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Stranded at Home Part 4
Posted By: Dispraiser<dispraiser@netzero.com>
Date: 17 August 2003, 4:13 AM

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      "Jim? Jim Kahn? He's a friend guys." One of the Marines said with a familiar voice. He stepped around the corner, though I couldn't identify him with his air purifier mask on, a filter to keep the desert sand out of his lungs. "A very long time friend. I haven't seen you since the academy Jim, where the hell were you all this time?"

       I stared at him blankly for a second, unable to recognize him, "Oh come on! It's me, Zach Ambrosiac? You don't remember me?"

       "Zach! My god! How did you get in with the GIs? You graduated top of our class as a pilot?"

       "Ah, a long story, but to sum it all up, I got married."

       I laughed, "Married? What happened to your life plan, date, date, date, date, date, die?", I laughed some more. He was a regular ladies man in the academy and had more girlfriends than he can count.

       "Well, I got a keeper Jim. You?"

       "Ah, nothing much, I became a pilot, and, long story short, here I am."

       "How about long story long? What happened?"

       "Well, I was shot down in the desert and was then 'rescued' by these mean terrorists. They took his leg off, any medics with your battalion?"

       "We have a few technicians that can probably help him to some degree, but I doubt we can fix his leg now."

       Mark let a look of sadness creep onto his face. Even if he lived through the glassing he would surely never walk again. His life was over as far as he was concerned. "Wait! So I'm stuck like this?"

       "Hardly matters, we're soon to be smoldering, transparent liquids anyway." Zach said.

       "Nah, we'd be red." I replied. "Anyway, Zach, we're gonna tag along with your battalion till the end, right?"

       "Well, I'll have to ask the leaders of the battalion. Oh wait, they don't care, yeah! Come on, we need all the people we can get!" he replied, still excited to meet an old friend.

       "Mark, you up for it?"

       "Patch me up, and I will fight. I can sit on one of those BAPs and fire a rifle or something, but I want to kick some Covenant ass either way." Replied Mark, more heroic than he had seemed before.

       "Well, Zach, I got some info that will change your offensive game plan quite a bit." I said.

       "What?" he asked, a result of my pausing in the middle of my statement.

       "I happen to know where a gravity lift is. A Covenant one."

       He chuckled, "No way." He paused for a few seconds, examining my face. He could tell what emotions a person by merely looking at their face. "You're telling the truth, aren't you?"

       "Yeah, I got the Goxinus statement too. Diameter 105.48, horizontal 48.105 at 3:17 and 23 seconds today." I replied. Using the crater on the Moon titles Goxinus due to it's size, and gathered the required fields regarding the diameter and width as well as the time we could calibrate our angle, and using a computer similar to a GPS system we could project that line from the moon to tell where it hit the surface of the planet, and in turn where the point of origin was.

       "Okay, keep that on your mind, I'm going to get the commanding officer. Write it in the sand or something!" he said as he turned and ran towards the BAP lines. I noted that one of the BAP's was pointing almost vertical, it's back sinking into the soft sand of the desert, which often was close to liquid. This was a hostile environment to the BAP's, and they would need a brace to shell out the gravity lift. We could probably salvage a piece of metal from the side of one of the crafts from this terrorist battlegroup. I lifted my foot and slid it along the sand forming the coordinates I was located at when I discovered the gravity lift.

      The dirt however was very loose, and the howling wind of a mid summer2 desert sandstorm easily erased my writings. On Lunar 4 we have Ten seasons due to the fact that Lunar 4 orbits two stars rather than one. The seasons however behave like Earth seasons, just out of order with three Summer times, Sumer1, summer2, and summer3, and 3 winter times, labeled like the prior.

      The Lunar 4 year would begin as we orbited the largest star at our furthest point from the sun, opposite of Earth, which begins it's year near to the closest part of it's orbit. This is Winter3, because it is the most extreme. Winter2 is a neutral wintertime and Winter1 is a mellow wintertime. Summer is labeled reverse, the warmest being Summer3 and the coldest being Summer1, though it is suiting when comparing the relative seasonal extremes. Summer two comes shortly after Winter3, the beginning of a new year, and is followed by Summer 3 and then summer one, which, all together, last nearly an Earth year. Lunar 4 uses it's own time zones naturally, but follows the Earth year, so in technicality, by definition of a year everyone on Lunar 4 is only a third the age they claim to be, one Lunar 4 year equaling near to 3 Earth years, falling just a few months short.

      I stopped halfway through the second number, realizing that I had the numbers memorized, and that the sand behind it was already erased completely as if I had never written it at all. The sand was behaving this way because the moon was passing overhead, and the gravity from the moon pulled water upwards, and made dirt much lighter. It blew easier, and formed this desert millions of year ago because its orbit crossed over this area more then any other, causing violent windstorms that destroyed any vegetation and destroyed any rocks. Zack came back with a pad of paper and a pencil in his hands, which were coated in oil from one of the BAPs and left trademarked fingerprints all over the pad. "Alright, Diameter 105.48," I paused and waited while he wrote, "horizontal 48.105" I waited again, "3:17 and 23 seconds today." Get some readings on where it is. Maybe we can rally some survivors to call in an air strike. Or maybe we could drop a nuke in there, make some Covenant into glass for a change." I replied. He continued to write for a few seconds before chuckling at my attempt at a joke.

      "Aright, thanks. I'll go tell the CO. Go to the armory and get yourself a rifle. Chances are that we will mobilize within a half an hour to attack this gravity lift."

      "Aright. Get to work man, talk to ya later." Zack left heading for his division's mobile HQ as I began to look for the armory. I walked through the battlefield, around the craters and bodies. I noticed that a group of Marines were digging three shallow graves for the comrades they had lost in the battle, and another group pushed the bodies of the terrorists into the craters, filling them sloppily with sand. As the remaining Marines performed a sweep of the armored column I noticed that an occasional survivor would leap out at them attempting to kill them, but none succeeded. The groups point-man would fire a single shot and the enemy would be felled before they could even get a bearing as to where the Marines were. Amazing we were losing the war...

      The dark room seemed to leap every few seconds, the flak fire from Coeant gun emplacements obscuring even the might of the two suns. The room danced with light entertaining the death which we knew awaited us. Our planet invaded we were the last line of defense, Justin had said so. (Jim will make frequent reference to Justin. He is a religious prophet which foretold the coming invasion of Lunar 4.) Lunar 4 was under attack, and we were it's saving grace. The ship rumbled again as we began to descend. I felt my stomach lift to my sternum and was overcome with a feeling of safety that came with flying. I was a pilot, not a soldier. I checked the rifle in my hands and slid a magazine of ammo into the gun. I knew how to use one, but was that enough?

      "Don't worry." I looked up to see a smiling woman toting the same make of rifle I had. She was beautiful in regards to the general Marine Corps GI. It was hard to tell too much about her face in the darkness of the cabin, but even as she spoke an aura seemed to follow her words, breathing confidence.

      "Who's worrying?" I asked, bravado filling my words. I straitened my posture and tried to look as calm as I could.

      "I can tell it's your first time on the frontlines. A little advice from soldier to soldier..." she sat down next to me, "Point and click." She lifted the rifle and showed me the trigger and gestured the aimer, "Get it so you can see their heads in there," she slid her hand down to the trigger "and click." I laughed.

      "Point and click? Real reassuring, I associate that word with operating system crashes and spam mail."

      "Sounds like you use Windows."

      "Would appear so. Jim Kahn, 43rd Airborne." I extended a hand and shook her waiting hand. Such a greeting was formal on Lunar 4.

      "Ah, would assume that you're a pilot, you don't look like a soldier."

      "Hey! What's that supposed to mean, Pilots are soldiers too!"

      The dropship suddenly hit the ground and lurched upwards. My gun clattered to the ground as the dropship lifted up about five feet and opened the back hatch. "Let's see flyboy." The woman jumped out of the dropship and immediately allowed her legs to crumble beneath her. She quickly regained her posture before disappearing under the dropships and continuing up the battlefield.

      I managed to say wait quietly before she ran away. The battle was upon us. I grabbed my rifle as I scrambled to the back of the dropship and dropped into the warm sand. I sunk to my ankles in the soft dunes and immediately noticed the warmth of the desert heat. I scrambled beneath the dropship though I couldn't see my hands in front of me, a small dust storm following the exhaust of the dropship. I stumbled to the other side and saw the battlefield.

      A hundred or so Marines were roughly lining one side of the battlefield and an arch of tracer fire emerged from the line quickly bolting to the other side. Behind them I could see the 101st Artillery moving into position. On the top of the hill a group of fifty or so Covenant were quickly scrambling to defend their gravity lift. A mismatched barrage of gunfire was returned, green and blue bolts randomly descending to the Marine ranks. A group of longswords ran overhead followed by a line of explosions across the hill. Sniper bolt arched across the desert and the sun glared down at us. It didn't like us fighting, I could tell, no one did. I saw a blue body roll down the hill, a trail of purple blood following it. This was real combat, not a simulator, real people would fight today, and real people would die. I could only pray that I would be one of the few who lived.

      I ran to the edge of the dune I was on and slid down it, my right foot leading and my left shin balancing me. The warm sand was somehow comforting, though the sounds of gunfire and screams in the distance were not. Our battlegroups mission was to get to the edge of the ridge as fast as we could and throw as many grenades as possible into the crater and hope to create a sea of blood where once was foe. I reached the bottom of the dune along with three other marines, one of which was Mark, prosthetic leg slowing him considerably. There were no spare uniforms so the crimson blood of his amputation stained his leg, the setting sun making efforts to tone the sky to its color. I quickly ran over the scalding sand to the side of the hill that was covered with a long shadow cast by the setting sun and was eased from my pain by the cooler sand. I continued to run up the side of the Covenant dune, firing randomly up it hoping to kill anything standing in our way. As I scrambled up the hill I pushed a few bodies out of my way, copping a plasma grenade from whichever I could. When I reached the peak of the hill an involuntary breath of awe escaped my stunned lips. Hundreds of Covenant sat in the crater as a series of artillery shells struck them. Explosions, both blue and red shot a rainbow of blood everywhere, and at least a dozen Marines lightly circled the edges of the crater. I quickly dropped to my knees for safety and hurled a grenade into the pit as the squadron of Longswords again dropped bombs on the Covenant. An Elite's body hit the sand above me and was tossed down the hill. I couldn't hear anything but knew better than to be afraid. I grabbed one of the tiny grenades, pulling it's pin and hurtling it into the crater behind me. I plugged my ears of habit though my hearing was amiss and watched as the explosion soon ensued. This was an incredible militral success. The explosion lifted a flaming Grunt a score feet into the air, dropping it's scalding remains on a troop of Elites. I quickly grabbed another grenade and pulled the pin from it as a set of Banshees descended from the clouds above us. Green bolts lanced down upon Marine positions and screams echoed through my returning hearing. Within seconds I could see a half dozen SAM missiles arch up into the sky, exploding into a fireball on contact with the Banshees. None broke free. I was distracted and almost forgot to throw the grenade, though I quickly realized my mistake and hurle it into the pit. Another artillery strike began, and by the time it subsided the enemy forces were all but defeated. I saw several Marines jumping into the crater and followed suite, jumping into the pit to finish the rest of the enemy. A grunt jumped from hiding and fired a series of plasma bolts at me. I quickly rolled behind a supply crate for cover before standing up to fire at it. Three shots caught it in the chest and it instantly toppled over, a trail of blue blood following it to the ground. I charged at it as it twitched and quickly fired a burst of shots into it's head to finish it. I ducked around a crate as an Elite shot at me, two of his plasma shots hitting the body of the Grunt. I jumped around the corner as his skull split open, a sniper bullet penetrating it. The fighting had stopped as suddenly a roar like none other filled the joyous ears of the Marines. A few weary eyes managed to look up to see that a ball of fire was becoming a second sun. The flames of a Covenant Cruiser descending to its gravity lift. The tables had turned.