Let This Be Your Last Battlefield: Oasis
Posted By: QuantumSheep<email@example.com>
Date: 24 December 2010, 10:31 pm
October 15th, 2552
Fort Oasis UNSCDF Base, Tunisia
The heat was the most noticeable thing about Fort Oasis. Located in the middle of a desert, miles outside the city of Tunis, Fort Oasis was in fact far from any sort of Oasis. It had received its name from the fact that it was the only point of interest for miles, as an oasis would often be similar in that it would be the only thing in a seemingly endless desert that was worth noting. Fort Oasis was somewhat large, complete with an airstrip and several buildings worth of barracks and offices. The base itself was situated upon a hill, an obvious means of defence if it were ever attacked. An enemy that would have to fight uphill would be at a significant disadvantage compared to the defenders who would have the high ground.
In the years of its existence, Fort Oasis had seen little action. To many it was simply a backwards posting, reserved for those who were either unlucky enough to be sent there or were deemed unfit for anywhere else. Even at a time like this, when terrorist organizations were actually proving themselves to be quite a threat, Fort Oasis was still home to perhaps the most misfit soldiers in North Africa. A lot of new recruits from nearby towns and cities were sent to the base, especially in recent months because of the influx of terrorist activity. Fort Oasis was home to a mixed bunch of soldier types, having originally been home to the 39th Infantry Division. It had since taken on board a few platoons worth of marines, some pilots and their Shortsword aircraft as well as a squad of ODSTs. It was a mixed bunch of soldiers with an even more mixed up bunch of nationalities. In this day and age nationalities did not mean much anymore, as different cultures were so spread out across the world and the remaining colonies that it seemed no single country was home to any single race of people. Everything was mixed nowadays, regardless of where it was located.
Tunisia was one of a few countries to be part of the North African Protectorate (NAP) but still retained an independent status when it came to its own local affairs. It was also one of the few countries to have changed very little since the twentieth century, save for its main capital, Tunis. That city was a gleaming coastal metropolis, with towering monolithic structures that dominated the skyline. A lot of the smaller towns throughout the country were mostly old fashioned, with stone and brick buildings as well as new technology existing with old: old fashioned manual doors kept locked with computerized locks, market stalls secured by cheap AIs
Tunisia was one of the few countries where some of the most advanced technology was only being fundamentally used, otherwise it kept to its old ways. Even Fort Oasis was a mix of old and new, having existed for years but having changed hands many times. There were still old military installations scattered around, some dating from World War Two (which were in a crumbling state) while others were only slightly more recent, with bunker complexes dating from the twenty-third century able to be found tucked away in valleys and within mountains. It was these obsolete military installations that many believed were being used by terrorist organizations to operate from, moving from one place to another using the underground network of tunnels and bunkers that crisscrossed the desert. It made trying to find any one terrorist cell a near impossible task, especially since the UNSC had done little to help the forces at Fort Oasis. They were too busy trying to organize a fleet strong enough to take on the Covenant in the wake of the fall of Reach. Ground forces were scattered at best and the only real defence Earth had were the three hundred orbital defence platforms, the result of years of research and construction as well as billions in taxpayer money. Perhaps the sheer amount of money spent on such an enterprise was one of the reasons why many believed that the orbital defences would be a waste of time. If a whole fleet had not stopped the Covenant at Reach, what hope did some orbital guns have?
At this time in the morning it was already heating up. The sky was practically cloudless and the sun was baking the desert with its harsh rays. The usual routine had begun at the base and a new truckload of recent recruits had arrived, "greener than grass" as some might have called them.
Corporal Marinus Calderwell was one of the luckier people on the base, primarily because he was not a proper soldier per se. Rather, he was in charge of clerical work and acted as an interpreter for a few of the different languages spoken on the base, ranging from English, Arabic, French and Nubian. It really was a diverse bunch here on the base, with Marinus himself being descended from French ancestors in Algeria. He was about thirty, average build and with blue eyes and short dark blonde hair. He was dressed in typical desert coloured uniform, complete with a cap that was doing little to stop the sun from burning his face and neck. Even so, it mattered very little as he spent most of his day inside an air conditioned office well out of the desert heat.
Breakfast over in the mess hall had been unremarkable, as was to be expected from an army kitchen. Things had since become worse with the recent arrival of the rowdy ODST squad, stuck on the base due to a military shuttle accident over in Tunis. As a result all flights had been delayed for a few days, leaving the squad of ODSTs with little else to do but stay on the base. They were loud, brash and arrogant. They also had the habit of hurling insults at anyone who so much as looked at them funny, Corporal Calderwell included. He would be relieved once they were gone to wherever it was they had supposed to have gone by now. The ODST squad spent much of their time sitting at table in the corner of the mess hall, speaking loudly and swearing even louder. It was a wonder no fights had broken out because of them. One would happen eventually, Calderwell was quite sure of it.
There was a fair amount on the agenda today and the Corporal was thinking through what he had to do as he traversed the grounds of the base. At the main administration building where he worked, the UNSC flag as well as the Tunisian flag flew up high, rippling in the warm desert breeze. There was some vegetation on the path up to the building but mostly there was sand and plenty of it. That sand got everywhere, even indoors. It could get annoying, finding sand all over the carpet in the office.
Calderwell was walking along when up ahead he saw the no-nonsense Sergeant Major Derek Plummer heading his way. Plummer was in his forties with stern features and dull blue eyes. He was in a similar uniform to Calderwell, save for the Sergeant Major rank insignia on the sleeves. He was tall and broad-shouldered, walking with an air of authority. Calderwell managed a friendly smile as the Sergeant Major walked by.
"Good morning, Sergeant Major," Calderwell said as he walked past.
"How do you know what kind of goddamn day it is?" The Sergeant Major asked, walking by. Calderwell stopped, frowned and tried to work out just what the Sergeant Major's problem was. Some might say that the Sergeant Major had trouble "working the stick out of his ass" although Calderwell was unsure of what this meant.
Entering the main administration building, home to several offices save for the commanding officer who had taken up residence in a private cabin nearby, Calderwell scraped the soles of his boots on the mat at the door, getting rid of the sand that clung to them. He looked at the receptionist, a young blonde haired female, Sally her name was. She barely acknowledged his presence, instead she took a datapad off of the desk and slid it across to the Corporal.
"More forms for you to fill out," she said, not even looking up.
uh, thanks." Calderwell took the datapad, unsure on how to react. Then again, Sally was always like this.
"Anything I should know?" He asked her, trying to strike up some semblance of conversation with the woman. Sally looked up this time, having had her eyes glued to the computer screen in front of her.
"Nothing's changed since yesterday," she replied, "Why?"
Calderwell leaned forwards a little, trying catch a glimpse at her computer screen. She frowned and flicked a switch, turning it off.
What are you doing?" Calderwell asked.
There was an awkward silence. Calderwell looked around at the empty room, unsure on whether he should actually leave or not.
"Are you going to go?" Sally asked, sounding rather insistent.
I'll go now."
As Calderwell was about to leave, Sally looked his way and seemed to remember something important.
"Corporal!" She called out after him. Calderwell stopped and turned around.
"I almost forgot." She picked up another datapad from the desk and handed it to him. "There's some important guy coming in today. The Major wants you to help him with some of the paperwork."
"Important guy?" Calderwell asked, frowning as he took the datapad.
"Yeah. He's going to be staying for a while, apparently. That's all I've been told."
" Calderwell said, flicking through the information on the datapad. A few phrases caught his eye, such as "weekly reports required" and "nominate someone to keep an eye on him." Calderwell began to read all of this as he started towards his workspace down the hall, almost bumping into the doorway as he kept his eyes on the datapad and nowhere else.
It was surprising to discover that a Spartan-III was on his way to the base. Apparently he was going to be here at Fort Oasis for a while and that the higher-ups wanted him carefully observed. Calderwell had only heard a bit about the Spartans, how they had an almost mythical status as super soldiers. It surprised him to find that Major George Golding, the commanding officer for the entire base, had assigned the Corporal to be the one keeping an eye on the Spartan. The higher-ups wanted weekly reports and Calderwell would be the one to write those reports. He saw this and shook his head, knowing just how awkward it would be to have to constantly watch this Spartan and report his actions to High Command. It was an odd task but Calderwell knew better than to complain. He liked it here, at Fort Oasis, with his comfortable office job. He didn't want to get transferred, something that had happened to him a few too many times in the past at other places for a variety of reasons. If he had to report on this Spartan weekly then he supposed he could manage it. How hard could it possibly be?
A small, rather cosy subsidiary building sat a short distance from the main administration building. Behind it was Fort Oasis' runway, lined by a few hangars that were populated by Shortsword fighters. There were about five in total, all five of which had seen very little action in their time here. A few Falcons and Pelicans were parked under shelter from the desert sun near the airstrip. Major George Golding's office took up the small subsidiary building and he had a window that allowed him to watch the activity on the runway as the Shortsword pilots would often go on practice flights and occasionally do some actual reconnaissance. The Major's office was certainly large, with his desk at one end by the window, being an expensive wooden one shipped from someplace off-world. A few chairs of differing sorts were ahead of it as well as a table in the middle, often used for gatherings of sorts during the evenings. Poker games with the other officers often took place here, as did other assorted card games.
Major George Golding was a forty-six year old man with brown hair, complete with shades of grey seeping through the colour. His eyes were blue and he had a thick, somewhat bushy moustache just below his nose. His favourite hat, a beige cowboy-style one, sat on one part of his desk. He wore it wherever he went whenever he was outside and he did quite often wear it indoors as well, save for when he was alone in his office filing paperwork. His brown desert coloured uniform was well-decorated. George had always envisioned himself as having a career in the military and had signed up as soon as he had been old enough, spending time on a few different colony worlds. He had ended up in the ODSTs and had spent several years with them before being relegated to a backwards posting here in Tunisia. As far as things went, his career had most certainly gone downhill. He could not quite work out why, he supposed it had something to do with his dislike of one of the higher-ups. As far as what part of the military he was in now, he had been taken out of the ODSTs and had missed a potentially lucrative posting on a ship called the Pillar of Autumn. Now he was more or less regular army, stuck to run a military base in the middle of nowhere. He briefly pondered what could have been and realized one rather important thing: the officer he had a dislike for had had a nephew, one who had been in the ODSTs as well. Major Silva had been this nephew's name, although George could not be sure. He supposed it did not matter much now. What mattered was that he had a fairly comfortable but unexciting job here in Tunisia. All the talk of rebel activity here had been vastly overestimated as no sort of engagement with any sort of rebel group had occurred for at least a month.
George had been mulling over some files for the past half hour, having finished breakfast beforehand. It seemed that today could very well turn into a rather unusual day for there was apparently a Spartan, of all things, on his way here. It seemed that High Command did not want him out in the field for a variety of reasons, most of which had something to do with the Spartan's mental state of mind. Regardless, George was grateful for the help such a brilliant soldier would bring. Those Spartans could get things done and he would be great to train the new recruits here. There were never too many recruits showing up here anyway but when there were they were always so "green", as the terminology went, it seemed unlikely that any of them would ever become professional soldiers.
Putting aside the datapad he had been reading, George sat back in his seat and, after a moment of thought, reached into a pocket in his uniform's shirt and pulled out a fresh cigar. Smoking was one of those things that came and went in and out of fashion, with its once negative side effects easily cured by today's medical advancements. George stuck the end of the cigar into his mouth, lit the far end with a lighter he retrieved from a pocket in his pants and took a long drag on. Smoke wafted from the tip and towards the ceiling and the smell of tobacco suddenly became quite pungent. George waved some of it away as he returned his attention to another datapad, this one being about recent requisition orders for the base.
There was a knock at the door and the resident AI, some irritating British accented one named Wellington, chimed in through the computer terminal on George's desk.
"Sergeant Major Plummer is at the door. Shall I permit him entry, Major?"
"Yeah, go ahead," the Major replied. He could have very well have gotten up and unlocked the door himself but he supposed that was unnecessary, seeing as the AI could do it for him.
The door clicked open and in stepped the Sergeant Major. He was a large man, the Sergeant Major, covered with muscle and with broad shoulders to match. He looked more like a body builder than a soldier and had probably seen far more combat than the Major ever had. A soldier as finely skilled as the Sergeant Major should be out on the battlefield doing some good. However, in Sergeant Major Plummer's case it seemed he had ticked off the wrong people a few years ago and had been sent to Fort Oasis as a result. He had apparently refused promotions several times, preferring to remain a Sergeant Major rather than get relegated to a desk job if he got too high in rank.
It was somewhat common for the Sergeant Major to come in and talk with the Major about whatever came to mind and this morning was no different.
"Well, Sergeant Major, it's another fine day in the middle of nowhere," George said, putting down his datapad.
"No different to the last one?" Sergeant Major Plummer asked.
"No different to the last one," George agreed, nodding his head. He paused for a moment, looking up at Plummer. "You care for a coffee, Sergeant Major?"
"I'm alright without one, sir."
"Good, because I was about to say that we're out of ground coffee anyway," the Major replied, "We're also running out of milk, biscuits and those air freshener things that get put up in the toilet blocks. In fact, it's a miracle we get any of the luxuries while we're out in the middle of nowhere. Those requisition officers over in Tunis who are supposed to ship in stuff for us are hopeless at their jobs."
As a whole, Fort Oasis was hopelessly understaffed and undersupplied. They may have had soldiers here but most had never seen any real action. They may have had Shortsword pilots but none were especially competent. And the base itself was never properly supplied. It was one of the most neglected military bases in North Africa and somehow the UN expected the personnel here to be able to fight a war against terrorist groups. George guessed that the whole understaffing thing was a direct result of the recent completion of the orbital defences, each orbital gun platform being home to a contingent of troops. The UNSC was preparing Earth for what they saw as an inevitable Covenant attack, leaving much of the ground forces on the actual planet horrible under-strength. It did have some logic behind it, though: if the Covenant did come they would most likely glass Earth completely rather than launch a ground invasion. That would explain the sheer importance of the orbital defence grid: it would stop even the largest of Covenant fleets in its tracks. That was the idea, anyway. George had seen the Covenant in action a few times before: it was hard to imagine them being stopped by a few hundred space cannons.
"I heard that there's a new rifle being introduced," George said, remembering an important notice he had recently read, "It's going to replace the DMR. They're calling it the 'BR55'."
"I've seen it, sir. It looks like a big piece of plastic," Plummer answered, "I think I'll stick with my pistol."
The Major shrugged. Plummer could do what he wanted, it was not as if they would get into many firefights here in Tunisia. Whatever terrorist presence there was, it was nothing big. Just a bunch of pissed off civilians with guns and explosives. That sort of thing happened all the time.
"There's another thing," the Major continued, "Some Spartan soldier's due to show up soon
"A Spartan, sir?"
There was a pause. Plummer was frowning, unsure of what he should think. The Major shrugged again.
"I was just as surprised to hear about it as you are," George said, "But, it seems the higher-ups in the UNSC have decided to dump the poor bastard here with us. Apparently he's been through a lot
" He paused, remembering some of the things he had read up on the Spartan. "He's been through a hell of a lot, more than both of us put together. So, the big wigs think he's a bit too traumatised to be put back into fighting aliens so they're going to stick him with us for a while, help train some of the recruits. In all it's going to act as a sort of 'break' for him. I can imagine he hasn't had much time off, being a Spartan and all. You do know what I mean by 'Spartan', don't you?"
"Well, sir, there's the ancient Spartans with the swords and shields," Plummer replied in his stern Texan drawl, "And then there are the super soldiers that are a bit more recent. Don't assume I've been living under a rock for most of my life, Major."
"I didn't assume anything
" George frowned, trying to decipher the Plummer's typically neutral expression. Damn, he was hard to work out. Did he ever joke? Even when it sounded like he was it was impossible to be certain. The Sergeant Major had never cracked a smile in the years that George had known him.
"Anyway, he's bound to show up sooner or later," George continued, "And if anything, I want him treated nicely. Like I said, he's been through a lot. Apparently he lost his entire squad on one mission. It must have been pretty tough on him when that happened."
"I know the feeling, sir," Plummer replied.
George was about to reply when the AI, Wellington, chimed in again.
"Major, the Spartan has just arrived. Should I send him here?"
The Major sighed, annoyed at the interruption.
"Speak of the Devil," Plummer said.
"Send him up, Wellington," George ordered, "And try not to interrupt me like that. It scares the living hell out of me sometimes."
"I'm sorry sir; I'll take that into consideration."
"I don't like that AI," Plummer said evenly. The Major simply nodded in agreement. Neither of them had been a fan of talking, intelligent computers. They had the capacity to give even the toughest of soldiers the creeps.
It was a few minutes before the Spartan walked into the office, outfitted in a perfectly kept uniform bearing the insignia of a First Lieutenant. He looked to be in his mid twenties, perhaps slightly younger. His brown hair was cut short and his skin was somewhat pale, probably a side effect of being indoors for the last few years during his physical rehabilitation. The Sergeant Major stepped aside as the Lieutenant stepped forwards and stopped at the front of the Major's desk, snapping off a salute.
"Sir!" The Lieutenant stood rigidly to attention.
Christ he looks young, the Major thought upon seeing the Lieutenant. Faced with such a well disciplined soldier the Major was momentarily at a loss on what to do. People around here, especially officers, were not so
"Spartan Lieutenant Leon A-091 reporting for duty, sir!"
" George took a moment to coordinate himself. What the hell were they going to do with a Spartan in such a backwards military base? "At ease, Lieutenant." The Lieutenant immediately relaxed, looking down at where the Major sat attentively.
" The Major looked up at the young but definitely experienced soldier carefully. "Have you got a last name? You know, a proper last name? Something that isn't a number?"
"No sir," Leon replied in a neutral tone.
"Well, you're going to have to get one," George said, "You have to understand, you're no longer in the real serious game anymore. I know you're probably not happy, being sent to this dump and I feel sorry for you. A good, certainly talented soldier such as yourself ought to be out there fighting the good fight. People around here aren't so professional. If you want, you can call me 'George' rather than 'sir' or 'Major' all of the time. The Sergeant Major here still insists on calling me 'sir' and 'Major' despite the fact I've told him he doesn't need to
"I prefer it, sir," the Sergeant Major interjected. He was a military man to the bone.
"Anyway, you're here now and I know I can rely on you." The Major took a careful puff on his cigar, watching the Spartan. Someone who had more or less grown up in the military, they understandably seemed to be lacking something
a certain spark, perhaps a genuine personality. From what the Major had read about the Spartans, the Spartan-III program that Leon was a result of had been pursued to create an army of expendable super soldiers. Leon was just one of the few who had survived.
"Have you read my file, sir
I mean, George?" Leon stumbled over his words for a moment, unused to referring to a superior officer by their first name.
"Well, I read what I could," George replied, "But most of it was covered with black ink, thanks to the ONI sensors. I do know you've been through a lot, that you lost your squad and that you've been recovering from a serious injury for the last couple of years. I also know that the UNSC High Command doesn't think you're fully fit to be sent back out into the real thing. That's why they've sent you here, to train recruits in the fight against terrorism. They've also ordered me to get one of my men to write weekly reports on you for their reading pleasure. Maybe they're just going to check your progress for a month or two, I don't know. I am certain that you will get sent back out into the good fight again. You're a Spartan, it's in your blood."
Leon simply nodded. It was hard to read what he was thinking as a soldier like him was a master at hiding emotions behind an emotionless facial expression. From his somewhat narrowed eyes it was obvious he was not looking forward to whatever awaited him here in Tunisia.
"It ain't so bad, Lieutenant," the Sergeant Major said, getting the Spartan's attention, "The food here's at least half decent."
"It'll be an honour to have one of the legendary Spartans here, if you don't mind me sounding a bit clichéd," The Major said, "It'll certainly bring some much needed life to this place."
"Sergeant Major," he continued, getting the man's attention, "It wouldn't trouble you too much if you were to show our new arrival around the place? Show him to his room, even?"
"I can do that, sir, no problem," the Sergeant Major replied.
"Make sure to introduce him to Corporal Calderwell," George added, "He's the one who's going to be writing up those weekly reports about you, Lieutenant. I'd expect he's not looking forward to the job
"With all due respect, sir," Plummer said, "Corporal Calderwell's a moron."
he's the best moron we have." The Major smiled in response. Sergeant Major Plummer, unsurprisingly, did not smile at all. George let his smile fade, especially when he noticed that the joke had been completely lost on the Spartan.
It seems Spartans lack a sense of humour, the Major thought absently. He took another puff on his cigar, watching the Spartan carefully. He seemed a bit out of place, something that did not surprise Major Golding at all. The poor bastard was being wasted here, in Tunisia. He would be better off fighting the Covenant
although it seemed unlikely that there were any real operations being launched against the alien menace. Reach had fallen, George had heard this much. With most of the UNSC fleet destroyed, just how did anyone expect them to be able to launch viable anti-Covenant operations?
"I'll have someone come along and take your luggage for you, Lieutenant," George said, "In the meantime, the Sergeant Major will take you on a bit of a tour around the place, get you acquainted with the people here."
"I understand sir," Leon replied.
"You can wait outside for now, Lieutenant," the Major said, "The Sergeant Major and I would like to talk in private for a minute or two."
Leon nodded, saluted again and then turned around and left. George exchanged glances with Sergeant Major Plummer once the Spartan had left.
"It's damn sad," the Major said, stubbing out the end of his cigar into the ashtray on his desk as he spoke.
"What is, Major?"
"That," the Major replied, nodding in the direction the Spartan had gone, "You know what they do? They get a six year old who meets their genetic requirements and send them to boot camp. Then they subject them to God only knows how many surgical enhancements."
"From the way you were talking to the Lieutenant, I thought you liked him, sir." Plummer sounded only a little confused as he could see George's point and it was a valid one.
"I don't have a problem with the Lieutenant," George said, "I have a problem with the Spartan program. You notice how much of a fish out of water he is? It's sad because he can't handle people. He can't socialize. He just takes orders and gives orders. He's just a cog in a much larger machine. Apparently all the Spartans are like that. What's even worse is that the UNSC originally considered Spartan-III's like him completely expendable. They've probably just sent him here because they got no suicide missions to send him on."
"Isn't that a bit harsh, sir?" Plummer asked, although he did not seem too concerned about the harshness of the Major's perspective.
"Like I said, I have no problem with the Lieutenant," George replied, "He just completely lacks personality. What is humane about forcing a six year old kid into the military? The end result may make a good soldier
but it doesn't make a proper human being." He paused for a moment, thinking. "If we keep that sort of thing up, we're going to lose our humanity in this war."
"He does lack personality, Major," Plummer replied, "That I agree on."
he seems less like a person, more like a
" George struggled to find a proper term to describe Leon.
"He seems more like a hyper lethal vector," Plummer said. The Major nodded in agreement.
"He probably is pretty damn lethal," the Major added, "All of those Spartan types are, apparently." He paused, before adding: "What last name do you think we should give him?"