Soldier Girl: Part 10 - This City Hasn't Slept in Years
Posted By: Adam Stark<Xvash2@sbcglobal.net>
Date: 5 June 2009, 6:55 am
Part 10: This City Hasn't Slept In Years
The D77-TC Pelican jolted its passengers as it broke through the atmosphere of Inigo. Private First Class Sanderson looked out the viewport in the rear of the transport, peering out as the ship descended to the ground with due haste. A glow slightly emanated from the hull of the ship, friction with the particulate and air from extreme speeds. The Pelican designated Hotel-Three-Eight-Zero banked sharply, the ship rattling as outside anti-aircraft shells began exploding around the vessel. Sanderson's head swiveled quickly to look as the hatch to the cockpit burst open, the crew chief holding onto the grabs that dotted the ceiling, trying to make his way to the back. He began shouting at the top of his lungs, speaking over the roar of the engines and the explosions outside.
"Touchdown in thirty, we're coming in hot! The base is getting shelled right now, so move your ass fast when the bird touches down. Welcome to Inigo, ladies and gents." He turned to enter the cockpit when the Pelican was rocked, throwing the crew chief to the deck, smashing his face on the edge of the hatch. One of the pilots turned to look back, trying to fly and deal with the problem simultaneously. He looked over at the other pilot, before shouting at the marines in a stressed tone.
"These bastards aren't letting up, hold on tight, we're taking evasive maneuvers!" On those words, the bird dipped quickly, flak exploding all around. It spiraled toward the dirt, before picking up and rising again. The bird neared its destination, the UNSC base on the outskirts of one of the main colonies on Inigo. It dropped in low, flying under radar, before slowing up and dropping to the surface, descending to a hover just over the landing pad. The pilot pulled the lever to open the doors, exposing the marines to the dusty winds kicking up from below. The grabbed their gear and jumped out quickly, running to cover as mortar rounds impacted the ground around the bird. Sanderson slung her duffel over her back and readied her BR-55 Battle Rifle, shouldering it as she jumped out. She stumbled as she hit the deck, falling to a knee before scrambling and sprinting to a nearby insta-crete bunker. She ducked inside under the low door, only to find the bunker already occupied by several marines. None from the bird though. These were vets who were already here, smoking and relaxing. The peculiar scene took a moment for her to process, before standing and dusting herself off. Outside, the shelling continued.
"Who's in charge here?" she inquired, looking to the relaxed men leaning back against the bunker wall. One of the marines looked up, clutching an M90A shotgun between his legs. His face was scarred, most likely results from numerous shrapnel-related incidents.
"Some Navy clown they sent down to run the base, he's in the command bunker," replied the soldier. Sanderson nodded, and was about to head out back into the fray before the marine added, "Hold up, sit back. The Innies just started their mortar barrage, give them a few minutes." Sanderson backed away from the entrance to the bunker, leaning back against the wall, her rifle still shouldered. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of her face, as doubt filled her mind. She wasn't sure what to do as doubt filled her mind. And she didn't like it; she had always felt she would be perfect when the time came to go into battle. She couldn't relax, and was anxious for the mortar rounds to stop falling. Several minutes passed. Still no let-up. She peered outside to see if the Pelican had gotten out, and all she could make out through the smoke and dust was the pilot running about the craft, desperately trying to fix it to get it out of there.
"Hey girl, take a chill, this is the easiest job in the entire Corps. Sit back, relax." A marine on the opposite wall of the bunker spoke up, his helmet an ashtray on the ground for the cigarette he had lit between his fingers. She glanced at the man before looking back outside. The mortar rounds had finally let up.
"Which way to the command tent?" she inquired once more, ready to get out of the bunker, which was not designed to hold more than four soldiers, let alone twelve. She got no verbal response, only a gesture of the hand from the smoking man. She nodded in thanks, and rushed out the door. The mortar barrage had charred the ground and spooled up dust clouds than now permeated the air in the base. She wandered around aimlessly through the complex, her only directions coming from a single digit. She walked into a tent, finding a table set up with multiple communications arrays and computers, cables dumped onto the floor like a big bowl of spaghetti that had been turned upside-down. Content that she wasn't in the right place, she turned to leave. Another body that of a much taller man, bumped into her knocking her back. Sanderson noticed the rank on his shoulders and was quick to salute.
"Private First Class Sanderson reporting for duty, sir." The officer stepped back, looking up and down the private. He returned the salute, and was quick to fire off the dire questions in his mind.
"Do you have your transfer orders, Private?" he asked, putting his hand out as a tray to receive the expected slip. She removed a folded order from her vest pocket and placed it in the extended hand. The officer took the paper and briefly glanced at it before stuffing it in a back pocket. "Private Sanderson, did you just get in on the Pelican?"
"Yes sir," was her reply, firm and precise, a phrase that had been drilled into her since she was four. It was how she always addressed her father. The officer was quick to talk, and wasted no time speaking or standing around.
"I'm Commander James Austin, your CO. Follow me." He gestured her for to follow him out of his tent as he toured the damage to the base, speaking along the way. "I got you in First Platoon, Bravo Company. This is the 114th Marine Infantry Battalion, but I'm sure you already knew that. You'll be in Staff Sergeant Venson's squad, so if you have any questions, go to him first." He stopped at an insta-crete shelter with the words "First Platoon" painted above the doorway. "This is your home from now on, the sergeant's inside. Any questions?"
"Yeah, what's our objective here?"
"They didn't tell you? Inigo is one of the unknown hubs for Insurrection activity. Yeah, Operation Trebuchet ended when the Covenants showed up on the front step, but these Innie bastards still choke up things on some of these otherwise quiet planets. Problem is the Innies here are ex-marines who broke off from a UNSC base that was stationed here. But yeah that's pretty much all you need to know. Good luck, soldier." Austin didn't bother to let Sanderson salute him as he simply walked off into the cloud that hovered within the base.
Sanderson peered into the bunker, much larger than the one she had taken shelter in when she first arrived. It was dug out, allowing for bunk beds up to the ceiling. Marines milled about inside, fixing gear, prepping weapons, nothing too important. One particular soldier noticed the greenhorn enter the room, and rose from his bunk that was only a foot from the ground. He crawled out from the bed and brushed his flak jacket off.
"You must be the new private we just got in. I'm Staff Sergeant Venson, your new SL." Venson pointed to another soldier, a short woman who was shaving her hair down to a peach fuzz opposite a mirror hanging from a bunk. "That's Sergeant Cantwell; she's the ASL and head of Fire Team 2. Our squad is divided into two teams, so you'll be under her." He pointed once more, this time to a bunk. "You sleep there. And if you have a problem, try to bother someone else, ok? Just don't go getting yourself killed, I hate getting replacements." With that stinging statement, the sergeant walked out of the bunker, disappearing around a corner. Sanderson, still somewhat confused, approached the designated cot, only to find a blood-stained mattress. She turned to look at Sergeant Cantwell, who stopped the shave for a moment to speak up.
"Don't worry about the stain; last guy accidentally shot himself in his sleep." Sanderson hesitantly heeded the advice and set her duffel onto the bunk. Underneath was a fingerprint-lock footlocker, one of many that had been placed for use by the marines. She found no print encoded into the lock, and so placed her thumb upon the pad, scanning it in to lock the case. She scanned her finger once more to unlock the locker. She unzipped her bag and began to transfer items from one to another, loading her spare uniform and personal effects into the locker, along with a few of the spare magazines she had for the M/7. With the bag empty, she folded it and placed it in the locker as well. She closed the case, the lock engaging the moment the lid latched.
Venson reentered the First Platoon bunker shortly after, carrying his datapad. He stopped in the center of the bunker, scanning the room, before making an announcement.
"Alright gents, listen up. We drew the short straw; we're on colony patrol tomorrow. Standard template, danger zones first, work our way out. Stay in your pairs and with your fire teams. Lieutenant Sanford is still on leave in town so Gunnery Sergeant Martin will coordinate routes. Nobody dies tomorrow, right marines?" A short raucous arose from the group, channeling what remaining morale they had into an audible form. "Sergeant Martin should be back within the hour so be back here by then for assignments. In the mean time, try not to get killed." As Venson finished his impromptu speech, many marines returned to the miscellaneous tasks they had at hand, while a few exited the bunker to travel elsewhere on base. Sanderson sat alone on her bunk, the occupants above her absent from their beds. Looking around, she spotted a lone corporal in the corner cleaning his MA5K. She was puzzled to see such a weapon in the hands of a regular marine, as the 5Ks were usually given to the Special Forces types. She sauntered over to him and plopped down beside him.
"I know what you're going to ask, where did I get this fine piece of weaponry? Every damn rook asks me that question. Every replacement feels that they must inquire about the origin of the rifle, and how I came to possess it. The grim truth? I took it off the dead body of an ODST. His head had been struck from his neck and there it was, lying there in his hands, blood running down the side, casings from spent rounds residing next to the weapon." The soldier removed the bolt from the weapon, running a cloth over it, making sure it was in working order, before returning the bolt to its housing. "Its amazing how many of you rooks come through here, asking about my gun, almost makes me want to leave this place. Of course, it'd be the same wherever. But hell, I would never leave this place. I love it here. Inigo is one of the greatest planets in this arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. It's an old-fashioned kind of planet, and I love it. I get to kill other people, I enjoy every day that I grease another person. Not too many places like this left in human society. It makes me think back to the good old days of warfare. You know what those days are?"
"The days when only humans killed other humans. Shit's so complicated now, aliens this, Covenant that, it's so much simpler just to shoot the guy standing next to you and call it a night." The corporal looked over at Sanderson, glancing up and down her before speaking once more. "Listen rook, you seem like a smart kid, so I'm gonna trust you not to be an annoying pain. If you ever need to know anything, just ask. I like to think of myself as a repository of information." Sanderson remained silent for a moment, unsure what to say. She was still processing the impromptu monologue by the soldier, and only one real question came to mind.
"So, how'd the Insurrection start here?" she inquired, resting her head against the concrete wall of the bunker.
"Glad you asked, this is one of the more humorous conflicts to come out of the UNSC. So about seven years ago there's this colonel that get's assigned to the UNSC base here, guy's name is Garrigan. Well Garrigan was a hardcore religious nut, and would often go off on some odd tangent during a meeting. And believe me; you didn't want to be on his bad side. This guy was huge, six-foot six, and carried a shotgun around almost all the time. After about four months of this guy, The XO and some of the other officers get really tired of his shit and commit mutiny. Thing is, these officers were the ones that ran the nuclear missile storage facility located in the mountains, so they got a huge bargaining chip. Because of this, command is furious, and they transfer Garrigan to some no-name post on Mars. Well the officers still don't want to return, and they decide they'll join the insurrection along with the battalion they were able to recruit for their cause."
"So they've been slugging it out with a battalion for seven years?"
"Nah, see, the civvies started getting in the whole mess, and then more soldiers decided that it'd be a good idea to join their side. Next thing you know, they're at division-strength in the militarized side, with thousands more running terrorist ops in the city. "
"So how'd Commander Austin end up here? What's with that Navy clown, anyways?"
"Commander Austin? Rumor says he pissed off a commanding officer and got assigned down here as parting of 'training.' Last guy we had was assassinated in a convoy running through the city, so don't expect Austin to be here for long. This planet is a deathtrap for officers."
"You mean to tell me this all started over some idiot colonel?"
"He's a general now, and yes."
"The reasons to fight
"Ain't it hilarious? Listen, we got patrols tomorrow, so we'll buddy up for it, alright?"
The seven Transport Hogs rolled out of the base gates, just minutes from the city. As they pulled onto the road, dust kicked up in their wake, easily leaving trails of smoke. The vehicles pulled into the city through the main gates, but it looked like they were heading from one warzone to another. Many buildings were cracked and pockmarked from explosions; much of the road was torn up from improvised explosive devices. The Warthogs pulled to the side of the road further into the city, the soldiers disembarking from the rear of the vehicles. Sanderson jumped from the back only to step in a muddy puddle, soaking the bottom half of her combat boot in what was a questionable pooling of liquid. She looked down and shook it off before stepping onto the sidewalk, adjacent to the corporal. Acting Platoon Leader Gunnery Sergeant Martin jumped onto the hood of the lead vehicle, removing the helmet from his head to speak to the platoon.
"You all have your assignments, get out there, shift's over in eight hours. And remember, nobody dies today. Move it marines!" With that concise speech, he removed himself from the hood of the vehicle and replaced the cover on his head, grabbing his MA5C and cocking it. The platoon quickly dispersed into the surrounding area, one fire team per street. Sanderson and the corporal walked down the main road until they came to the intersection of Main and Snowdon Parkway. The pair began patrolling the right side of Snowdon Parkway, walking north along the way. On the opposite side were the fire team leader as well as a lance corporal, both strolling along at an eased pace. Sanderson avoided conversation with the corporal for awhile, unsure of what to say or talk about. All that would come to mind is what might happen on her first patrol. She tried to remember the corporal's name, but she then realized he had never even told her. Embarrassed, she turned her head to him as they walked.
"I just realized, I never even got your name."
"Oh, it's ok, don't worry about. The name's-"
A deafening noise, dust and debris filled the air. Sanderson found herself in the gutter of the road in a supine position, a distinct ringing in her ears. She tried to lift her head to see what happened, but her neck ached, her back stung, and she could only lie there, her Battle Rifle strung across her chest as she was covered in a thick blanket of ash and dust. Out of her peripheral vision she spotted a marine sprinting over to her, kneeling down at her side. She squinted through her cracked visor to realize it was Sergeant Cantwell. Muffled voices emanated from the sergeant, but Sanderson couldn't understand a word that was said. All she could attempt to do was read the Sergeant's lips, but what she saw made no sense. Wiggle
toes? She moved her legs, her knees popping as they bent. The sergeant grabbed her armor and pulled Sanderson to her feet, quickly trying to dust her off. Sanderson looked around as she was dragged out of the road and behind a bench on the sidewalk. The corporal's corpse lied motionless further out in the road, a mix of blood and debris surrounding the man. The bodies of several civilians hung out of the rubble of the storefront, what looked to have at one point been a small deli. Sanderson's hearing slowly returned as the sergeant continued to shout at her.
"Private, are you alright?!" she kept screaming, straining her voice every time. Sanderson had no verbal reply, and only nodded in response. "Good," replied the sergeant, "let's get the hell out of here before Innies start showing up to finish off what they started!" Sergeant Cantwell grabbed the armor of Sanderson once more and started darting back towards the Warthogs. Sanderson moved as fast as she could, only a bit speedier than a light jog, her legs trying to find their function again. As she kept going, Cantwell paused at the body of the corporal in the road. She darted into the street to grab the MA5K from the body. As she knelt down to remove the weapon from the corpse, several shots rang out in the street as bullets perforated the sergeant. Sanderson could only watch as Cantwell was gunned down, her body freezing up in horror. Sanderson backed against a wall, slouching down, her hands grasping her weapon but taking no action. An Innie ran out from a building across the way, carrying an MA3 with a BR-55 scope hastily affixed to the top. He slowed when he reached the bodies of the soldiers, stopping to scavenge their bodies for weapons and ammo. Sanderson's finger crept onto the trigger, and she slowly shouldered her weapon, taking aim down the sight. She exhaled, holding breath to steady herself. The man quickly looked up at her, a glance of a thousand miles, as he froze in his tracks. Sanderson hesitated from firing, seeing the man was no older than a teenager.
His shirt was stained with blood, holes ripped throughout. His body had piled itself to the bodies of the marines, an improvised memorial to seven years of strife, all thanks to a little help from the squad leader and his fire team The marines were cleaning up now, counting the dead, cordoning off the street for crews to come in and remove the bodies. A medic attended to Sanderson, checking her vitals.
"You got a mild concussion. Lucky for someone who was standing right next to a bomb. Get some rest, and don't go back out into the field until the headaches stop." The medic smiled and departed to help other soldiers. Sanderson's gloved hand rubbed her forehead, pain swelling in the frontal lobe. She couldn't shake the feeling of shock, but it was only her first experience. She would find herself on one of the first Warthogs back to base, and rested in the infirmary for several days before returning to the platoon for the next op.