other bodyguards arrive?" I ask.

"In about fifteen minutes, oyashira-sama."

"Whiskey?"

"No thank you."

-I take out a glass and walk into the living room. My bodyguard follows me. I sit down on the couch and place the bottle of whiskey and glass on the table in front of the couch. I turn on the TV. Some soap opera is playing.-

"When tomorrow will Matsuzaki-san arrive?"

"3 o' clock sir."

"hmm."

-I contemplate the matter for a second, then I turn off the TV. I've already started walking down the path to glory, there's no need to rush things. Matsuzaki will arrive tomorrow with the minor details. A shipment of weapons has already arrived, along with several crates of drugs. Two locals have begged for justice in their separate disputes. The path to heaven seems to stretch on and on before me, but I can still see my goal. I head for my bedroom. The fires of the revolution have already been lighted. The breaking of the silence has begun.

To Be Continued...

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Macerr Chapter 26
Date: 26 September 2006, 4:53 am

Chapter 26.This Is No Place For Personal Vendettas

Twenty minutes later... the two M12T1 Warthogs arrive at Blue Base Rho. As they pull into the garage, the soldiers immediately spring into action. They all unload from the Warthogs carrying off their gear, unloading the pieces of armor. Peterson and Kusman are still holding onto Riggs, who is brought out of the Warthog by the two. A stretcher is waiting for Richardson, who is helped off the Hog by Ried. She's put onto the stretcher, and rolled to the Infirmary, which is on the same floor. The rest of the squad surrounds Riggs, an insistence kept by the squad, as they know that the utmost measures must be taken to keep this man detained. The two lead him down into the basement, where the holding cells are located, along with the Server Room and various maintenance access ways. The soldiers put him in the cell, which is then locked. The cell is rather primitive. Its 10 feet by 12, contains little more than 3 concrete walls, a toilet, a small wall-mounted cot, a sink, and a small table and chair. The bars were primitive as well, no less than 30 years old, and obviously, were not up to the time's standards.

Richardson arrived at the infirmary, which was noticeably under-staffed. The only other occupant was squad sergeant Ted Breed. The doctor walked in, as there was a lack of attendants, and dismissed Ried. He walked over to Talitha, gingerly removing the bandages, examining the gash. He pulled out a small pocket light, further examining it.

He stepped back, pulling out a small datapad that most doctors used. He brought up Richardson's profile and examined it. As he scrolled through the profile, he made some rather telltale expressions, signs of the fact that he didn't enjoy his job. He finished up, putting away the datapad. He pulled over a chair to the bed Richardson was on.

"Miss Richardson, I'm Doctor Aidan Ganadan. There's some things I'd like you to know before I get that x-rayed and stitched up. I used to be in the Red Forces also, I was on the Space Platform Leviathan. I got hired down here due to the fact that the Blues have a need for doctors so badly, they contract real ones who have no care for this fight. So, have no worries. Eh? Alright then, let's get started. I'll be back in one moment."

Dr. Ganadan nodded and walked away, most likely going to retrieve supplies.

Talitha sat up as she was rolled into the infirmary, rubbing her wrists, grimacing as the circulation flowed back into them after an hour of being tightly restrained. She barely listened to Ganadan, her mind on one thing. Riggs. As soon as she was left alone, she pushed herself off the stretcher, steadying herself for a second before striding out, feeling a lot better after the trip in the Hog. She headed out into the base, looking for a way down, vaguely remembering the layout from the last time she was here.

Wish I hadn't worn a red tanktop to sleep last night...

Riggs looked about his cell, taking in everything he had to use, everything available to him. He paced slowly, flexing his wrists as he tried to physically pull the flex cuffs the Blues had stuck on him apart. He didn't have the right leverage, a bad angle as well with his hands in the small of his back. He sat down on the floor, pushing his shoulders outward as he sat on his hands. He pulled up, his arms dislocating from his shoulders with a wet pop. It wasn't the first time he'd done this, and it probably wouldn't be the last.-

-He slid back on his hands, getting both hands infront of his legs before shifting his shoulders back. Another pop from each shoulder as the ball joints of his arms relocated into their sockets. He sighed, shrugging off the pain that screamed in his nerves as he looked down at his bonds. Simple flex cuffs, not the hardest thing to escape.-

-Riggs placed his right foot between the inserts for the flex cuffs. He pulled back with his shoulders, his leg pushing forward with all of his strength. He heard a quick "SNAP," judging by the lack of pain he knew he had broken the cuffs and not his wrist. He looked down at the half of each cuff, reaching up to the jade collar around his neck. He unlatched something from the metal plate sandwiched between green jade, a small pick.-

-He pushed the upper ridged edge of the right flex cuff's lock, slipping the rest of it out and dropping it to the floor before doing the same for the left. He placed the pick back into its housing, once again almost invisible, appearing as a solid sheet of rounded metal. He rubbed his wrists, sitting down on his cot.

There was a small desk located to the left of all the holding cells. Sitting at it, was Sergeant Venson, who wasn't even paying attention to the guard duty he was supposed to be doing. Instead, he was sitting back, playing games on his datapad, sipping coffee.

A few soldiers gave Richardson odd looks as they passed her by, noticing not only was she wearing a red shirt, but had no shoes on and only one sock. She would pass by a crippled remnant of a blue soldier, who was completely dehabilitated, leaning to one side in a wheelchair. Her face, expressionless, her eyes, glassy, almost as if she wasn't even living, but still was. The man pushing the soldier stopped Richardson.

"E-excuse me, but where's the infirmary? I'm from Alpha, I don't know this place. Supposed to be bringing Sergeant Lehrman here to see the doc."

"Take a left down that hall, then the third door on your right, there's signs."

She felt her jaw clench as she looked down at Lehrman. The war ruined so much... and the Covies were still out there while they were wasting time killing eachother. She snorted, finally finding the stairs leading down to the holding cells, barely pausing as she passed by Venson's desk.

Venson looked up from his datapad. He sighed, not really caring for protocol, but abiding by it anyways.

"ID, please."

She didn't stop, heading down the hallway, peering in each cell, totally ignoring the Blue at the desk. She finally found Riggs', stopping outside and wrapping her hands around the bars.

John... at least he got out of those cuffs...

Talitha knew she couldn't say anything with the Blue right there, but she wanted him to know she hadn't forgotten about him, that she was here to fight for him.

Riggs looked up at Talitha, standing and slowly walking to the bars. He brought his eyes to hers, each one a deep hazel and green as he placed his hands softly on Talitha's. His voice was barely above a whisper, but he held all of the confidence he'd had before he was brought here, before any of this had happened behind it.-

"E muja oui duu, Talitha."

"ID, please." Venson repeated as he failed to pull his eyes from the solitaire game he was playing on his datapad.

"I said, ID please." Venson repeated.

"Damnit..." he muttered as he looked up from his game to see who had entered the holding cell area.

"Miss, whose authorization do you have to be down here?" he said to Richardson has he unlocked the strap from his holster containing an M6D, ready to be drew if he needed it for the occasion.

"E's kuehk du kad oui uid uv rana... E bnuseca..."

She squeezed Riggs' hands slightly, not looking over at the guard, savoring each extra second.

"No one's, I authorized myself."

Bmayca...tuh'd tu yhodrehk nycr......cusadrehk ec fnuhk....cusadrehk pyt ec kuehk du rybbah."

-Riggs gave her a stern look, gripping her hands tightly. He looked over past the bars at the guard, saying nothing more as he kept his eyes locked on the weapon in his hands.

Venson stood up from his desk, pushing the chair back. He drew his firearm, raising it to eye level.

"Ma'am, step back from the bars and put your hands behind your head. Don't make me have to shoot you."

"E'mm pa lynavim... pid pa nayto vun yhodrehk. E'mm pa pylg cuuh."

She squeezed his hands one more time, giving him that confident smile before stepping back, placing her hands on her head like Venson ordered, interlacing her fingers.

"I've already been shot once today, it's kind of an idle threat, sorry."

Venson ignored the statement that Richardson gave, following protocol.

"Get down on the ground, NOW!"

"You know you should talk to someone about your anger instead of just screaming willy nilly at people. It's not really good for your health."

She got down on her knees, rolling down to her stomach slowly, not wanting to do anything to antagonize the Blue despite her bravado.

Venson walked over to Richardson and squatted down.

"Ya know, you shouldn't talk to a person with a gun like that. Bad things might happen."

Venson grabbed Talitha by the arm, dragging her up, and forcing her against the wall.

"Especially when said gun is pointed in your direction."

Venson looked over to the keypad next to her head, which is used to open the cell beside the keypad. He punched in the code to open in , pushing Talitha inside, then closing it, enabling the autolock.

"Talk as much shit as you want now."

Venson returned to his desk, holstering his pistol and playing games.

"Heh, don't know how they can get much worse."

She turned around, threading her hands through the bars and resting herself there, smiling across the hall to John.

"Yldiymmo, drehkc yna bnaddo kuut nekrd huf, ymm drehkc luhcetanat. Yd maycd E lyh caa oui."

"E zicd ruba dryd cdibet pycdynt ujan drana tuach'd ihtancdyht y funt fa cyo. Bnaddo tayt myhkiyka..."

-Riggs shrugged, chuckling as he looked past the bars of his cell to the guard on duty.-

"E tuipd ed. Ra teth'd cyo yhodrehk pavuna. Fa cdemm kuddy pa lynavim druikr - E pad dra pyca AI tuach'd ryja dra cysa bnupmasc."

She tweaked her eyebrows up, frowning slightly. It had been quite a while since she had been a prisoner, and she didn't like the memories it was bringing back.

"Edc hud dra Pmiac E's yvnyet uv.....dnoehk du nasaspan...cusadrehk...cusadrehk runnepma......kut....suna dryh ajan huf E fecr E luimt nasaspan fryd rybbahat frema E fyc dygah..."

-Riggs placed a hand to his head, his eyes squinting as though he was in pain for a moment.

"Famm... tu oui nasaspan yhodrehk yd ymm? Syopa oui lyh cdynd cusafrana yht fung uvv uv dryd...? Yhouha amca... ku drnuikr dryd?"

Talitha frowned even further, hating to put Riggs through remembering what must have been more pain than anyone deserved to go through, but she knew that if what he was worrying about did happen, she sure as hell didn't want to be stuck in this dilapidated cell.

"Alpha....Beta....Gamma.......Alpha....Beta....Gamma....I remember those three....over and over.......I don't know where to start......."

"Well... there was that letter Alpha on your chestplate... so if you're Alpha... then Beta and Gamma are probably running around this universe somewhere. Maybe even here on Macerr."

She kept her voice low, looking over to the guard repeatedly, smirking as she saw him so absorbed in his game.

The door to Lennalli's office slides open and his secretary walks in and quietly takes a seat. The door slides shut behind her. She solemnly tells the lieutenant exactly what happened with extreme detail.

"You did what you had to do. You're sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine, thanks."

"No, you're not."

She sighs. "I don't like what I had to become to get through that. That's not who I really am...I don't wanna have to be that person again. I didn't even know what was really happening til I heard him speak and heard an actual human being. Til I looked in his eyes... I saw more pain in his eyes... More that I even see in yours. Yeah. You hide it well, but I can still tell that there's always something bothering you...I'm sorry. I shouldn't be getting this personal. Would it be OK if I went back to just secretarial work?"

Lennalli drops eye contact for a minute.

"Yeah, yeah... That'll be fine. You're alot more organized than I am and none of my other secretaries couldn't stand working under me. I hope to keep you around for awhile."

She smiles and stands up to go.

"Hey, Samantha. You did what you had to do. Because of what you did, one of the biggest dangers to this army is no longer at large. Don't ever be ashamed of what you had to do in an intense situation."

At that the PFC nods and exits. Lieutenant Lennalli then hits a button on his intercom.

"Venson, get Riggs into an interrogation cell. I want to speak with him. And don't rough the prisoners up. They've been through enough and I don't want Riggs to be in any fouler mood than he's already in when I go to speak with him. I'll be along shortly."

Venson perks up from the game to reply to the message.

"Err, yes sir." Venson sighed, putting down his datapad. He stood up, strolling over to Riggs' cell.

"Chat time's over you two. The Lieutenant wants to have a talk." Venson punched in the code to the keypad, opening the door. He unlatched his gun holster, in case of any emergency. He motioned to Riggs.

"Come on, let's go."

"I just want you to know...if you think that gun protects you from me, you're very mistaken. And don't cuff me. They'll be the last thing you feel around your throat."

-Riggs looked to Talitha before leaving the cell, nodding to her, even smiling slightly before whispering to her.-

"E muja oui, Talitha."

-With that, Riggs left the cell and stopped infront of the guard.-

"So, where to?"

"Yeah, yeah, I love you too, dollface. Move it." He gestured his hand to a room different than one of the holding cells. It had a door, and reinforced windows, and a one-way mirror. The room was located across the hall from the guard's desk. Venson walked behind Riggs as they went over to the room, three cells down. Venson punched in the code, opening the door, motioning Riggs to enter.

The room was rather Spartan. containing the usual stainless steel table and two stainless steel chairs.

"Wait here for the Lt."

Venson closed the door behind Riggs, enabling the autolock, and returned to his desk to play games once again.

"Hey, no one asked you, bluetard."

Talitha watched them move down the hall as long as she could, smiling to Riggs before he entered the chamber, then moving back to the cot and sitting down in her cell. She stripped her sock off, balling it up and lying back, playing a game of catch with herself to pass the time until Riggs came back.
Riggs didn't take a seat. Instead he began stretching his dry joints, checking the pocked scabs on his knees where he had been shot. It was a necessary blow, to stop him, to control him better then even he could. He was careful on his knees, walking slowly, letting them heal properly before sitting down in one of the chairs. He placed his hands behind his head, leaning back as a strange air of confidence surrounded him.

Lennalli strides into the room, un-armed, wearing an officer's uniform; closes the door and turns to look at the man in the chair.

"So, you're human after all."

He walks forward and takes a seat in the chair across from Riggs.

"I'll start with something you probably won't like: All your weapons and all of your armor is to be destroyed. There's no getting around that, and certainly you can see the logic in it. The good news, Miss Richardson is doing alright, surprisingly alright considering the wound she took. But I'm sure you already knew that. As for your 'crimes', I can hardly justify holding you responsible for something that occurred when you weren't in control. Blue command may see things differently but they don't pay much attention to my area.

Now then, you weren't the only mechanical monster on this planet. Blue base Epsilon is under attack as we speak by some...thing... reportedly with the 'Gamma' symbol on it. If you were alpha that suggests beta is out there somewhere too. I was hoping you would have some idea of how to take these down. I return for your assistance, I'm willing to personally transport you and Talitha where ever you would like to go and Blue command never has to hear about you ever being captured."

"Well, I'll start with something you probably won't like. I've had plenty of time to think, waiting for you in here. I'm Alpha, yes, and Beta and Gamma are out there wreaking havoc. Beta...was supposed to attack the Reds, but that's only the start. Gamma is supposed to attack anything around it that offers resistance. The kicker is if you destroy my armor there's no stopping them. You have my helmet here, which means they have a designated location."

-Riggs brought his feet down, placing his arms on the table as he leaned forward. He stared right into Lenalli's eyes after a brief glance at his hand.-

"Destroying my armor isn't going to stop them from knowing where I am. This is one big ONI experiment. They want to surpass the SPARTAN II program, so they found some lab monkeys to experiment on. I'm on of them. They stimmed me up, slapped some armor on me and sent me out into the world. But I'm not the only one. Were all different, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. Were all 3 variants, and ONI wants the best to show off. So, primary directives are to destroy anything in their designated areas. Mine was a Blue Base, Beta was a Red Base, and Gamma is a civilian location. Then comes secondary protocol."

-Riggs leaned back, cracking his knuckles as he kept his eyes on his old adversary.-

"Survival of the fittest. Beta and Gamma home in on my location via my helmet. Those horns on the helmet aren't just for beauty. They're transmitters, and they've been transmitting loud and clear. Destroying them won't throw Beta and Gamma off our trail. They have us locked in their sights, and they'll be on their way. So I'll make a deal with you. I can't give you back your hand, but I can save your life. Give me my armor and let me draw them off. Evac this base and get yourself, Talitha and everyone here the hell away. I'll stop Beta and Gamma. You have my word as a soldier I'll stop them. After that, you can do what you want with me. Talitha just wanted to protect me, so don't hold her accountable for any of this. Deal?"

" 'Your word as a soldier'? You're a mercenary. In any case, The helmet isn't here. I left it with someone I can trust. He's in Kalaa...

Shit, There'll be far too much collateral damage there. Alright, I don't have the leisure of trusting you. You'll find the armor in the garage. I'll be your transport there. And believe me; Mr. Harold has plenty of tech at his disposal to stop even you if it comes to it. Unfortunately, not enough for two of you, so we're gonna haul ass."

The lieutenant stands and offers a metal handshake and a steely glare to his old nemesis.

Technically, I never left the Red Army. Like our commanders before us, we join forces for the common good of mankind."

-Riggs took the metal hand in his, applying as much force as if he were still suited up for combat. The mercenary monster nodded to the blue commander, a smile lighting his face.-

"Just get Talitha out of that cell, and tell her I'll be back soon. Got some unfinished business to settle with Oni."

"Already done. Follow."

Lennalli turns and walks out the door, expecting that Riggs is right behind him. He briskly walks up and out of the prison and makes his way to the garage. There's a bit of a commotion as they make their way to a modified warthog. Before hopping into the driver's seat he points to one of the busy-looking privates.

"You there, Where'd the droid go to?"

"I don't know sir. He ran off a few minutes ago. Towards the city. Private Phillips said something about some text scrolling across his visor. Something about a distress call."

Probably already on his way...

"We gotta get the hell to the city."

Riggs had followed Lennalli to the garage but made a B-line right for his armor as he spotted it on a work bench. He suited up from his boots to his chestplate, shoulder pads followed by elbow pads. Next came the forearm guards, then his gloves. Every piece of his armor locked into each other via mesh-like interfaces covering each joint. The last thing to lock in place were the large block-like retractable blade housings, the primary weapons at Riggs's disposal.-

-His mechanical tail began to curl in the air, realigning itself as crimson and gold markings and lights blinked into existence. The comm-mod on his back, between the rising spines clicked twice and whirred, falling silently as it power flooded its systems. Riggs raised his arms, closing his eyes before throwing his arms out and down towards the ground. Each 3 foot blade, 2 running parallel from each forearm exploded from their housings, hooks angling towards Lennalli as Riggs gave him a grin.-

-The hooked claws retracted into their housings, the sensors and lights across Riggs's black and gray armor dimming as he looked himself over. Its tail hovered inches above the ground, its blade wavering slightly as he ran towards the hog, seemingly revitalized by being in his armor once again. He leapt into the passenger seat, his tail curling around his waist as he looked to Lennalli.-

"Come on. We've got a city to save."

Her head lifted as she heard the door to the interrogation cell open, immediately moving to the bars, trying to see something, anything. Talitha watched Lennalli leave first, moving with a purpose, and she couldn't stop a sigh from escaping her lips as she saw Riggs heading for the surface behind him.

At least he's getting out of here... please stay safe... I wonder what happened in there...

She waited for a few more seconds, then turned back and sat down on the cot, trying to think and ignore her grumbling stomach. She stood back up after a couple of minutes, unsuccessful at both. Talitha rapped her knuckles against the bars, wincing as that metallic noise reverberated through her skull, but she called out to Venson at the desk.

"Hey Blue! What's a girl got to do for some food around here?"

Venson was consumed in his personal tasks, he didn't even bother to come up with a serious reply, but rather just a joke.

"Food eh? To get food, get on your knees."

Venson chuckled, continuing his menial tasks.
What the fuck?!

"Hah, you must think I'm pretty desperate. What, someone let the air out of your girlfriend?"

"Oh yeah, wow, that one hurt. At least I'm not so desperate I get with lizards."

"Hey, lizards don't live out in the desert and survive for weeks without water without having great stamina. Plus they don't ask for much, do their own work instead of sitting around and playing with a datapad all day."

"Right, right. My bad. Robot lizard."

God, am I really that bored that I'm insulting a Blue?

"What's wrong with robot lizards?"

Venson set the Datapad down, turning it off.

Damnit, she just won't shut up. Guess I'll have to do that.

Venson got up from his desk, walking down to the cell containing Talitha. He punched in the key-code, opening the cell. He drew his eyes on Talitha, and drew his M6C.

"I hate this assignment more than anything. Hardly anyone is ever down here. And when there are people down here, the last thing I need is something with an attitude. So just keep talking shit. You'll get what's coming to ya."

"Do you solve everything by pointing that at people?"

She didn't seem entirely impressed, crossing her arms on her chest.

There was a whoosh of something passing infront of Venson from his waist up to above his hair. Roughly a second later the barrel of the M6C and half of the loaded bullet in the weapon clattered to the ground, the object that had cleanly split the gun into sections slithering up into sight. It was about a foot long, black plates holding a gray blade to a segmented spiked tail. It pointed right between Venson's eyes before someone grabbed his shoulders, physically lifting the man and placing him 5 ft to the left.-

-Riggs reached a gloved black hand in for Talitha, the tail remaining pointed at the face of the Blue soldier as Riggs smiled.-

"Lennalli says you're free."

Venson backed off, step back towards his desk.

"Whoa, man, take her, you freak."

"Heh, nice entrance. Later bluetard."

She took his gloved hand, squeezing it.

"What happened in there with you and Lennalli?"

Oh you know, the usual. He shot me in the arm so I bit off his other hand. Lizard stuff. Listen...Talitha...I have to go...it won't be for long...I'll be back, I promise you I will. I just have something I need to finish...I have to do this alone. Everyone is in danger, and I need to stop it...wait for me here, ok?"

-The edges of Riggs's eyes were actually tearing up, moisture apparent through the sincerity, through the confidence. He squeezed her hand before slowly drawing her to his chest, wrapping his arms around her. He was careful in the suit, its armor warm to the touch as he hugged her, staring down into her eyes.

"But... I can help... maybe the Blues fixed my Ghost... I'll get the rocket launcher they gave me... they brought Tuono over..."

Her voice trailed off hopefully, looking up into his eyes and wiping away the tears. She chuckled a bit, trying to get him to smile.

"Besides, I'm a mercenary now. Hell, you don't even have to pay me to come with you."

Talitha...I want you to be safe...this is something I have to finish..I hope you understand."

-Riggs wanted to hold her and never let go. He had tried not to let go the last time, but he wasn't strong enough to stay. Now he had her in his arms, she knew how he felt about her. He just stared into her eyes, hoping she'd be able to come to terms with what he was asking her to do.

"No... I can't let you walk away... I walked away last time... I left you and Melissa and everyone else there alone... I'm gonna be there to help you this time."

He's really huge in that armor... maybe he doesn't need my help... but why would he be getting emotional if he wasn't worried...?

"Please Talitha....please...stay here....no...head home...I'll meet you there, ok? I'll see you at home...I just want you to be safe.."

-Riggs looked down as he held her, unable to keep his eyes on hers. It was bad enough he had been taken on Cairn. Now he couldn't even dream of losing Talitha. Moisture became small tears that streaked his cheeks, running down his neck into the jade collar around his throat.

"John..."

If hearing the defeat in his voice before they were taken hit her hard, actually seeing the tears hurt that much more. She rose up on her tiptoes, kissing each of his cheeks where the tears had streaked down.

"Okay... I'll head home... for you... but if you're not back tomorrow, I'm coming after you."

"That's fine...you'll know where to find me. Just tune your radio to channel 83 Alpha and wait a few seconds. My comm-mod will pick up and you'll be able to follow the signal right to me....I love you Talitha...thank you.."

-The tears trickled down to little more than built up moisture, a smile returning to his lips as he stroked her cheek with his thumb.

"There it is... now, go do what you have to do."

She squeezed his midsection, hoping he could feel it beneath the armor, before reaching for his hand and starting to lead him back towards the garage.

Riggs didn't immediately let go of Talitha. Instead when she squeezed his midsection her drew her up slightly, bending his neck down to place his lips upon hers. It was something he always dreamed of, and knowing what he was going into made him want to experience holding her lips with his at least once. He held her tightly, but not tight enough to make his armor uncomfortable on her. He could feel her squeezing his sides, smiling as he kissed her for the first time, and for the first time in an eternity he was truly happy again.

She let out a small yelp of surprise as she was lifted off her feet, smiling as she saw him close his eyes and bend his neck down. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, lifting herself further off the ground to bring her lips even tighter to his. She could feel, for a split second, just how happy this was making him, and that tiny little connection made her love for him that much deeper, that much stronger. Memories of before were surfacing... but she pushed them away, hugging John's armored shoulders even tighter.

He held her lips so tightly with his for what he hoped was forever, only to have reality hit him like a Pelican on cruise control. He set her down slowly, his lips leaving hers as he stared down into her eyes once more. The moisture was gone from his eyes, now filled with a new determination, a fire that hadn't blazed in him since his days fighting alongside the Reds. He had a mission to do, and he'd be damned if he didn't do it.-

"I love you Talitha. I'll see you soon...at home..I promise."

-He smiled at that last part before releasing her, shooting a snarling glare at Venson as he passed the man. His black armored frame bolted through the halls back to the Garage and right into the exact same seat he had been in, ready to go.-

"Its go time."

Talitha couldn't stop smiling. She watched Riggs run with a surprising amount of grace for the amount of armor he was wearing, licking her lips a bit to savor his taste. She ducked back into her cell and grabbed her sock, shoving it into a pocket in the loose, cotton cargo pants she habitually wore to bed. Her head was spinning... not just from the gash on her head, either... and she sat down to think, her grin far from fading from her face.

Venson spoke up one more time, before taking his attention back to meaningless gaming.

"Next time, you two should get a room."

"Yeah, well... kinda hard to do that when you're locked in a jail cell."

Talitha stood up, heading for the stairs out of the detainment area. Just before she was out of sight, she flipped Venson off, hoping he'd see and maybe try and stop her with that ridiculous squirt gun again. She could use the laugh. She took a left down the hall, one, two, three doors. Talitha smiled and nodded to Ganadan before sitting down on the stretcher she left just over an hour ago.

"Sorry about that, that Blue downstairs was a complete jackass."

Ganadan chuckled. "I'd wondered where you had gone. Anways, let's take a look at that."

Aidan gingerly removed the temporary bandages that had been previously applied. They revealed the large gash that the 12.7x48mm round had created. He took a cotton swab, dipping it in antiseptic.

"This may sting a little."

He moved some of the hair away, running the cotton swab up and down the gash multiple times. It washed away the dried blood and pieces of scalp. He picked up a small device, used to flash clone skin and replace it rather quickly, an autografter.

"This is going to feel like filling a wound with biofoam, so try and take it easy."

He ran the heated device down the cut, which copied skin, created new skin, and fused it into the cut. A few more passes, and the healing was complete. He set the device aside, wiping away what remnants were left with a small cloth.

"All done. You're free to go."
Talitha only winced twice, while the autografter was working through her scalp, feeling the minute pinpricks as it copied her DNA and grafted on the skin with a hiss of steam. She rubbed a finger down the top of her head, tracing out the bald stripe of skin left where her part normally sat, amazed at the speed of the autografter.

"Thanks doc. Don't let the job get ya down, alright?"

"Yeah, now get on outta here before you get into any more trouble."

Ganadan gathered the items on the table, placing them on a tray and carrying them back into the storage room, then back to more menial tasks.

The warthog speeds off towards Kalaa at speeds a little above what's safe.

"What took you so long? Our combat droid went off some time ago because of a distress signal so your friends have most likely already arrived at Jack's house. If I know Jack like I think I do, He's got himself quite safe in some hidey-hole, keeping them busy with all manner of mechanics. Once we arrive I'm not entirely sure how we'll acquire the helmet, but I'm sure Jack will think of someway to get it to us without putting himself in too much danger. You'll be able to locate it won't you?"



Macerr Chapter 27
Date: 6 October 2006, 5:58 am

Chapter 27.Warzone in the Suburbs

It had evaded the Blues this long, staying in the large shadows, in the darkness of a seemingless endless night. Now it was approaching the pinnacle of its mission, FINAL DESTINATION. Now as it approached the beacon it had been following its footsteps echoed down the street, causing people to poke their heads out of windows and doors to see what the ruckus was about. They were quick to duck back in when they realized it was a black monstrosity taking a late night stroll down their street. The large log cabin-esque house stood before the beast, coming to a stop as it raised its right arm towards the dwelling.-

-Due to the indoor location of the beacon a positive exact position could not be confirmed. Any residents would hear a high-pitched whirring noise, like an engine slowly gaining speed in an automobile. It became a loud whine, steam released from several areas either punctured or damaged by the hail of fire the weapon had taken. A sadistic grin seemed to take hold of the saurian's mechanical face, its triangular serrated teeth slowly appearing from their housings in its silver gums as it brought its gattling gun to bear on the house.-

-If the house was armored, Gamma could not tell by the immediate appearance. The electronic trigger was pulled, spraying hundreds of armor-piercing depleted uranium rounds from the 5-barreled .50 caliber gattling gun. The monster's right arm tracked back and forth, up and down, trying to perforate the dwelling and destroy the target, as was its mission. It kept up a continuous spray for several long seconds, calls flooding the Blue Base in Kalaa and the emergency phone lines as Gamma began its devastating assault on the house.

"Shit shit shit shit shit. What the hell happened to my security system?"

Jack Harold runs franticly around his basement, flipping switchs and hitting buttons to activate all manner of devices. Most of the upper portion of his house was already destroyed but the think layer of armored plating between the upper floors and the basement were keeping him safe as any entrances to his alcove were filled with even more steel. He arms himself with an EMP bomb powerful enough to power-down the whole city and an amazingly powerful, experimental energy rifle just in case it gets through.

Mechanized, armored, non-mobile drones begin popping out of the walls of his hideout as well as from his front yard and start scanning for any hostile targets. The dozen or so drones in the front yard begin firing wildly at the target with standard ballistics, covenant energy weapons, high-explosives, a couple even fire some localized EMP blasts at the creature.

As the rain of gunfire and whatnot pours on the adversary, a 7-foot tall, blue-armored, mechanical man leaps from the woods at an amazing speed, guns blazing, with a bladed left hand extended towards his target. Then as quickly as it had attacked, he dives back into the woods and out of sight.

Once again Gamma was a bullet-magnet, but his designers had anticipated this. Black, scorched armor cracked and sloughed off, revealing the pristine underlayer of silver alloy. Every plate was rounded or bent at obtuse angles, causing a rather high percent of the solid shell rounds fired at the beast to ricochet or only gain minimal penetration. High explosives left black, carbon-streaked burns on the armor, melting the metal before it refused, just like Riggs's armor was known to do.-

-EMPs seemed to have little to no effect on the monster at this point, temporarily causing its line of fire to arc wildly into another building or house. Gamma was quick however to realign and designate his targets, spraying armor-piercing rounds over the drones with the strongest weapons first, then lesser enemies solid shell weapons.-

-Covenant weapons had the strangest effect on Gamma however, plasma bursts splashing over the silver underlayer. The more an area was hit, the deeper it began to glow a shade of blue. when Gamma bent low and unleashed his flamethrower on several nearby drones the flames were actually glowing white and were accompanied by spurts of blue and green plasma hidden in the firestorm. The plasmabursts seemed to be powering Gamma as the EMPs weakened him, causing a bizarre balance in the beast's rampage.-

-The mechanical man actually elicited a show of surprise from the beast, falling back as the sudden spray of armaments hammered his left shoulder, managing to scar and dent the silver plating that shown beneath. The blade however was a complete shock, actually slicing through the armor to let green and blue hydraulic fluid spurt from the wound the weapon had opened. It moved through the silver plating as though a Covenant energy blade was cutting through flesh, parting and vaporizing metal.-

-Gamma continued on the more imminent threats, primarily the heavier weapons and the drones attacking him. His targetting systems had trouble tacking the blue android, causing him to actually forget about the enemy all together. However the mechanical man's luck was not in the right place. Though he'd scored a successful hit on one monster another was actually waiting for him in the nearby brush at the edge of the forest.-

-As the mechanical man entered the woods she struck, a snarling howl announcing her location. Humid air, wavering with the appearance of a heat mirage gave form to a beast of gray and azure armor, its visor a bright purple. Large rectangular blocks on its forearms opened forward towards her hands, long multi-segmented blades expanding from each slot. Beta released a deep growl, possibly of excitement as she swung her arms out, the blades clicking several times as each segment detatched from the last. They slashed through the air, 12ft long segmented whips of black metal, like long tendrils of razor wire slicing through the foliage around her.-

-Beta's left arm slashed out towards the robot's visor from left to right, the whip from her left forearm swinging in a wide arc as it burned through small tree trunks and dense flora. The edges of every small razor segment burned red hot, small fires starting in their path as they reached out for the face of the Blue robot. The monster's right arm came around in the opposite direction, bringing its right lash whip farther down towards the robot's waist. The rear edge on this whip was heated, but the foredge facing the robot was not. It could be inferred that the monster could designate which sides of the blades it wanted heated. The second whip was comming to wrap around the robot's waist rather than slice or burn through it.

Nathaniel's upgrades allow him the speed needed to duck beneath the attack aimed at his head, but not enough to jump over the tendril trying to wrap itself around him. It successfully wraps around his waist and the combat droid immediatly strikes at the whip holding it with his bladed left hand; while at the same time, panels in his chest blow away, revealing 4 tiny, high-powered, albeit in-accurate, gatling guns loaded with armor piercing rounds. The four chest guns and the assault rifle mounted on his right arm, all belt fed, begin pummeling away at the beast that has him captive and the rocket launcher monted on his sholder swivels forward and unleashes a pair of high explosive rockets from its modified four-round clip at the attacker.

------------------------------------------

In the meantime, Jack had been working with a few emergency devices while attemping to re-establish connection with Lennalli.

"Jim, I got you message about the helmet. I don't understand why, but I'll be launching the helmet outside when you arrive. I'll be rather vulnerable while the supply chute is open so let me know when you're ready for it."

The former corporal then gets to work assembling a short range device to rocket-propel the helmet up and out of the overhead supply chute from his home-made RPG launcher.

After the first cluster of rounds carved silver gashes across her black armor Beta decided she had had enough of this mechanized man. She had larger targets, and this being was merely a secondary threat. As the mechanical man hacked and cut at the whip around his waist the black coils began to conduct electricity from the powered armor across Beta's body, opening circuits to let power flow into each band. Small silver knicks and cuts appeared in the coil as each seperate link tightened and contracted, Beta going into a flat-out run in a closing circle around the armored mechanical soldier. Several armor-piercing rounds found their way into her armor, rivelets of crimson blood flowing from each cut and wound.-

-The rockets were a surprise to the beast, but its left whip was available for use. Beta slung the linked blades of her left heat whip above her head before slashing them into the oncomming rockets. She grunted in pain as the rockets detonated, destroying several segments at the end of her left tendril. However the explosion yielded to super-heated shrapnel as those segments were blown apart, their momentum carrying their whizzing and whirling pieces through the shockwave and towards the captive robot. As the heat from Beta's right whip reached critical temperatures at 1,500 degrees C, the melting point of iron the right whip began to retract into its housing. This caused each bladed segment to slash across the midsection of the robot continuing to constrict as they tore and slid across its waistline.-

-Gamma had finally dealt with the remaining fortified armaments on the abode, now turning his attention as Beta's signature ignited on his radar.-

PRIMARY TARGET LOCATED.
INITIATE PRIMARY PROTOCOL...exe.ENDGAME


-Gamma's gattling cannon temporarily haulted the armor-piercing spray it had been hammering the house with, the barrels however remaining in motion so that a target could be locked on and hammered with the seemingly endless amount of ammunition Gamma possessed. On the contrary, Gamma had begun firing 3 to 15 round bursts depending on the defenses in the last few minutes. Either the weapon was overheating horribly or Gamma was finally running low. The beast did not immediately target Beta, the blue mechanical man she was running around immediately taking precedence for the wound it had placed in Gamma earlier. Three lines intersected in the center of Gamma's HUD, right on the upper torso of the robot as the gattling cannon spat a continuous rain of fire upon Nathaniel. Total annihilation of the enemy was Gamma's goal, and it had the weapon to get such a job done.-

-From the passenger seat of the Warthog Riggs listened to the message. He turned his attention to the sound of the gattling gun's fire, a roar so much like the one his own armor made it sent shivers of excitement across his body. He listened to the message from the man who had his helmet, nodding to Lenalli before pointing in the direction of the battle.-

"The big one's turned his attention away from the house now. Something over there in the tree line, I can't make it out but you can see those long trails of orange, and the fire. Something hot's going down in there. Have him fire out the helmet now, I'll get it undetected. After that....bring as many Blues as you've got...if I don't succeed, I'll at least fuck them up enough so that you can deliver the killing blows. Good luck, Lenalli."

-Riggs held his hand out to Lenalli, the worst of enemies the best of friends in this moment.

Lennalli looked Riggs in the eye and accepted the handshake firmly.

"Good luck."

He then flipped on his radio, first to contact Mr. Harold.

"Jack, Riggs is on his way to the drop point, get the helmet out here now!"

The helmet launched out of a one foot square hole in the ground about 20 yards to the east of the warthog, flying about 25 feet into the air then falling straight down coming to rest onto the now closed trap door where it was launched from as Lennalli contacted Rho.

"Torrick, I need you to send word to empty bases Beta, Delta, Zeta, and Pi. I need as many soldiers as I can spare here at the formal corporal Harold's house here in the east side of Kalaa."

There's static, yelling, and the sound of soldiers rushing around as the warrent officer responds.

"Sir, I've already emptied Beta and Omicron to assist with the crisis at Epsilon. Something happened there. The structure itself is barely standing. I'll send the soldiers from Delta, Zeta and Pi, and as many as I can spare from here at Rho."

"Shit, Alright, Torrick, I've got a crisis of my own to deal with here, and one at a time is plenty. I'm leaving you in charge of the Epsilon situation. I'll do what I can when I can."

As the soldiers at the other bases mobilize and riggs runs off to his helmet and then to battle, Lennalli clears his mind, puts his helmet on, loads and readies his modified sniper rifle, and looks through the scope, holding fire but bouncing his aim between the necks of the two monsters, and that of Riggs as well.

-------------------------------------

The beast's tedril easily rips through Nataniel's armor, and through most of the circuitry connecting his legs to the rest of his body. The only thing that keeps him in one peice is the resiliant alloy that his "skeleton" is made of. Falling to the ground, his legs useless, The combat droid props himself up with his left hand, continuing to assualt the creature with his balistic weapons and unloading the other two rockets in the direction of the creature's mid-section. Before long a clicking is heard from his arm and chest. The armor peircing rounds have finally depelted themselves. Nathaniel then makes an attempt, for what it's worth, at slashing at the enemy with his bladed left hand. Before he even shifts his weight though, hundreds of rounds pour into his torso. At first his armor deflects them, but its only a few seconds before the onslaught of bullets make their way through and damage his circuitry enough to drop him, "lifeless" on the ground.

Riggs was running full tilt, throwing everything to the wind as he kept low and kept fast. Straight for the helmet as it landed with a dull thud on the trap door, one hand reaching out for it, grasping it as he rolled behind the house. He knew what he had to do, claws clicking against the metal, skull-like edges of his helmet. He placed it on, the jade collar around his neck locking it in place on several wire and rod mounts. Energy from the core of his suit finally finished the circuit, tiny red LEDs lighting up all over his helmet. The golden visor filled in crimson, several LEDs that were previously unlit burning like small coals across his body. The Orochi was complete once again.-

-Gamma's "eyes" traced away from Nathaniel as he peppered the robot with ammunition, EndGame finally overcomming all of his previous protocols to focus on one confirmed target: Beta. The chaingun curved away from Nathaniel's "corpse" to strike down the rockets he had fired with a few well-placed shots from his chaingun. Ammunition was reading as low as 10%, lower even after he'd disposed of the Blue target. So now it was down to himself and Beta, Unit Alpha nowhere in sight. It was entirely possible that Unit Alpha had been defeated at an earlier time prior to Unit Gamma's arrival. That left more fun for Rex. He would break this opponent, nothing more than an insect and reap the glory of EndGame. He would have the respect he deserved. Finally, he would truly be the king.-

-Mechanical jaws opened in a roar that shattered the night, Gamma bellowing a challenge to Beta. The nimble, feminine beast was quick to leap away from Nathaniel as his last volley approached, a backflip carrying her high up and several meters back to the middle of a tree. Her claws dug into bark and cambium, holding her in place as she issued a screeching retort to Unit Gamma. Her whips were primed, trailing down the length of the tree, a full 10ft of cable starting to burn black against the tree's sides. Spines across her shoulders and back rose, small and evenly spaced as the very same chemical concoction that powered Riggs flowed through her bloodstream. Endgame, the final hurtle to her acceptance. When it was all over, Lycan would have her victory, her rewards. She would be the success of the experiment. She would do her parents proud.-

-Lenalli had a clear line of sight now into the woods, at the hulking green and black beast that had wrecked Epsilon, at the thin and lithe gray creature that had slaughtered the Red Alpha base's defensive unit. Strange how different they were. The black and green beast was over 10ft in height, built more like an ancient saurian complete with a double knee and brutally large claws on its toes. Its face was far different from the helmet-like appearance of Riggs and the gray...was that a female soldier in that armor? Her armor was much more curved, shaping her body more to add speed and agility instead of the thick silver armor plates that had been revealed across the saurian. It still had its damn chain gun as well, but it was not firing, at least not yet. It was grunting, roaring at the female monstrosity as she gave return sounds. If this was calm before the storm, a hurricane was about to unleash its wrath on the area. The only one missing from this trio of terror was Riggs, and Lenalli probably knew he wouldn't be far behind.-

-Riggs looked down at the small half-oval, half-rectangular block he'd built himself so many years before. The only way those he cared about would find him. It wasn't where it was supposed to be now though, it was in his palm, now it was gently placed on the glass, giving a few final clicks and beeps before remaining silent but online. He only managed to turn before it started, a dull fire that began in his shoulders, the center of his back, his hips. The spines across his back rose, all 6 expanding outward by pressure contractions. His bloodstream became a toxic mix of endorphins and performance boosters. The pain in his knees dissapeared first, then came his fear, and finally deep memory function. There was only the here and now, the game and the end of the game. Thats all it was to her, only a game. He'd show her, he'd show her just how much this game meant to him. A sound only an octave above Rex, an octave below Lycan rang out in the night, a bellow of everything one final monster had been put through. Its life, its death, and its rebirth, all for the pleasure of one twisted dark design.-

-The final piece of the puzzle lit up on all screens, the chemicals, even the sound. The radar signature was impossible to duplicate. Unit Alpha was active, most importantly Unit Alpha was approaching Units Beta and Gamma. Her thin-framed glasses flew from her face as she bolted up in her seat, her soldiers already confirming the data, the location. She was barking orders before she even knew she was speaking, they had to get there yesterday. Her Riggs, her precious Riggs had returned, back to finish the game. She was so proud of him, she knew he'd never forget her, never let her down. A small tear for him, a tear of joy. He wouldn't survive the fight.

An explosion of sound, a thunderous roar that Lenalli knew all too well erupting like a small bomb from behind the house of Mr. Harold. In the next instant Lenalli would see the first, the original monster tearing across the ground like a medieval knight commanding the battlefield with sword and shield ready. Sword and shield for the Orochi however were only weapons, the familiar sound of metal sliding against metal likes swords rising from sheathes. Four hooked blades, each four feet in length revealed themselves from the blocky boxes they hid them. They clicked and locked into place, ready to tear and shred and slice and burn anything and everything in the path of the beast they belonged to. Extensions of the Orochi's being, like the talons of an eagle.-

-His tail was straightened and aimed straight back, providing balance for the Orochi as he made what would be the charge into combat. The sound startled Rex and Lycan, both of them visibly turning towards the sound, towards the symbol that appeared on their respective radars. Its sheer speed, its first leap overcame all of Rex's combat algorithms, its mouth agape in sheer shock and surprise before the first blow of the match came. The Orochi came down on Rex's shoulders and head from a full leap of 5 meters, his weight and gravity-aided strength slamming the largest of the three combatants straight into the ground, a tremor from that much mass striking the ground felt underneath Lenalli's Warthog.-

-The Orochi didn't stay atop Rex for long, the following kick-off being the factor that knocked the saurian to the dirt. Riggs lept forward for Lycan, jaws wide open in a feral scream as he flew through the air, arms forward like a black and crimson javelin. Lycan was faster than Rex and much more prepared for close quarters fighting. Her tendrils retracting, a leap up and to the right of the oncomming Orochi seemingly enough to save her from its wrath. This thought was shortlived as talons closed on her right ankle proving that reality truly was not in her favor. Still in midflight the Orochi swung its body around, felling the tree Lycan had just lept from with Lycan herself.-

-Rex was proficient at long range, Lycan at close quarters, and in armor, speed and strength the Orochi was theoretically to be the balance between the two. Years of fighting, of chemicals, of blood and sweat and tears had molded it, shaped it far more than the original designs had done. Despite the bulkier, more protective armor it wore it had the speed of Beta, if not faster. Despite the smaller mass it had the strength of the saurian Gamma. Now the good doctor could only watch as her most prized fighter was slammed through a small tree and thrown unceremoniously to the ground, skidding several meters before springing up to her feet.-

-The black ONI Pelican remained in high altitude, extremely powerful cameras bringing the fight to the doctor as she watched the Orochi bellow once more, willing Rex and Lycan to rise so he could knock them down once again. They would be too much for him. The doctor had calculated this, had designed them to be so. She knew they would win. She visibly cheered as Beta returned the cry, seemingly unaffected by the impact. Gamma rose with a bit of trouble, using only its left arm so that it would not clog the barrels of its gattling gun with dirt. He still had more than enough ammunition to finish Riggs off.-

-Rex returned the cry as well, trying to run the numbers, how the Orochi had done that. It didn't matter, the chaingun was up, the barrels rotating, bullets spurting and spitting from the weapon at...nothing? His targetting had confirmed a lock on the Orochi standing infront of him. Why were his bullets pulpating only the trees behind the target's last location? Then the gun twisted away, and Gamma looked down into the open jaws of Alpha. Saurian fought Saurian as the Orochi's left arm knocked the chain gun and Rex's right arm out of its way, batting it like a human swatting a fly from the air. Alpha's right hand shot forward, claws retracted as it delivered a leaping uppercut straight into the lower jaw of Rex. The several-ton mechanized monster left the ground as the Orochi did, crashing back through the foliage as hydraulic fluid wept from cracks in the armor coating its jaws.-

-It whimpered, using its tail and right arm to roll onto its stomach, to bring itself back to standing. Heat sliced through armor like a covenant energy blade through the body of a UNSC marine. Rex roared in pain as the blades of the Orochi pushed down into its right forearm, severing key locks that gave Rex control of the weapon. It immediately disengaged, unusable at this point. The Orochi was thrown off balance as Rex increased the pressure on the locks that held the ammunition drum to its back, firing it off and into the torso of Alpha. The impact threw the Orochi into the air, a thin black whip from Lycan finding his torso. Riggs was superaccelerated into several trees, the whip releasing to hurl him into the trees and out of the battle.-

-Lenalli and the good doctor would see Riggs smashing through tree after tree, each impact slowing him until he skidded to a halt a good distance from the fight. He didn't land on his back however. At the last moment the Orochi performed a small flip forward, stopping on the talons of its boots and its hands. The Lycan turned away from the Orochi as he was still in the air, approaching the still fallen Rex. She brought both whips out, superheating them until they both began to glow a bright orange. She raised her hands, preparing to bring the killing blow, only to be stopped by the abrupt impact of a disengaged chain gun to her midsection.-

-Rex howled as he baseball swung his own disabled chain gun into Lycan, holding the weapon by the barrels as the armature impact Beta's stomach and waist. It threw her off her feet, almost as far as she had thrown Riggs but at a 90 degree angle. The good doctor cried out in shock at the impact, as though she was struck by Rex's primary weapon instead of her star creation. The barrels of the chaingun bent under the impact, Rex holding the weapon like a club in his left hand now. He beat his chest with his right hand, roaring in triumph, the true king of the battle. Lycan was lying on the ground, shuddering and coughing blood from her jaws from the impact. The Orochi was...nowhere to be seen.

Kennard's fireteam had already been en route due to the earlier public disturbance call that had been phoned in when they received the call from Lennalli. He and his squad number no greater than ten halted to respond to Lennalli.

"This is Sergeant Curtis Kennard of the UNSC Military Police already responding to an earlier call in that vector. Will respond. My squad numbers ten and is armed with M/7s and M6s. Meet you there, over."

The squad began sprinting towards the action, not even half a klik away. They could already hear the sounds that were radiating from the battlezone, sounds one would hear if they dare take on the devil himself. They could see up ahead the trees falling, one by one in a row. Kennard scanned around, but couldn't see Lennalli amidst the debris from the battle that clogged the roadways. Suddenly they were aware of the ten foot hulking beast that stood alone in the forest as it bellowed a near-demonic roar of victory. It caused the men to stumble back, frightened slightly, almost completely psyched out. Kennard shook off the feeling of fright, trying to figure out his plan of attack.

"I guess, that's the big hulking motherfucker causing the disturbance. Grooms, Teran, Melvin, head back to the van and retrieve some heavier weapons. The rest of you, form up behind that line of uprooted concrete and just unload."

The men acknowledged his orders, but were a bit hesitant to follow them. Teran, Grooms, and Melvin ran off to the van, which was located half a klik back to retrieve the heavy weaponry, consisting of an MA5B, a BR-55, and an S2AM. As for Phifer, Vhilla, Cheek, Reed, Guth, and Leonards, the formed up behind the concrete and began spraying M/7 rounds in the general direction of Gamma.

"Sergeant Kennard, Do not engage! Fall back, hold your position, wait for the other re-inforcements and my signal."

Lennalli switches the comm channel back to Rho.

"Torrick, I need you to do something else. Get Miss Richardson out of her cell. Give her anything she needs and tell her to get here as fast as she can. She may be our only way of stopping Riggs once this is all over."

The rounds poured onto Rex by the Blue soldiers served as little more than an annoyance. Several rounds made penetration, but after the first inch or armor plating their kinetic energy seemed to be sapped. The saurian was careful to turn his back during the hail of fire, allowing their barrage to strike the thicker plates of his rear instead of the thin plates across his front. It gave him the time he needed to open his mouth, physically wrenching his lower jaw down due to the damage the Orochi had done to it with the uppercut and the kick-off. A small pilot light was immediately lit, chemicals merging with oxygen to create flame in the mouth of the beast.-

-It swung back towards the soldier, a bellow of firey anger emanating from its throat like a trumpet sounding the approach of some hellish army. That army was an inferno that began to stream from the mouth of Rex towards the soldiers. It would fall several feet short however as the Orochi made his return, having made an extremely large arc to actually come from behind the Blues firing on the behemoth. He lept from behind them, arrowing straight for Rex once again as the monstrosity rose to try and flashfry Alpha with a burst of its firey breath. The Orochi had already cleared Rex's head however by the time the liquid napalm came to the end of its dispersion nozzle.-

-The Orochi's claws slid from their housings as he turned himself in midair, reorienting himself as he threw his arms out towards Rex's shoulders. His claws dug in, superheated tips providing the right temperature to burn through that special composite armor Rex had left. His claws cooled in milliseconds once their power flow was stopped, a thought by the Orochi to make sure his claws set. As his talons touched down on the ground they impaled the soft substrate, the Orochi's tail shooting into the ground, boaring as deeply as possible to provide the leverage it needed.-

-A grunt as Alpha's muscles bulged and rippled beneath his armor. He pulled with everything he had, twisting Rex's back at an angle it was not designed to reach. Pistons and shock absorbers up and down the creature's spine cracked and hissed before its footing gave loose, napalm spraying into the air as it began to come crashing back down towards the ground. The Orochi's claws heated once more, pulling long furrows out of Rex's shoulders as they slid back into their housings. Gamma fell straight back, right onto Alpha's waiting hands. In a show of strength rivaling Atlas himself and in much the same pose the Orochi lifted Rex into the air, the much larger monolith of terror giving a startled cry as the Orochi roared to the sky.-

-Lycan's body surged up, rows of small but purposeful spines jolting and flooding her bloodstream with a myriad of toxins. The result was a bloodcurdling cry that threw her to her feet, her small claws and pads ripping up the ground as she tore off towards Rex and Orochi. Alpha's head turned as Beta made her approach, no algorithms or calculations moving through his head as they did for his two counterparts. He twisted his body towards Beta, again throwing everything he had as he threw the squealing Rex at the oncomming Lycan. The 6 spines rising from his back pulsed, pumping another near-lethal dose of endorphins and adrenaline to return the strength he'd lost just picking up that beast.-

-As Rex's ragdoll body came at Lycan her mind, her conscious, human mind all but shut down, the chemicals giving in to the beastial mind of her armor. She rolled, baseball slid on her stomach below Rex as his body cleared her by only inches, smashing into the ground with the force of a small meteorite. Dirt and debris flew everywhere, dust rising from the trough formed by so much mass skidding so far. He was only meters from Mr. Harold's house, in plain sight and immobile. The green jade LEDs across his body faded to black, smoke rising from several holes across his body.-

-The Orochi thought it was ready for the Lycan, horribly dissapointed when a single punch doubled the original terror over, a knee comming into view and just as quickly dissapearing as Alpha went airborne from the impact. He only had seconds to contemplate what was happening before thin tendrils found his ankles, pulling him forcibly back to the ground with a thunderous "CRACK!" His head hit the dirt so hard he saw stars, temporarily blacking out before a kick to the ribs and another moment of weightlessness rocked him back into reality. From Lenalli and the Blue soldiers' point of view, the Orochi was having its ass handed to it by the beast that had wrecked the Red Alpha base.-

-Thin hands gripped thicker wrists, pulling the Orochi and beginning a tilt-a-whirl spin that ended with Alpha airborne for a third time. His senses suddenly kicked back into overdrive, as did the chemicals pouring into his muscles and nervous system. Claws expanded, unheated as they grabbed the trunk of a passing three, the Orochi swinging around and planting its talons into the trunk as it let loose another cacaphonous roar towards its remaining opponent. It could only wince though as the repowered and furious Rex came charging back into the battle, the weight and fury of a Marathon-Class Battle Cruiser combined with the speed of a MAC gun round crashing into Lycan with reckless abandon.-

-The good doctor, high above in her Pelican cried out in shock from the impact, screaming at the screen. "NO!! YOU SON OF A BITCH! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD! NOT HER! NOT HER YOU BASTARD!" The thoughts going through Lycan's mind however were spiralling into a black hole of nothingness. She didn't feel her body hit the ground, nor did she feel her armor catch on the ground and slow her crumpled form to a stop, propped up under a large willow tree that had remained unscathed throughout the fight. All she thought was "Mother....save me..."

Rex's claws dug into the soft earth as he approached the fallen Lycan, a low growl filling his throat as it shook the ground beneath him. Arms spread wide, head raised to the sky in a victory howl to the clouds. It took a few more steps, running vital checks, observing its "kill" and confirming unit Lycan was deceased. It made it halfway through its check when it felt claws dig into the midpoint of its tail, a pained snarl erupting from its maw. It turned its head, Unit Orochi's talons digging into his tail. He shook furiously, trying to release himself but the Orochi held fast, returning with a roar of its own before twisting its body to the right. Gamma was thrown off his feet from Alpha's first pull, the claws of his hands scratching and furrowing the dirt as he tried to gain some leverage.-

-Another violent tug, the Orochi's body turning over and over and over. It twisted and spun, its sheer momentum overcomming Rex's mass to lift him into the air. When he reached terminal velocity Alpha let go of Gamma, a tilt-a-whirl spin hurling the larger soldier several feet over the dirt and several meters before Rex crashed down into the loose topsoil, plowing up a large wave of dirt, mud, grass and shrubs in his path. No sooner had he stood when a massive haymaker collided with the right side of his head, throwing him sharply to the left. He swung back with his right claws, swinging at air as the Orochi rolled beneath Rex's paw.-

-His spines flared, a lightning bolt of chemicals flaring through his system as he crouched. He thrust upward, a wicked uppercut catching Rex in the throat. The massive construct fell backward, grabbing its throat as it choked and sputtered, trying to clear the damaged pieces of its own armor that were pinching its oxygen tubes. It let loose with its flamethrower, heating its own throat to expand the oxygen in the tubes, clearing the blockage on its own.-

-Another fist comming for him, but Rex was ready for this one. His claws locked with Orochi's, his left hand to Alpha's right. Alpha brought his left hand around now, colliding with Gamma's right. They were grappling, pistons in Rex's arms screaming now, muscle beneath the Orochi's armor bulging and rippling, giving everything they had. Rex pushed, Orochi pushed back. They turned and spun, moving in circles as their claws gripped the others tightly. Pistons groaned once more, Rex pushing, forcing the Orochi forward, forcing his back to bend at an angle that would break a man's spine.-

-Pain wracked up and down Alpha's back, several pops heard as vertebrae were shifted out of position. Another chemical flare-up, but not by his spines. Something deep in the Orochi's mind triggered a burst of strength that bent Rex's wrists at odd angles, bringing out a sharp cry of pain and surprise from the taller saurian. A promise...it was so small, seemingly a dot in the sea of chemicals and fury seething in the mind of the original beast. Its back bent forward, vertebrae realigning, a cacaphonous roar louder than any other that had fired from those fang-rimmed jaws. It hit Rex like a Fuel Rod Cannon burst, the saurian construct dropping to its knees as a thousand needles of pain impaled its brain.-

-Rex looked up into a visor seething blood red, into a black mass of armor and red LEDs. Red changed however, those dots of blood across his body blinking out before burning brighter, gold stripes appearing from the Orochi's foot claws up to its helmet. It would be a nightmare reunion for Lenalli if he was still focused on the fight, the Orochi looking exactly the same as when it had removed the Blue soldier's hand with its teeth. Now it had its eyes on something else. The Orochi's body lunged forward, striking like a snake. Its jaws clamped down on Rex's right wrist, pistons arranged like jaw muscles working to push the now superheating teeth of the Orochi through armor and oil lines.-

-Hydraulic fluid spurted and evaporated, spraying like blood as the Orochi severed Rex's right hand, releasing his claws from it to toss it away like a discarded piece of bone. Claws slashed from their blocky housing on the Orochi's left wrist, impaling Rex's right shoulder joint. The Orochi's head and neck were already in motion, cutting deep into Rex's left wrist now. Only one more chomp and the left hand broke loose, fluid splashing all over the Orochi's black and golden-striped armor. It evaporated almost instantaneously, blades flashing out a moment later to impale Rex's left shoulder joint.-

-The handless Rex cried out in agony as Orochi's blades cooled, brutal strength lifting the saurian into the air, over the Orochi's head. His blades reheated, claws slashing towards Rex's waist from his shoulders. They crossed in the center, a red X of extended claw-blades slashing through Rex's torso, cutting the beast down and into several pieces that thumped and thudded to the ground around the Orochi. Rex's head and the remains of its upper torso continued to moan and growl, trying futiley to move the remains of its limbs, pistons and parts weeping purple hydraulic fluid onto the ground. The Orochi walked to the torso, its blades still extended from its wrists.-

-It hooked them into the chest plates of Rex, the thickest plates of armor he had. One swift tug removed them, exposing a crystal sphere the size of a basketball. Inside that sphere was a human brain, suspended in a thick green solution of nutrients and minerals. It seemed to cower in its sphere of protective transparent crystal, sliding to the back where thick bundles of cables linked to a mechanical cerebellum. The Orochi roared in triumph as it raised its right hand, its blades superheating once more. Rex could only whimper, its sensors blinking in and out of function. It could no longer register its arms, its legs, and the Orochi had already broken the nozzle and pilot light for its napalm defoliator with an earlier uppercut.-

-It plowed the blade into the crystalline sphere protecting the brain of Rex, the only human part of the beast that had done so much damage. The crystal housing exploded from the sudden depressurization, nutrient fluid set ablaze as well as the hydraulic fluids spattered all over Rex's torso. One last feral shriek from Rex's vocabulator as the napalm reserves in its back caught fire, the Orochi bounding away before the larger saurian terror, Unit Gamma exploded in a hellish fireball of gore and metal.-

-The black pelican was in final descent, heading for the battlefield as quickly as possible. It was a race now, Lycan's vitals dropping fast, the good doctor screaming at her crew to fly faster. She had forgotten completely about units Alpha and Gamma, still under the impression that Unit Gamma alone could finish off Alpha. She'd made him for that purpose, and it was more than a shock when Unit Gamma's vitals flatlined. It was on camera now, the fireball erupting from his braincase and torso. He'd taken everything from her, the sonovabitch had caused the harm to her daughter, he'd destroyed her prototype for her planned Long Range Assault team. Now the Orochi let loose its mighty bellows of triumph towards the approaching Pelican, knowing full well who was onboard.-

- The good doctor's voice was a roar over her crew and the Pelican's engines, her eyes seething as she watched Unit Alpha on the primary view screen. "I'll kill you myself if I have to, you bastard. I won't let you ruin my work! I made you, you stupid little fuck, and I'll unmake you!"

To Be Continued...

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Macerr Chapter 28
Date: 6 October 2006, 5:59 am

Chapter 28.A Call to Arms

A few days after that ambush, Charlie Company, along with the rest of the 3rd Platoon was put back into Hanger I, the officers claimed the rest of the barracks were filled up, the real reason was that the 3rd was suppose to be the "active" unit, so they had to put us in the hanger, really it was for our own good, the pelicans are about 7.6 seconds away from the bunks they set up.

"Hey Turncoat" It was Erion, who'd become the closest thing to a friend Ramsey had in Charlie Company

"What is it now?"

"The rest of the squad is gonna kick the boys from 1st squad's ass in a round of blackjack, wanna join?"

"Naw, I'm good"

"Fine you can sit here and be bored, like you've been for the past 8 days"

"Wow, you've actually counted the days? I didn't know you cared so much"

"Shut up"

Ramsey sat down on his bunk.

"8 Days"

The entire platoon seemed to be on edge, most of the troops were actually replacements so they had just tasted first combat a few days before. A few became shell shocked, a few started to get a bloodlust. It was scary to see a man become obessed with war as much as a few of the men did. Others, like most of Charlie Company, just shrugged it off and were just happy to have a warm bunk to sleep in and warm real food to eat.

Boredom. It's both good and bad.

The clacks echoed from his boots as he walked down the corridor to Hanger 1, datapad in hand. He passed through the secondary blast doors and came into where 1st Platoon was temporarily bunked. He walked over to Sgt. Sandiford, requesting her to point him in the direction of one Corporal Robert Ramsey. She gestured to the man alone, who seemed lost in thought. He walked in front of Ramsey, holding up the datapad for him to look at.

"Corporal Robert Ramsey, under orders from Warrant Officer Torrick, you've been transferred to Third Platoon, Second Squad. If you would, please use the stylus to sign acknowledging the transfer."

"huh what?" Ramsey looked up at the Officer "Oh, ok, I guess I don't have much of a choice but alright" Ramsey put his name where it belonged.

The First Sergeant packed the datapad in its carry pouch, and turned back to the corporal. "Good. Pack up your gear. You're new barracks hall is Hall 4. I suggest you hurry, we've been restaffing 3rd platoon all day, and its pretty much a FCFS on quarters. I'm your Platoon Leader. Welcome to 3rd. If you have any questions, I'm in my office." Shotts turned and left the Hanger, exchanging glances with 1st Platoon's members as he walked away. He returned to his office, sorting through miscellaneous documents relating to the multiple transfers.

"I got transferred"

"What?" the universal response from the entire squad

"I got transferred"

"To what unit?"

"Third Platoon, 2nd Squad"

"Damn, why they transfer you now?" Erion was clearly not happy with these events.

"Well, I guess you could take your BR55 and kill all of Third Platoon and all the Officers on the planet and maybe that'll stop the transfer"

"See, thats why we're gonna miss you, your probably the best Replacement we've got"

"Well, I guess that leaves a new slot to fill. I got to pack my gear. I guess, see yeah, maybe we'll meet again"

Ramsey packed his gear and waved to his comrades. He walked over to Hall 4. It was a mad house, it seems this entire unit is being rebuilt. Ramsey settled down into a empty bunk and avoided contact with these.... strangers.

The day and night passed quickly and quietly, an uneasy stillness slightly falling on Rho. As soldiers began to rise, activity became sudden in Hanger I. The squads were ordered to load up to defend Epsilon. The News broadcast came on soon after, capturing the conflict well above the battle zone that was Blue Base Epsilon. Soldiers rushed to the large display screens to watch and listen as the onslaught unfolded. The reporter was giving a play-by-play, so to speak.

"This is Darren Stines with KNS, we're live over the Epsilon Starport in Kalaa. Some sort of machine has launched a one man siege on the starport, and its just absolute terror out here. Its literally mowing down soldiers as we speak. We can't establish contact with the two squads sent in as support, but from the looks of it, they're just getting slaughtered."

"Holy crap! Ladies and gentleman, a bomb just erupted at Blue Base Epsilon, the monster assaulting Blue forces has disspeared from view, oh my God, those blue soldiers were just destroyed! Once again this is Darren Stines for the Kalaa News Sentinel, and I'm circling overhead Blue Base Epsilon. The base has come under attack, and all flights to and from the Kalaa starports are now grounded by the UNSCMPs. We'll have more to come as we get it."

The soldiers bustled around, moving through the base as if it were their last few seconds on the planet, glances flicking around, everyone seeming to have a purpose. Except one. Two legs protruded out from beneath the purple carapace of the Ghost sitting in the hangar bay, a tank of some weird frothing liquid sitting beside it, and every five minutes or so, Talitha would appear and take another cupful, smearing it over the base, careful not to waste a single drop. Each cupful she took cost more than a week's worth of food. But it was well worth it. Another few hours, and the hoverpads would be fully functional again, then it was time to work on the body.

She sat up, watching the soldiers hustle. Was she still in their employ? She really didn't care, she was done fighting the Blue's battles. For free anyway.

Ramsey woke up when the rest of his new unit started to rush over to the view screens

"What the hell is happening?"

"Epsilion is under attack"

"God dammit, are the Reds throwing another regiment into that base?"

"No, its that thing"

"'that thing'?"

"like the thing that destoryed lambda"

Ramsey decided to find the nearest officer, he was a Corporal, so he decided to see if he was needed.

"So, off to war"

"Lieutenant Richardson?"

The voice broke me out of a revierie, watching the sky lighten in the west. It still struck me as incredibly weird how this planet had a reverse rotation, reverse from Earth anyway. But still, almost no one knew me as Lieutenant after I got promoted from Ensign... I hoisted myself out from underneath the hoverpanels, dumping a half filled cup of liquid tritanium ytterbate back into its trough to keep it warm.

"You know how long it's been since anyone called me that? Especially a blue?"

I watched this Torrick squirm slightly, and I knew he was unsure if he had approached this situation incorrectly. I waved a hand, standing up and dusting myself off. "Don't worry about it. What's up?"

"Lieutenant Lenalli has requested your assistance in Kalaa."

"Has he now. Well, I promised Riggs I'd head out at sunrise, and my Ghost isn't going to be ready to fly until then. So he's just going to have to be disappointed."

"Well, he also told me to tell you this. For every minute you wait, he's docking 1000G from your pay."

I stared him down, and his eyes held steadily to mine, only watering a bit I could see. Either he was a damn good bluff, or he wasn't lying. Hmmm.

"Fine you ass, I'll go now. But only cause sunrise is in 30 here. I need a Hog with an M68, that SPNkR you took back from me, my shottie, and that big armored case you took from Riggs. I could use a driver who's good with a sniper, too."

"Very well, we'll get you loaded up. Be back in 5 with that case, and I'll have everything else taken care of."

I nodded, running for the munitions locker in the bay. I saw Tuono lying out in the open case, soldiers playing with the power cores. I yelled for them to get out of the way, and they scattered as I grinned and brandished my K-bar. Muahaha, here comes the insane Red mercenary! They were all gone by the time I skidded to a halt and packed everything back up in its slots, hoisting it onto my back. Damn, how the hell did John make carrying this look so easy? Across the bay, I heard Torrick yell to one of the soldiers.

"Ramsey! Front and center! I got a mission for you!"

Ramsey turned to face Torrick

"Yes Sir?"

"You can drive a hog right"

"Course I can sir, why?"

"Like I said, I've got a job for you"

"What?"

"You heard me, she needs a driver and she is the only real hope we got now, this is a order so get over it"

"But she's a red, sir..."

"No, she's a mercenary and we've hired her, now grab your weapons and report back"

"Yes sir"

Ramsey went back to his bunk and opened up his crate, grabbed his sniper rifle and his submachine gun, then went over to the armory and grabbed a BR55 off the rack, and a few extra clips, you can't be too careful, then went back outside to report to this Richardson person.

I turned around, watching through my sunglasses as Torrick led out this Ramsey, who didn't look none too pleased about going along with me. I made sure the rockets and my shottie were secure in the passenger seat before heading over towards the base, sticking out a hand for Ramsey to shake, if he wasn't too laden down with weaponry.

"Private Ramsey? I don't want you rolling us, k?"

"Private? I'm a Corporal" puts his hand out to shake her's

"I guess I'm your driver"

Dammit, I don't even know this guy's rank? I'm REALLY losing my touch. I gripped his proffered hand, pumping it a few times before removing my sunglasses, hopefully they hid my surprised expression.

"Sorry about that Corporal. Let's get going, shall we?"

I slammed my helmet on my head, smiling as it rung a bit, listening to the clicks as they sealed me inside that charcoal gray suit, a few maroon highlights still poking through and reflecting the predawn light as I swung myself up into the Gauss Cannon restraints, strapping myself into the shoulder harness, linking up with the scope. Torrick came over, planting a data crystal into the dashboard, giving us a nav point for Kalaa and the three monstrosities fighting there before stepping back, motioning for Ramsey to hop in.

"Good luck out there Turncoat."

Ramsey put his prized SMG on the dashboard in front of the wheel, he put his BR55 behind him and his sniper rifle to his left, then started up the warthog

He glanced at the nav point on the data crytals display

"Kalaa eh?"

Ramsey floored it and started off towards Kalaa.

To Be Continued...

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Macerr Chapter 29
Date: 13 October 2006, 5:12 am

Macerr Chapter 29.Loved and Lost

By Xvash2, Godzilla2k4, Invaderizz, Lord, Cocaine, Dan, Bennin, and now with us Elite_Sardaukar, Octobit, and Sideral_Talon.

The Warthog bounced and shimmied under me as we drove, my knees flexing and extending to ride the suspension's bumps, practicing tracking on rocks and trees as we drove by, it had been quite a while since I had used one of these babies.

I was looking for something to shoot at as I saw the third waypoint on my visor shimmer and die, the second one beginning to flicker. I knew the first one was Riggs, I had been tracking it the whole time. His moves hadn't changed any since that first day outside Red Base, when Jereck and I were gonna go rescue some of our guys... damn good times. I looked up, saw a Pelican descending from the sky, a black ONI sonuvabitch. Could this job get any worse? I reached down, clicking my mic to the Blue freq I had been given.

"Richardson to any Blue Forces in the area. I'm 400 yards out, just beyond the hill between you and Rho. What's your sitch, over?"

I had better make it in time... I'm gonna make it in time... hang on John...

"This is 1st Infantry Battalion, Charlie Company Cmdr. First Sergeant Barry Farrish, reporting with 122 soldiers armed with small arms ready for combat. We will be arriving within the minute via D77TC Pelicans. We got no intel, what's the scoop on the battle? Over."

The Warthog drove closer

Ramsey drove recklessly to any observer, but he was in total control, so he told himself

"Holy...."

Ramsey could only look at the destruction in silence

He heard a pelican's engines in the distance.

122, God I hope that's enough...

"Miss Richardson, This is Lieutenant Lennalli. As far as I know, you're our only chance at calming Mr. Riggs here down now that he's in this rage of his. He's not done yet so I'm gonna need you to sneak over to the co-ordinates I'll be sending you and get into Mr. Harold's stronghold. You'll be safe there and you'll have access to a loudspeaker for which to communicate with Riggs. That is of course assuming any of the loudspeakers are still operational."

Lennalli types in some co-ordinates for Talitha and then switches to a secure channel to the blue forces.

"This is the lieutenant. I need you to get the biggest guns you have and keep them all trained on that remaining beast out there. In the event that we can't calm him down, we'll need to throw everything we have at him. I don't care if that means ramming a goddamn pelican into him. Wait for my signal"

With that, Lennalli sits and waits, in his new hiding spot, keeping his crosshairs trained on Riggs' neck.

Heh, run and hide? Not likely. Besides, he's the only one out there other than those ONI asses.

"10-4, Lennalli. I'm gonna stop behind the house so I can pick something I'll need up."

I flicked back to the comm-mod's frequency, knowing I'd need it to stop John's loss of control, even if he did listen to me, without that little black box I might still be shrapnel.

"Okay, Corp, take us back behind the house, I'll bail out there with the weaponry I'll need. You go find a spot and get ready to snipe, okay?"

I copy, Lieutenant."

"First platoon, reserves. Fall back and hold position 300 feet up. Second platoon, get your heavy weapons up front and fall to 90 feet. Keep your bay guns and heavies on the big thing, but hold fire. Third platoon. Land a quarter-klik out and take up a perimeter 50 yards from the monster. Snipers and BRs up front. My bird will stay circling the area."

"Hey, uhh, sir? What Should I do? Should I just drive the merc to this Harold guy? or join with the rest of the troops taking up positions? over"

Ramsey was still sitting in the driver's seat of the warthog, unsure of what he is actually suppose to do.

"I'm reading you as a Rho deployment. Continue with your orders. I'm the company commander for Charlie Co."

"Roger That"

Ramsey decides to wait for the merc to get back and do what she tells him to do.

-The comm-mod began giving off a steady beep through Talitha's radio, letting her know both direction and distance. It was somewhere close to the house, around the other side where Riggs had picked up his helmet. Speaking of Riggs, he leapt and rolled to the right as a deafening series of blasts erupted from the sky. A .50 caliber chaingun was opening up, spraying armor-piercing rounds into the dirt in a path towards the remaining beast. It was easy to dodge, trees and dirt exploding but not a single round would strike Riggs.-

-The turret was easy enough to deal with, the Orochi grabbing a fallen tree that had been downed during the battle. The Pelican continued its descent, activating infra red, spectral analysis. The last thing the turret's sensors would note was a large, black and brown object on a trajectory with the turret's targeting system. The tree struck dead-on, the turret erupting and pitching the nose of the Pelican up sharply. It angled back down, landing struts deploying as it neared the ground.-

-The rear bay doors opened, several soldiers in black powered armor dropping on rappel lines to the ground. They looked like ODSTs, but their armor covered more of their bodies, panels not unlike those of Riggs' armor visible across their frame. Each had a BR-55, 7 total landing on the ground where Riggs previously stood in combat. Now they detached their lines, scanning the perimeter for their target. Their mission was not to kill him, only to detain him.-

-They wouldn't have that chance. The first soldier noted an anomaly on his radar HUD, a blip of red that disappeared, reappeared behind him, to his right. Right behind him again? A pair of hooked blades some 3ft in length exploded from either side of the soldier's sternum, giving him a very detailed look at his organs before a twist snapped his spine. The limp corpse was swung around into the next closest soldier, hitting him with such force that his helmet was knocked from his head. A fist collided with his stomach, rupturing the man's stomach, spleen and collapsing his diaphragm, dropping him to the ground as he slowly asphyxiated.-

-Now gunfire erupted in all directions from the black soldiers, throwing their training to the wind as they were mauled and destroyed one by one. A rolling head here, an arm lobbed off followed by blades entering a soldier's torso just above the waist. A neck was snapped by the force of a forearm chop. One soldier turned in time and fired, putting a three-round burst right through the armor of the Orochi and into its thigh, blood dripping through holes in its protective armor as the bullets exited the back of his thigh. The Orochi threw a heated uppercut, its blades starting at the man's groin and tearing up through flesh, muscle and bone to split him in half.-

-The last remaining soldier had just enough time to wet himself as the Orochi grabbed his soldiers, delivering a headbutt that smashed the man's visor in. Jaws opened wide, a feral scream not from the Orochi but from the soldier as he realized he was being eaten alive. His severed head rolled and bounced across the ground as the Orochi, blood-drenched and ravenous cried to the Pelican that was still on a decent.

He Pelicans of Second Platoon dropped down low, following the long, straight roads of Kalaa towards their target. Lance Corporal Gabriel Callafonte sat closest to the open door, watching the road pass behind the transport as it drew closer and closer to the objective. Through his headset he hard a crackle and a few seconds of static before the voice came online. It was someone from command, Callafonte didn't know who. Didn't really want to either.
"Lance Corporal Callafonte, this is Lieutenant-" there was another brief burst of static, "I've got your mission brief here."
Twenty bucks says we're assault element.
"You'll be assault element for Second Platoon. Stay back until the order comes through for attack."
"Yes sir. Keep us posted."
"Will do soldier."
The headset returned to static as Gabriel switched it through to squad frequency, standing up and grabbing onto the rail above his head.
"Here's the deal. We got an order to hold tight until but there's still a weapon of some kind that could eliminate all of us. So I'm thinking that order to hold could become longer. For the time being, I want a tight perimeter on me, watch but hold fire. Once the order is confirmed, we will start where the others left off and continue looking for this damned weapon. We clear?"
"Understood, sir!" came the reply. The section was mainly Privates; the shortage of well-trained Sergeants meant that Gabriel had been placed in charge of the section. He was sure as hell not gonna' mess it up.

"Golf 609 to Alpha team, landing zone appears clear. I say again, landing zone appears clear, over. Prepare for drop in," said the Texan voice from the cockpit.
The Pelican slowed to near stop, the audible hiss of the engines reminding them that they were still flying. Gabriel stepped to the edge, and after taking his M/7 in both hands, leapt from the transport. The crunch of the ground and the sharp pain in his knees let him know he was topside. Taking point, he checked the area for hostiles. It was clear. The other men dropped to the ground behind him in quick succession, each filing into the star-perimeter. The Pelican roared away in a trail of smoke and engine fumes.
"Golf 609, this is 3-2-Alpha, message, over,"
"3-2-Alpha, this is Golf 609, I am currently en route to coordinates: four-niner-four, seven-one-six, over,"
"Golf 609, roger that, can you give us any clear recon from the sky?"
"3-2-Alpha, negative, proceed with caution."
"Golf 609, will do, over" finished Lance Corporal Callafonte, before switching back over to squad frequency, "Alpha team, on me,"
The squad tightened the small perimeter until they were all within whispering range, still facing outwards.
"We're in the dark about the objective at the moment, boys, so we'll proceed with caution to our hold marker. Watch for hostiles, Valentine and Hayder, you watch our six. On me."
They set off at a slow jog, moving through the streets of Kalaa in silence. On his heads up display the end of the street was marked as the hold position. They filed up to it and took positions on either side, each one hugging cover. Callafonte had Hayder and Valentine on his side of the road, both armed with BR-55's, while the right side had four, Chomley, Smith, Kusenko and Lauder. Lauder was ranking private, armed with an M-90, while the others had two M/7s and a BR-55, respectively. Not a bad loadout, all in all. Callafonte switched back to command frequency - a regular occurrence, now - and waited to the static to clear before speaking.
"Command, this is 3-2 Alpha, do you have further orders at present, over."

First Sergeant Farrish looked on from his Pelican hovering 300 feet above the heads of the blue forces that had created a perimeter around the monster and the Pelican it was fighting. He noticed that the last elements of his company had dropped in, and were assembling the last segments of the line that encircled the battle from at least 200 yards away, giving the monster and the Pelican plenty of distance to fight to the finish. They were only to intervene if one of the combatants were to turn their weapons on the homes and attack civilians, or attack the soldiers maintaining their positions.

"Copy 3-2, maintain line segment and stand your ground. Hold your fire unless given orders. Farrish out."

"Command, affirmative to that order, will hold, over," replied Callafonte, looking over the car that he, Hayder and Valentine took cover behind.
"Possible contact, my twelve," Hayder whispered suddenly into his radio.
Callafonte slowly turned his upper body around to see Hayder raise his rifle to his head and peer into the scope. The Lance Corporal glanced over at Valentine, put two fingers to his eyes and then pointed towards the distance. Valentine nodded and covered Callafonte's rear as he carefully rolled over to Hayder. Although whatever was happening in the distance would probably not hear the squad, there a lot of things that probably wouldn't happen that did happen.
"Movement near the buildings, about 700 meters away," confirmed Hayder. Callafonte pulled himself up the car and looked downrange through his custom M/7 scope, carefully noting anything he saw. Indeed, there was a huge, hulking beast, but no detail could be discerned at that range; behind, blurred through lack of focus, was a descending Pelican, about 25 meters in the air.
"Two o'clock reference: delivery truck," whispered Hayder, eye still planted on the scope.
"Confirmed. Alpha, center your axis of fire on the contact, but do not, repeat do not open fire until I give the order," said Callafonte over the squad comm, watching the four men on the other side of the road silently take positions behind a fence and small garden, weapons trained.

The Distance Meter below the NavPoint kept getting smaller and smaller

Ramsey was a bit nervous, he could already hear the occasional burst of small arms and artillery.

Only other noise was the engine and an annoying harmonic from one of the M19 SSM Launchers, he considered stopping and moving it or putting a weight on it, but that would just waste time, and from the sounds he always already hearing, they needed these supplies.

Talitha jumped out behind Harold's house, even as the Warthog pulled a quick U-turn, landing on her feet and almost buckling under the weight of Tuono and her rocket launcher, as well as two extra rockets and her shottie. The comm-mod was audible, even from here, and she headed straight over, hiding in the gully leading to the basement access doors, pulling it out as she looked the package over, making sure her M90 was cocked and loaded.

The Pelican was getting lower, and she had to duck as a shower of sparks lanced down as the tree took out the turret, landing propped up against the house, and she quickly scaled it, lying prone on the roof, watching the scene, switching to the frequency she knew John would be listening on, her mouth gaping open at the carnage.

"Alula to Orochi... holy shit........"

Talitha's words didn't seem to have any immediate effect, the Orochi still raging as the Warthog continued to drop. Its bay doors opened again, a lone figure standing on the egress ramp's edge. Her hair was a deep brown, long and whipping across her face from the wash of the Pelican's thrust. Her skin was fair, a white offset by an extremely light tan. Only the skin of her face was visible though, the rest of her body clothed in a black lab coat, black gloves and thick combat boots. A pair of neon green sunglasses, the same color as the collar that locked Riggs' helmet into place flashed across her face, a smirk on her lips.-

-On the ground the lone monstrosity faltered, its maw slightly agape as its crimson visor locked with the figure onboard the Pelican. The golden stripes of light across its body dimmed, its spine drooped towards the ground as each pair of hooked blades from its wrists pulled up into their housings. It was at that moment completely powerless, dumbfounded even as the "late" Dr. Jenna Riggs was handed an S2AM Sniper Rifle. She peered down the scope, not a hint of remorse in her dull gray eyes as she squeezed the trigger.

-Her first shot would have been lethal if Riggs hadn't have snapped himself out of his stupor, leaping back as the first 14.5mm sabot from the sniper rifle tore down the inner edge of his right leg. The bullet carved a furrow down his black armor, droplets of blood just barely beginning to weep from the cracks it formed in his leg armor. Spines flared, stripes lit up angrily as Riggs took off at a demonic sprint, sniper rifle rounds blasting dirt and plant matter on either side of him.-

-The doctor tossed the Sniper Rifle back to her assistant, grabbing a small datapad from her hip. She keyed the signal, a direct line-of-sight required. Armor shocked once, shocked twice, three times. It kept the heart going, kept the lungs pumping. It flooded the brain with a bathe of chemicals that could easily kill a human being if not in the proper proportion. She yelled out to the Orochi in its hiding spot, wherever it had gone. Her voice was light, almost shrill as she screamed like a banshee into the night.-

"If you'd only accepted my experiments on our wedding day, my love. If you'd only gone along with my plans. I was going to make you a star. More popular than any Spartan, more destructive than any weapon. We could have been something. Now that something is going to do what I couldn't. Amely! Go punish your father!"

-The Orochi had a few seconds to contemplate what Jenna was screaming about before it felt a cold hand on its left shoulder. The hand pulled him around, a fist smashing into the right side of Riggs' helmet in a cracking haymaker. A few teeth from Riggs' helmet were jarred loose, flying out when a right hand brought on a thundering straight punch right to Riggs' nose. The Orochi flew back, the force of the hit sending it skidding across the dirt back into view. The Lycan exploded from the remaining forest line milliseconds afterwards, running on all fours towards the Orochi as it placed one hand on his head, trying to shake the pain out.-

-Riggs managed to deflect Amely Jenna Riggs's left hand as she chopped for his neck, but her right fist found his stomach, once, twice, three times, four times. Riggs began to double over, only to say hello to the Lycan's knee as it came up and made a direct blow on his visor. A few cracks formed in the crimson plate, its head and torso flying up. The Lycan spun, its tail cracking the air behind it as she brought her right foot around, a roundhouse kick landing on the left side of Riggs's head to send him spinning and crashing into the dirt like a broken, lifeless ragdoll.-

-Chemicals began pumping, that moment of clarity disappearing behind a veil of pain and frustration. Barriers were broken, Riggs' spines expanding a few more inches as pressure forced every drop of chemical booster and toxin into his bloodstream. As he skidded he kicked off with his right foot, performing a short backflip while still in motion. Clawed boots dug into the earth to slow the Orochi, even begin to propel it towards the oncomming Lycan. Its claws gleemed on its gloves, its hooked blades unlocking, preparing to spring forward. This would be it. Just let go Riggs...just let go..-

-The first hit was the Lycan's, another left haymaker but the Orochi didn't even seem to acknowledge it. It let out a cacaphonous roar before swinging its own right fist, spinning the Lycan clean off its feet and onto its stomach. Riggs didn't let up, grabbing the Lycan's shoulders and pulling it up to its feet. It spun the Lycan around, a knee coming up towards the Orochi's chest. This was batted away easily, the Orochi grabbing Amely's shoulders again before delivering a forehead-to-visor headbutt that put microfissures into the protective facial plate of the Lycan.-

-It headbutted her again, again, again, again, every hit throwing bits of black and silver clear metal away in whizzing shrapnel. It reared back, the transfixed stare of hatred in Amely's eyes causing the Orochi to throw her away from itself. It faltered again, Riggs' consciousness temporarily breaking the surface. Amely's face, now visible to everyone was almost a spitting image of her mothers, but her eyes were the same vibrant green as Riggs', her hair the same deep black.-

-The remains of her helmet fell away, allowing her shorter void-black hair to fall to just above her shoulders. Riggs was too busy roaring at Jenna again, no sensible words, just frustrated cries and threats. It didn't immediately register the constriction on its waist, the sudden feeling of heat as the Lycan's right whip began to superheat plasma throughout its core. The Orochi let loose a hideous cry of pain as it turned towards Amely, his own daughter was trying to kill him.-

-It was a cry from the heart, not from the searing heat that was fusing armor with skin. Pain shrouded Riggs in darkness, leaving the beast to its dark designs one final time. Amely pulled Riggs with all of her strength, trying to drag him towards her to deliver a killing blow. Her left tendril was raised and ready, but she was not ready for what the Orochi did. It didn't fight back, unhooking its claws from the Earth. Amely's right tendril kept reeling in to cover the slack as the Orochi lept towards her, its jaws open in a snarl of teeth and blood.-

-The Lycan threw its left arm forward, releasing the whip above its forearm towards the Orochi's face, but the Orochi managed to turn itself in midair, the blades of its left hand clawing into the dirt and creating drag on that side. The whip slashed by the Orochi's helmet, hooking the helmet and wrenching it clean off of Riggs' head, dislodging it from the jade collar around his neck. Riggs could only watch now, watch his body move of its own accord. He couldn't stop, couldn't keep himself from raising his right arm towards the Lycan as the gap closed between them.-

-A SHINK becomming a wet thud, Amely temporarily spasming. Seconds ticked by like hours, Riggs finally blinking, the world comming into view. He looked at the face of his daughter, saw the trickle of blood from the side of her mouth. Seconds ticked by like days, Amely blinking once. Her vibrant green eyes locked on Jonathan Rae Riggs' for the first time, her right hand comming up towards his face as the whip from her forearm recoiled completely into its housing. Riggs' right hand came up as well, father and daughter placing a warm hand on each others' cheeks for the first time. Amely spoke first. Her voice was low, full of warmth, a good mix of Jonathan's confidence and Jenna's intelligence.-

"Hi daddy..."

-Her eyes closed, her cheek falling away from her fathers' hand. Amely Jenna Riggs slowly slid from the right hooked blades impaled through her midsection, just high enough to slash the bottom of her heart. It was slow, agonizingly slow as a thick trail of blood was left on the Orochi's hooks, her body comming to rest on the soft scarred earth. On her lips was a smile. She finally saw daddy.-

-Dr. Jenna Riggs screamed as she grabbed the reloaded S2 sniper rifle, taking no aim as she fired recklessly at Riggs. Her first 3 shots were misses, the forth careening straight through Riggs' right shoulderblade, just past his right lung as bits of his scapula were thrown forward after the bullet. He dropped to one knee, blood coughed up as he stroked Amely's now cooling cheek.

Three simple words, screamed for the whole battlefield to hear. Three words, echoing in the ears of every Blue soldier there as her voice reverberated off the destroyed buildings. Three words that probably blasted the ears out of anyone listening in on the frequency her mic was tuned to. Only three words escaping her lips as the large double barreled apparatus came to her shoulder, a shot that in her normal calm rational state, she was unlikely to miss. But those three words showed she was far from rational, watching the horrors play out in front of her, remembering the tears shed in remembrance at that lonely grave. Three words, and she pulled the trigger.

"OH YOU BITCH!"

Ramsey got closer to the front and he heard some echo from in the ruins, someone yelling then sniper fire.

"Damn" Ramsey was a bit shocked at level of destruction.
He turned on his comm to the usual frequency for the Blues

"This is Cpl Robert Ramsey, I've got a load of M19 SSMs and Small Arms ammo, to any Blue Forces in the area, respond, repeat. This is Cpl Robert Ramsey, I've got a Ammo Shipment to any Blue Forces in the area respond."

Ramsey waited for anyone to answer, he kept the engine running and was ready go pull a U-turn and get the hell out of there, if what did this heard his call and came looking for him.

"Contact, contact, contact!" called Hayder over the radio, forcing Callafonte off his belly, and into a crouching position, looking down the sights of his M/7.
"Multiple shots fired, hostile has engaged in hand-to-hand combat with another unknown," said Valentine beside him, his eye also planted firmly on his scope.
Gabriel did not wait for an order from the Command Pelican; he signalled to the other team led by Lauder to advance to the nearest cover, in his case, a huge delivery truck. Lauder affirmed the command and called his team around him, moving fast and low towards the truck. When they stopped, Callafonte turned to his section and had them form up on him, Hayder behind Callafonte, Valentine at the rear. Quickly they sprinted from one snatch of cover to the next, halting at a small pile of assorted crates. Just as they settled into the cover, there was a sound from the radio,
"Hoollyyy SHIT!" said Lauder from his position, signalling with his hands to the battle ahead.
Callafonte peered down his scope again, sighting the melee in much more detail now. He saw in horror that the two fighters were not human - humanoid, but certainly not human. What the fuck were they? The radio crackled to static and them to speaking, interrupting his wonder.
"3-2-Alpha, this is Golf 609, we've got a clear view of the battle, over."
"Golf 609, copy that, we also have sightings of the fight, can you tell us what the hell those things are, over?"
"3-2-Alpha, I don't fuckin' know, but I'm sure as hell not going for a closer look," said the thick Texan drawl of the pilot as he turned the radio off.

He looked down his scope again and could only watch with amazement as the two beasts parried and countered, each throwing bone-breaking strikes at the other with speed unknown to a human. Both drew back and leapt at each other numerous times, and suddenly, it stopped - the unknown warrior lay twitching at the end of a long claw, the body dying in a matter of seconds. The fight was over.
CRACK! CRACK-CRACK CRACK!
Rapid fire S2-AM shots hit the ground around the victorious warrior, the fourth struck him clean through the shoulder. Flesh and armour splintered as the bullet exited his body, but he did not fall and die. He dropped silently to one knee, looking at the dead body on the ground.
"Command, this is 3-2-Alpha, we have advanced approximately 50 metres towards the target, there has been contact between the hostile and an unknown .. humanoid, the unknown is KIA. Request permission to intervene, over."

As he waited for a reply, another voice came his radio, but not squad frequency; it was wide-band transmission. The roaring of a Warthog could be heard in the background.
"This is Cpl Robert Ramsey, I've got a load of M19 SSMs and Small Arms ammo, to any Blue Remnants in the area, respond, repeat. This is Cpl Robert Ramsey, I've got a Ammo Shipment to any Blue Remnants in the area respond."
Callafonte fumbled with his radio and switched as fast as he could to wide-band.
"Corporal Ramsey, this is 3-2-Alpha, Alpha Pathfinders, Special Recon Unit. We are at the coordinates four-niner-four, seven-one-six, over,"
He ducked behind the boxes and hoped like hell he made it before the party well and truly started. Just as he did, three words echoed across the battlefield.
"OH YOU BITCH!"

Farrish observed the team's movement up to the battle, only 50 meters away, breaking the perimeter. He watched through his spotter as the two beasts went at it, the larger of the two claiming victory soon after. He watched the one go down, who was before a raging beast, but now, nothing more than human. He zoomed in the helmet absent from the armor of Beta. Damn, that girl got the shit beaten out of her. Better put a medical team on standby. He keyed his radio to the pathfinders.

"Alpha 3-2, this is Big Dog-09, ready your medics in your squad to check all the wounded and killed once this thing ends. Once again, do not engage unless fired upon or if they begin to attack any more civilian property. God I hope that girl is still alive, she looks to young to be in this fight. Farrish out."

He watched as four shots left trails in the air, originating from the bay door of the Pelican that had landed. He could make out the figure of the shooter, wondering who it was, when a loud scream came over his radio.

"OH YOU BITCH!"

Roger that 3-2-Alpha, I'm on my way, I'm coming in from the south. I'll be there in 1.45 at the most."

Ramsey just slammed on the gas and had to turn hard to avoid a pile of rubble

"God, what the hell is happening here?"

"Alpha Pathfinders will hold, over," replied Lance Corporal Callafonte over the radio, before switching back to Command frequency. He knew when he heard Big Dog he was talking to Farrish himself.
"Affirmative to that order, sir, we'll ready our medics for immediate action, over," he said to Farrish quietly, signaling for Kusenko to come over to him. He was the section's medic; Valentine had also taken "relief training" for if Kusenko was WIA or KIA. They would be the best bet for any wounded on the field, but in reality they would most likely need support within minutes of getting to the wounded. He keyed the radio to Golf 609.
"Golf 609, this is 3-2-Alpha, request pending medical support, over," he said to his new best friend, the Alpha Pathfinder's eye-in-the-sky.
"3-2-Alpha, this is Golf 609, negative, we are returning to base to refuel and rearm, ETA 15 minutes, over," replied the Texan pilot.
Shit.
"Affirmative, see you then."
Kusenko appeared behind him, waiting for orders. He put a hand up for him to wait, as he pulled a list of active air support in the Kalaa area.

After eliminating the Longswords prepped for fire missions and the Pelicans grounded at base, he came up with a five Pelican list.

Sierra 012: Carrying 3rd Platoon, 1st Squad
Juliet 930: Carrying 3rd Platoon, 2nd Squad
Tango 771: Dropping 3rd Platoon, 3rd Squad
Golf 609: Rearming, Refueling
Victor 535: Reserve flight

Bingo

"Victor 535, this is 3-2-Alpha at coordinates four-niner-four, seven-one-six, requesting pending medical assistance when ceasefire is given, over."
"3-2 Alpha, this is Victor 535, request confirmed, en route to your position, over," he radio turned to static.
"Kusenko, you and Valentine will advance with Hayder when the cease fire is given and assist any and all wounded. Is it has a pulse, try and maintain it, we have a medivac en route to our position. It should only be a few minutes from start to finish, but we need those wounded alive when the evac arrives."
Although they were Pathfinders and therefore all of them were scouts, Hayder was used by Callafonte as Recon. Usually he was armed with a S2-AM, but urban enviroment called for a BR-55. He was the best man to escort the two medics forward as the rest of the Pathfinders secured the perimeter.

"Copy 3-2 Alpha," came an unknown voice on the COM. "This is Delta Niner-Niner, "Arizona", copy. My Pelican and squad Company Uniform from Pelican Delta 782 is down. I don't know why, but I'm the only one left. Heading to your position in an LRV as soon as I get coordinates. Hope you need another sniper, sir!" Luke said.

Pulling the LRV to a stop, he waited for the response...

"Arizona, this is 3-2-Alpha, affirmative to that request. We hold at coordinates four-niner-four, seven-one-six. Meet us here, we could certainly use an S2-AM, over."
He cut the comms and thanked his lucky stars that he would have an ODST sniper with him when the secured the battlefield. A few hours ago he had heard the call that India 099, the ODST Pelican, had gone down just outside city limits. Whatever the reason, there had obviously been few survivors. But ODSTs were the best fighting unit the Blues had, and any one of their elite operators would be a great help when this fight was over, or if they had to intervene.
Goddamn, where is that Ramsey ...

"Affirmative, 3-2 Alpha, on my way," Luke pushed the pedal of the LRV all the way and floored it down the beach. His S2-AM gleamed next his helmet, and he felt the wind through his hair. Entering the coordinates into the HUD nav of his helmet, he unplugged the link and slipped on his helmet. An orange triangle popped up next to his radar. It was amazing how his suit could detect foes from 15 meters. It was pretty helpful when sniping.

Several minutes later he heard distant gunfire. He turned the Hog slightly, and headed for the sounds. Switching off the NAV point, he slowed the Hog, and came to a stop.

"3-2 Alpha, this is Arizona. Approximately .45 of a klick north-northwest of your position. Ready to hold off bogies."

Luke laid down on the meadow grass, and he quickly made a camo suit of the meadow leaves and some rubber cement.

Static and Talitha's voice flooded the cockpit of the Pelican as the ONI specially outfitted troop carrier's multi-frequency scanner picked up the message. He looked out his portside viewport, pulling the Pelican higher into the air to let the rocket skirt just beneath the rear bay door. Jenna was thrown to the floor, gripping her S2 sniper rifle and the deckplates with her long fingernails. She was seething; she'd end the experiment herself. She'd end it all and start anew. Better to start from scratch than let that traitorous bastard live after what he had done to their daughter.-

-Once the Pelican came to rest she had another full clip ready, her own modified magazines holding 8 shots instead of the standard 4. She stood tall on the end of the rear ramp, sighting down the scope of her S2 for her former husband. She'd gladly widow herself again if it meant getting rid of him. Amely's body was alone though, lying on the ground with her hands placed over her sternum. She saw the smile on her daughter's face, Riggs must have put it there to mock her. This only brought the doctor's blood to a boil as she scanned the area for Riggs.-

-Riggs was already in motion. No more Orochi, no more monster, only something worse bolting away from his daughter, towards the woman he truly cared about. She had a double-barreled rocket launcher to her shoulder, but his eyes weren't focused on that. They were on the box beside Talitha, and the weapon within. Riggs didn't have time to hug Talitha, to kiss her, he didn't have time to say a word. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw Jenna turning, saw her aiming for the vapor trail from the rocket, and its origin. She'd find more than she bargained for.-

-The first shot was sloppy, but it had been awhile since Riggs had pulled the trigger of the miniature linear rail cannon known as "Tuono Nero." It was wide right, striking the Pelican and boring clean through it, exploding from the top of the transport and leaving a smoking hole in its wake. It was like thunder rippling across the battlefield, echoed by Jenna Riggs' S2 Sniper Rifle. Her first shot on her new magazine found Riggs' left forearm, blasting away the hook-blade housing there. Riggs ducked to the left, firing a second shot that whizzed past Jenna's left shoulder, another tungsten rod impaling the Pelican and blowing through.-

-Steam was hissing up from the linear cannon, smoke from the barrel of Jenna's S2 as they kept firing madly at one another. Riggs just kept missing, Jenna only managed to tear off armor and miss flesh. Riggs' right hookblade housing was the next to go, followed by several of the spines down the right side of his back. Another shot from Jenna tore into the chemical housing and actually pulled a large chunk of Riggs' armor away, setting it aflame on the ground. The Orochi was being picked apart shot after shot, but it wasn't as it seemed.-

-Jenna was aiming for Riggs' center of mass every time. He was merely bobbing or weaving, allowing a part of his armor, a part of her experiment to die while he still lived, firing over and over and over. He didn't hit her once however, the barrel of Tuono Nero beginning to overheat and glow bright red as Riggs threw caution to the wind. Steam poured from the weapon as he unloaded all 5 tungsten rods into and through the Pelican. Jenna was on her final bullet, lining up for the shot that she knew would kill Riggs when she heard a dull whine from above and to her right.-

-Several fuel lines to each engine burst, spraying superheated corrosive chemicals across the deep interior of the Pelican, inside Jenna's command compartment. Computers and hard drives fried, a chain-reaction of exploding fuel climbed into each engine of the Pelican, causing them to simultaneously burn-out and explode violently. Interior rotors went spinning madly in every direction, several cutting into the cockpit and bringing a quick death to the pilot. The Pelican pitched right, left, and dropped like a rock straight towards the ground.-

-Tuono Nero had overloaded a 1/100 chance that Riggs was more than aware of. Its internal core cooked off, superheated plasma spraying out from vents along its sides. The damage was catastrophic to the weapon, only slightly less to Riggs' armor. A small EMP, only a few feet in diameter erupted from the slagged power cell, frying the internal conduits and connections in Riggs' armor. Now it was nothing more than a soldier's armor with a few bizarre aesthetic additions. Riggs set the slagged-out experimental weapon on the ground, starting a slow walk towards the Pelican as it descended from the ground. Tuono Nero was spent, now just a puddle of silver and black metal and copper conductors cooling on the grass.-

-Jenna leapt from the Pelican as it came crashing down, fire erupting from its center as thick oily black smoke billowed into the air. She rolled on the battle-scarred ground, her S2 left behind in the wreckage as she struggled to stand. She could feel them, footsteps approaching her slowly, heavily on the ground. She sat up, backing away as she reached for her hip. She had an M6D sidearm, holding it in both hands as she tried to see through the smoke and fire, through the debris littering the ground from the Pelican.-

-He appeared, a black demon in tattered, ragged plates of armor covered with soot and blood. The wound in his right shoulder had stopped bleeding, a thin gel layer sealing the wound temporarily. The same for his left thigh, streaks of dried crimson scarring the black of his leg. Her hands quivered, her aim wavered when she saw his face, no visor or hideous maw for her. It was Riggs' cold green stare, the same as Amely's but this time there were no chemicals. There was no animalistic berserker rage. This was something far worse. Jonathan Rae Riggs was in a place darker than the Orochi ever took him. Riggs wanted revenge.-

-She squeezed off one shot, going wide and only seeming to quicken Riggs' pace. Another step and another shot, this one finding Riggs' left shoulder ricocheting off the curved plate of armor there. For every step, there was the crack of Jenna's M6D. Most of her shots were off, the very sight of Riggs as he was walking towards her enough to shake her to her heart. One shot struck him in the right side, impacting his armor and remaining fast, whereas another hit the left side of his upper chest, finding itself in skin, muscle, stopped just millimeters from his ribs. Whatever pain that bullet brought was not registered by Riggs, not even as another round from Jenna's magnum embedded itself deep in Jonathan's right forearm.-

-Soon Jenna was clicking empty, still backing up but not even remotely as fast as Riggs rushed forward, arms stretched out towards Jenna. She found herself backed against the tallest remaining tree, her back hitting the thick cool trunk as warm hands wrapped themselves around her throat. She kicked and struggled, choking and sputtering as brutal strength lifted her several feet into the air, until she could only look down into the cold jade stare of her former husband. At that moment she profoundly understood that her experiment had in the end been a success, even at the cost of her life. Still she kept her eyes on his, pleading he'd come to his senses and release her. She was after all his wife...-

-There were no tears, just the pathetic monster in his hands. He looked up into those pleading eyes, his heart non-existent now. Words found a voice, but it was not Riggs' voice. It was the voice of the dark heart Jenna had set to beat in his chest, if just for this moment.-

"I've waited so long to say this...for everything you've done, for everything you ever did and everything you planned to do....I hate you. Good bye Jenna, and good riddance."

-The good doctor's face dropped, her jaw slacked open, eyes widening as she felt Riggs' grip on her throat tighten. Her face turned red, her lungs wheezing and grasping for air. She kicked and she punched, but she couldn't break Riggs' hold on her throat. Vesicles in her eyes filled with blood, she was losing strength with each punch. She was unable to fight back, hanging limp as her life drained away. Suddenly she could breath, but every breath was fire in her lungs, filling with ash as she felt the heat on her skin.-

-Blistering and burning, her clothes catching fire. She screamed. She screamed in the hellish flames, tried to rise and escape the hell she had been cast into. Something on her chest, holding her onto burning coals, in an inferno unrivaled by any. She screamed and she screamed, until her blood boiled and her organs cooked inside her body. Until her skin was charred black and her shriveled black heart burst in her chest. Riggs had pulled her from the tree, from the point of asphyxiation simply to let her feel the pain she had made him feel, the pain he was sure his daughter had endured. Jenna received what she deserved, the flames of hell licking at her flesh, and so he held her down in the burning fire created by the downed Pelican until he was sure hell had taken her from her scorched flesh.-

-Riggs pulled his hand up from Jenna's smoking chest, his glove-print left seared into the flesh above her heart. He took a few steps from the fire he'd put her in, seemingly in a daze. He brought a hand to his head, tried to shake out the darkness, but it closed around him. As the fires consumed and burned the rest of Jenna Marie Riggs' body to ash, Jonathan Rae Riggs's eyes went dark, and he fell...fell...fell. He hit the ground hard, but he was already unconscious long before his face could feel the cool dew-stained grass beneath it.

To Be Continued...

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