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Outlaw six: Boots on the Ground
Posted By: Andres<andres_vera2000@yahoo.com>
Date: 20 March 2006, 6:20 pm

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2203h, August 18, 2505 (UNSC Military Calendar)
Pegassus System, UNSC Inner Colony Controlled Space
Twenty four years before

One day an old man hiked through the hills as he normally did on the cold afternoons on Westwood, a small Colonial planet of populace just two million. The modern technology had created wonders for partially disabled men, but for the Reverend his wooden staff was more than enough, in other words, to hell with robot-legs. At his elderly age and with a bad left knee from an old war injury he could make a young healthier man sweat to keep up.
      On a small prairie while stumbling with his walking stick he came across something very unusual. A milky-white baby, naked and with the bloody umbilical cordon still attached to his membrane covered body, laid on the humid grass. Using his monastery robes he cleaned the blood and membranes of the infant, wrapped the crying babe with his white scarf, threw his staff away and made his way through the hills as fast as his tired old legs could back to the town.
      After going to every hospital, police station and nursing home in the county and with no missing child claims filed he took the baby to the monastery with him. After twenty long years of raising unknown, abandoned and unwanted children the old man developed a certain talent to see raw gems in the kids that came.
      It only took weeks to see that the kid that none wanted was special. A sharp mind above all, and a body overactive for its age were just some of the raw characteristics of peculiar kid. The priest, amazed at the children's characteristics, did something he had never done before. He adopted the child as his own, took him into his home, a small apartment on the church, and molded him into the fine young men he was to become, someday.
      As a priest and former Marine the old man tried to teach the best of both contrasting lifestyles to the growing wonder. The compassion, dedication and spirituality of the Faith and the discipline, skills and risk taking talent only training and experience the Marines could harvest in young men. Eventually he came to a conclusion that a sharp mind like the one he cherished could only be oriented, not taught, like he would had wanted to do so.
      He named the child Ricardo as his own grandfather and several years later as age caught up with him the old man called the teenager into his bedroom. This moment was dreaded by both for a long time before, that moment when time finally came to an end for the old monk.
      "Ricardo," begun the tired elder. "I'm leaving for a new adventure soon."
      "Yes Father," Ricardo, sting at the edge of the bed replied.
      "I have a task for you," a loud cough interrupted the old man. "Take care of the boys, all of them."
      "I will," holding back the tingling feeling in his throat, Ricardo noted.
      "You are the son I have," as the teenager waited for his father to die the tears slowly skimmed his cheeks. "All the horrible things I had to suffer in my years no longer exist, thanks to you." The old man left the Material world with a small, sad sob and his only legacy left for mankind was a teenager. In all his dreams he never imagined the fate future had for the kid.
      The room, made of stones like old castles, slowly became crowded as every men and woman in town came to pay their respects to the dead priest on the queen bed. The love of nearly everyone in the town, at that point, was irrelevant. He wanted her to be with him in the time when everything he loved had changed.
      When the door opened and the girl entered the room, for a while, his worries and sorrows where washed a way as a recurring emptiness in his stomach came back again. She moved through the crowd gracefully, making everyone look opaque, and her black hair seemingly waved in the windless room.
      "Ricardo…" she said as she crouched next to him. "How do you feel?"
      "OK I guess."
      "Really?" Diana always knew exactly what Ricardo thought and what feelings burned inside him.
      "Could be better," now a small tone of crying hid in Ricardo's voice
      "I'm sure it could."
      "I mean it's not like the world in going to end."
      Diana smiled, and all her beauty was displayed on her prickly face and blue eyes. "Yours sure changed tonight."
      And just like that every repressed feeling came out. He burst into tears in a crowded room where everyone could see him. And just then the unthinkable happened. The wooden door opened and a tired old gentleman entered the room. He was the town's mayor. His right hand, tucked on his back, slightly trembled and a strange look on his brown eyes told a very interested Ricardo that something was really wrong.
      The Mayor grabbed an unknown man by the shoulder and whispered something gently in his ear. As soon as the other townsman heard whatever it was he became nervous and began to generically spreading the word. It only took a moment for all the strange faces to leave the room.
      The only one remaining behind was the Mayor. He stroked his gray beard, removed his cup hat and looked down as a gesture of his long-lasting friendship with the deceased. It took a full minute before the skinny, almost bonny, man to move.
      "Mr. Nunez," said the Mayor sympathetically, a strange vive could be felt on his voice. "How do you do?"
      Never in his life had Ricardo been called "Mister" by anyone, and the Mayor had certainly never would, until now. "Good I think, sir."
      "Well, I have some terrible news," the old man pulled a folded paper. By the stamps on it and the yellow color of the sheet it was by all means something official.
      The teenager turned to see Diana, who tightly grabbed his hand. He was left speechless. "What is it?" jumped Diana to the rescue of the mute kid by grabbing the sheet of paper and sat down next to the child again.

            UNSC Legislative Council
      Emergency Broadcast and information Minister

Galaxy wide mobilization

My fellow men and women across the void. Today, first of November of the year 2525 humanity's domain of all known space faces the gravest threat of all. The small rural Colony of Harvest has been attacked by brute forces of another race.

      "Do you know what the draft is?" asked the Mayor interrupting Ricardo who immediately looked at him, he nodded at the strange question.
      "Well war, is again, upon us," he sat down gently at the edge of the reverend's bed. "Big thing. Everyone is mobilizing," the Mayor sighed. "Even the orphanage."
      Ricardo snapped to his feet shaking off all the fellings that hindered him. "What exactly does that means?"
      "That means that some of the children here will help the war effort."
      "But how!" said Diana. "They are just children!"
      "I know," said the old man bowing his head and slowly shaking it from side to side. "It is awful. But everyone has to do their part and several of the orphans qualify for service," he turned to face Ricardo. "You are one of them."
      "No!" babbled Diana.
      "Yes, and I hate this as much as you do. A bus will arrive shortly to take you and the boys to fight."
      Ricardo, remaining completely immobile, stared at the old man. "Who else is coming?"
      "Quite a few, around seventy. Of your close friends, Mister Watson comes to mind."
      The son of the former man in charge of the orphans, who swore to protect them, chuckled. "Watson is only sixteen."
      "Still qualifies," the Mayor sat down by the two children with a smile on his face that provoked fear and anguish in the two youngsters. "This war," he removed his cup had and begun to play with the covers. "Is not like the ones before, when your dad and I fought rebels."
      "We'll see."
      "Misses Lopez, would you mind giving me a few minutes with young Ricardo?"
      Diana sobbed, and held Ricardo in her milky arms. "I will not leave him."
      On the cheeks of the boy a long the water flowed. The fatherless kid tightened his hug on the little girl and lat go of her. "Wait for me out there, I will find you."
      The girl exited the room through the wooden door glancing at both the cadaver and the love of her life. "I will wait for you."
      As soon as the egg shaped door closed, the Mayor extended his right arm completely. The Mayor unbuttoned his right wrist and pulled the shirt towards his shoulder. The youngster had seen only once the flaming skull and that made up word, it was tattooed on the right forearm of his dead father.
      "In the old days," said the Mayor sitting down on the edge of the bed where the remains of his best friend were tucked in the silk sheets. "We were called Force Recon Marines." The mayor contracted every muscle in his face, forming an odd mock, sighed and shook his head violently. He had also seen that happen, just once while talking to his father, who simply called it flashes from the past. "Your dad and I served together for nearly all our careers."
      Ricardo was dizzy by all the information that had suddenly been dropped on him. He simply nodded.
      "He was brave; he earned a few medals, all hidden in the dust somewhere in this church." The Mayor rolled his sleeve and buttoned it. "You will have to be brave."
      Ricardo shook his head together with a desperate sigh and closed his tanned eyes. "But-"
      "Diana," interrupted the mayor. "She is the only thing left in the world for you and the only thing you will think about when you are out there."
      "Yes," Ricardo sighed. "I have a proposition for you."

0804, January 20, 2529 (UNSC Military Calendar)
Taurus System, UNSC Inner Colony Controlled Space
Saint Paul

It still wasn't clear, for the Gunnery Sergeant, what had happened, exactly, with the DSV. The last thing he recalled was the sudden bump in the air the modified Pelican made, an interminable lateral spin as one of the turbofans went off, literally exploding for no apparent reason. Woods had never been in a crash, though in a few crash-landings and living again was awesome. The best part of the shit was the moments after it ends, when you realize you are alive and that a new opportunity had presented itself. Where in a civilian job could you experience that?
      Now, he was alone, stretching his body on some thick meadow. Still, he could move, but for some reason, he didn't want to. There was a real spectacle on the sky. Several suns had appeared out of nowhere, and that was something he had never experienced.
      For the first time in two months, he was completely alone. No asses to chew and no more orders to follow. Then, as he watched at the fiery red skies, the sudden, welcome calm came to an abrupt crash. The ground trembled and a loud echo expanded across the field. He was on his feet, careful enough to not pop his head over the grass –witch was only a meter tall- trying to find the source of the explosion, witch was terribly near the DSV.
      The Pelican's nose had dug itself on the ground leaving the tail slightly elevated, making the entire cabin a diagonal ramp. Easing over the airframe was a mantle of dirt and dust, witch descended from a collapsing file of rocketed ground.
      Something was zeroed in on the airframe. Gunny Peter Woods went for the holster belted on his right thigh and pulled a sidearm from it. He drew the black slide rearward and unmasking a forty-five cartridge on the chamber, allowed the slide to snap back and he was locked and loaded. Another plum of dirt rocketed skyward, this time nearer from the Pelican. Yet he saw the source of the blasts; a surreal green sphere, glowing in the mist of daylight. He backtracked the flight path of the shell and saw the little heads just above the lawn.
      Amongst the little heads was a small oval with a wide tube sticking out, popping slightly over the foliage with no visible shooter. It was what the geniuses at ONI called Fuel Rod Guns. Woods's mind cleared immediately and only one thought remained on his mind, that the next shot out of the muzzle of the gun would hit the Pelican; there was no way that a Covenant, or Grunt, would miss three times. He stood up, leaving the peak of the grass at his hip and stretched both his arms, grabbing tightly the grip of the pistol. He looked through the sights on the slide, aligning the tip of the barrel with the foliage just bellow the covenant weapon and pulled the trigger. The hyper-velocity AP rounds penetrated the skin of the Grunt and the small beast imploded. It was dead immediately. He dispatched two more beasts to their deaths and he dropped to his back, just in time to avoid the dozen plasma bolts that smeared on the air.

"Was that gunfire?" asked Igor, obviously rhetorical.
      "Forty-five, MA2, sidearm," said Ricardo with a broad smile. The squad had left Saint Paul, two hundred meters to the squad's six, brokenhearted. The only humans they found were butchered, slaughtered and mutilated and their only way out, the DSV had crashed and there were no sings of life, except a single shot from a sidearm and the clear sing of the enemy, two explosions, were bursting in the general direction of the downed Pelican. That suddenly changed, in an awful. PFC Leroy Zachary was the squad's feeler or pointman in the common tongue, his job was to detect, identify and locate possible threats as the team advanced. Somehow he failed to see the purple cloud that slowly drew near him.
      "Leroy!" screamed Pinto to no avail. The needles punctured the armor and skin on the soldier, who lat out an awful scream out, and his upper body disappeared almost immediately in a purple outburst.
      "Incoming!" hollered Ricardo, dropping to the mud in a heartbeat.
      "Ambush!" screamed Dieter. Suddenly hundreds of green and blue beams were flying in every direction.
      "Nine, eleven and two o'clock!" said Igor. "Sixty meters!"
      Ricardo went for his harness, pulled a cylindrical grenade and pulled the pin out of the safety lever. He threw it over his head just a couple of feet from his position. He and his men went for the pouches, witch hung by the belt on their pants, pulled the thermal goggles out and clicked them on the front of their helmets, giving them a clear advantage over the blinded enemy. "Hit the bastards back!"
      Suddenly dozens of muzzle blasts, together with the resonance of the detonations from the muzzles on the assault rifles; the bullets cut through the levees like a hot knife through butter. The effects of the barrage of APFSDS rounds were immediate as the Covenant plasma lost density and accuracy. "Attack!" ordered Ricardo who spontaneously was on his feet, eliminating the source of a string of green beams. The men next to him did the same, and with him, began to walk forward, maintaining a constant torrent on tungsten on the Covenant creatures.
      The Lieutenant had not finished his fifth step when three creatures soared out of the flora. He managed to shoot one of the Jackals at midair, breaking it's chest with an accurate three shot burst, it broke apart –thanks to the 6.8x51mm HVAP bullets- and landed somewhere on the ground. The two creatures landed right over him, knocking the MA-5H out of his hands with a very fast kick, and pushing him towards the ground.
      The claw of one of the creatures ripped through his face, from the forehead to the cheekbone in a single, aggressive move. Ricardo rear ended the Jackal with his knee –as he was on the ground- throwing the creature to the front and taking it away from him. The trooper rolled to his front, made a pushup and was crouching under a second. He went for the knife holstered on his right ankle, pulled it out and penetrated the back joint of the Jackal, all in under two seconds. He cracked the spinal cord of the biped which crumbled.
      The second creature was dead before it could creep up on him, with two slugs on his head thanks to a trooper with a forty-five on his hands. Igor made an OK sing -joining his right index finger and thumb- and turned around to keep the advance on. "Ugly scar thought."       He stood back up, with a chuckle, grabbed his rifle and pointed it towards the front. Move, Move he yielded to himself. "Frag' them asses!"
      The other seven men came to a sudden halt, pulled green spheres out of the belts of the AAP-3Lima battle harness and threw them smoking through the air and squatted. Several explosions shoot up fire and shrapnel in every direction taking out a whole pack of Grunts.
      "Red team," said Ricardo –now covered under the grass- ejecting one of the rectangular magazines out of the breech and slamming a new one in replacement. "Flank right." Three men stood up, turned to the northeast and ran on the open, showering with bullets the remaining enemy. They disappeared out of sight for a second and then gave an all clear.
      "Clear right!"
      "Clear left!"
      "All clear," said Ricardo slightly raising his body over the grass. Ricardo lowered a visor attached to his helmet to the level of his right eye socket. Displayed on the small rectangle was the digital map representing the area. A blue triangle represented the DSV and a red dot on the green, white, yellow and red map. Even if he wasn't completely sure of the Covenant strength in the area his position had been identified and Covenant were moving all their assets to frag him, at least with a small force. He had to move, find the DSV and exfil the survivors out. Yet, he could not move, or he would leave behind the only possible defensible position in the area behind, the town of Saint Paul witch was an island of structures on the grassy ocean. His choice was clear, but not wanted.

Scout snipers rarely fired more than one shot, that was the first thing the Flattops –drill instructors- told him and his training platoon in NAVSPECWAR in Reach. That had been his creed in all his combat deployments until he realized something. Those drill instructors had never faced any Covenant.
      The warm rubber cover of the thick scope felt so good on his right eye socket, as a glove to a hand. Inside his levee, stick and fabric gillie suit on the eternal field he was just as he wanted to be, a hunter, unseen to his enemies until the sudden thirty mike-mike blast.
"Eyeball," called the team leader. His nickname, Eyeball, had a tricky pas. Even he didn't knew exactly where it came, but he knew exactly where it didn't come, his eyesight. Before joining the Navy- six years earlier- he was as blind as a bat, at least as one of those on earth. It took a few laser surgeries, more than he wanted to admit, for him to achieve his now acute vision. "DSV three-two-seven, find it."
      "Roger that." Spaceman first class James Moore threw the long SRS-30M –witch was attached with a sling across his back and chesty- around his body and pulled the S-23 SMG out of the holster on his thigh. Two meters behind him, covering the one-eighty degrees of his rear, his spotter, Daniel Di Cabello, whistled at him and Moore began to move. His team covered the left flank of the squad, about fifty meters away.
      SMG shouldered and pointed towards the wall of grass right infront of him, he slightly rose to pop his head over the foliage. He caught a glimpse of a small head blazing through the grass; he automatically dropped to the ground, a move his spotter copied.
      He waited exactly five seconds, crouched and raised his head above the grass again. Nothing to be seen, but allot to be heard. The squad had reengaged the Covenant and a thunderous battle suddenly took place to their right. He resumed movement, still alert to his surroundings. Five minutes of walking towards the north-northwest brought a result he had been expecting. A sudden blip on his transponder, witch appeared on the miniscreen on his left eye socket.
      "Got it too," said the spotter reading James's mind.
      Eyeball nodded, breathed and slowly raised his head above the thick vegetation. The sudden raised chunk of dirt and grass was both a pleasant and worrisome surprise. The explosion was brown, black and red, in other words human. The initial bang was followed by a sudden chain of brown plumes a Speedball field away from the squad. It only took a millisecond of verify that the booms did not come from the squad, it came from a crew served weapon somewhere on the field. Ironically the overwhelming power of the 40mm shells triggered a large response of plasma fire.
      "Fire-fire-fire!" said the spotter immediately. Moore emptied an entire .40 cal magazine on the source of a needler. The action clicked and the moon shaped magazine felt on the muddy ground, the spotter lat loose too, taking down a Jackal with two shots. "Hit!"
      "Loading!" shouted Eyeball, as he slammed a fresh magazine forty seven Armor Piercing rounds, holstered the Machinegun and pulled out his long, silvery rifle.
      "Target, eleven o'clock," said Cabello, spotting through the x4 combat sight on his MA-5H.
      "Eyes on," replied Moore, already dreading for the shot on the blue armored Elite that accidentally sprinted away from the fainting brown cloud of dirt.
      "Fire, fire, fire," said calmly the spotter together with a loud bang from the chamber of the long rifle. The thirty millimeter Heavy Explosive Dual Purpose shell the energy shield by sheer momentum and left the lower part of the body walking towards the two troopers.
      Suddenly, Moore was flying on his back, and landed on the ground.

There had been too many coincidences and all at once. It all started when he saw the Elite approach with a bluish sword on his left hand as he had him cornered against the fuselage of the DSV, ready to land the final the blow when, by some miracle or not, one of the turbofans came to life, sucking the beast into the exhaust sending tissue and shrapnel in every direction, hitting a Grunt in the head who had a plasma grenade on his hand, which went off, killing nearly and entire squad.
      That, however, was not the oddity. It was when the pair of Hunters appeared that he thought he was finally on his way to either heaven on earth. After all, the Covenant might be sons of his lord Jesus. "Fuck that bullshit!" he screamed as he raised his sidearm at the creatures. The last he remembered after the first round left the muzzle was the sudden pull on his legs as he was dragged out the burning fuselage.
      As he and the other four survivors from Dash one-one were dumped into the cramped compartment of one of the Gator vehicles, it was providence, not coincidence what had led the two APCs towards the end.
      "We were getting dumped on by banshess," said the Corporal in charge of the group. "And your Pelican took them down in a remarkable maneuver."
      "Right," said Woods, drowsiness the only thing palpable on his voice. "Where are we going?"
      "Santo Domingo," said one of the soldiers in the cabin.
      "Well," said Woods. "Turn this dinosaur around."
It took only five minutes of driving for the enemy to pop again on the thick foliage, a turkey shot. With a single burst of the auto cannon the elderly corporal killed off a line of Grunts.
      Then Woods heard two sounds that made him slap the Corporal out of his stance in the turret to the ground. "Friendlies!" the SF Weapons Sergeant raised his right index finger, calling for silence, witch every intimidated men in the room complied.
      "What?" asked a nearby soldier.
      "That was a thirty mike," Woods grinned. "That is eyeball." The powerful black man from Mombassa grabbed the head of the Corporal vehicle commander, and pulled it towards him and somehow pressed the COM button. "Outlaw six, this is unmarked Gator vehicle in your vicinity."
      "I see two," replied Eyeball.
      "Oh right," said Woods placing the Corporal back to his seat in an effortless movement. "Find our Lieutenant."