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Phantoms: Chapter 1-Just Acquaintances
Posted By: (Na)Marl<marl_the_giant@yahoo.com>
Date: 16 January 2006, 6:47 pm

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      Is this . . . the only way to escape the pain?
      Sitting in the puddle of blood, Todd held the knife with in a shaking palm. The blood was that of his team mate, Eric. His friend, or so called friend, had been cut by the claws of a Jackal. His corpse had already began to smell.
      The fear of what had happened to Eric took over Todd. He was confused and filled with doubt. He dug his head in his palms. "This can't be where I die," he moaned as he held back the thoughts of suicide. There was one thing he could do . . .

Two Years Earlier

      "Will the defendant please rise."
      The defendant obeyed, along with his lawyer.
      "Mr. Todd Williams," the Judge spoke with a voice of power. He looked down at the data pad the jury leader had handed to him a few seconds ago, the data pad that contained the verdict. "You have been found guilty of both under age drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol." Todd's lawyer lowered his head as if he had any sympathy for his client, though the truth was that he didn't. "Fortunatly, Mr. Williams, you will be given a choice." The judge glared down at Todd through his tiny glasses. "You may either go to jail for a total of fifteen years, or serve in the military for a third of that time."
      Todd, who just realized how stupid he must have looked with the blank stare and hanging jaw, looked over at the jury. They seemed to be scowling at him, like animals wanting to chew him up and swallow.
      He tried to calm his nerves, but it was difficult. Looking now back at the judge, he cleared his throat to stall for time, just a little, any time would do. He opened his mouth and searched for the right words. All he could find was, "I'm sorry."
      "Sorry doesn't cut it," said a young woman in the jury. Her brown hair was tied behind her head, making her look all the more intimidating. "You not only put your own life at risk but the lives of others in danger."
      The judge rose a hand up for silence, "Thank you, miss Conally," the judge said sarcastically. "Now, what is your decision."
      Todd didn't know what threat the military held in it. All he saw was another joy-ride, which was of course a big step up from jail in his eyes. "I'll join the military."
      The judge looked down upon Todd with a fierce expression. "So be it." With a slam of his gavel, he announced, "Court dismissed."

1723 Hours, March 4, 2549 (Military Calendar)/
Palson System, Ranne City, Palson Beide

      A whole year of training, a whole year of boot camp, and Todd was being sent out for a fight. It wasn't nearly enough time in Todd's opinion. The drill Sergeant screaming and spitting in his face was paradise compared to where he was now.
      The Covenant had just destroyed a city not more than three miles due northwest of Ranne when Todd's Pelican had landed, and now they had just recieved word that a Covenant army was on its way to Ranne. Todd wished he could do something to relax, anything to get his mind off of the approaching army. He leaned against a wall, slumped to the ground, and turned to the soldier next to him. "Do you have a smoke?"
      The soldier looked back at him with innocent eyes, a look that disgusted Todd. "No," he answered. "I don't smoke."
      Todd sat up straight and looked at the soldier like he was an idiot. "What? They give you a cigarette with every meal, don't they?"
      The soldier huffed a laugh and smiled, again with an innocent expression that annoyed Todd, "Yes, but I trade them for people's pound cakes. They're so good! You know what I mean?"
      Todd stared at the man for a while, then averted his look and leaned lazily against the wall again. "Yeah, I guess." He really didn't have a taste for sweets. They made him feel like a child.
      "By the way, my name's Michael," the soldier said. He hoped to make friends with Todd so that the nightmare would stay out of his mind a bit longer.
      Todd gave a dismissal answer by saying, "Really?" as dull as he could.
      Michael didn't like how rude Todd was being, so he said with a louder voice, "Yeah, now you tell me yours." Todd sat straight back up and look at Michael. What nerve! Who does he thing he is?! "That's generally how introductions go, ya know."
      "It's Todd, If you must know!"
      "Well, Todd," Michael spit out, "I don't like those looks you've been giving me. Like I'm trash, like I'm beneath you. Now, what's got you in such a bad mood, Todd?"
      "Look here," Todd whispered to Michael. He stood, and Michael followed. Todd peaked over the wall he was stationed at and glared over the horizon that swarmed with fire, smoke, and what looked like black ants from where they were. "You see all that?" Michael nodded, able to see over the waist high wall with ease. "That's our death," Todd went on in a tone of despair. "All that is the Covenant army, coming down to kill us. You want to know why I'm in such a bad mood? It's because we're about to die!"
      Michael looked like he didn't get the concept by the way he curiously stared over the wall. "That's not true," Michael said. "We'll hold them off."
      Michael slumped back down lazily, sliding back into sitting position with his back to the wall. Though he didn't understand, Todd did. There were thousands of Covenant. Thousands!

      "Can you get a shot off on any of them, Kid?" Captain Killhappy asked.
      Kid laughed and shook her head. "What do I look like, a Spartan?"
      Kid leaned against her sniper and looked over the horizon. Nani was given the nickname Kid by her squad for being the youngest member of her squad at age twenty-two. Her skill with a sniper rifle had gotten her into the green beret squad, also named the Phantoms.
      Marl, the demolitions expert and the only man ever known to make knife-wielding an art, chuckled. "Just take some random shots, your likely to hit one!" he threw caution away and stomped a claymor into the ground, "of the millions of bastards."
      "So," Killhappy spoke, "how many claymors do you have down, Marl?"
      Marl stood and took a step over to the leader of the Phantoms, Captain Killhappy. He held out a touch-pad, displaying a map of Ranne city. The claymors ran along the outer edge of the walls, making a red light on the map showing their placement. "If I heard Device right, I hit the detinate button, and then touch the group of claymors I want to blow. Useful, eh?"
      Killhappy nodded in approval, but his face remained serious. For the sake of his squad he didn't like to show any emotion other than serious, hardened ones. "Device has come through again with his 'gadgets'."

      Normally, when a planet has no orbital defenses, the Covenant glass the planet. Troop insertions are never employed unless the planet has any 'worth while' targets, like communications towers and power generators for orbital MAC cannons. What made the attack on Palson so strange is that the planet had no orbital defenses, and the only long range communtications tower on the planet was destroyed in the first attack. That was three days ago.
      Then why were the Covenant still here?
      ONI wasn't sure, but it must be important. While not being able to spare any Spartans at the moment, they went for the next best thing. The best ODST squad in the area just happened to be one of the best ODST squads alive. So they sent in the Phantoms to check up on things.
      The problem was that the Covenant was moving too fast and hitting too hard. The Phantoms hadn't been able to leave since the moment they landed. While they knew that Ranne was a lost cause, they might at least be able to soften up the Covenant forces enough for a break.
      Then their real mission would begin.

      The first wave of enemies began to move up the hill. Ten Wraiths moved in a line, followed by a row of twenty Ghosts. In the front was a large group of Grunts, around a thousand. They were no doubt sent to the front to draw fire. Their inexperience was present as they moved in a large, rather loud cluster in front of the Wraiths.
      But that wasn't where the fight would begin. No, unknowingly to the Covenant, the first of the fight would take place in their own camp. Not only that, but it started as soon as the last Ghost left the camp.

      The Harbinger class dropship, a troop transport with a Y shaped body, glided over the clouds that removed the ground from view. What was happening was supposed to be secret. It wasn't supposed to be done by anyone but the three Elites in the Harbinger and the Gods of course.
      Suna Rabalee shifted uncomfortably in his golden armor. Not only was he not supposed to be doing this, under the punishment of death, the fact that he had to do it to an old friend hurt him and gave him a bad feeling.
      Pira Fortanee had always been loyal to the Covenant and its cause. Fortanee was dedicated, meak, and also unusually kind to those around him. Everyone couldn't help but feel comfort while around him.
      Except now, Rabalee gave a sour thought.
      Though loyal and eager to support the Covenant, he had been found as an unbeliever in the Forerunners as their Gods, as a heretic! The reason that what they were doing was not supposed to be done is the fact that he was a heretic and a commander! His crime was not only blasphemy but betrayal.
      The punishment for such was that he was to be branded with the mark of shame, stripped of pride and ability to command. After that, he would be dumped in the streets of High Charity to live out the rest of his life as a beggar.
      Rabalee didn't wish that to happen to his friend. He would have nightmares about it for the rest of his life. That's why I shouldn't get attached to those under my command.
      He opened his mouth to speak to Fortanee, who sat across from him in his identical golden armor, but all that came out was, "ugh." How do I say this?
      Fortanee had been wondering what this was about, and he was about to get to the bottom of it. "Where are we going," he asked, careful of his tone. Though they both wore gold armor, Rabalee still out ranked him.
      "You're being exiled," Rabalee answered, hoping that being quick and straight forward would make it easier on himself.
      Fortanee cocked his head to the side. "What?"
      Rabalee took in a deep breath. "You can not stay within the Covenant. You will either be taken before the council as a heretic, or . . . be exiled."
      Fortanee stood from his seat and began to plea. "You can't do this!" he shouted. "I've always been loyal to the Covenant! I . . ."
      Rabalee held his hands up for silence. "I know, I know. But lately you haven't been showing your faith to the Gods."
      "Huff!" Fortanee sneered. He fell back into his chair. "And who decrees who are deities should be?!"
      Rabalee was not use to being spoken to in that tone, especially not by an inferior. "Why," he stated with a dark tone, "your Prophets, Fortanee. And after you die, which I have half a mind to kill you right here, your Gods will judge you for you heresy. I'm not sure if you're aware of it or not, but I'm doing you a favor by sparing your life! Were anyone from the council here at the moment, you would be put before them and punished, but seeing as none are, I took it into my heart to allow you to live."
      "Whether I live or not," Fortanee spoke back, "depends on ones defenition of living."
      Suna Rabalee was at a loss for words. The statement had rendered him speechless. It didn't matter, though. They could both feel the Harbinger decending. "I am sorry I have to do this," Suna said. He tapped a hologlyph, the Covenant's equivilant to a button, and the side hatch opened up. "Now, get out. We will continue our search for the Ragnarok without your assisstance."