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The Marine, the Rebel and the Sangheili: Lieutenant Raine
Posted By: QuantumSheep<jasnash@optusnet.com.au>
Date: 3 October 2008, 4:58 am

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UNSC Marine Corps.
From the desk of Rear Admiral Herbert Smith
Melbourne, Australia
Date: 20th April, 2526

Cover notes for "Report on KV9-X7 operation and request for help"

After all this time of being ignored by High Command, I have decided to make the situation official by writing the following concise report, to the best of my knowledge. Maybe the High Command brass will finally pay attention to me once this report's on their desks. Being ignored by most of those old farts is beginning to get on my nerves, having gone on for so damn long.

Sure, what I'm trying to do with my marines may not be on the top of their priorities list, but it is important enough (and big enough) to be a threat to the security of the UNSC Outer Colonies, at the very least. As I've said time and time again, these rebels must be eradicated to ensure a safer future for the United Nations. We've managed to get rid of most of these groups but I'm fairly certain there are still plenty of others.

I've got about three hundred and fifty assorted types of military personnel on the case and as far as I can tell they aren't doing very well. To be more accurate about it, the rebels are beating them.

For those who don't know much about the trouble on KV9-X7, it started about a year ago, back in February 2525. One of our scouting ships was attacked and subsequently captured by a large rebel force.
Thing is, these rebels aren't much like the common Insurrectionist. The common Insurrectionist force isn't very organized and prefers terror tactics to all out assaults. These guys, however, assaulted the scout ship, eliminated all twenty-five crew members and captured the ship, hacking into the databases and downloading all current clearance codes for every Outer Colony's airspace.

It may not have seemed like much then, but what they did with the ship afterwards proved to me that these guys were not to be taken lightly. Packing the ship with a pair of tactical nukes, stolen years before from a warehouse on the colony world of New Argentina, they managed to use a rapidly built but well designed computer AI to pilot the ship into the airspace of the Outer Colony of Theta Talaxus. That colony was home to a major military manufacturing facility and using the stolen codes the AI easily slipped past security screens and parked the ship on the main landing pad of the facility. It was only a few minutes before the nukes detonated, resulting in a death toll of about 75, 000. The nukes completely razed the facility and destroyed its underground levels before wiping out the nearby populated settlement.
This event, as High Command is aware of, was hard to keep a secret like all the other attacks on the Outer Colonies. Whoever had done it was well organized, well supplied and well led.

So I was assigned to the job of tracking down the perpetrators of the attack using as many marines as necessary. These terrorists weren't the same as the suicidal rebel groups on other worlds: no human had been aboard the explosive packed ship; rather an AI had been in the pilot's place. So they weren't about to give their own lives for what they believed in. No, they were smarter than that.

It wasn't too difficult locating their numerous bases but by the time we had found out who was in charge and where they were located, high Command's attention had been directed to something else. Something to do with some farming colony, I don't know the details. As usual, they've kept wraps on it to bored Admirals like me but apparently some fleet is being assembled for something big. I don't know, it could be anything.

So now I was stuck with limited resources: High Command wasn't willing to spare me ships and troops, I was stuck with the same old marines I had chosen in the first place. Deciding that maybe a direct approach was best, I sent these marines to the desert world of KV9-X7 on the farthest reaches of charted UNSC space. This world was where the rebels had their main bases and supply centres. Unfortunately they were far better organized than my troops and outnumbered them ten to one.

This started a war of attrition. From September up until now my marines have been fighting it out with these rebels on the deserts, causing minimal damage to the enemy but unable to successfully drive to the main base and locate the leader. They simply don't have the numbers and the firepower. Until further notice these marines are stuck on this planet until I can somehow divert a cruiser full of troops to their location to finally finish these rebels off for good.

When picking these 350 marines, I decided to go for the more experienced ones, the ones I knew which could do the job well. I'm happy with my decisions but annoyed at the lack of action High Command is taking in this situation, too intent on focusing on the trouble at the farming colony I mentioned earlier. It's a shame, really, all we need are a few heavily armed cruisers so we can blast the shit out of the rebel bases and force these rebels out into the deserts where my ground forces can make short work of them.

As far as I can tell from the map in front of me, my marines have set up a main base on the top of an easily defended desert mountain, looking down into a rocky valley where many rebel patrols pass through. The rebels have a large base about seventy miles north, heavily fortified and with a labyrinthine tunnel network according to probe scans. These tunnels run for miles underground to several other smaller bases which dot the desert landscape.

My marines are simply outdone on the ground. Sure, they can kill rebels when they find them in small groups, but these guys simply have made the desert landscape their ally, using the open terrain to their advantage, digging tunnels and setting up defensive positions with mounted guns, anti-air rockets and anything else along those lines.
Whoever is in charge of these rebels knows what they're doing and knows the situation we're in.

This brings me to another matter. The rebel leader. The excellent tactician and brilliant strategist who has been guiding these rebels to victory after victory, having already bombed several locations on other colony worlds. Not with nukes, but doing enough damage both structurally and collaterally to scare the populations of the cities they attack. Of the several large scale engagements fought on the ground against these rebels, they have often come out as victors, sometimes suffering heavy losses but not showing a single loss of morale. Their leader keeps them confident and pleased with themselves, no matter what they do. They must really believe in what they're fighting for.

"Independence of the outer colonies" is what I've been hearing. These guys no longer want to be part of the United Nations, they want to start their own government, unite the people of the Outer Colonies and cease the tensions between some of them. The rebel leader, we have determined, is a certain Colonel Timothy "Bright Eyes" Hanley, once an excellent soldier in the United Nations who became disillusioned with the UN somehow, I don't know how but it was something to do with a certain incident in a town on an outer colony world.

I was just as surprised to find out that an ex UNSC Colonel was in charge of this rebel group. An excellent Colonel at that, which sort of reminds me of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now . He had been good at his job and ended up a total crackpot in the end who had a tendency to make good, meaningful speeches. Hopefully Hanley won't end up as crazy as that guy, but I'm beginning to have my doubts.

The man has the intelligence and the charisma to make an excellent leader and he's not wasting these talents. He has followers, plenty of them and he obviously makes the prospect of joining this rebel group seem so good to people that many more are joining up. So far outer colony police forces have stopped about fifteen recruitment drives by this rebel group on various outer colony worlds. None of them were attended by the Colonel but they all smelt of his doing. He had organized them so well and done them so discreetly that many more have passed under our noses, allowing many more people of all walks of life to join up with this rebel group.

Recent intelligence has told us that the Colonel calls his organization the "Outer Colonies Peoples Liberation Front" or the OCPLF for short. Nobody is sure how long the organization has been operating for, but it is presumed it's been in operation since a short time after the Colonel's resignation back in 2520. How he got such a large organization formed in six years is beyond my knowledge but the man is resourceful and probably has his methods.

So, my marines are stuck fighting a superior force and so far all attempts to capture the Colonel have failed. The man has a sixth sense, he knows when something isn't quite right so our last few ambushes on him have failed miserably. He is simply too much of a slippery snake (if you don't mind the crappy comparison) to catch. He's always well guarded by his highly trained units which makes our job of catching him somewhat more difficult. We assume he also organizes the training of his rebel soldiers and so with his knowledge and the loyalty he's gained from his followers these rebels are one heck of a fighting force.
They are probably the best rebels we've ever gone up against since the Communist Koslovics and Fascist Friedans back in the 2100s. This is why I've been requesting help from High Command but haven't been getting it, surprisingly enough. Normally at least a few of those guys would work with me, but as mentioned earlier they all seem worried about something else. Maybe if I knew what it was I wouldn't be so damn annoyed at them. All I need are some ships to blast the rebel positions so my marines can finish them off. Right now these rebels are too heavily fortified where they are and are really just being a nuisance to my marines.

If ships aren't available, maybe a few Longsword fighters would do. I'm not too sure about the new Longsword models, they seem a tad unreliable from what I've heard and seem more suited for dogfight tasks. Maybe some Shortsword bombers? Those things are pretty nippy for bombers and would suit the task of bombing rebel positions nicely. I think I'll be including a formal request for Shortsword fighters in this report if I find the time.

To move onto one more thing, it seems odd that the rebels would choose this planet as their base of operations. Usually rebel groups are restricted to the planets they originate on but it is obvious the OCPLF has access to ships if they are able to set up a base on a distant desert world. Why they chose it is unknown, there doesn't seem to be anything important about it, just the odd energy signature here and there but that could be anything. I'm no expert on that kind of thing but maybe the OCPLF is interested in what that world has to offer. The planet itself is so insignificant that we haven't even given it a decent name, simple the designation KV9-X7. According to my marines there the surface is usually hot and rain is a rare occurrence which is enough to encourage me that maybe living in Melbourne isn't so bad. At least we get rain here.

So, I've enclosed a detailed report of the rebels; the leader, the ex-Colonel Timothy "Bright Eyes" Hanley; the rebel strengths we've determined from intelligence gathering missions; information on past events concerning the OCPLF; information on our marines and the help they need and anything else related to the operation taking place against the rebels.

It is my hope that soon enough we will have these rebels out of the way of the progress of the UNSC so we can turn our attention to more serious mater, whatever they may be. As far as I can tell, the Outer Colonies are doing fine and will hopefully stay that way as long as we get rid of the Colonel and the OCPLF. Nothing can be allowed to get in the way of the expansion of the UNSC and nothing can be allowed to threaten the populations of these distant worlds. The last thing we need is another disaster like that one last year on Tribute. The rebels that caused that disaster I think would be no match for the OCPLF. We're up against the most organized rebel group in this century and all I need is some damn help with getting rid of them.

Rear Admiral Herbert Smith

April 23rd, 2526
UNSC border world KV9-X7
Approx. UNSC population: 367
Approx. OCPLF population: Pending.

Every day was the same on KV9-X7, at least on this part of the planet. The sun, once in its midday position, bore down sunlight onto the rocky, sandy landscape, scorching the already hot ground even more. Heat radiated off of the sand and rocks, creating a hot surface area. The very few clouds up in the sky were the wispy, trailing type that weren't much help in blocking the sun.

According to scientists, KV9-X7 had once been an abundant jungle world. About three million years ago something happened, some sort of atmospheric cataclysm, which obliterated the planet and left it a barren wasteland. Now only desert creatures dwelled on the world, such as lizards and insects. There were no native mammals on KV9-X7 but there were mammals in the form of the humans that had arrived and called the planet home.

The arrangement had meant to be only temporary. Stay on the planet; get rid of the fanatical rebels and leave. That original plan had hit rock bottom when it was found that the Outer Colonies Peoples Liberation Front was far better armed and organized than originally guessed. Now the whole operation had become a slow war of attrition, more boring than anything else.

Little was known about the planet these rebels had called home for about six years. KV9-X7 was on the very edge of charted space, on the verge of the undiscovered regions. There were the few brave explorers who had set out to chart these undiscovered regions but otherwise no one bothered. It was too dangerous and often too expensive to go on such expeditions and so right now the UNSC was limited to the vast expanse of space it had already discovered.

There were three other planets in the system. The one closest to the system's sun hadn't yet been given a name or unimaginative designation; it was simply not worth it. The planet was even hotter than KV9-X7 and near uninhabitable, meaning that no one was ever going to bother trying to colonize it.

The second planet was much further away, about the same distance from the sun as Earth was from its own. This was KV9-X7 and unfortunately enough the sun was a much younger, white hot moderately sized one that burned with ferocity. That helped make KV9-X7 the desert it is now, as well as the yet unknown cataclysm that had devastated the planet years before. It was assumed that it had to do with the sun getting hotter but no one was sure.

The last three planets were gas giants with plenty of orbiting moons. No one had yet tried colonizing the moons so they were unexplored as well. One of those gas giants, a large, orange-brown one with rings, was quite visible in the sky, a large sphere which gave the otherwise cloudless sky some personality.

There had been colonists, a long time ago. Back in 2347, according to records. They had been French settlers who had stumbled upon the world by accident after being knocked off their main course during a meteor shower. The French settlers soon set up a small colony and were never heard from again, their last message telling how they preferred the isolation and how their communications systems would be offline soon enough anyway.

Satellite scans had found the planet to be dotted with suspicious looking energy signatures, at first presumed to be from the settlers but soon this guess was proven wrong. The settlers only had the one main settlement, long abandoned for unknown reasons. Every settler that had been living there was gone, a UNSC scouting party had discovered this only ten years earlier.

The energy signatures couldn't have been the settlers, there were simply far too many of them and they were spread out right across the planet. No scouting parties had yet been able to check out these energy signatures, the rebels had thwarted any attempts. Now the UNSC's efforts were concentrated elsewhere and the secluded bunch of marines that had been sent here a year earlier were only ever receiving supply drops and no reinforcements.

These marines had set up a base and landing strip on an easily defendable hill, surrounded by rocky, winding valleys eroded away by long dead rivers. Patrols were spread out due to the lack of manpower and so often rebel scouts would slip through, scouting out the marine positions and reporting back to their superiors at their hidden bases.

It was only the OCPLF's main base that had been discovered so far, about seventy miles north of the marine base. In between were rebel defence positions, supply depots and just plain desert which was no place for the unwary.

The marines here lacked morale as well as ammunition. Their supply drops gave them food and water but otherwise nothing else, very rarely receiving military supplies such as ammunition crate and fuel. The leader in charge of the marines, General Richard McDougall, had successfully implemented a conservation program at their base, as well as this he had been trying to decrease the amounts of water they were receiving in these supply drops since the base had access to underground freshwater streams and supplied more than enough for everyone. Rather than water, the General wanted ammunition but of course the supply ship pilots simply didn't care and left the marines with the usual supplies.

There was one important region a few kilometres from the base, a rocky, wide valley with easily scaleable edges and plenty of smooth, open terrain for anyone to bring in vehicles. The marines had called it "Hell's Passage" and it was where, in a shallow ditch at the very start of the valley, 2nd Lieutenant Lyssa Raine and her squad sat around, watching for rebel scouts and patrols.

The group of six had been waiting around for hours, assigned to the boring job of keeping watch on the passage after a marine scout spotted some rebel armour (as in tanks and armoured vehicles) start moving towards the passage. That had been three hours ago, so either the rebels had very slow tanks or they weren't showing up. The squad had seen no sign of any rebel activity and so had decided to catch up on sleep which they had missed.

Lyssa was thirty-four, hazel eyed and with hair that was only just darker than her eyes. For the past year she had let it grow well beyond military regulation lengths and so had tied it back in a neat, but narrow, ponytail. Wearing her grey NCOs baseball cap and dressed in regulation UNSC grey armour plating, she was quite possibly the only female on the planet.

Sure, she wasn't too sure whether the rebels had women fighting for them (she was pretty certain they had, although she was yet to come across one) but she was the only female UNSC marine on the planet. This, at first, had put her at odds with the gawking, drooling men that she tended to come across back at the landing strip and adjoining base.
She had soon showed them that if anybody tried hitting on her she would simply beat them into submission. Many of the previously flirting males now had to think twice whether it was worth trying their rather average skills to get her attention since many had either been punched, kicked or knocked out completely after previous attempts. She was proud that she didn't do this all of the time, preferring to force a man away from her by some snide remark and making it obvious she wasn't interested, but sometimes, especially on those that didn't give up, she would have to use force.

She had been born and raised on Earth, had had a full education from primary, secondary and finally university. Her parents had been wealthy but once they divorced she was made to live with her not so wealthy mother and lived a middle class life for a while. Joining the military as soon as she was old enough to join up had been the only way out of her boring life. She never wanted a boring office job and her expert engineering skills had caught the attention of UNSC recruiters.
At first an engineer, she got herself into the marine corps as a proper marine and has been since she was twenty-five.

Lyssa was a somewhat athletic woman (you would have to be when you're in the marines) and kept fit by exercising more than the majority of the other marines. The other marines tended to sit around and play cards or something…

Sitting in the ditch, her back against its sandy, rocky walls, she glanced down at herself, frowning at her dirty her armour had gotten. There was hardly anytime to actually clean it and even if you got a chance the people back at base wouldn't let you use the water from the pumps there. They let you drink and wash yourself with it, but when it came to so-called "unnecessary" uses such as cleaning your armour, you weren't allowed. They had plenty of water, it's just the people who kept the pumps working were too damn stingy.

Her MA2B assault rifle laid in her lap, sand caught in the small crevices on the weapon. The rifle was rugged enough not to jam because of sand in its inner workings although the weapon itself wasn't all that reliable. It had a helpful little compass and ammunition counter but the rifle lacked power and accuracy, spraying out its forty round magazine within seconds. It wasn't too accurate if you kept firing it away and so, as with most weapons of its type, short, controlled bursts was the way to go.

Looking ahead she could see the Corporal, Harry Walther, otherwise known as "Joker" because of his tendency to joke about everything and anything at the most inopportune times, asleep against the other side of the ditch. His head was slumped to one side, a narrow trail of drool hanging from the corner of his mouth. He was about twenty-four, brown haired and blue eyed. No matter what was going on he always managed to smile, even if he did look like a complete moron while doing it.

Sitting to his left and wide awake was the easy-going, often intelligent African-American twenty-five year old Private James Reynolds. He apparently had an IQ bordering on the genius level but he never really used his talents, wasting them away on being a Private in the army. Apparently he had joined up to get away from his tough life in Chicago but Lyssa wasn't too sure on the details, she never really talked to him about what his life was like back home.

Reynolds was talking to the Private on his right, Jim Hawker. Hawker was the marksman of the squad, twenty-six years old and a devout Christian. In his spare time he could be found reading the pocket sized Bible he carried around with him everywhere or he was busy writing that book he was working on about his experiences in the war against the rebels. He was yet to give it a proper title though. Lyssa wondered what it would be like, mingled with the violence in the war and his faith in God.

Hawker didn't seem to be paying too much attention to Reynolds, merely nodding at everything the black man said. He glanced at Lyssa, nodded in acknowledgement and she did the same. There wasn't much to talk about on days like these, stuck watching some passage for an armour column that would probably never show up.

"I tell ya, man," Reynolds said, "if there was a God, he wouldn't be letting us humans kill each other all the time…

Hawker nodded in agreement but was completely uninterested in what Reynolds had to say.

Lyssa turned to her left, looking towards the new guy that had arrived about two months ago. That had been the only time they had received reinforcements if you could call them that: four Privates just out of boot didn't really giver her the impression of "reinforcements".

This new guy's name was Lawrence Taylor and he was a colony born boy, twenty-two years old and obviously not the fighting type. He had blondish hair and blue eyes, sitting with his assault rifle in his lap, snoozing away where he sat.

Lawrence was replacing a squad member they had "lost" three months earlier, Private Jack Slatham. Jack had been a bit of a reckless piece of work, charging into situations without thinking. He had been well liked amongst the squad until he had copped a rebel sharpshooter's bullet to the skull during a small engagement with a rebel patrol. It's not like he died a painful death, he died quick and probably didn't feel a thing.

Strangely enough, Lyssa didn't particularly miss him. She did feel slightly guilty, considering the Private had been in her squad, under her command. Reynolds had been the one most affected by Jack's death; he had almost lost it, charging at a rebel fire team and cutting them down.

Reynolds and Jack had been the best of friends and had talked about everything together. Now Reynolds was stuck talking to Hawker who wasn't really interested in being friends with him, or anyone else for that matter. Hawker preferred his Bible over a human being, funnily enough.

Now Lawrence was here to fill Jack's shoes and so far he had made a few friends and no enemies, but still wasn't as popular as Jack had been. Nobody could replace him, it seemed. Lawrence was almost the direct opposite of Jack: Jack had been loud and aggressive while Lawrence was quiet and a near pacifist.

As long as he didn't endanger the lives of other marines Lyssa was fine with him being here. She just hoped that in their next engagement he wouldn't end up dead like replacements tended to do. Not a positive way of thinking, she knew that, but in her experience that was what happened.

The final squad member was the nihilistic Private Clarence Layman. Layman was a good talker, swore a lot and had a Texan accent, having lived there for most of his life. He had never known his parents; he had been abandoned as a newborn and lived in an orphanage for a while before being given over to foster parents. For years afterwards Layman had gone from foster family to foster family and had gone in and out of jail many times for petty crimes. He had stolen cars, dealt in drugs, beaten up people he didn't like and had held up a few convenience stores. He had joined the army after the advice of one of his psychiatrists had given him. If Layman has problems with the world, the army is the perfect place to control these problems and take his anger out on the enemies of the UNSC.

Layman sat at the end of the ditch, using a dry cloth to wipe away the sand from his black M6 submachine gun. He seemed to love any firearm he got his hands on and had a collection of rebel weapons in his tent back at the base. While on display there he kept them unloaded, especially after an incident involving a dislikeable Sergeant and a Private who hated him.

Turns out one of the modern day revolvers that Layman had taken off a dead rebel officer and put on a shelf in his tent had been found by this particular Private who had then used the loaded weapon to put a few holes in the Sergeant. Nobody really liked the Sergeant but the Private was court marshalled and sent off world anyway. You see, down at base, there was a strict weapons usage policy and so the troops at base weren't given their weapons until they were on duty. That's why this Private had gotten one of Layman's souvenir rebel ones, since the Private hadn't been on duty. It seems being stuck on a planet like this was driving some people crazy.

Lyssa almost felt like she was going crazy, having been here for so long, fighting pointlessly against a superior rebel force. Once this was all over she would be requesting a transfer to somewhere far more exciting, although that would be difficult to do since the UNSC wasn't really at war with anyone else except more organized rebel organizations.

"Yo, Lieutenant," Reynolds said suddenly, snapping Lyssa out of her thought induced trance. She looked up, taken off guard.


"For all the time I've been in your squad, you know," Reynolds said, Lyssa unsure on what he was trying to get at, "you've never mentioned anything about your, you know…"

"My what?" Lyssa asked, frowning. She noticed that Hawker and Layman were watching her now.

"Well, whether or not you have a boyfriend or something…That's what I mean," Reynolds said, nodding as if agreeing with what he himself was saying, "we've all discussed this kind of thing but you're the only one who hasn't…"

Lyssa took a moment to answer. The squad had happily talked about their many girlfriends, although Lawrence hadn't really said much concerning this part of his life. She realized that she hadn't said anything of her personal life and her squad obviously were finding this a bit strange considering she knew all about theirs…

"Does it matter?"

"I just find it strange, that's all," Reynolds answered, raising an eyebrow, "you never really talk about your home and well, anything to do with it…"

Lyssa shook her head, feeling strangely cramped from this sudden investigation into her personal life.

"There are a few things I prefer not to talk about," she said, feeling the memories come flooding back, "and whether or not I have a boyfriend and what he's like is one of those things."

Reynolds looked surprised for a moment, quickly returning to his normal expression and sitting up, interested in something for once.

"Did something happen?"

"Obviously," Layman interjected, Lyssa and Reynolds turning to him. The mean looking Private sat carefully wiping down his submachine gun, treating it like a baby almost, cradling it in one arm while he very caringly wiped away the sand that had got caught in the narrow crevices on the body of the weapon. Even now he wore a dark expression, the type that said "mess with me and I'll stomp on your balls". Lyssa didn't particularly care too much about the state of the minds of her squad members, just as long as they didn't endanger anyone else.

"What would you know?" Lyssa asked. She was annoyed at how all these outside stimuli were encouraging memories she would rather have kept forgotten come flooding back.

"I can tell," Layman replied, his Texan accent much clearer now, "anyone with half a brain can tell…"

"Which explains why you seem to understand," Corporal Walther interjected, smiling at his own intelligent remark. Layman frowned in his direction, spitting off to his side and turning back to the others.

"That's why she don't want to talk about it," Layman said, for once sounding like he knew what he was talking about, "that's why she ain't never mentioned it once…"

"And you would know, wouldn't you?" Lawrence had woken up from all the talking and was looking up at where Layman sat. Layman looked mighty annoyed at the sudden interjection by the new guy and carefully cocked his submachine gun, sliding the bolt back and letting it slide into place.

"I know what I'm talking about," Layman replied, "I always know what I'm talking about."

"Right," Reynolds said, nodding. He was possibly the only person in the squad who didn't intentionally poke fun at Layman or make fun of his accent, even though everybody else did. No wonder Layman acted like such a bad-ass, he thought that would deter people. It obviously wasn't working but knowing the Private's history it seemed that he wouldn't be afraid to use force.

"So maybe we should leave the Lieutenant alone," Layman said, "after all, she has a lot on her plate. Like looking after the squad."

Lyssa nodded in agreement. Layman was right; she did have to look after him and the rest of these nitwits, make sure they actually stayed alive.

"I don't need any looking after," Walther said, smiling again, "you're the one who needs the looking after."

Layman frowned, his face contorted into an angry expression as he used his right hand to grip his submachine gun and point it in the Corporal's direction.

"Say one more smart ass thing, I dare ya," Layman said. He did look serious about it and the last thing Lyssa needed was a shooting amongst the squad. Giving Layman a sympathetic look but in reality not really caring, she decided to avert a certain disaster.

"Put the gun down, Private," she said. She turned to the Corporal, who was grinning at Layman, using his hands to gesture at him, urging him to do it.

"And you just quit being a smart ass," Lyssa said. The Corporal dropped his grin and sat back down against the inside of the ditch, although he was still noticeably amused. Layman lowered his gun, his expression back to his usual stern, serious one but the anger was still quite obvious in his eyes.

Lyssa sat back down, thankful that everybody had lost interest in trying to find out about her personal life. Reynolds had gone back to chatting quietly with Hawker and Lawrence had dozed off again, although she found it hard to sleep under such a hot sun. Closing her eyes, she attempted to will herself into sleep, shifting onto her sides, trying to find the most comfortable position. It wasn't working and soon she was back to sitting around, wide awake and bored out of her brains. The surface was just far too hard for her to sleep on.

"Ya see," Layman said after a while, taking out a cigarette and sticking the end into his mouth, "what I hate are punk ass city boys who think they're top shit. I hate getting talked down to just because of my background…"

Lyssa rolled her eyes, she really didn't feel like hearing one of Layman's typical "don't be a smart ass" speeches, most of them being directed towards Corporal Walther, who just took it all as a joke and tended to reply in such a way it infuriated the Texan even more.

"All you upper class folks are the same: ya think people from down south, like Texas and stuff, are all just backwoods and illiterate…"

"That's because you are backwoods and illiterate," Walther replied, chuckling. Layman fell silent, giving the Corporal a furious glance and shifting where he sat, as if about to lash out at Corporal "Joker" but only just containing himself. Instead, he turned to the Lieutenant.

"Ma'am, can I have permission to beat the shit out of this asshole?" He asked.

Lyssa shook her head. Was Layman really expecting a positive answer?

"No, so why don't you and the Corporal stop talking to each other and keep at least six feet away from each other. That way I don't need to deal with anymore shit concerning the both of you?"

Layman shrugged, shot the Corporal a stern glance and went on to light his cigarette, taking out his silver plated lighter and flicking it open. Apparently that was something every man in the marine division he had trained with had gotten: a cigarette lighter with their name etched it into. 'Layman' was written there in all its glory.

While this had been happening, Hawker had sat up and moved to the side of the ditch which looked out across the open plain, walled in with rocky outcrops. The Private took the set of military issue binoculars off of his belt and peered through them, intently looking towards some unseen target.

Lyssa noticed this and turned to Hawker. The Private looked tense and was concentrating on some distant object which had obviously caught his attention. Usually that meant he had spotted something.

"What is it?" Lyssa asked turning around and looking across the open plain. There wasn't too much interesting about it, mostly sand and rock with a few small, but isolated, pale green weeds growing through gaps in the rocks and out of the sand.

"There's someone out there," Hawker replied, taking the binoculars down from his face, "take a look yourself."

Lyssa took the binoculars and put them to her eyes, peering through the magnified view at where Hawker had been concentrated. Amongst some jagged, sand coloured rocks just over one hundred metres away was indeed someone, a man by the look of it, standing amongst the rocks with binoculars at his eyes, looking out across the plain.

The other squad members had noticed what the pair was doing and so grouped around the Lieutenant and Hawker, curious as to what they were looking at.

The man out on the plain was in a desert camouflage outfit, armour plating visible on torso and arms and legs, his head wrapped in sand coloured cloth with a large set of goggles protruding through the mesh in order to protect his face from the desert climate. Lyssa was surprised he hadn't spotted her group yet but then the man wasn't really looking in their direction.

"He's a rebel scout," Lyssa said, lowering the binoculars and turning to Hawker and the others. Lawrence was awake and his attention was focused on the rebel scout across the plain, a nervous grimace on his face. This would be the first time he had encountered the enemy and for Lyssa it would be her first encounter for months. No wonder she and her squad were so bored.

"What do we do?" Reynolds asked, "There could be more of them."
Lyssa nodded. There usually was more of them, but this guy only looked like a scout so he could be alone who with someone else, someone who was out of sight. It would seem strange, sending this scout out alone, although maybe the OCPLF didn't realize where the marines had their base.

"I can get him from here," Hawker said, grabbing the grip of his sniper rifle. Lyssa shook her head and he lowered the rifle, curious as to why she had an objection against his plan.

"If there's more of them they'll just go back and get a whole assault team," Lyssa said, "especially when one of their buddies just got his head blown off. Then we'll have a large firefight on our hands. No, I'll sneak through these rocks with the Corporal while you keep watch on him."

She paused, glanced over at the Corporal who had brought up his assault rifle and was checking the magazine, removing it from the weapon and tapping it against his left thigh armour plate, making sure it was full.

"That way we'll get a closer look and we'll be able to see how many there are," Lyssa said. She slung her MA2B over her shoulder, Reynolds and Layman looking disappointed at how they would be left out. Of the "action", although Lyssa wasn't too sure whether this would be exciting. Lawrence simply sat watching with an uncertain expression as she and Corporal Walther climbed out of the ditch, Hawker setting up his WS2500 sniper rifle over the top, peering through the rifle's scope, watching as the rebel scout disappeared amongst the rocks only to emerge again, this time holding a compass in an attempt to gain his bearings.

While the OCPLF scout was busy getting orientated, Lyssa and Corporal Walther started to the rocky outcrops which walled the plain, making their way between tall, jagged rocks, staying out of sight as the rebel scout remained where he was, too intent on his own activities to move.

Lyssa could just see him through the gaps between the rocks and so crouching, she started forwards, getting into such a position that the scout was only about fifteen metres away and she had an elevated advantage. Still the scout didn't notice, instead he was talking quietly with himself as he took out a datapad and began searching through whatever information was stored on it.

Walther remained a few metres behind the Lieutenant and they glanced at each other, Lyssa giving him the signal to remain behind as she started on her way down the rocky terrain.

This wasn't the first time she had been sneaking up on the enemy. Often she would be the one to do the sneaking, preferring that sort of approach than just simply getting engaged in a firefight. Looking around, she couldn't see anymore rebel soldiers, which was good since it meant less trouble for her and her squad. A narrow passage winded through the rocks from where the rebel scout stood which was obviously the way he had come.

Lyssa realized her mistake when her left foot slipped on some loose rocks, allowing them to roll down towards where the scout stood, making a rather audible scraping noise in the quietness of the desert. The scout turned around and saw her, for a second they merely stared at each other before the scout reached for the pistol that was in his waist holster.

Lyssa unslung her rifle, her heart beating loudly in her chest as the adrenaline kicked in. It was a life or death situation now, especially when the rebel beat her to the draw and had his pistol out and raised milliseconds before she brought her rifle to bear.

The rebel must have hesitated since his shot went wide a few inches, bouncing off the rocks behind her, the gunshot echoing throughout the valley. Lyssa fired, only a single shot from her assault rifle, which was all this guy needed since he twisted slightly where he stood, the datapad in his left hand dropping out of his loosened grip and landing intact on the ground below.

The rebel scout stumbled backwards, a jet of blood squirting from the neck wound he had received, gargling loudly as he fell. Lyssa lowered her rifle, hearing him drop to the ground, a satisfied smile crossing her lips.

"Shit, you got him good," Walther said from behind. Lyssa ignored him and climbed down from her vantage point, putting her rifle around her shoulder and stepping towards where the scout lay, looking down at the serious case of blood loss before her.

The scout was squirming where he lay, making muffled gargling noises through his desert headwear as he clutched at his throat, blood oozing from between his fingers. The sand underneath was already thick with blood, appearing almost brown on the dark ground.

The scout looked up at her, although it was impossible to see his face through the fabrics wrapped around his head. The goggles were dirty which made it hard to make out his eyes, although if Lyssa wasn't mistaken this rebel soldier was trying to get her to help him. He gargled loudly, looking at Walther as he stood alongside the Lieutenant, as if expecting him to help him.

"I don't think he'll live," Walther said, sounding unsure. Of course the guy wasn't going to survive, Lyssa had seen plenty of bullet wounds before.

Rather, she un-holstered her sidearm, a typical M5E pistol, a somewhat bulky handgun chambered with 11.5mm armour piercing rounds. Holding it in her right hand, she took aim down the sights and without even batting an eyelid she fired and blew a large chunk of the rebel's forehead away, allowing blood and bits of bone to spray outwards. The rebel scout stopped moving, his hands resting on where he had been holding them at his throat.

"Is that his brain?"

Lyssa ignored Walther's question, bending her knees so she was low enough to search the rebel's uniform for anything interesting. She found his compass and a few printed notes regarding scout duties but nothing really interesting. She holstered her M5E, removing the rugged looking handgun which the scout still had gripped tightly in his right hand. A lot of the rebels she had encountered were armed with all sorts of weapons, both civilian and military. This particular pistol, a beaten looking chrome weapon with its manufacturing year of 2470 printed on its side, was a civilian weapon, popular among collectors, although firearms history wasn't something she knew too much about. Layman would know more.

Standing up, she noticed the intact datapad lying next to the dead rebel and so bent down and picked it up. The device was still on and seeing the computerised image of a map of the area on screen got her interested.

"Is that where we are?" She asked, turning to Walther who was staring intently at the rebel scout's head-wound.

"Sorry?" He looked up, having not been listening.

"Take a look," she handed him the datapad and he began to search through what was stored on it, which was mainly just a large map, zooming in and out on it, trying to determine the answer to her question.

"It looks like it," he said. Lyssa noticed that the rest of her squad was out of the ditch and on their way across the plain, being sure to keep a low profile, just in case there were anymore rebels hiding in the valley.

The Corporal handed back the datapad and she pocketed the device, being sure to switch it off so as to conserve the battery.

Layman was the first to approach the two of them, glancing down at the dead rebel scout and giving the corpse a gentle kick with the tip of his left boot.

"That's some ugly handiwork right there," he said, looking up at the Corporal and the Lieutenant, "who did it?"

"She did," the Corporal said, nodding towards Lyssa. Layman shook his head but didn't really show any signs of disbelief or disagreement.

"Well, I knew you were too much of a sissy ass to kill someone like that," Layman said casually to the Corporal, "so my bets were on the Lieutenant all the time. This reminds me, Reynolds owes me ten bucks…"

Reynolds and the others had by now grouped around the corpse, Lawrence looking awfully white while Hawker merely tapped his forehand, chest and shoulders in typical Christian fashion before kissing the small inch-long cross he wore around his neck. He muttered a silent prayer and then stood with a neutral expression on his face, unsure of what to think.

"You made bets on this?" Lyssa asked, surprised. Knowing Layman he would be the type of person to do such a thing.

"Yeah, we made bets on who would be the one to kill the bastard," Layman replied, "I bet on you, Lieutenant, although Reynolds wasn't too sure so he bet on Walther."

Lyssa shook her head. Sometimes she wondered how she could possibly live with the types of people in her squad but somehow she managed, she knew that. She looked towards Reynolds, who shrugged innocently. Lawrence, meanwhile, turned his back to the corpse and puked where he stood, Lyssa and the others looking on without at all much concern.

"What do ya know?" Layman said, "The new guy can't handle it."
Lyssa took out the datapad, switching it on and spending about a minute giving the map a close inspection. She did see something which increased her interest, especially since it was labelled as "Supply Depot C2". This was something which would greatly interest the General back at base which was enough to form an excuse to get her out of this boring guard duty.

"Well, I know what I'm going to do next," she said, putting away the datapad, "the Corporal and I are going to head off back to base. The rest of you will stay here and guard the passage. I think the datapad our friend here dropped contains some very interesting details that the General might want to see himself."

"Finally I can get back and take a bath," the Corporal said as he started to walk away with the Lieutenant, "it's been days since my last wash…"

Private Lawrence Taylor sat himself down on a rock and reached into a pocket in his marine corps regulation trousers, taking out an MRE which was wrapped in glistening tin foil which shone brightly in the sun. He frowned at the large red writing which bluntly made out that the bar tasted okay, describing how it would fit anyone's bodily needs for nutrients and taste good at the same time.

He shook his head, stuck with nothing better to eat and so proceeded to unwrap the MRE, pocketing the now useless foil and taking a good look around

The Lieutenant and Corporal Walther had left about twenty minutes ago, taking their time to get across the clearing and disappear behind some jagged rocks. Reynolds and the others were sitting around in various positions on boulders near where Lawrence was. Hawker was sitting quietly as he usually did while Reynolds and Layman talked about nothing in particular. The corpse of the dead rebel scout had been dragged off into an out of sight position, something which Lawrence had had to do himself since no one else had seemed to care too much about the corpse being near them.

Seeing that corpse had probably been the first dead body he had actually ever seen, he couldn't remember seeing any others in the past.
When he had been sent here he had expected to end up engaged in massive battles but he had soon found out the truth: hardly anything happened on this planet and nothing particularly exciting had happened for several months. The conflict had boiled down to small skirmishes here and there which didn't really last very long, neither side intending on making a major move against the other.

Lawrence had also found some of the personalities of the other marines, not only ones in his squad but guys back at base, to be particularly quirky, as if they were out of character somehow. Most had been here for about a year now, facing very little action and left to hang around at base or out on boring patrols like this one. Lawrence had the feeling that some were going just a little crazy.

He had expected to be excluded from the little groups that had formed amongst the marines but was surprised to find that they had been very open, almost grateful to see a new face. Lyssa's squad seemed alright, although Layman didn't seem to like him much. Then again, Layman didn't like too many people and preferred to keep to himself or speak with his really close friends. He knew that to the others he was only a rookie, having been sent here just after getting out of boot.

He had been embarrassed by spewing up after seeing the dead rebel but no one else had really seemed to notice, or care for that matter. He felt less confident after that little incident but hadn't been expecting on seeing a man's brains in such a fashion. The Lieutenant had appeared to be a nice enough woman and Lawrence hadn't expected her to be a type to kill someone like that. He had obviously been wrong seeing as she had killed that scout without so much as batting an eyelid.

Killing was probably something Lawrence would probably have to get used to, although he hoped this whole war against these rebels would end soon enough so he wouldn't actually have to shoot anyone. What a mistake he had made by joining the Marine Corps, he thought.

The one thing he had gotten used to was the weather, which was usually hot and dry with very little moisture. The cooling packs that lined the insides of their armour did little help to save them from the heat but it did keep down how much they sweated, which was a bonus. Lawrence had gotten used to waking up in the mornings feeling hot and rather quite shitty. He had never really been a morning person.

Taking a bite of the light brown nutrient bar he almost spat it out in disgust. Most of these MREs were never any good and he preferred the slightly better food that the chefs back at camp cooked up. No food available to him on this planet seemed to be any good.

"Hey, Lawrence, do ya mind sharing that?"

Lawrence turned to his right, seeing Layman sitting on top of a nearby rock, submachine gun on his lap and his usual disgruntled expression on his face.

"Have the whole thing," Lawrence said, throwing the MRE bar to the Private. He caught it and took a bite, frowning at the taste. After a pause he continued eating, the taste not really having much of an effect on him.

"I saw how ya reacted to our dead rebel friend," Layman said in between chewing, "that ain't a good sign, throwing up like that."

Lawrence raised an eyebrow, surprised that Layman was talking to him.

"What's your point?"

"My point is, you don't want to be doing that when we actually get in the shit," Layman said.

Lawrence failed to see what he was getting at.

"The shit?"

"A shootout," Reynolds interjected, looking up from where he sat against a boulder, "you know, when we end up exchanging fire with some rebel grunts."

Lawrence nodded in understanding. Layman had taken out another cigarette and was busy trying to light it, finding that his lighter was low on fuel and so began fiddling with it.

"It's been months since that happened," Lawrence said, managing a weak smile, knowing his argument was a bit weak, "so, you know, I doubt we'll get into one…"

"Bullshit," Layman said bluntly, finally lighting his cigarette and puffing on it, taking it out of his mouth so he could continue talking with ease, "the reason nothing's happened is because these rebels are planning something, ya know. They're planning something big and so haven't bothered us because of it."

"You really think so?"

"Of course I damn well think so; otherwise I wouldn't be tellin' ya," Layman continued, "so quit it with the stupid-ass questions and listen to what I have to say."

Layman paused for a moment, as if expecting Lawrence to say something. Seeing that the Private didn't, Layman continued, sounding quite sure of himself.

"The very reason these damn fanatics choose this planet out of all the ones they could of chosen from in this area of space," Layman explained, "is because of the shit that's been found on this planet. I heard that there were, well, these are only rumours, that there are actually ancient structures buried underground on parts of this planet."

Lawrence wasn't sure what Layman was trying to get at but decided to play along.

"There have been all sorts of energy sources and stuff detected underground. Who put them there? Nobody knows…"

"Hang on right there," Reynolds said; having been listening to what Layman was saying, "Nobody knows whether these things are true. I doubt they are, man…"

"Why do you think the rebels chose this shithole of a planet then?" Layman asked, turning to look down at Reynolds, "there's nothing here except sand and goddamn lizards. And even those damn lizards are hard to find."

"Maybe, but I think these rebels simply chose this planet for its seclusion and insignificance," Reynolds replied casually, "that's it."

"You can your goddamn big words," Layman said, shaking his head. He turned back to Lawrence, puffing on his cigarette.

"What I was trying to get at before, about you throwing up during combat, or even worse, running away," Layman said, pausing for effect, "you ought to take it in, you know. Because if you even dare going all sissy ass in a combat situation and putting our lives in danger, I will personally kill you myself."

Lawrence was a little taken aback by this comment but didn't say anything. Rather, he turned to Reynolds for support.

"Would he do that?"

"You bet he would," Reynolds replied, sounding sincere and nodding. Lawrence was left to dwell on Layman's words since the Private fell silent after that, busy cleaning his submachine gun. Lawrence sat where he was as they waited for the rebel armour column to arrive. He did spend some time watching one of the native sand coloured lizards crawl from underneath a rock and start on a rather slow walk across some rocks. It did do something to help pass the time away.

Unfortunately for these marines, the armour column they were waiting for never did arrive, leaving them out in the desert sun for another hour.