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Macerr Chapters 21-22
Posted By: Adam Stark, Amanda Rzucidlo, Nick Fiore, Joe Lord, Connor Sheppard, Dan, Da
Date: 10 September 2006, 12:22 am

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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?"


"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?"


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.


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.