Perspective - Prolouge, Act I
Posted By: The Meep<email@example.com>
Date: 18 June 2010, 1:44 am
Corporal Richard Gum, sniper and long range marksman, grenade mule and back up medic, Reach city boy, spacediver extraordinaire, and soon to be suicide sat on a crate playing with his utuility knife. It's fifteen centimeter blade could be used for many marine related activities, such as shaving, cutting food, and gutting aliens. Right now, though, Richard was content to simply pick at the dry, calloused skin on his palm; the point was exceedingly sharp, but his hand was exceedingly steady. Not once did he accidentally cut to deep, or draw blood.
He was also exceedingly bored.
The In Amber Clad - probably one of the most poetic names for a warship he'd ever heard - was slowly inching its way towards one of the thousands of orbital platforms above Earth. This one, simply named Cairo, just happened to have a half kilometer long gun attached to it. The Orbital Magnetic Accelerator Cannon (O-MAC or, as called by the marines, the O-SHIT cannon) dwarfed the diminutive frigate. Richard half-heartedly wished there was a viewing port nearby, just so he would have something to look at. But the nearest window was in the bridge, and that was obviously off limits to the rank and file marines.
For now, he would have to remain in the staging area. It was a long, narrow black bay, lined with weapon racks and airlocks, that was right up against the inside of the In Amber Clad's hull. It did what it was called: acted as a place for marines and naval personnel to gather prior to docking, so that they could disembark as quickly and efficiently as possible. At the moment, the staging area was mostly empty. There was Richard and his squad, a platoon strength of marines being relocated to the Malta orbital via Cairo's shuttles, and a small honorary color guard waiting for the bridge officers to arrive.
"Alert: orbital thrusters disengaging for docking procedures. Please secure yourself and all loose items."
The PA was curt and formal, but Richard recognized the voice of Commander Keyes, the Old Man of the IAC herself. He and his squad had only been on her ship for two weeks, but it was long enough for him to develop a liking for the Commander. She had a habit of making ship-wide announcements herself, and was pretty loose when it came to regulations. Plus she had a nice voice. And when it came to naval swabs, that was saying a lot.
Still, Richard didn't want to stab himself in the eye when the IAC stopped spinning; so, he put Keyes out of his mind and sheathed his knife. The marine grabbed a handhold above him. Across the metal walkway, his fellow squad members did likewise.
First Lieutenant Benjamin Souza (everyone just called him Soup) was their current platoon leader. Of course, their platoon only had eight men and women in it at the moment, so Soup was also their impromptu squad leader. He was a short, thick bodied man, with beady eyes and a warm smile. He liked to go bald, something that shocked fellow officers but earned respect from the men and women under his command. He stood directly across from Richard, and gave the Corporal a reassuring nod as gravity ceased to exist and their stomachs dissapeared.
Standing next to him was a new face: Lieutenant Sylva, a Naval attache to their squad for the next two days. She had just ridden up from Earth a few hours ago, handing Soup an official looking document and saying she was "observing" their squad for the next forty eight hours. The El-Tee had told him it was nothing, but Richard wasn't fooled. The eye-and-dagger of the Office of Naval Intillgence was stamped proudly on her shoulder; it seemed to stare him down as Sylva leaned over and whispered in Soup's ear.
On the other side of Soup was Staff Sergeant Raine Iabara, the former squad leader of Richard's . She was relieved after the rest of Golf Platoon had vanished in a cloud of freezing gas and burning metal that had once been a UNSC ship-of-the-line above Reach. For now, she served as the leader of Fireteam Bravo, something usually done by a Buck Sergeant, three whole paygrades below her. Raine didn't mind: she got the pay of a SSgt. and only had to do half the work. Her face pinched petite, with big eyes and red hair cut so short it looked brown. Her breasts floated in free fall, and Richard tried his best not to stare at them in the company of officers. She winked at him, then cast a sidelong glance at the ONI spook and drew a finger across her throat. Richard threw up a false smile. Their friendship had been strained by the fall of Reach, and he didn't want to risk burning any more bridges. So he smiled.
The marine looked to his right down the black hallway, towards the other platoon. The forty or so soldiers were spread out, many staring at a wall or their hands. The feeling of despair was almost palpable: none of them smiled, none of them cracked jokes or even talked. The staging area was silent aside from the pitter-patter of precise docking thrusters firing on the IAC's hull.
Richard figured it wasn't that surprising. Sure, the war was going badly before Reach fell, but at least the soldiers could point at their fleet and the solid wall of fortified Inner Colonies and say in a hopeful voice "The Covies still have to get through this!"
But then the Covies did get through it. And it didn't take them years or decades like everyone said it would. Just one massive invasion, one immense battle that lasted less than three days was enough to turn the single most fortified planet owned by Humanity into a cinder. How many ships did they lose? At least three times as many as CENTCOM would admit. And there was no way only one hundred million people died. Five hundred of nearly eight hundred million people survived the battle; and if only one hundred million died, what happened to the other two hundred million?
The war was falling apart. The economy was running on imaginary credits. Martial law was the only thing holding the central government together. The military was scraping the bottom of the personnel barrel; they said recruitment was at an all time high, but then how come Richard's platoon hadn't been filled or even merged with another one? in over a month? Not only had the UNSC lost valuable soldiers and equipment over Epsilon Eridani, but they had apparently lost the core of their logistical and beuruacratic support. Armies weren't getting supplies, soldiers weren't getting trained, literally entire battalions had gone AWOL, and there was no one to round them up. The brass could strategize and spread propoganda all they wanted, but it couldn't hide the fact that thousands of basic necessities simply were not being met.
Richard closed his eyes. Logistics and manpower was one thing, but he was more focused on the hopelessness that had pervaded the UNSC after the fall of Reach. What a terrible blow, so powerful that even the quietest, most far fetched hopes held secret and safe within the depths of every person were shattered.
We have nothing: no hope, no will, no reason to exist. Nothing.
Perspective - Omega, Act II