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A Universe Scathed - Part 4
Posted By: Adam Stark<Xvash2@sbcglobal.net>
Date: 26 September 2008, 5:52 am

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They had their chance to kill us. Our turn now. The training was slow. It was like growing up all over again, learning how to walk again down an old road long since abandoned. My hands were taught once more to fire the MA5, taught again how to hack base door controls. My hands were taught to fight again, and my fingers would do battle once more. Training was to last six weeks. The quarters for all of the convicts were together, something that would prove to be a grave mistake on the part of the UNSC. See, little supervision let to talking, and talking would lead to conspiracy. Which is exactly what happened.

We all constantly thought it, but he was first to suggest it. Prisoner 019 – Leon Farrior. Convicted on three counts of aggravated assault and fourteen counts of armed robbery. Quite a catch for the army. He could break any vault with enough explosives, and now he thought we could break out with enough firepower, given the opportunity. We waited a week, before we were given our golden chance. Tank exercises out in the wastelands south of the Mines. Perfect. Hijack the tanks and drive to Macerr City, get off the planet. But how would we do that? My contact, the one from the assassination. He condemned me, left me to die, but he was our only hope. That night, I stole a Chatter from a guard and called him up. A woman answered by the name of Josefina.

"Is Troy there? Tell him this is his mutual partner."

She answered swiftly. "Troy is my lackey now. I run things here. How did you get this number?"

"I did the hit."

"…Nicholas? Nicholas Clausen?"

"Shh, I am supposed to be dead to the world."

"Yes, but you turned our organization around. We don't kill for money any more. We do honest jobs for big organizations."

"I have one request. I hope you can make it up to me for fucking me over big time."

She paused. "What do you need?" I went on for a while from there, explaining everything that had happened, and what we needed now. But it was too much to get forty convicts off a planet without incurring some serious amounts of debt and paperwork. We would have to do a job. A big one.

"Have you ever been to the mines?" she asked.

"No. Never plan to."

"You should change that. Here is what you are going to do. When your group seizes the vehicles, you will drive to the Mines and kill all the cops and guards. When you have done that, you will secure the mines. Then, call in, and we'll come in and pick up the package."

"What is the package?"

"Seventeen tons of enriched uranium to be sold on the black market. Do this and you will live to see another planet." I put her on hold as our rag-tag army discussed the consequences and problems. Prisoner 023, Jon Divers, was an ex-cop for the Mines until he did a hit and run on four people while completely and utterly smashed. He knew it inside and out. And he also knew that the cops had nothing to fight against tanks.

I reconnected with Josefina and spoke. "We'll do the job. But we want off the planet the second you guys have secured the package."

"That can be arranged. The job is set for this coming Thursday."

"See you then, Josefina."

From a distance, our column was nothing more than a plume of dust rising from the ground in the wasteland region that surrounded the Mines of the South. The M808B MBTs were moving slowly, followed by a convoy of M12 Warthogs. The rocky terrain jostled us inside, as we moved out to our practice location. It was a small valley the UNSC had been using to train their newest fighting force. They couldn't be trusted with weapons, yet the UNSC commanders were training them for tank battles. The ultimate fighting force, completely expendable. Nobody would remorse our death. We were like homeless people in the alleys. We would up and die, and not one tear would be shed for us. Who were we? Simple. The most expendable manpower available to a civilization are those who have been condemned to a 10 foot by 12 cell where they read the same old boring material.

Convicts. Prisoners. The same men who had raped, murdered, stealed were being taught how to use a tank. It would be the ultimate mistake the UNSC would ever make. And I would personally make sure that they would remember it.

Ten in the morning came around that Thursday, and we were just finishing off our practice rounds, the instructors sitting beside to watch for any errors. The call came in then.

"sszpsrfhsfThis is Lieutenant Torrick, we need you to cancel the target practice and reroute your tanks north to Kalaa. We got trouble up here."

The head instructor, First Sergeant Jessie Penaflor, responded. "Roger that, sir. Rerouting and heading up. Over and out."

She passed the command on to the instructors, who ordered the trainees to exit the vehicle. When the trainees exited the tanks, we jumped the instructors, knocking them off the tanks and onto the ground. I hopped off the tank and kicked my instructor to the ground, a small cloud of dust emanating from the ground as he landed hard on his back. I delivered an easy blow to the instructor's head, knocking him out cold. I pulled the pistol from the instructor's belt and fired four rounds into three other instructors, wounding them, allowing the other convicts to grab their weapons. The First Sergeant, realizing what was going down, keyed the ignition on her Hog and sped off, spewing dirt behind her. One of the convicts fired a burst of rounds from an MA5-B he had procured, wounding her in the shoulder as she made her escape. I turned and fired at two more instructors, taking them down. Convict 0024 - Jim Gilchrist bashed in the face of one of the Blues, spraying his body with bullets. The convicts finished off the instructors killing all fifty of them, before gathering around their leader: me. I rolled up my sleeves, exposing my array of tattoos, a collection of emotions and nicknames I had accumulated back in the old days. One was scrawled down my right arm as if it had been written in blood, displaying the word, Edicius.

The combat in this dessert, it reminded me of the old war where I earned that name. Before the Covenant, when only humans killed humans. I was a sergeant during the early days of the Insurrection, and those days were the worst of it all. Bombs detonating on the hour, innocent bodies littering the streets, I didn't last long in the position. After a year of it all, I just couldn't take the bombs anymore. So I was reassigned to a desk job at a recruitment office. But that didn't stop the bombs. The last bomb to ever detonate during my active duty was the same bomb that killed my family. I guess after something like that, I just lost faith in the cause, and that's why I quit. I do recall, during one psychological screening, a doctor mentioned the symptoms of PTSD, but I never really knew what he was talking about. I moved to a quiet colony after I left the Marines, Macerr. Maybe the bombs just wanted to follow me. Or maybe it was insanity that followed my footsteps. Over time on this planet, I had gotten caught up in the wrong movements, the wrong protests. Maybe it was all of these things that led to where I am now. On a stolen tank convoy to kill a bunch of civilians to steal uranium. Funny how things change.

As the dust on the battlefield in Kalaa settled that day, others stirred far away somewhere else on the planet of Macerr. We waited for the night to fall, then I ordered my men to commandeer the tanks, and ready themselves for the battle that would make them rich. Fifteen M808B "Scorpion" Main Battle Tanks roared to the southern edge of the mines, and its adjacent town, aptly named "The Mines". From what the ex-cop told us, we knew the town itself was guarded by nothing more than a handful of militia armed with at best MA2Bs. The mines themselves, however, had a detail of 30 UNSC military police guarding the rich uranium deposit, as well as the enriching plant that had been built not far from the entrance. Still, nobody in the town had the manpower to stop what was coming at them.