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Mission From SATU part 3: Clowns Can't Draw
Posted By: Chuckles
Date: 8 August 2004, 8:46 AM

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Mission From SATU part 3: Clowns Can't Draw

Warm blood flowed from the ruptured helmet, pumped by the beating heart of a dead man. A thick red puddle surrounded the Spartan's head like a halo; melting the snow and cracking the ice beneath. The Pelican was gone, the screaming had stopped, and the fires had died out; showing little interest in the bare stone barracks. Silence alone stood vigil as the ice began to get the better of the blood, and the last warmth of a trusting traitor was sucked away. He betrayed Spartans. He trusted Ackerson.

Ackerson. Monster? No. Madman. Hardly. Murderer? Perhaps. Out of his mind? Never: at least, it all seemed perfectly sane to him. The monsters were the Spartans: winning token victories that had worth only in boosting the morale of the ignorant. Meanwhile in the last two decades ONI spent more money upgrading the MJOLNIR armor than it spent on all other SpecOps projects combined. This madness had ignored the needs of millions—millions who could have made an actual difference—to service the needs of a handful.

If he had murdered, he had not murdered enough. The few left who outweighed him in Naval Intelligence seemed ready to ride the doomed Spartan bandwagon straight into the grave. They were out of their minds—he knew better. It was clearer now than it had ever been: to get the winning pony into the race he had to put down the pretender. The Spartans must go. Five burned alive and a traitor betrayed was no tragedy; it was a good start. Only a start.

It took two Pelicans to transport the teams, and even then it was a fight to maintain proper altitude. Six heavy Spartans rode in each ship, along with a "normal" pilot. Blue team was accompanied by a SpecOps soldier who was to act as a liaison between the teams and Ackerson—a last minute detail that thrilled Lexicus no end. He had to work with Ackerson, but he would never trust him. He knew all too well that trust could kill, and he was nobody's fool. He hoped that it would stay that way, but he didn't trust hope either.

Lex guessed that the soldier was ODST, but his dark fatigues bore no mark designating service or rank. He was older, probably early forties, and Lex could tell that he was in excellent shape. More importantly, if Ackerson had picked him to come along, he would be extremely intelligent. Good: he might be smart enough to stay out of his way. Even other Spartans gave Lexicus a wide berth.

While their counterparts were winning fame and respect fighting the covenant all over the galaxy, Lexicus and Chuckles were busy with something far different. Sure, they were following orders and killing the enemy by the thousands just like the other Spartans, but their fame came with dread, rather than respect. Their comrades in space were killing ugly, bug-eyed aliens: Lex and Chuck were killing fathers, brothers, sons and uncles. They had almost single-handedly prevented worldwide civil war, but some things—even things done in the cause of good—cannot be forgotten, dismissed or applauded. Nobody seemed to care how brutally you slaughtered the enemy, as long as that enemy didn't look like the man in the mirror.

So they lived a life apart, even among their fellow Spartans. After all, the rumors were true. Entire divisions had refused to enter territory where the "Clowns" were known to be operating. They had gotten their nickname from the signature left by Chuckles at each victory. He had tried to draw a Grim Reaper, but wasn't much of an artist. He was amused to learn later that the enemy thought it was a drawing of a clown.

But nobody thought it was funny.

For the eight years the war lasted, nobody knew the truth. Nobody who laid eyes on them lived long enough to report what they saw. As the body count rose, fear of the Clowns infected the morale of the rebel troops. An officer who ordered his soldiers into an area where the Clowns had been was as likely fragged as obeyed. After all, the rumors were true. Thousands had been killed, and nobody knew by who or by what. They only knew a name—a name that meant death. Who can fight death? It is best avoided.

Lexicus was no clown, much less the Grim Reaper, but death followed him and Chuckles as sure as night follows day.

Night was falling.

The sun had already dipped below the horizon when the Pelicans reached the LZ. Departing the ramp, the Spartans found themselves in a clearing between two small hills. Moments later, after they had unloaded their weapons and supplies, a much lighter Pelican flew away. As promised, Lex had received a detailed map during the flight, and he was not happy with what he saw.

The training area covered nine-hundred square miles. What's more, according to their meager intel, the Masterchief could be anywhere on the map, save where they were standing now. This presented quite a problem, seeing as Ackerson had just radioed to inform them that they had only thirty-six hours to complete their mission. They were expected to track down and kill at least one, and possibly three, of the most deadly and cunning warriors in the history of combat over an area of nearly a thousand square miles, and do so within thirty-six hours?! How in the world did Ackerson expect them to do that?

As Lexicus was about to set up patrols the SpecOps soldier, Ackerson's liaison, walked over. "Chief, I have some fresh intel that might help us out." Fresh intel? Lexicus knew when he was being spoon-fed information, and it was time to rip off the bib.

"Soldier, I don't know why the Colonel has told you to withhold vital information from me until the last minute, but you had better keep something in mind: you work for me now, not Ackerson. Withhold intel from me again, and ODST or not, I'll send you feet first into Hell. Got it?" Without waiting for an answer Lexicus grabbed the data pad out of the soldier's hands, looked at the screen and froze.

The liaison was dead before he had time to scream.

C.T. Clown