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Forgotten Lives - Histories
Posted By: CaptainRaspberry<jptaber@gmail.com>
Date: 22 September 2011, 4:27 pm

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5. Forgotten Lives

0029 Hours, 20 July 2544 (Military Calendar)/
Pearl -- access point Alpha, Target Hotel-One-Alpha

In an instant, Charlie's world exploded. The nuke must have malfunctioned and gone off early. The ground heaved beneath his feet like someone snapping the rain off a tarp. Miraculously it held; however, the shaft behind Team Echo erupted, mushrooming out in an ever-expanding nuclear sun.

They were already a couple hundred meters away, but they might as well have been right next to it. The light blinded him, even as the EMP knocked out his suit's systems. A shockwave of force and heat slammed into them. Heavy weight on Charlie's back -- Benjamin, trying to spare his wounded teammate from the worst of it. Still Charlie felt the heat rolling against his back, peeling paint, charring armor, blistering skin.

He blacked out.

When he came to, he had to shrug Benjamin's dead, blackened body off his shoulders. Only a scorch mark remained of Echo's squad leader, Raquel. Several meters away, Charlie's barely-functioning HUD told him Sofija had made it to the forest, either by her own power or carried on the shockwave -- unconscious, crispy, but no worse for wear.

He dragged himself over and roused her, and with her assistance they set off towards the rendezvous.

It took them a couple of days to piece together what had happened, that the early detonation had not been an accident. Unable to return to the UNSC, they ditched their now-ruined armor and stole away on a civilian evac transport. They had no money or orders.

They were Spartans. They'd manage.

1224 Hours, 30 June 2583 (Military Calendar)/
Gallerus, Ebica -- central insurgent command center

Charlie-B149 was roused from his waking dream -- or maybe it was just a straight memory -- by Sofija's gentle shake. "Hey," she said. "You here?"

He looked up at her and it all returned in a flash. She wasn't Sofija anymore. She was Adonai.

"Yeah," replied Elohim, remembering himself as well. "What's up?"

She sat down and looked him in the eyes, appraising him the way only a fellow soldier could: as a battle sister, a member of his family. She knew him deeply; they had trained since they were little kids together, fought and bled beside one another with the rest of Team Echo, and had even died with them.

That's why they were doing this: they had just been kids before the UNSC had swept them up in their war.

His missing arm itched.

"Did you hear what Temura said?"

Elohim nodded. Temura had gotten back a couple of hours ago and gone straight to bed, but not before pulling him aside and telling him a simple two-word phrase that held the weight of the world:

Rome falls.

"Are we ready for this?"

"Well," he said, counting off on his hand, "the troops are on alert, civilians have been reminded to double-check their shelters, emergency services have been put on notice, the fleet's been notified, the two of us know..." He ran out of fingers and shrugged. "Everything's in place, but I don't know if we're actually ready."

Adonai's face was grim. Back when she had been SPARTAN-B295 she hadn't been known for her levity, but her expression now was fierce even by Spartan standards. What was about to happen was weighing on her as well as him. As children they had been indoctrinated by the UNSC, molded into weapons. After they had been stabbed in the back on Pearl, both had struggled to make sense of a galaxy in which the UNSC wasn't the almighty power they had been trained to believe. For his own part, Elohim had constantly waffled on hiding deeper or returning to duty.

But Adonai had helped him through it, and together they had made their way to Ebica to lie low. The circuitous route they took meant a long, long time in cryogenic stasis. By the time they arrived, the war was already over.

Then they met Temura.

She rapped her knuckles on the table, pulling Elohim to the present again. "While he's sleeping it off, I'm going to make the rounds. Stay on the COM in case I need you, okay?"

"No problem."

She turned and left, shrugging on a vest and holster for her pistol -- her visible pistol. Elohim watched her go out the door and sat back in the chair. His old memories were rising like bile in his mind.

2139 Hours, 30 June 2583 (Military Calendar)/
Gallerus, Ebica -- Old Warehouse District

The hike had been long and grueling. Erich Gemmen suspected that, even in his prime as a Marine, he would have felt taxed; now, many years later, he was gasping hard. The others seemed to be taking it in stride, but he couldn't help feeling like a burden. Doubtless, some of them, probably Montour and Fil more than others, were regretting his presence. Emilia Bernardi, IRON Five, was doing her best to keep him in light spirits.

"So what's it like living on Earth?" she asked.

He shrugged. They had taken shelter in an alley while the Spartan went ahead to scout for a good place to set up shop. "Quiet, I guess. Since most of the population got wiped out in the Great War."

"You live in Paris, right?"

"Nantes, actually."

"Must be pretty great, being surrounded by all that history. I wish I could live somewhere like that."

"It's okay." They lapsed into an awkward silence. Gemmen was relieved when Amy-G006 returned.

Fil asked, "What's it look like?"

"Pretty empty, but there are a lot of patrols now. I've identified one building they don't seem to care much about, an old Traxus warehouse. It's pretty dilapidated, but it could make a good home. I stowed the electronics crates there."

Fil looked to Alton Cugini. "Think you can make it serviceable?"

"Well, I'd have to see the building first, but so long as we don't have to worry about the roof falling on us, I can make it into a good shelter."

"Good." He looked at the group overall. "Chief and Cugini will go first and the rest of us will follow in pairs at uneven intervals." Everyone affirmed.

Gemmen was in the second pair, along with Doyle. They waited for thirty minutes after the Spartan and Cugini had gone and then moved. Their Chameleon plates did a fantastic job mimicking the textures and patterns around them, even being able to copy light patterns to some extent. Gemmen could remember the fright he felt going into an unsecured building, back during the war. Marines always told stories about the cloaked Elites, masters of stealth and equipped with active camouflage that could make them invisible.

If the Marines had this technology back then, what a difference it could have made.

The big problem he had was still not being completely familiar with his loadout, so when the Chameleon plates were active, he had trouble finding his gear. He clutched his rifle in his hands. It was probably the most important thing for him to have, anyway.

It took about ten minutes of careful navigating to find the Traxus building. It was indeed old and dilapidated, as Amy had warned them. While most of the buildings in this section of the city pre-dated the Great War, they were all mostly intact. Gemmen couldn't figure out why this one had been so neglected. As they moved in, he wasn't surprised to see condemnation notices on the doors.

Deep inside and down one level they found Cugini and the Spartan. Amy seemed keenly aware of their presence, but aside from glancing at them as they came in said nothing. Cugini was working on shoring up a wall with instacrete; he had already marked out a section of the floor, presumably the outer edges of their hidden outpost.

Gemmen and Doyle decloaked. "Nice place you found," said Doyle.

"It'll do," replied Cugini. "Gemmen, if you want to get started on setting up the electronics, they're in the crate over there. Doyle, why don't you and the Chief set up a perimeter?"

Doyle visibly bristled at the suggestion but said nothing. She and the Spartan moved out into the building beyond while Gemmen got to work setting up the electronics package.

Most of it was fairly basic stuff, and he got it ready easily. COM uplink, signalling apparatus, armor diagnostic -- for Amy, mostly. The trouble came when he unpacked the AI core container. It was in several pieces that made it easy carry but tough to assemble. He had to put it together and take it apart twice when the OS failed to load properly. He finally got it working as soon as the last of IRON filtered in.

By that time, Cugini had more or less finished their shelter. It was an instacrete cube with defensive positions around the entrance and firing holes in the walls. A nook had been set aside for the electronics and another for the makeshift armory. A separate and sparse "room" was for bunks, currently being assembled by Montour and Bernardi, while the main room already had a table and several chairs.

Gemmen installed the electronics quickly and found a seat. He felt guilty, watching everyone else bustle around to complete their mini-base, but he had already completed his assigned task -- also the only task he really qualified for. The only other idle person was Allie Meryll, also sitting at the table.

A few minutes later, Amy and Doyle returned, flagging Fil and Montour to go out on patrol next. They started gathering their gear, as Doyle went to help finish up with the bunks and Amy walked straight for Meryll. The sergeant brought her to the electronics nook. Gemmen watched as she hooked the diagnostic kit into the Spartan's armor and began running some sort of test.

Somebody tapped him on the shoulder. He looked up into Montour's face. "Hey, Gemmen, we just finished the bunks. Why don't you get some rack time, all right? We need you fresh in the morning."

Gemmen wanted to object, but his aching back and hollow eyes betrayed him. He stripped off the SPI armor and fell asleep in his jumpsuit.