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Soldier Girl Part 13: The Major
Posted By: Adam Stark<Xvash2@gmail.com>
Date: 8 January 2010, 8:30 am

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Part 13: The Major

      Private Sellings would receive a Marine's funeral, albeit a brief one. He had come in with Sanderson from Inigo, but she didn't even recognize his face, as the coffin closed, as it was lowered into the grave on Cairn. For the life of her she didn't even remember the kid, and he was in her platoon back on Inigo. She lamented her ignorance, even if she could not control the people she remembers.

      Cairn was different for a marine. A reserve station, Cairn was home to both marines and navy personnel. The base was run by a Marine Corps. Major, one Tycho Braihe. He was a paper-and-pen sort of fellow as far as she knew, and he liked his days like he liked his hamburgers. Plain, or so it seemed to most of the soldiers on base. Second in command was a naval ensign, Talitha Richardson. A peculiar type, especially for a naval officer stationed on the planet.

      Sanderson had not been settled in for longer than two days when she got the call to see Major Braihe. She entered and saluted to the man, one still in his forties, yet carried grey hairs atop his head. "Sir, Private Sanderson reporting as ordered." Braihe gave a casual salute in return, before grabbing his datapad with his right hand, which Sanderson had just then noticed was missing its ring finger.

      "Sit down private, and welcome to the UNSC base on Cairn, I might add."

      "Thank you, sir. Might I inquire as to why I've been requested, sir?"

      "A little anxious, private? Got a hot date tonight? Somewhere to get to?" said the major as he smirked, a slight grin beginning to appear as if what he said had actually been clever in any way.

      "Err, no sir."

      "Good, good then. Now to the business at hand…I took the liberty of perusing your records, private, and noted your medals earned and achievements in battle."

      "I would hardly call them achievements, sir, I was just trying to stay alive."

      "And in the process you helped free Inigo from the strain of the insurgency on the planet." The major set down his datapad, and now stared intensely into the eyes of the private, almost scaring her in a way. "I like to pride myself on being about to identify a talented soldier when I see one, and the scouting report on you is nothing but positive. Private First Class is hardly a befitting rank." Sanderson mentally recoiled at the idea the major sparked in her mind. His words talked of promotion and her endless talents she supposedly possessed. Melissa didn't completely agree, and neither did the scar on her chest. Someone so talented wouldn't have let death come so close.

      "So I have a proposal for you, Private Sanderson. As you encountered earlier, the streets of Cairn run amok with Marine Corps. firearms, and there is a source somewhere in my base. Someone smart, who is able to erase the security video from the memory arrays of our base A.I., Napoleon. And I need someone to work with me to stop this person from selling off our stocks." The major reached into his uniform's pocket and extracted something, running it between his fingers, yet Sanderson couldn't make out its exact form.

      "I need you to go undercover with me to find our source. Naturally, undercover work is above the pay grade of a private, so I am prepared with an offer." With those words, he tossed out the object in front of her, a pin of three chevrons, meant for a sergeant.

      "How about it Private Sanderson, interested?"

      Sanderson sat there, eyes fixed on the pin, the thought of undercover work was, how she could best put it, unforeseen. She was bothered by the almost certain deviation from UNSC and Marine Corps. protocol, and her feelings in regard to said deviation were feelings of anomie, like she didn't know what to say because she had never been taught by the Corps. how to respond to such a statement.

      "What's the work?" she asked, curious to know the details of the side mission so as to make an easier decision.

      "Does that mean you're in, Private?"

      "It means I want to know more, sir."

      "Classification of operation details comes with the territory of undercover work, Private. You should know that."

      The major's replies left her uneasy. If there was one thing she hated, it was her not knowing the details before jumping to a conclusion. The potential for endless and unpredictable possibilities was a somewhat disturbing concept to her, but her instincts told her to take the jump, into the fray, into the breach, the leap of faith.

      "Alright sir, let's do it. But one question, how would the paperwork get through to make me go straight from private to sergeant, sir?"

      "Do you question my power as ranking officer on this planet, Sanderson?"

      "No sir."

      "That's what I like to hear, Sergeant. Be at the motor pool at 1800 hours. Now get out of here." Sanderson stood and saluted before beginning to exit, before the major interrupted her exit. "Oh and Sanderson…"

      "Yes sir?"

      "Undercover work. So wear street clothes."

      1803 hours and they were heading out of the base and down the asphalt road that led from the base on the outskirts of the metropolis to the downtown area. Sanderson jostled in her seat on the pockmarked road, M/7 in her lap, with her battle rifle stowed in the rear of the Hog, which had been stripped of its machine gun turret. Along the way, Major Braihe began to explain the operation.

      "Alright, here's what's going down. I have two crates of rifles in the back with markers for tracking. I'll be making the deal, and I need you to run security. Should be a cakewalk, Sergeant. Got it?"

      "Got it, sir. Nobody messes with the deal."

      After a brief conversation between the pair, the Warthog pulled up in front of a warehouse, not two blocks from the bar Melissa had visited just a few days prior. Braihe and Sanderson hopped from their seats, the sergeant clipping her weapon to the belt around her waist that held three spare magazines for the weapon. Each of them grabbing a crate, they lugged them out of the back of the vehicle and set them on the curb. Braihe knocked on the towering steel doors to the warehouse, before a much smaller office door off to the side opened. Sanderson's hand went to her belt as two grunts walked out, picking up the crates and hauling them in the office door.

      "Stay out here, watch the door. I'll be back in five," whispered Braihe into the ear of Sanderson. As the door closed behind the three men, she took up her post, hand on her weapon, scanning the relatively quiet streets of Cairn City with her eyes. A light, cooling breeze blew down the street just then, causing her to relax slightly.

      Two shots rang out from inside the office. The report of an M6 sidearm, unmistakable to her. She drew her submachine gun and whipped open the door, aiming down the sights, weapon now brought to her shoulder. It was dark inside, a row of abandoned offices, with a distant light reflecting off the walls at the end. She clicked on the flashlight at the end of her gun and proceeded to move down the corridor, closing on the end from where screams emanated, words shouted that she could not yet make out due to the echo of the building's walls.

      She came upon the end, clicking off the light before taking a deep breath. She wheeled around the corner to the room, gun now pointed straight at the man in the black suit with the crimson lapel. A quick glance. Braihe on his knees, clutching his left hand under his right arm, his shoulder bleeding out from a bullet put through it. Behind the man in the suit stood four of his associates, the two grunts she had briefly seen earlier, as well as two others she did not recognize.

      There was a brief moment, each registering the situation they just now found themselves in. For Sanderson, she stared down five armed men, with a wounded officer to save in the middle of the room. The four associates had their handguns lowered, pointed at the ground, facing a trained marine with an automatic weapon. For the man in the black suit who had an M6 pointed at Braihe, he found himself in just another one of those situations.

      Sanderson fired first, unloading a stream of rounds before quickly rolling out into the middle of the room, spraying bullets in their direction. Several rounds found the torsos of two of the men behind the man in the suit, who had ducked down to avoid the fire, quickly taking cover behind the metal weapon crates. The other two men aimed their guns and fired, bullets missing Sanderson and Braihe and taking pieces of the floor and walls away as they whizzed by. She pulsed the trigger of the M/7, popping the one man in the kneecaps. The other man ran out of rounds in his M6G before throwing the gun at Sanderson, who swiftly dodged the flying metal object.

      The man drew a blade and closed the gap between the two, intent on stabbing her in the face. The bulky grunt charged and threw a right, knocking the weapon from Sanderson's hands before slashing her across the right arm with the blade in his left. She was knocked onto her back and faced the man as he brought his knife down towards her chest. She quickly parried, pulling the spare metal magazine from her belt and deflecting the attack away, before kicking the man away to her side. Spotting a moment to grab her weapon once more, she brought herself to her knees to grab the gun. In the seconds she had to spot it, she could not find it, before looking up and seeing it in the right hand of the major.

      "Move," he grunted.

      She lay flat as the major emptied the several remaining rounds into the man, taking out the threat. She confirmed the kill with a quick glance back, knowing the guy was incapacitated, she then remembered the man in the suit. She looked to the crates, but he was gone.

      "Major, where'd the last man go?" He didn't respond immediately, breathing heavily, blood soaking his shirt. He pulled his hand out from under his arm, looking at it. Braihe's four fingers had been shot off all at once, leaving him with nothing more than a thumb on the left hand, and three fingers and a thumb on the right.

      "Hewitt's a damn traitor, sergeant," he spoke, before slouching over to his side and resting on the floor. Realizing the major's death would be imminent soon if she couldn't find a doctor, she took the weapon from his hands and reloaded, holding it in one hand, before picking up the major in the unoccupied arm.

      "Let's go sir, it's not along walk to the car," she spoke softly, still looking around for the man in the black suit. She dragged him down the hall, half-conscious footsteps of his assisting her as she kept her gun drawn. Closer they got, almost to the door. Then steps from behind. She barely had time to turn before the man fired three rounds, two landing in the chest of Braihe, the third grazing his ear. A loud grunt showed the remainder of life in him, blood oozing from his chest and streaming down his pants. Sanderson sprayed down the hall before dragging Braihe out the door, loading him into the passenger seat as he continued to bleed out.

      Sanderson jumped across the hood and climbed into the driver's seat, starting the hydrogen-powered engine and peeling down the road. She looked over to the major, who was still alive, although now slouching in his chair, blood everywhere.

      "I'll get you to a doc, sir. Just hold on." He looked over at her, eyelids half-open, and she quickly caught his eyes too, if only to realize he wanted her to pull over. She stopped the vehicle on the side of the road, looking at the major.

      "What is it, sir?" she inquired, speaking as if it were to the dead. He coughed up a massive quantity of blood, clearing his lungs if only for a piece of a minute. He reached into his pant pocket and pulled out a data crystal chip.

      "Give this to the ensign; she'll know what to do. And sergeant, I'm sorry, there was no undercover op. I was dealing those guns…" his final words slurred as blood filled his lungs, as his heart came to a stop, signaling the death of Major Tycho Braihe.