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Fan Fiction

The Fall of Lunar 4
Posted By: Dispraiser<dispraiser@netzero.com>
Date: 9 December 2002, 9:43 pm

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      The year is 2548, and the war efforts for humanity are not doing so well. We continue to find ourselves facing gruesome defeats at the merciless hands of our enemy, the Covenant. I guess it isn't a fair fight, being they have the upper hand with weapons technology, and the fact that they outnumber us probably ten to one, but we cant just say no fair and hope that they are "nice aliens" and will give us the same guns as them. It is about time we realize that we are in a life or death struggle here, and the only way we can win is with the might of humankind and the will to survive. However, is that enough? My squad will soon determine that question. There were about two hundred of us, well armed too, but we were on the next planet that the Covenant found, and will eventually destroy. They know that we think we are fighting a losing fight, and want to kill us all. That is why we are stuck here. The Covenant can kill us; it is just catching us that are the trouble since we flee. They are faster, but when you are on the run you pick the place of battle, and we were able to use nebulas and stars to hide. Nevertheless, it could not work forever, now they attack the star ports first, leaving all the Marines stuck down on the planet just waiting to die. However, we could live though it would prove challenging. That is where our current mission factors in. We know of a few bunkers that are still fighting, and we want to get in one, giving us an advantage being that we have cover and all the munitions we will ever hope to use, since if we are to die on this godforsaken rock we will make sure we are not alone in death. Those bastards will think twice before messing with us! Right now though we are not ready to fight, we will by any means needed, and so begins my story.

      I have not really gotten a chance yet to tell you about me since of the horrible story I had to tell above, but now that I have outlined my lifetime to tell you about my job. I am a 24-year-old man who has lived in fear for his whole life. I grew up on a battleship. I have lived my whole life trying to be the man who saves the day, believing only in virtues associated with war and patriotism. When I was six years old, I was on a ship that was boarded by the Covenant. During this invasion half the crew aboard the ship died, including my parents. The worst part is that I saw them die. My Dad was a Colonel when the ship was boarded. He fought commanding the first security squad aboard the ship, and was gunned down by a badass group of Elites that snuck up behind his squad and let loose. When I was running to the escape pods, I witnessed his death and listened to an Elite laugh as it shot my Dad to death. My Mom was busy leading me to the escape pods when a wayward plasma grenade latched itself to her back. With this, she ran to the nearest group of Covenant and leapt to them before she blew up; giving me the only memory I still have of her. I got away, landing on a nearby planet and was picked up a month later by another ship. When I was eight I killed my first Covenant. I was on another battleship that was invaded. There I was curled up behind a barrier, hands over my head in a fashion that I knew was futile. If I were to be shot all it would offer me was comfort and security. I shivered despite the ship being warm and saw a Commander run up to me ducking, and held out a pistol.

      "Take this gun son" He said, "And kill us the next bastard that you see. Show him that he has just found out what it's like to die, right?" Seconds later I realized that he was serious, and he handed me an M3B pistol. Inspired by his bravery I started to run for the escape pods, and along the way encountered a lone Grunt and I shot at it. I remember my first shot missed, but I continued to fire three more shots, planting two more shots into its flesh. One hit its wrist shattering it and the second hit its kneecap giving it a good limp. Turning around it saw me. Oozing its blue blood out of two punctures, and crying in pain it let out a statement that scarred my life, branding almost every action I took from that point on.

      With its high pitched gravely voice it said, "I hate you!" and I promptly shot it two more times, hitting it both times. One shot hit its life support system and set it on death road while the second shot straight through its heart, destroying any hopes it had of surviving, and killing it moments later. After it died I unloaded the rest of the magazine into its body, proving my point. Since that day I have been fighting the Covenant, and hoping to for an end to this horrible war, and hopefully the end that all humankind wants. I am a Jacob Johnson, Marine Marksman, and have been since I was sixteen and allowed to join the Marine Corps. I stand about 6 foot, 5 inches tall, something that is a little above average, but not making me into a giant though. My hair was the color of a night time in summer is on this planet, it was very dark, but not too black. Here on Lunar 4 summer is when the nearby nebulas light the sky giving off a constant sunset like amount of light. So I guess my hair is a golden brown color, but darker. I have a light frame, something like 170 pounds, nothing too heavy because I have never seen any field action but I am not too skinny either. My eyes are two different colors; I lost one in a friendly fire accident. It was training times in the UNSC simulated battleground, our first live fire exercise on Reach, and I was shot in the side of the head. Luckily I was just grazed by the bullet, but it blasted the front of my eye. So I got an artificial one. It was using some nanotech to give me normal vision out of that eye, despite the color being a little off. My one eye was brown, that was my natural one, almost black, but barley clinging onto the brownness that it once had when I was a child. My other eye was more of an amber color, lighter than the other. You wouldn't notice though unless you looked pretty hard. Some say that have a cowardly job, shooting an enemy before they can see you, but do you think that I care about killing the enemy that slaughtered my parents? These creatures do not deserve to be given rights, they are beasts, and should be treated so. Right now I am in an APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) playing a game of Poker with three other Marines under the dim light of a near to burnt out light. The light would sway back and forth with every bump, often leaving the table pitch black, which led to the occasional scuffle of the poker players over who cheated or who stole some chips. The APC was as much a tank though as it was a transport. It was a hovercraft, floating on two large fans beneath its curtain. The hover craft however had a flat desk atop it with two mounted machine guns, mainly just for show seeing as to that the APC could easily run over anything in its path. Behind the two guns was a large barrel of the mortar cannon, the main weapon of the APC. The APC hovered carefully over the ground, mounted just slightly above the front curtain was the cabin. The cabin was a cramped glass enclosed canopy, monitors everywhere to monitor everything in the APC and to remotely control the cannon, something that would be useful if there was no one to manage the turret all the time. The Armored Personnel Carrier kicked up a large cloud of dust and light stones wherever it went, erasing most of the tracks left by the larger tanks. The smell was however the worst thing of all. If you can imagine a smell about the same as a skunk mixed with and Elite, you will understand my pain. When our base was invaded I got a little scar on my face, still has yet to develop from scab to scar, but it is big nonetheless. I consider myself lucky though. Covenant hate snipers and shoot at us a lot, and many of us get off with a lot worse of wound. Gotta love this life, right?

      Around the table with me was my best friend, whose nickname was Skip a GI, an old guy who has been in the Marine Corps for 29 years (since before the war!), Mac, and a fellow Marksman who we call Logan. These were my friends and damn good ones too. Half of us have lost every other friend we ever had, and knew that at any time we could be short one player in our games. We never bet anything, we did not have much to bet, but we often knew that these games were sometimes the only morale booster we had in this cold planet, which was warming as our glassing began.

      "Straight beat a pair?" asked Logan

      Almost ignoring him I shrugged off his question, I had a lot more important things on my mind, one of which was survival. We knew that the Covenant was near, but we would try to fight them off as long as we could, and as I want, make it to the bunker near to the end of Valley Gemini.

      "Who cares about this damn game" Shouted an edgy Mac, "Look at this situation! We are stuck here! Don't you damn fools realize that we will all die here! We are still fifty miles from the nearest bunker, and what assures us that it will still be there? Nothing does! This whole thing sucks!"

      "Thanks a lot! This 'damn game' was the only thing keeping me from realizing that! Well, so much for that good emotion, whats it called..." A short pause in the yelling appears as Logan thinks. This is my first opportunity to show Logan thinking, or rather just trying to think. See Logan has not had the greatest education, and it seems his only talent is bursting Tango heads (Tango's are bad aliens). "Oh yeah it was called happiness!" This I realize this may be sarcasm or the lack of intelligence he had, hopefully not the latter, but it is often hard to tell, as he just finished showing you.

      From the nearby silence came a grumbling voice of our unwelcome guest Commander Dorman "Shut your mouths Marines, remember, we are leathernecks, and we will fight till we are all nothing but little puddles!" After this we all just sort of stared toward the Commander waiting for more of a tongue lashing, "Do you remember what you have been taught?" wondering who he was talking too I looked to the others to see who it was and they were watching, and hopefully to decipher who it was. However they all had the same confused look on their face leading me to believe the Commander was stressed, like us. We all figured He was only releasing some of the tension that he had built up. "You slackers have been doing nothing to help the operation, show some respect for your lives and the others by being ready to fight!"

      "We do have on our armor, you know that is almost all we need" said Logan. The APC we were in was cold, a cold winter day outside, though it was still at least 40 degrees Celsius outside. That was normal for this planet. The two moons not only had some weird effects on the tides but also held the world in a constant state of El Nino. The cold APC got a little colder as the Commander stared back, which is another reason why we think that Logan is and idiot, he does not know when to stop shooting or talking. This is one of those cases, and most of the reason he was still a Private. Logan Was an awesome shot, and could kill anything when he was still just a speck on the horizon, and could hit even the most mobile targets within his first or second shot, allowing the second shot only if the first did not break the shields. He could also do just as well during the night, despite the obvious shortfalls of the light amplification. He was a better shot than I was, but he was not a discriminate shot, and often let an Elite live over two Grunts, thinking in quantity not quality or something. However, whatever it was we were still lucky that he made it out of the first attack on our battalion, as we all were. The Commander did not ever reply, he just sat there staring at him, and watching him slink away. With this we hit a small bump in the convoy and we all bounced out of our seats, after the bump the light swung for a while illuminating for the first time the Commander, who was sweating in fear and holding a small chest wound with his one hand. I had almost forgotten the wounds he suffered when our base was invaded. That wound was actually friendly fire, delivered by an exit wound in a Grunt. A Marine, one of the ones who died had shredded a grunt and three of the shots had passed through the grunt, hitting our commander who was across the corridor in the chest. Luckily the field surgeons were able to fix him up after he got to the convoy.

      "Damn it Private, look at this wound on my chest, it's not the armor that does the work it's your damn gun! Now you Marine gonna listen to me or be court marshaled!"

      "Ummm, sir." Logan said, a slow tone, showing that he was going to do something dumb.

      "Spit it out Marine."

      "Um, well, the world is going to be melted, I don't think that a court martial is that big a deal at times like this..."

      The Commander stared at him for a very long times too long for most of us to look into his leering glare, but Logan knew no fear, and just about nothing else. Finally the Commander said "You know private, I can think of a lot worse things to do to you than that. And unless you wanna feel em, I suggest you listen up, and follow orders till you are a melted pile of shit."

      "Sir, I apologize for my infringement sir!" Logan said, surprisingly militaristic.

      "That's more like it Marine, respect your elders and your superiors or die. Plain and simple, almost cookie cutter type formula."

      "Sir, requesting permission to resume playing the game, sir!" Shouted Logan in a non hostile way, something that in his position I don't think I could pull off. Logan was a very Hardy person, and I respect that in a person, being that he might find some way to die happy.

      "Permission granted son, resume your playing." We all looked around and then decided to resume playing card games "by the way, it doesn't."

      Our games were brought to a horrible end about two and a half hours later, when we were about 3 miles from the base. Our convoy was lucky so far, seeing as to that we were one of the only convoys to make it out of our base, but also the only one not to fall under attack so far, and one of the five surviving convoys. Unfortunately sensors aboard the mobile HQ picked enemy movement all around us, and tacticians were assuming that we would be assaulted as soon as we left the dense forest that we were in just minutes ago. The Covenant only attacked in places where they were sure that they had all the advantages, and if we had cover we could hold out for a lot longer, Cover such as a forest we could torch if needed to keep them at bay. However, we had just left the forest two or so minutes ago, and were now about a mile from it, and we had just run over an area where the Covenant had killed an artillery battalion. Bodies were strewn everywhere, and most people were not left in anything less than two pieces. Suddenly the alarms started blaring and a voice claimed that the enemy was making its move, right as we hit the middle of Valley Gemini, a place where we had no where to run given they used a pincer attack, and the place we may all die. Apparently a recent patrol group sighted a Wraith and a few Ghosts, a battle group no doubt out to get them. The patrol got away, but just barely with their lives, and also managed to tag a few enemies with tracers, showing that the Covenant were closing in behind us. Ahead of us something was jamming our sensors, and we were left to assume that the enemy was in full force, and already fighting the Marines in the bunker. We were as I stated in the biggest valley on the face of Lunar 4. Gemini was a 5400 something mile long valley that scarred the entire continent that we were on, from one side to the other to within 5 miles between the oceans on either side. Located roughly in the middle of the canyon was a large Marine bunker that housed over ten thousand soldiers. It was without a doubt the best chance of survival we had. When we were two miles from the base Covenant Banshees began to bombard the Mobile HQ and we began combat procedures. Already the radar operator was desperately calling for backup, despite the fact that the Humans on Lunar 4 were in no condition to be sending reinforcements, or even to hear their message when Covenant jamming was next to impossible to bypass with even the best of communication systems. Still any hope of support was fine by me. I knew my job. As the mobile HQ deployed a set of stabilizers as all the APC's formed a tight circle around it and I ran to the Mobile HQ, where all the commotion was, somewhere that it took every fiber of my body to drag myself, and somewhere that my body may later be slumped over, dead after the battle. Nevertheless, I know that if I let one of those slimy bastards live that could have a fractured skull; I would blow my own brains out if the time came. Warthogs that were a part of the scouting parties all pulled back toward the Mobile HQ to be gun emplacements and I had grabbed my rifle, the lucky one. Luck was and excuse, but one I was willing to believe in. The Three M807B Arachnid Tanks we had were already near to the Mobile HQ area ready for when they will be called to go to wherever they were needed to keep the Covenant at bay. Meanwhile I took as much ammo as I could carry and clambered up to my firing post, a rickety little suspended platform with a railing that let me brace my rifle. The ladder seemed a little too long, but this was the last resort. Our bases are well designed and let me get a good vantage point, unlike this where I Have to balance to keep the platform stable and the recoil is almost enough to blow out its bolts and send the platform falling down to the ground some 50 feet below. I also made sure that my sidearms were still there, since I had a bad feeling in my stomach over this one. My sidearms were a standard issue 7-inch combat knife (Mean thing here!) and a pistol, just in case. A sniping rifle is no weapon for close combat, right?

      So anyway, it was about 30 minutes before the first wave came. A mixed division of jackals and Ghosts came in. This is when I started firing. The APC's main cannon=s blasted the enemies with great accuracy, arcs of fire spreading at an exponentially decreasing rate like tentacles jutting outward then whipping back in The enemy was standing with their shield lined up, and not a shot was fired, at least from them... They slowly filled in and extended the line across the canyon, and when one was gunned down by the Marines another rushed into its place to fill the gap. We probably killed at least our numbers in just a few minutes. A minute later after the line was made all hell broke loose. The attack began very organized. Repeated Ghost charges were pouring in. I could see the bloodshed on both sides. Luckily the Arachnids were on top of it. Laying down covering fire was easy, and even easier was killing walls of Jackals. The arachnid tanks say upon their four spiked legs and fired with precision, despite that it was not needed. The covenant were everywhere and just firing randomly would be just as effective, but I guess it was necessary to use such measures to target the most deadly things or the rushing Covenant. I looked through my scope and picked my next target, a lone ghost, all of its friends destroyed. It looked as though a group of nearby Jackals was talking to it when I squeezed off two shots towards it forehead, the first on penetrating it and killing the Jackals on the other side of it. The Elite, my target was however still alive. Then the second shot hit, shattering its skull and leaving it a limp body behind the controls of it Ghost. By now the Jackals had time to jump in fear, although I had no time to see it fall before my sights were trained on another thing, a Grunt Grenadier. He was standing behind a shield barrier while he grabs some more grenades, and while he does this a bead of sweat runs down my forehead, something I realize that he soon will not have. He steps around the corner and instantly dies, with a fresh new hole in his head and once again I move my sights to an Elite, this time in a turret. I fired three shot into its chest to make sure that it was dead and reloaded the gun. When I sat down we had lost about 10 or 15 men. When I stood back up there was a few new craters and many more losses at least 50. We were losing, and we could never hold out. I knew it was time, and I am sure the Commander did too; it was time to do what we did best, run! I heard the Commander give the order, and I loaded onto the side seat of a Warthog. As soon as I got in we were on the move, headed back. As illogical as it may seem our driver plowed through the sea of Covenant to get back to the forest, the best place to hide until the fight is done. The scatter order came a little late for some since many of the people behind me were being shot out of their warthogs and the tanks were swarmed with a sea of enemies, but we were our own bloodbath, killing at least 30 Covenant soldiers en route to the forest. We were going somewhere around 80 MPH and all the things we passed were a blur, and all I even bothered to fire at was things directly ahead of us. Most of the way we were hitting plenty of bumps, and with every one I cam near to flying from my seat, so I set down my gun and braced my arms firmly against the glove box area and held on, knowing that it was for my life. I was surprised at how little Covenant there were, it seemed as if we passed by about 400 surviving troops, I expected far more. Once we were beyond the front lines we were able to drive almost clear of enemies for another couple hundred yards before we ran into the Covenant artillery corps. A group of tanks that would sit back and bombard us, and as we came closer we saw another volley fire from all of the tanks simultaneously and arc slowly toward the mobile HQ where just a few minutes ago I was perched. I watched it, seeing it collapse, and seeing it rumble uneasily, and like a dying beast it stopped, the let out a final roar. The roar of an explosion, the final roar of the beast of the Marines and the final testament of failure on our parts, we were letting our base become destroyed for the second time. Shortly after the explosion let out its last words a hill blocked our view of the battlefield. Flinging at high speeds from behind that hill appeared a Ghost, the Covenant's most common vehicle. Mounted with twin pulse cannons and Elite it was easily the deadliest type of Covenant. It arched over the hill in tight pursuit of us. The gunner flinched, which was all that was left after he attempted to jump in fear, with the restricting leg braces holding him. The driver swerved left suddenly, trying to shake the purser, who seemed quite dedicated to catching us. It took a second to get the turn completed because of the traction o the grassy field that we were in, but eventually we had spun around, now going in the reverse direction. Myself, I was near to in the drivers lap. He brushed me from of his side with a quick shouldering. The gunner, who was spinning excessively from the turn began to slow and eventually settled his aim towards the ghost. It was heading straight for us. We were going to hit it in about 3 seconds, and the gunner let the roar of the chain guns drown out all of my thinking. The chain gun chewed holes in the ghost, not hitting anything vital unfortunately, but still convincing the elite to hit the brakes. The front of the ghost lifted up and we hit it directly between the hovering units with the top of our hood. The Ghost flipped off our hood and into the air about 50 meters, where it spun wildly attempting to find some grounding to hover, finding none. The gunner swiveled the gun around aiming for the flying Ghost. He fired upon it as its ark downwards began. The tracer fire lit a line to the ghost, and with incredible accuracy he shot it. The Elite shouted in pain and fear and the gun ripped the ghost it was riding to pieces and rotated the Ghost into a nosedive. In less than a second it was all over. The Ghost was now a fireball and we drove on. We were driving at full speed when we hit a mine, probably one of our own. That was the last thing I remember...

      I was in a white environment, and from what I can tell there is nothing anywhere, but me. I looked down at myself; I was dressed in full battle gear. I looked around again and said, "Anyone?"

      Then I woke up. I was sitting propped up against a tree. At first I could not move, and I was just able to look around. I could see my gun near me, but the rifles end was bent, it was no good. I slowly rotated my head to the left, as if I were just getting used to controlling my body. To my left lies the driver of the warthog, almost soup inside his armor. He looked ready for burial. My head flopped down on my left side limp and I had to struggle to look to the right. On my right was a group of Marines from my squad. I then looked at the sky. One of the moons was out, its glow lit up the surface of our planet. I stared at it for a minute or two. It had been a long time since the last full moon. Suddenly a dark outline slid across it slowly like a serpent and reminded me of why we were here. I saw a Covenant mothership and knew that I would probably die in combat over the next three or four days. Nonetheless I was lucky too; I cannot say that any of my friends made it out alive or anyone from my whole squad for that matter. I guess that this is what happens to all the planets the Covenant take over.

      A Marine turned in my direction and saw that I was moving, a good sign apparently. "Come on, ones up" he said. Moving was becoming easier now, "Yeah, ones moving, get over here" I could hear the clanking of armor as someone came to tend to me.

      He clicked on a small flashlight that field surgeons always carried. "Hello" he said with a very greeting voice as his hand emotionlessly grabbed my chin, "How are you doing today?"

      "Guess" I replied, with lots of sarcasm in my voice while he forcefully rotated my head about, that is not to say that I wasn't cooperating or anything, just that he moved my head in the fashion you may a doll or other inanimate figure.

      "hmmmm..." He accurately shined the flashlight in both of my eyes and my ears, and with only an instant glimpse was able to determine that nothing was wrong. He said, "You should be fine" and then looked onward to another Marine, who must have called him. By the way he acted you could tell that he was a field surgeon. He did not seem to have emotions any more, all of them left limp from the many years of combat he must have seen. War can do that to a man, many times a person will be recruited as a carefree person that thinks that when they join the army they will be an over glorified Zealot for the Human cause. Instead they are like a new arrival to hell. They show up, and on the first battle as I did. They would all sit in the dropships talking on and on about how they were going to show those Covenant monsters what they were made of. The Veterans of a fight or two would sit on their own, thinking, solemnly remembering all the dead, and remembering the living, he knew that he was staring at those who would die in the next skirmish. The first battle would bring the Zealot-like men a jolt of almost electrifying horror as it began. They will be gunning down the enemy when a wayward grenade or a fusion mortar will blast their friend and leave a crater where he was once standing. Pieces of him may be later recovered, but nothing can ever repair the damage mentally caused by battles. This field surgeon had probably had a few men die in his lap.

      "Hey man, surprised to see you!" I hear a familiar voice. I stood up and turned around to see Skip limp toward me. I looked at him; he was looking ok everywhere except one leg, which had a makeshift splint and a large splotch of blood, still drying. He also had a considerably large dent in his armor that extended all the way across his breastplate, looking somewhat like the continent we were on and reminding me of my failure. He had a bloodstained bandage on, as I could see from the bump on the side of his knee and a hole on the back of his knee.

      "Skip, you look like you have seen better days!" I said

      Sitting down with his wounded leg extended he began to mumble something under his breath, probably better I didn't hear anyway, but after that he gestured for me to sit near to him and he placed his right hand on his chest plates dent, he probably had a huge bruise underneath it. "Yeah, I escaped in one of the APC's." he said, almost proud of his escape, "I got to the driver seat of one and loaded it with as many guys as I could before I left, but I could still only get about 5. I was sitting in the cabin when the canopy exploded inward. I thought I was ok until I looked down at my leg. It was bleeding a lot since a shard of g, and bullets were now ricocheting around the cabin. I ducked and pushed as hard as I could on the gas. I couldn't see or anything, all that I knew was happening was that we were being hit with a ton of gunfire, the whole craft was overheating at times since of the plasma gunfire, but as you can assume, we made it."

      "You make my escape sound easy, we just drove right through, and later we got hit by a mine and blew up," I said, actually serious. "Looks like we are gonna die soon," I said, hoping that he would say I was wrong.

      "Yeah, we probably will, but with about 50 of them each!" he said, gaining enthusiasm as he went along, "If I need to I will strangle one to death with my bare hands, see, us GI's know how to take care of business, I don't know how you will go on without a sniping tower. Plus your rifle is all busted up, you will need some training."

      "Isn't it just point and click?" I replied, not knowing quite how to use an Assault Rifle but knowing how to use sarcasm.

      "ha ha ha" he said slowly making sure that each one was the best he could do at striking up guilt in me, "Very funny you coward, if you weren't such a wuss you would be out on the front lines like us. But instead you stand out of the line of fire and shoot things that can't even see you." I was not feeling guilty at all.

      "I guess you are right, you also need to know about the grenades and when to pull the pin and when not to, don't worry, I think I've got it." I said, at first jokingly, the realizing that we were in a serious situation, seriously.

      "Alright head to the armory tent, and grab yourself a gun, you might need it" I looked down again, my pistol was missing, but I still had the combat knife.

      "Ok, I'll go get a gun from the armory, where is that again?" I asked

      "Right over there" he said pointing over to an area past a LAG covered in camouflage netting.

      "There huh" I said as I stood up and then helped Skip to his feet. After that I was on my way to the Armory making sure that I did not get lost on the way there. Along the way I was looking for familiar faces, a sign that they had made it out alive. At the armory the tents door, or rather flap was open, and before entering I said Hello to see if anyone was in. No response came so I moved into the tent. It was dark, like the APC we were in a while back. Also not helping the lighting condition was the fact that the sun was just setting. I felt my way to the center of the tent and found what I was looking for, a light. I bopped it and it flickered on. The ten was surprisingly dust considering it was just there for about 2 hours. Gross might just be the condition that tents are always in, a constant state of filthiness and darkness. This was the first thing I actually missed about our original base. I dug through a few boxes of guns, and produced a pistol after a little searching. I held it in my hands questioning whether it was worth taking. I decided not, and grabbed a machine gun instead, setting the pistol out on a nearby table to save it for later use maybe. A marine walked in with this odd look on his face. I had never seen it before, it was not normal, his mouth was trembling, and his hands, both of which were bandaged from the burns they suffered also shook violently. He reached for the pistol that I had set down on the nearby table.

      Realizing I was watching him he said, "Are you using this gun" his voice sounded somewhat evil, almost reptilian with a slight hiss at the end of his words.

      "Nope", I said, with almost no hesitation whatsoever, and he slid the gun off the table and into his had. He pulled back the top of the gun to reveal that the gun still had some ammo in it he carefully eyed it out, scanning the gun from the front to the back. I was watching, still confused as he set off the safety and left the dusty damp tent to go to the outside.

      Suddenly a scream came from outside, and I quickly peeked my head out the door of the tent to see what was going on.

      "I can't take this anymore!" one Marine yelled, I noticed that he had a pistol in his hand pointed at his own head, the one that I had just let him have "You all wanna sit around and wait for the Covenant to kill you go ahead! I can't take this!"

      Another Marine, the one he was staring at seemed very sure of himself., he must have been the one trying to console him to do otherwise "Don't do it" he said calmly, "We need every man we can get now, and you know that, do it for your friends"

      "There is nothing I can do for them" He yelled back, "They are all dead or missing!"

      "Do it for us then. Put down the gun" replied the still calm Man.

      "Too late" The Marine replied as he pulled the trigger. The ensuing bang made all the birds fly from their trees in large packs, reminding us that we had just lost one of our pack, and someone who may have been able to save us from later doom.

      "Do you think that the Covenant heard that?" I asked with no one in particular, then after saying that regretting it, since I realized that I must sound very greedy.

      "Yes" Came a stern voice from somewhere behind me, I shifted my eyes from the now emotionally broken Marine that had tried to console him to this new person. "I think that they heard," he said, a little more secure now. He was a huge man, probably 7 feet tall and 300 pounds, and if he were to die it may take us a full day to dig his grave. He was not particularly fat, just very bulky and muscular, the type of form most men would want to have.

      "How do you know that?" I asked, still wondering if he knew it or just thought it.

      "I can hear a Banshee, wait, two Banshees."

      "What?" yelled a third voice franticly, "Are you sure?"

      "I have good hearing," he said

      "Yeah right!" I said, I was planning on just thinking it, but I was ok with saying it too, "No one can hear that good, they must be a few kilometers away!"

      He dropped a small radar unit from his hand attempting to grab it, instead fumbling it to the ground. "Uh, no, I do have good hearing, really..." He picked up the beeping thing and slid it into his pocket.

      Suddenly all eyes focused away from him, his extraordinary power stripped, "Alright", the frantic Marine said, whom I then realized was our Commander "Man the guns, looks like we have a fight on our hands, let's set the table, firing on my Jacob!" People started moving about quickly to man the guns and move the supplies to the APC's as quickly as they could, I seemed to be the only one with no idea what to do, so I grabbed a crate of guns. I slid a hand underneath two of its sides and tried to lift it. I got it about a foot off the ground before it fell back down, kicking up dust as it landed less than a foot from where it had started. I again slid a hand underneath it and then the second and tried to lift it again, this time I did Ok, and I stumbled my way to the APC. I set it down and went back to the supply tent, inside it a group of 10 or so Marines were all busy loading their guns and fumbling around with the safeties. I, joining in unhooked my neck strap and slid the gun onto the empty crate in front of me. I had not realized it until now, but I was sitting next to Skip.

      He said something under his breath as I held the gun out and set it on the table, and then said "not so hot now are yaw, can even load the gun."

      "I can too, just watch me" I picked up the gun. Holding it in one hand I grabbed a clip of ammo from a pocket in my uniform. I looked at it looking for directions. I could not find any so I began to try to rip the bag open, but no matter how hard I pulled or where I could not get it to rip, the precious contents just out of reach of my strength. Skip was sitting watching in something like awe, as I began to gnaw on the ammo bag attempting to get it open.

      "You know that you are supposed to clip that, right?" he said.

      I sat still for a little while, "oh..." I looked in my pocket and there was a set of tiny scissors, something that I had not known of before today, which surprised me being that, I was a veteran by now. I easily clipped it open. Sliding the contents out of the bag I looked again for directions, or at least an arrow or something. This time I was in luck, it had an arrow that says 'Insert to feed here' ; I stared at the gun looking for a slot to insert the ammo and quickly located it on the bottom of my gun. After that I flipped off the safety and rushed outside, ready to burst with self-achievement despite the fact that what I had done was nothing close to extraordinary. I had just managed to complete a simple task, but I guess that it is my body's way of telling me I would better like it, because I might have to do it a lot over this next few days. I wiggled my fingers one by one along the rubber grip; I loved the feel of a gun in my hands, knowing that I have the power to bring my enemies to their knees, or to defeat even the most powerful of enemies.

      "FIRE!!!" yelled the commander, his booming voice second to the loud percussive blast of the flak cannons which fired on his command, leaving a black trail as the balls arched off towards their destination. The Banshees swooped in toward our clearing leaving behind the glowing white trail that the do. As soon as they got within one mile of range flak explosions began to appear as black clouds in the sky, their loud pop a signal of death and destruction. I was fine as long as I was on the other side of the line of fire. I think all humans would agree with me on this, not even the rights activists care enough to complain about our foul treatment of them. One of the Banshees took a direct hit from the flack ball, which did not explode on impact, but rather bounced of the wing snapping one of the supports to the engine. The ball spun to the ground, where an explosion later ensued. The engine began to smoke and the pitch and yaw mechanisms spiraled to the ground, a wing began to smoke as it spiraled down to the ground the rest of the plane soon following. When it hit there was a huge fireball, and a slim hope of the pilot surviving. The second made it past the flack and into LRM (Long Range Missiles) range as well as chain gun range. A SAM (Surface to Air) mobile missile launcher was sitting atop the shoulder of the large Russian man as he carefully tried to get a heat signature of the Banshee to lock on to, something that was becoming harder to do every second. The chain gun began to fire a nonstop volley of gunfire towards the incoming aircraft, but because of the considerable lag between him aiming at the object and the bullets arriving at their target. He braced his legs and watched the twin reticule center on his target one by one. Suddenly the end of his SAM exploded outward and the missile was sent on a collision course with the remaining Banshee. We could see the Banshee swoop by low and yells filled the camp.

      "He's mine!"

      "Shoot em down!"

      Similar comments filled the camp and for a second the Marines voices overpowered the chain gun. The plane whipped by the camp and I covered my eyes as the wind it left in a trail behind it whipped my face and kick up dust from the ground. As it flew away tracer shots from the LAG began to strike it, punching holes in the fragile panels on the side, making something almost like Swiss cheese out of the back of it. The Elite inside it screamed and a small amount of purple blood dropped from the bottom, he was hit. It is one thing to nail its plane, but the quite another to hit the elite within it. I was hoping for that to be a lethal hit and see it almost slow to a simple stop and explode, but it was a minor injury. A bullet might have hit a limb or some other non-vital limb, too bad. For him that is... I then realized that I too was firing. I could not help but notice that I had not meant too, it just sort of happened. The missile seeming very professional and deadly mimicked his every move in a deadly pursuit that would end only in bloodshed. It tried desperately to out maneuver it, but knew its days were numbered if it stuck with the Banshee so it bailed out and parachuted to the ground if you could call it that. The Covenant hardly have anything like a parachute, really just the equivalent of futile flapping and they usually take great wounds from falls even with the "parachute". The Elite was slowly coming down to land near a basin a mile or two from the campsite. Its Banshee, in a steep vertical climb exploded as the missile hit it. The fireball was of the magnitude of our Mobile HQ's demise, flaming pieces of the craft arched downward toward the cold hard ground below it, going at almost the same speed as the falling Elite. With my field binoculars I watched it as it fell; it was clutching one of its arms as it fell. It was not looking up, but soon a piece of the plane hit its back. It let out a howl that I could vaguely hear, as its parachute detached and it fell to the ground at just a slightly greater speed. An Elite could survive a fall from that height, something like 100 feet, so the Commander quickly assigned two teams for mop up duty. I was to go and investigate the living pilot with Skip. I do not know what good he would do with such an injury, but he was still there to help. We grabbed a locator and went on the hunt for our Elite buddy before his friends found him.

      After about an hour of hiking, dragging a communications cable we showed up in the woods near the waterfall, where we located the parachute that the Elite had used. Sitting next to it was his gun, meaning he was not too far. Skip got into a combat position on one knee with his rifle forward and gestured for me to move towards the waterfall. Following his orders I squat walked to the edge of the short drop off to the waterfall and peeked over the edge. I saw the Elite in the water rubbing a large wound on it's near to severed arm. I could see the mechanical augmentation in its arm. I used hand signals to get Skip in a little closer and I told him that I was going to take him out quietly. I also said to hold fire till the enemy knocks me out or kills me. I drew my knife.

      The Elite did not know I was there and I slinked away from the river to get ready to take him out. Once I was 20 feet away from the edge to the river I took off most of my armor and all of my ammo belts. I needed mobility in this fight, so that way I would have every advantage. I grabbed the knife so that the blade was pointed to stab him, not to cut him, I was going to kill him quick and quite, I was sure of it. If I was able to sink the knife into his brain stem I could quickly incapacitate him. I stood back up. Then I drew in a quick breath, remembered all the good things of my life and ran for the edge of the drop off. I sprung through the air yelling, right as the Elite turned around, startled and confused. By the time it turned around I was Half way to it, and it had no time to react. I landed on its head and grabbed on with my free hand. I drew back my right arm to stab him, but he threw me off of his head and into the river. He was holding me underwater by my neck, and I drew the knife back, to swing forward. It lodged itself somewhere in-between the two bones of the Elites forearm became stuck in its skeletal structure. Losing my knife I popped up out of the water with my fists drawn. When I was about 16 I was in a boxing tournament aboard the Legacy. Therefore, I had the upper hand as far as experience goes as well as prior damage. I had a cut on my neck from one of its claws, nothing too bad, while it had one arm almost gone and the other had a knife stuck in it. I was hopping around in the knee-deep water jabbing at its chest and arms, and dodging all of its blows when it suddenly lunged at me, I dove backwards in time to let it land without hitting me. While it was floating in the water momentarily I grabbed a hold of the knife and pulled toward me. The Elites face, which had been in the water suddenly shot upward, dislodging the knife and giving it back to me. It stood fully erect for a second, near to twice my height, and then it let out a ferocious howl that scared nearby birds out of their trees. With the knife again I jumped towards it, plunged the knife into its side below its diaphragm, and pulled it towards me again, leaving another gaping hole in the Elite. Now it stared at me, around it floating on the surface of the water a purple area, my knife and my fists covered in blood and it snarled towards me, moving its two mandibles while it did. I took this opportunity and kicked it in the shin region with an outward motion, and as it fell, I caught it by the neck. I smiled at it, and it closed its eyes as if it would bring safety to it, but it was already dead. I plunged the knife through its brain stem and let its body fall to the bottom of the river. I climbed out of the water.

      "That was awesome man!" Skip said still lying with a very combat ready look to him. Aside from the smile he had across his face. I do not think that he thought that I would kill it, but it floating carcass begs to differ.

      "Thanks" I said, "But that is what we all need to do if we want to win this war. No who's tuff man?"

      "Yeah, let's take the body back to camp, we need to clean up this mess or a Covenant patrol might see it."

      "Sure." I was busy putting on my stuff when we heard some rumbling in the bushes like a person or two was coming. I grabbed my guns and scampered into the bushes, It could be the enemy. Skip and I watched from the bushes at the objects getting closer. One tango stepped into the clearing. "Alright, one Grunt, I can take it." I began to get up, ready to kill it too when Skip grabbed my shoulder. He nodded a no to me and pointed back to the bush. A menacing Elite. My heart sank. They knew that we were here, a dead body with blood all over. The Grunt was standing near to the cliff, and the Elite was walking over, talking to the Grunt, probably congratulating him on his find or shaming his fallen comrade whose limp body floated in the water. The Grunt was saying something about how that must be the downed pilot and how he was alive when he landed since his parachute is off, but I couldn't hear the rest, I was thinking up a way to beat them, with my knife. I watched them try to decide what to do and I spied a shield on the back of the Elite. I could not kill it with the knife. Then an Idea popped into my head, I got ready for a sprint. Suddenly I was off, no one could stop me, and I bolted into the Elite, giving him a powerful tackle with my shoulder. It turned around, hearing my approach. In the split second that it saw me before I rammed its back its expression was surprise then very quickly fear. The Elite flew thought the air as its shield activated, scalding me. I then turned to the Grunt with the knife drawn. Shaking it watched the Elite hit the water. The Elites shield activated frying it inside the water, and its gun began to spark and then melt to the Elites hand. The Elite was howling in pain and thrashing the water for a few seconds before it stopped moving and tipped over. Some electricity arched over the water, and the Grunt slowly turned around, staring at me.

      The Grunt yelled frantically "Not again!" and flailing its arms it began to run away. My entire left arm was bleeding, the Elites shield had scorched off a lot of the skin, and it hurt to move my arm to any extreme angle, like straight. The pain can only be described as unimaginable. The searing wound that I had in my arm felt as if it were still on fire and even through the clothes the electricity that is able to shred bullets caused major wounds to my flesh. I could only assume how bad it was being that I had no time to look at the source of my suffering. I was in new world of pain, and I was sure that I was running only on adrenaline from that point on, my mind already passed out with pain. The Grunt did not make it more than 20 feet before I had caught it and pinned it to the ground. This one I would savor. I threw the knife off to the side and brandished a new weapon, my fists. The Covenant has killed many of my friends, probably a dozen, more if the casualties of the last battle were high. I hit its jaw. It cried for help in a foreign tongue while I drew back my fist again punching it in the jaw again, this time shattering all the bones that were in it jaw area, and it now whimpered, not capable of talking. I stood up. It was still trying to escape, and it had nowhere to run, or as the case is crawl. I let it crawl away a little before walking up behind it and kicking in the side of its ribs. It tried again to crawl away, but again I kicked it. It never gave up, until its heart did. Its body was lying there, dead, and I was the one to blame (or reward). The adrenaline in my system began to deteriorate, and after a few minutes of standing there, breathing hard, I was able to walk back to the bush where Skip was.

      "Get a transport out here; I can't carry all these bodies."

      He just stared at me, probably scared of what I had done, but then, shakily he replied with a quick nod and moved to the radio while I carefully began to peel the scorched melted cloth off of my arm. "Delta base 6 do you copy?"

      A garbled reply came through, the static made the entire transmition barley understandable to me, but to Skip I guess static was a second language. I was now near to ready to peel the shirt off, giving up ion my original plan to slip it off as would be normal but to cut off the arm of it that was infringing upon my wound.

      "Delta base, requesting a Pelican escort"

      I was not opening my pocket searching for the ammo clip that I had in it. I found it pretty quickly, which was surprising being that I was hardly thinking, my mind numbed by the pain. I carefully slid the cloth off of my arm, taking care not to jar my wound, knowing that even the slight saltiness of my hand would cause me a pain that I would never hope to encounter.

      "There should be no need" the static cut in and out again "You can walk it out marine"

      "Not with 3 bodies' sir. Johnson's hurt pretty badly too, burns all up his left arm."

      "3?" he replied.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      Three or so minutes later the drop ship was on its way. The inbound Pelican was flying just above the trees, clipping the tops of some, and scaring birds out of all the trees. Aboard the Pelican were three passengers. One was a field surgeon to take care of the cut on my neck and the burns on my arm. The other two were both sharpshooters, and were to guard us while we turned off the Elites shield so it wouldn't fry us if we were in the water with it. The pilot, who I didn't include in this list, was apparently an ace fighter pilot, but a little rough with a transport, and I am sure that the Marines aboard the drop ship were thanking whatever god they believed in that the ship had seatbelts, since the pilot had on three occasions near to dumped them out of the back. The Pelican itself being a cumbersome vehicle had an overall lack of agility, which made the pilot uncomfortable being he was used to the fast and nimble gunship. As he neared the area where we were waiting we fired off a digital flare shot into the air. This way his navigation system could see it but the Covenant, without special equipment that is, could not. He landed next to us in a slow decent close to the tree line and carefully set down only a few inches from the ground.

      Slowly the surgeon walked toward the edge of the river, daring to take a peek at the Elites. Like oil and water the Elites blood was beginning to form a thin layer of water around the basin, and now only small bits of the waters surface near us wasn't covered in a thick layer of blood. Shuddering was a sign of the surgeons disgust, and knowing that he had seen some pretty badly wounded marines in his career this was a great, gesture, or rather compliment I guess.

      "What did you do to them?" he said, staring first at Skip, and probably realizing that he didn't do it upon seeing me. Here I was, coated from the waist up in blood, "And what in gods name happened to you?" he asked gesturing with a circling motion in his hands, now looking up and down my body, which was covered in Elite and grunt blood, but dripping my own from the burns on my arm.

      "What happened?" I said, pausing then adding a sir "was a knife fight."

      He looked back at the bodies, and turned his head around to face me, "What rank are you?"

      "A private" I replied.

      "No you are not, you are a hero!" he barked back at me, "now, tell us which on has the shield."

      I paced over to the water, and inspected the bodies. A memory of stabbing the Elite in the neck surged back into my mind, and I realized that I had done this to a group of Elites and Grunts. I was proud, but my first duty now was not to praise myself, but it was instead to help out these Marines. The body was something like 4 yards from the shore, and was well out of the range of the pole that they brought to drag it up. Seeing this I grabbed on of the sniper by the arm, I whispered in his ear to go give the guy a hand and blast the shield, and within seconds he was lining up a shot on the Elites Shield pack, and shot at it. The bullet seemed to slow down time itself, as the bullet whizzed foreword I could almost see its actions. The bullet left the barrel of the rifle spinning like a ferries wheel on steroids never slowing noticeably. The split second after the bullet left a small explosion that had propelled the bullet erupted a tiny bit of flames. The snipers face didn't change, but his body was pushed back by the bullet. He had not had very much experience, as I could tell by the amount of recoil he suffered. The bullet spun through the air, leaving behind it a tiny vortex of air. Being the Elite was in the water the bullet drove him underwater, actually hitting the bottom from the shock. This reminded me of one of my good memories as a kid, a hot summer day... We were on Earth, and the covenants were still brand new to us, I must have been three or four, but my age isn't the important thing. We were all outside, that is my whole family, me, my parents, all of us. Then was when we heard a ring. This was a moment that I would never forget; being that it was the most horrible moment of my early childhood. My daddy didn't come back; he had been drafted into the Marines, and was leaving probably never to return to Earth. My whole family went aboard the first Legacy craft. Roughly the same time as the Elite hit the bottom of the river his shields energy core detonated, taking with it a half of the Elites chest cavity. The body surfaced, and the surgeon turned around, now with me at the top of his to do list. He picked up a little toolkit like box with the Red Cross on it to operate, and he brought it over to me. Propping me up against a rock he go out his antiseptic swabs, nothing like getting sick during a Guerrilla operation, right? He examined my wound with skill similar to that of an artist examining his masterpiece before putting on some finishing touches, and I just stared off into space, as if afraid to see what he was doing to my wound. The injection that he had just put in my arm began to take immediate action, knocking me out so that the surgeon could painlessly operate on me.

      I awoke a while later, flipping up quickly breathing WAY too fast and sweating. That was one of the side effects of the knock out drug the Marines use. The only advantage to it was you were able to use it to knock them out instantly, something that makes field operations a lot easier. My breathing started to slow to a normal pace, and my vision became sharper. I looked at my arm, and it was bandaged from the elbow up in a tightly wrapped material. The arm was numb, something that was caused by the bandages to allow me full movement with no pain. I stood up and looked around. I was in one of the tents at our camp. The tent was very dark, just barley lit up enough to see where I was going. I reached the pole after tripping over something and fumbled along the central support looking for the light switch to illuminate thee room. I grabbed it and flicked on the light. It was brighter than I would have thought and I had to shield my eyes while I adjusted to the light. I sat back down on the stretcher, and grabbed a shirt from the nearby rack. It was the generic gray color of the Humans, despite everyone's desire for it to be green as to blend in better. About the time I finished putting on the shirt the medic stepped in again, aware that I was awake when he saw the tent glowing.

      "Pain killers wear off yet?" he inquired, knowing that they hadn't. Medics are very bad at making small talk, this being the perfect example.

      "Not yet", I said feeling a little queasy.

      "Hmm, give em about 4 more hours. Till then, why don't you just" his voice trailed off as I flung from the bed and towards the edge of the tent, vomiting the horrible lunch that I had eaten before my fight. The weird thing was that it looked better now than it did when I ate it. This confused me for a second, but I then remembered the rations. The tings were these soggy attempts to make cereal, and they all tasted like crap, something of which I hope the Marin Corps were proud. Military food has a long history of being bad, and I guess the recent war is no exception. "Not doing so well, huh?"

      "You could say that." I replied sarcastically. The taste of my own vomit was disgusting. I had only thrown up once or twice before that I could remember, but it felt as though I coughed up some of my stomach lining along with most of my meals since yesterday. I stumbled outside after the doctor left to try to find some food. I looked left and right, scanning the camp for people. My vision was lagging, as if I were only seeing about five frames a second. I saw a glow coming from around the corner of the next tent in the line. I took a step forward, al most tripping foreword but catching myself and shaking my head in a motion that you can usually use to clear your head. It did not work this time, the sedative was a little too tough to be ignored, and especially after the dosage he must have given me. I was knocked out for about 6 hours, a long time for just a little operation like the one I had. I stumbled around the corner where I saw a fire had been set up, and a few of the marines had all gathered around to celebrate. I moving in a slurred style toward the fire, and took a seat near to a few of the Marines.

      "Hey man, how ya doing?" said one.



      I don't think I knew him, but I said that I was doing fine nonetheless, welcoming any friendship that I might find.

      "Yer that guy that murdered those Elites out there, good job, you made a mess of this one! Nice work? HQ got it back here; it was a real mess sir!"

      "Wait a second, sir?" I replied no one was lower than a private, why did he call me sir?

      "Yeah, look at your shirt; you have the insignia of an officer."

      "Hmmmm." I pulled on the chest of the shirt, and saw for the first time a nice little badge of honor. "Wow, I didn't even realize it, must be the sedative."

      "Well, glad you could join us. See what in the fire sir?"

      "You can stop calling me sir, it nothing to me, see?" I turned my head and looked into the fire. It took a second for my view to catch up and clear up, but when I saw what was in the fire...

      "It yer boy, remember him?"

      "Yeah, my favorite kills ever." I replied still staring, almost in shock, almost wanting to retaliate for the destruction of it, my badge of honor.

      "Well, there it is."

      "No kidding" I replied, zoning out staring into its eyes.

      The marine and I talked, as I told him every little detail, every emotion that I felt for even a fraction of second. He listened intently, as if he had been a pupil of mine for as long as either of us could remember. I don't know how he recognized my face either; I couldn't see his at all in the dim light of the fading fire. A few hours later, I had done little more than tell him of my story since the base had collapsed, and yet he was still treating it as if it were the most action packed story he had ever heard. I stopped talking around one AM and went to my bunk again, to wait till a later time to eat.

      I awoke the next morning at around 5:30 Military time. The way out of the tent that I was resting in was again a simple trap of a sort. I sat up in my bed, if you could call the stone like bunk that I had a bed. It was still very dark in my tent, and I assumed that it was some time around sunrise. The tent was barely lit, and the floor uneven. I put down one bare foot on the cold ground, and allowed the jagged ground to greet my foot with every sharp ridge that it had. My second step was much more welcome, and it was almost as if the surface of the ground was fit just for my foot. I rose from the bunk and walked to the center of the tent, and felt up and down the column in the center of the tent looking for some switch to turn on the lights. I found it after about a second of searching and quickly activated the light switch, leaving the formerly mysterious ground now revealed, and the Commander disgustingness of my tent unveiled. The tents floor was covered in filth, nothing of my destruction though, but of the messes of material that the surgeon had left. It was as if my tent had become his, as payment for the debt I owed him in return for the medical care I had received; I was hoping that a dept of honor would be good enough though. I stumbled, despite the light in the tent over to the crate near my bed, and fumbling with the content of it. It all seemed to be the same set of cloths, and though each one was the same I still found it supporting to search to my hearts content, hoping to find a shirt within that was not the drab mixture of Grey that the UNSC had found suiting for us. Almost needless to say nothing was found, being that few of us had even enough to get by with. I grabbed a grey shirt and slipped it on over my head. Quickly exiting the tent, I got outside in time to see the sunrise, something that I rarely ever took the time to do before the invasion. The suns crest broke the horizon, and my eyes adjusted to the sudden increase in light. I watched it boil over the horizon, melting the darkness of the night, bearing with it warmth that was universally loved. I was realizing also that this may be the last time that I ever see the suns titanic body force its way across the sky, something of a Juggernaut itself, though all the same a gentle beast, and one that I could respect, despite the obvious shortfalls that it was not a being. This however was a minor setback, seeing as to that in a day or two it would not matter what anyone though of anyone in this world. The horizon began to weaken, as the sun smashed its way up its eventual path and into the sky. But before the last part of the sun was able to cross over the horizon and into our view people were already moving, ready to fight. I realized that no one besides me seemed to have much on their minds, probably the next fights.

      I heard a loud crash next to me, and I saw a set of armor and guns next to me. Standing above them, beaming with pride was Skip, who had managed to drag two full battle suits out to me, quite a compliment being his leg wound was probably getting worse.

      "Hey man, you going on the mission today?" he asked, a surprisingly bright tone to his voice.

      "There's a mission today?" I said, replying with my own question.

      "Yeah, briefing in..." He looked at his watch "now, let's get going."

      We walked along between the tents while I slid on my armor and talked bout what would happen to us in just a short while.

      "So, the Covies are gonna glass us huh... Well, can't say I could expect much better."

      "Yeah, but maybe we can force an early withdrawal of the ground forces, maybe get a blockade runner going and get out of here..."

      "You're kidding right?" replied Skip, a beam of hope in his eyes.

      "Nope, but where would we all go, there would be nowhere left to run eventually."

      "Well, hopefully not hell..." he said, more believing in religion than me. I guess that I thought that if no one believed in religion that the Covenant would leave us alone.

      "Ah sure, whatever you say, but we are the good guys, we can go to hell!?!" I said jokingly, really not sure where I was going.

      "Well, cant wait for this mission can you. Are you gonna maul some more Elites?" He said, forcing me to remember the events.

      "Ill give it a shot." I said, with a hidden desire to kill every last one of the Covenant. I don't really know how secret it is though, being I beat the crap out of 2 Elites and a Grunt yesterday, and I am sure everyone who had heard expected me to continue.

      "Well--" Skip was cut off the Commander, who was letting the last of the volunteer Marines for the mission into the tents that we were holding the briefing in.

      "Get on in here Johnson, thanks for grabbing him Skip." I noticed how the Commander called him Skip, his nickname. The Commander must be trying to make up a little to get into heaven despite his encounters with Skip earlier. "You guys in?" His unusual lack of formal military-style speech astounded me. I guess he figured there was nothing they could do. I mean, the planets gonna blow, what are they gonna do, court martial him?

      "Can we see the briefing first?" Skip said breaking the ice between the three of us that lasted for what seemed like a minute or two.

      "Oh, sorry for my lack of formalities, of course." He gestured into the tent, where about 40 seats were resting on the bare ground. Set up on one side was a white cloth about 6 feet across and at least that tall to become the view screen upon which we would project the images for our tactical maps. Most of the seats were full, a good sign that there was great support for this mission. I ducked underneath the fold of tent that was the door, and slipped along the back of the room into a seat on the left.

      The commander walked up to his podium and cleared his throat, "Gentlemen. At approximately o' six hundred hours yesterday we lost contact with the Magmata battle group which was defending our peeper interfaces. As you know a peeper is one of our tiny orbital spy satellites, and the only Intel we have in this operation. It is imperative that we regain communication with the Magmata battalion, and do whatever is needed to liberate the dish." He paused scanning our faces for any confusion, resuming just a few seconds later continuing his briefing. "Alright, Here is our location" he gestured at a map which was now projected to the screen, "Our first nav point is a clearing near to the base of the hills. The satellite is approximately 300 meters across, and set into the side of the mountain. The control room is set towards the far side of the dish along the face of the mountain. We will meet up along the edge of the clearing and scan the base for visual activity. We will eliminate any opposition and advance at all costs. Once at the control room we will call in a team of specialists to set up comm. Links with all the Marine bases around the planet, transferring an encrypted channel with the orbital paths of the peeper network. Our peepers will the provide us with the intelligence we need to complete the operation." Again he glared around the room searching our faces, and almost our souls for any sign that we were confused. His glare was again finished quickly, and he looked that the white cloth on the wall. He lifted a hand with a small remote unit and clicked the button on it once to change the slide that was projected on the wall. The second image came up along with it a hand. "Yes Sergeant Sanders?"

      A low pitched voice replied with a thick south earth side accent, "Yeah, why send in a large ground invasion force ground force when we can just send in a few special forces to use surgical tactics to remove a few from the control room?" he paused, and seeing the glare on the Commanders face added "sir." He must have been trying to look like the average space cowboy because he had a toothpick in his had, which he placed in his mouth in line with the molars on the left side of his mouth.

      "There is a reason behind all of this. We don't know the Covenants control over the functions of our base or the damage that it took. But for all we know the flak batteries are fully intact, and they could rip a Pelican and a valuable team of Special Forces tam to shreds instantly. You see any reason to allow us to loose a valuable asset in a hopeless fight?"

      "Yes sir, I do. Do you believe that the well being about a half dozen Green Berets is worth the lives of a dozen Marines?"

      The Commander shot him a glare that told him his answer without any verbal communication. Sanders reeled from the visual blast and realized just what a dangerous man he was talking to.

      "Sir!" he replied, sitting back and beginning to look less like a Marine and more like a technician, a passive state unfamiliar to any veteran.

      "Now resuming the briefing that Sanders so rudely interruption, something that will hopefully not be repeated. After our regrouping the 15th artillery battalion will commence the bombardment of the nearby Covenant vehicles. This should set the table for us to mop up the rest of em pretty quickly. The Marine mobile artillery infantry division will then cover the advances of the Commander infantry division. The G.I.'s will secure the base, regardless of the costs." He stared at all of us, not in the same style as before. Some of you will not come back. "I would venture the guess that there will be a fifty to sixty casualty figure. This isn't going to be a pretty operation by any means, but if we are to have a chance at surviving this war we will have to cause maximum damage to the Covenant in just a short period of time. We don't have much more than 3 days left. I will understand if you want to back out of this operation."

      "Just keep in mind Marines that we cannot force you to go on this mission. I wouldn't be disappointed at all if none of you wanted to go. You after all do have the right to live the last few days of your lives in peace." The Commander said, giving us a new look, one that seemed almost caring, "Volunteers please speak out now."

      "I will volunteer to go on the mission. I believe that to live our live in peace is to help others to. There is no sanctification in living in spoil while your comrades fight and die. I will join these operations, and I will request that you all feel the duty to your fellow Marine to join the ranks of Marines in their resistance efforts." I looked around the room realizing that this was Skip who had volunteered first. I was amazed at how well spoken he was. He always used slang, making himself sound outspoken, and never really knowing what was going on. What if Logan was like this too? What if all this time I had assumed Logan was dumb when he was really more intelligent than me? I didn't have time to answer my question before an awkward silence filled the room. Skip sat down, leaving behind a trail of eyes all centered on him as if he were the sun.

      "I too will volunteer for this mission. I would rather die a hero than a coward. If I die I would rather die a horrible death in combat than a cowardly quick death." The accent was familiar and I realize before I even looked that he was the man, Sergeant Sanders that had picked a fight with the Commander earlier. As I could see everyone in the camp was aiming for retribution for former acts, all knowing that the obvious death that they had awaiting was getting much closer as time drew on.

      I stood up before Sanders sat down and he shot me a quick glare as he sat, I was infringing upon his territory, "I will volunteer, I feel more tied to you guys than most the other surviving people on this planet and would be damned if I were to let one of you take the place of a damn monster on deaths waiting list." I sat down, and was greeted by the warm seat, something that comforted my decision artificially simulating to me acceptance for my decisions. The room was quiet, the screeching of the crickets, now fading as the bottom of the suns circular mass flipped itself over the edge of the horizon. This silence was cut in and out of by the sporadic voices claiming their own heroic deeds were the last saving grace to cross the humans of Lunar 4. I knew that every one of these men were the bravest of the brave, faced with a lethal situation, staring it in the eyes with the ferocity of a beast holding onto the last bit of life it had. I eagerly awaited the sight of more people standing and volunteering to join us on the mission.

      With the volunteering completed only a few cowardly Marines waited at the camp, all sitting lazily and almost depressed, knowing that they may be sending their colleagues to death. Myself I stood up, knowing that I was ready to kill the monsters that threatened our existence, and hopefully live to tell about it. There was almost nothing I could do to escape. I had only one method to survive, find a blockade runner and get lucky. Blockade runners only made it through every once and a while. Still, some hope is better than none, and I was willing to give every ounce of strength and will that I had to get a ride out of here, before I became a puddle that is. The Covenant ships are all armed with powerful laser type cannons. Once they defeat our orbiting ships the planet is unprotected, leaving us on the surface defenseless. Their ground forces goal was to take out all capable airfields and missile silos, occupying most of the planet while they were at it. After that they would begin to fire upon the planet from space. The lasers would heat up the planet to the levels where no human could survive, hence the name, a glassing. Ground forces of course would be pulled out long before that, usually a day or two before the ships were able to heat the planet up to a lethal level. Right now we had been under attack for two days. We probably didn't have more than four days left. We were all almost guaranteed to die; only about 200 would survive if even that. What we are doing is a heroic last stand. We want to make sure that if we die we will scar the enemy. Maybe someday these last few battles will be remembered as heroic deeds. Either way it felt like summer on this planet and just a few days ago it was winter. There wasn't much time left.

      "You ready man?" Skip asked.

      I had had my head down thinking and hadn't noticed his arrival into the APC, "I guess so, just thinking. Are you ready to die?"

      "I am never ready to die if I could live" Skip replied a little quick; he must have had this on his mind "If I have another day to live, I want to see it, but if I have nothing left I will gladly die."

      "Wow, those are pretty brave words, do you think you have another day to live?"

      "Yeah, I believe that I won't die here, I have more to accomplish. Beside I still gotta get the love of god in ya!" He attempted to shift the topic to my lack of religious faith, something about death making him uncomfortable.

      "You know I'll never follow this religion stuff." Secretly I wished I had. My lack of faith had got me nothing so far, and given here were no negative effects I will do anything.

      "But you should, why don't you? Do you think that it will be too much dedication?"

      "Nope, I just tend to avoid faith in anything that can't be proven."

      "Well, one of these days I'll get through to you. Till then, I will just keep trying. This book isn't as bad as you think..." He waved a small bible which he had produced from a pocket near to his heart.

      "You carry one with you?"

      "All the time, if I am going to die for it, I might as well have it. Now listen, this is a holy war, at least for them, and if I am already guilty for reading this book I might as well follow through with it."

      "Myself I can't see what good it really does. You can't guarantee that it does anything."

      "Does it matter? You don't have to believe, but you don't have a good reason."

      "Wait" I was cut off.

      "End of conversation, no stress before the battle, right?"

      "Fine, but"

      "DENIED!!!" He yelled back in a jokingly way.

      "Ok. Well, here we go again, another operation. You feel nervous?" I acknowledged the feeling in my stomach.

      "Nah, aside from religion I also put my faith into me. I believe that I am able to do this, and I do. Like how I was able to limp 2 miles on a leg that had been shot. Remember that?" I thought back to the time we went to clean up that patrol, we walked for a long distance, but I wasn't sure that it was two miles. He had a bloody bandage wrapped around his wounds, but he was still able to limp his way to the tiny battlefield. "Why, are you?"

      "Have to admit that I am. I haven't fought in any large scale operations like this."

      "Don't worry, it actually makes it easier. Besides, this isn't a real bad operation, probably not more than twenty, maybe two vehicles. They won't be expecting this attack, too much of an unpredictable action for them to possibly anticipate it."

      "So you think that the Commander overstated it a bunch?"

      "Yeah, he just wants us to be ready to fight incase we have to. Nothing of that sort should happen."

      "I hope so, I have already fought enough despite the fact that I know I will be doing a lot more of it."

      "Well, here." He handed me a gun. The gun was a large pistol with a tremendous silencer. It was the gun used by the Saber Patrols, and was a rarity. As I looked around the APC we were in I saw that most of us had one. Not a good sign that there were any Sabers that managed to live, but a good sign for us nonetheless. I may sound very evil in this statement, but myself I would rather live than a bunch of strangers, and a better gun only helped my chances of survival. A saber Patrol unit was a kind of Special Forces officers that were trained in stealth combat tactics. With a near to silent gun and years of training these men could give and receive even the most precise of instructions with only hand signals as well as defeat any enemy within a shot or two. They were sent on missions when things were suppose to die, and one of the few infantry soldiers that could replace entire platoons on the battlefield with just a few men. They were in many ways the only true equal to the Maroon Berets, and a worthy match at that.

      "An MKA-15?" I asked, knowing the answer but instead asking almost where he got it.

      "Yeah, there was enough to go around so we all got em. But if you see any on a dead soldier make sure to grab em, they will be a great help in later fights."

      "Wait a second, aren't you all the 'bible is good, don't disgrace the dead' and stuff?" I said half laughing and half serious.

      "This is an exception; I am sure that if god were in this situation he would do the same thing." He replied seriously despite the overall joking nature of my question.

      "Everyone please sit down, buckle up and hold on, our operation is commencing in 3..." The engines whirred in synch with the pilots voice, "2... 1... Welcome to operation Black Shadow, I wish you the best of luck, and may you all have the blessing of survival."

      "Real reassuring!" Someone shouted from the middle of the craft up towards the front area where the pilot sat.

      The speaker crackled again "You know what guys, I want you to all make sure that he is if nothing else a 'friendly' fire casualty. Ok?" The pilot chuckled as he turned off the speaker.

      "Yeah, well, here we go man. Better hope yer ready, because there's no turning back now." Skip said with an emotionless stare. "You have just volunteered to risk death and to skirt the edges of death, good luck to ya man."

      The radio interrupted his talk, the pilot obviously feeling very comfortable after his last joke said "This is your captain speaking, we have now reached our cruising altitude of about 3 feet, please refrain from standing if the seat belt light is on and remember that tampering with any UNSC property is a violation of no codes at all. Still please don't do it. Locate your only emergency exit and make sure an able bodied male is seated in the nearest seat. Enjoy your flight." His newest comic creation was greeted by an array of laughs and I could almost feel the emotional warmth that these men shared.

      "Heh, pretty good one right Jacob?" Skip said, "Just like the Legacy!"

      The Legacy was the starship we all flew to Lunar on, packed to the brim with soldiers most of which were dead now. The starship wasn't meant to be a transport but was used as one because at the time the transports were all tied up with border conflicts. The legacy was the last of its kind and the leader of the 342nd UNSC Stellar Navy Corps, leading our ships in orbit when battles were to arrive.

      "Yeah, just like it... Besides the whole uh, 3 feet thing..." He stared back into my eyes, no one laughed. "Or not..."

      "Yeah. Well, you locked and loaded?" He gestured to his own gun and flipped it to me showing the underside was with a magazine in it. The safety was on. I tossed it back to him and slid my guns off the empty seat next to me on my lap. Again with the pocket ordeal I reached for the clippers, this time with out the futile gnawing. Easily extracting the ammo I slid it into the base of the machine gun and set it back down on the seat next to me with a grunt of approval towards the gun. I then drew the MKA-15 and fumbled in the pocket. No ammo for it. I pulled the pocket open a little more and peeked inside, still no ammo.

      "Um..." I cleared my throat holding up the gun.

      "Ah, right." He grabbed the small sack he had and produced 3 magazines of ammo, 40 rounds each. He reached out across the APC and fell out of his seat as we hit a bump. Quickly scrambling back up he crawled back and forth across the transport giving me the packages and crawling back to his seat. "There ya go. Anything more you need?"

      "Shouldn't be. Thanks again man." I clipped the package open with the clipper and slid the two others into the pocket I had along with two more magazines of ammunition that was for the assault rifle that I had. My armor was the standard grey UNSC metal with a Grey rubber looking suit beneath it. I also had a helmet, personalized with some green and brown paint, etched on the front my last name, Smalthers. Painted on the shoulder of my armor was the UNSC flag, a rough representation being that I am not too adept with the paint brush, but still able to be recognized.

      "You proud?"

      I hesitated "Yes, I am. UNSC Officer Jacob Johnson and I am proud to serve among the finest of all men to ever walk the face of any planet!" I repeated it as if it were forever burned into my mind, it actually was though. The UNSC code of honor. There was a lot more to the lines but those weren't about pride. Something along the lines of "never leave a man behind" and similar things.

      "Well just remember, Skips got yer back, when you are pinned down, 30 guys on ya just wait for the cover fire, who knows what happened to the rest of my buddies, so for now you're all I've got." He grinned looking up at the ceiling "so what do you think happened to them?"

      I sighed and replied, unsure of what to say, I had repressed these thoughts before, "Well, as for Logan, they probably got him alive. He's too much of a fighter to die, but Mac on the other hand was probably killed. Logan was back a little off the front lines you know. He would have a greater chance of living." I looked over, he looked stressed which was to be expected from anyone in his position, "But you lived, a good chance they both made it out too." My statement was rejected, nothing could break this silence. Neither of us knew what to say and we looked up at the ceiling and down again randomly, something that we had picked up somehow.

      "Well, in the horrible spirit of death let's make a bet. You think that I'll outlast ya?"

      I looked up "What kind of a question is that? What are you a monster?" I stared back for a second "You're on. I will outlast you, how's a hundred credits?"

      "Um UNSC to Jacob, we will be dead soon, remember, the glassing? Hate to tell you this, but money doesn't matter any more!"

      "Oh, yeah, didn't think of that... Well, for the pride then! Who cares any more!"


      "That was a rhetorical question."

      "Oh. Still..."

      "Marines, ready for departure, we are in position for operation Black Shadow. Why'd they call it that?" The announcement came over the small speaker in the ceiling.

      "Oh, it was because of the shadows in the pit. Don't ask me, no one really knows." Some random Marine said.

      "Real conclusive. Well, anyway, make sure you don't fall down the pit and remember, wait for the mortar rounds to stop before moving in unless you want to become a smoldering crater. If you do get stuck in the field move to the facility, we won't hit it just the nearby area, we can't damage the dish. It's too fragile to get pounded by the BAP's (Bipedal Artillery Pieces). So keep in mind that you need to draw an enemy or two out if at all possible. The Snipers will be on the other side of the dish as the control room and they will shoot any tangos moving outside. The most resistance you can expect is according to this preliminary status report is... Um... OK, a Jackal Honor Guard and maybe an Elite or two." He chuckled, "All this for those, probably not more than 20 of em in there. Well anyway, good luck." He lowered the ship and turned off the hovering abilities of the APC. A reverberating crash shook us and forced the light to flicker. As they came on the back panel pivoted downwards to the ground forming a ramp and we unloaded.

      Suddenly the dish exploded near to the door to the control room. A scream could be heard, even here, hundreds of feet away. The body of the Jackal was tossed through the air where it limply flopped down to the ground. Another shot rang out of the barrel of the BAP as it launched a mortar shell into the cliff edge above the control room. Through the jungle I saw the cliff edge drop a boulder onto a clump of bushes near to a pack of alarmed Jackals. I silently surveyed the sights of the battlefield through the forests dense trees. Around me the Marines from my APC were setting up whatever they were required to do to complete their roles as the 15th artillery battalion blasted the enemy forces. By now the bombardment was near to completed, all of the remaining enemy forces were dead or within the base.

      "Alright, listen up Marines, your divisions call sign is Delta, you have been briefed on you mission. You are to enter the base and secure it at all costs. There is no retreating, there is no dying, do either of those and you will fail. So, best of luck to you all." It was the pilot of the vehicle "Welcome to the operation, I hope you all make it out, just get back to this location when you are done. I'll get ya back."

      The air was thick, it was getting uncomfortably warm on this planet. You could tell that right now the Covenant ships were sitting in orbit, firing their cowardly lasers upon the planets just waiting for us to all boil. I raised my rifle and placed my hand on the handle of the pistol I had to make sure it was still there. I waited for the others to form up near to the tree line and joined them. We were assembled in three columns of four Marines in each. Skip took the rear left flank, while I was diagonally one person away from him in the second column, third person. This formation, no matter how useless was still able to bolster our confidence, knowing that someone had our back. We moved quickly through the dense forest to the other side where in front of us lied the massive dish. The dish was about 900 feet across and was supposed to be the first telescope that could spot a Covenant battle group to give us warning of an assault, it clearly failed. The dish arced into the ground like a crater and at the pit of it contained a drainage pipe to make sure the telescope didn't become a trillion credit puddle. We walked counter clockwise up the hill to the control room, where we took positions at the entrance. I sniffed in the air twice, there was the scent of death trailing through it. Two Marines were on either side of the door, and the rest of the column carefully progressed up the hallway, which wasn't meant for combat and was unsatisfactorily narrow. The hallway was also dimly lit, power reserves were low with no one to maintain the generators. The grey hallways had an indentation along either side of the wall that was supposed to be used as a handle for walking, something that we would not use, logic sense speaking for itself in this case. The ceiling was made up of airy cardboard type, foam like squares that were in some places fallen as a result of the gunfights before. We crept along the wall to the next hallway, which crossed perpendicular to the hallway we were currently in. Flipping my gun around the corner, followed by my body I made sure the hallway was secure. The building was like a maze, and all of the corners had a new place o go, something that was common of current Marine bunkers, making our defensive lines erratic to the enemy but crystal clear to us. At the next crossing of the hallways we could see the wall was coated in a thin layer of blood, dried, a sign that this exit wound was from happenings which occurred days ago.

      "God, whats that smell!" Some random Marine barked out this remark before he stepped around the corner and saw the large exit wound on the walls. A trail of blood led around the corner, to where the Marines dead body probably lies. Bodies, after decomposing for even short times leave a recognizable stench in the air, one I did not welcome to my nostrils. Now it was my time to take flank, flipping around the corner in the opposite way and gesturing with my hands for the remaining Marines to move into the hallway. They progressed around the corner and a Lieutenant proceeded with my former job of carefully slipping around the corner. This one however he looked down in disgust at what I was safely able to assume was the body of the Marine whom had his blood plastered along the wall and floor that we had seen. He gestured the hallway was all clear and we all progressed forward, passing by the body of the Marine, his face was frozen in horror as he was fatally clutching his chest, also the location of a hole in his chest plate which was covered in blood, a good sign that he suffered for a little while before he died, something that enraged us all a little more. We pressed on two more hallways until we encountered a division of five Jackals. The Marine who had remarked on the stench of the dead Private was taking point and slid around the corner, instantly yelling "Tangos, five, round this corner." Almost instantly the Marine was ct down by gunfire, as his last glances escaped his eyes he fell forward onto his knees, he looked up at us with a glare that begged us to get vengeance for his death. His eyes looked up at me, his dark hair flopping in the air. He lie down on the ground, clutching onto life by a thread. "Sir" he said, his voice weakening, "I have died a Marine. If you make it out, give this to" he coughed up a quantity of blood "my family, let them know" more coughs followed "How I went" His hand slid along his armor to a place right above his hearts. He pulled off a small pin from his uniform, the USMC badge.

      "Ok Marine, but don't worry, you will be able to tell them, Medic!" I raised my hand to signal for a Medic to move in and help us out.

      "No sir, there is none, just" he coughed up a bit more blood "Just go get them for me. Sir." The sir in the sentence was a bit detached, and it showed that faced even with death a Marine was willing to show dedication to the cause of his death, the UNSC. "Wait, give this..." He coughed again, this time he didn't look at his hand to check for blood, knowing that it was there. "Give this to whomever wants it..." He lifted an arm to his neck and slid his hand down the breast plate of his armor, pulling it out along with a dog tag. He ripped, with all the strength that a dying man could muster upon the dog tag, breaking the chain and handing it to me too. I clutched the dog tag in my had, focusing my vision in on it, and in the unfocused background of my vision I witnessed him die. First time that death had such a close tie to me. I leapt around the corner and with the assault rifle and fired fiver rounds into the shield of a Jackal where they were harmlessly deflected, something that disappointed me, but only briefly. Skip was at the other side of the hallway, where he pulled a grenade off his belt and rolled it around the corner. I watched it roll slowly over of the clump of Jackals.

      "Fire in the hole!" he yelled two second prior to the explosion. The Jackals let out a howl as they realized that they were dead. A body flew down the hallway and smashed up against the wall above the dead Marine. Three of us slipped around the corner and as the smoke cleared we walked steadily around the corner, bracing at the corners. As the smoke cleared we counted two bodies. "Three tangos down, two unknown!" we braced at the corners steadily and with a swift motion flung ourselves around them, where we saw the empty hallways. I looked back over my shoulder.

      "Is he dead?" I said.

      A Marine stood up pulling up two bloody fingers that he had used to check the pulse of the now dead Marine. "No, he was killed almost instantly."

      "Well, I made him a promise." I held up the fist of mine that was smeared in his blood "I will fulfill it. Come on, we have to get the others."

      The Marine stood up, "Sir!" Three Marines rushed by me at double speed and curved to the right through the hallway. I could hear them marching off as all the rest took up flank besides Skip.

      "Well, what do you think Jacob? So far so good?" Skip asked, sweat beading down his forehead.

      "I guess, but seeing that Marine die right before my eyes was pretty scary. Made me realize, if I was point then, I would be dead right now. Probably won't sleep too well tonight though." I replied.

      "Don't worry, we're almost done, just about here more hallways to the control room, and once we get the security systems up we will know where they are, just take it easy." I was now sure that Skip was saying this just to reassure himself tat he would live, but I played along, didn't want any fight fright to creep up on us.

      "Well, we had better catch up, don't want to get left behind."

      "Right." He replied, beginning to move down the hallway. We moved quickly through another blood splattered hallway and into the next hallway, where we heard a shriek and a few percussions of rifles being fired. The shots echoed down the hallway, and I heard the Jackals body thump to the floor. After the death came the reassuring sound of a voice, a human voice saying "Tango, one down, one alive. It's on the run boys, let's mop em up!"

      "3rd column, take flank!" I shouted, the 3rd column, which was 3 surviving members and they turned around, making sure we were all clear behind. "1st and 2nd move!" We all began marching down the hallway to catch the last Jackal. Around a corner we heard a shriek, not of pain but of language. The shriek was followed by a deep voice. The voice was that of an Elite. It spoke a few quiet indecipherable words to the Jackal.

      "Wot wot wot!" it yelled, one of the few Elite words I knew. It meant go go go, and is what we heard shortly before the Elite brought a squad of Covenant around the corner.

      "Marines, brace for attack!" I shouted ready to shoot anything that moved around the corner towards us. We were lucky this whole base was a maze, it gave us cover. A Marine rushed towards me, too late, an Elite flung around the corner and fired off a few rounds at him. I returned fire with the rifle, thing it with about 10 rounds. Its shield took the full blow and it swayed around the corner to recharge its shields. I paced forward slowly down the hallway. I could hear him breathing around the corner, something that I aimed to stop him from doing. I continued to pace forward as a few beads of sweat ran down my forehead, tickling my face. I ignored it and reached down to my belt, I had 2 grenades. I carefully pulled one of them out of the belt and got ready to pull the pin. I listened, I could hear its shield recovering, it was near to done.

      I threw the grenade around the corner with a snap of my writs and listened for the sounds of death, only to hear the startled shout of a Grunt who yelled something. I don't know what, being that the grunts have no real common dialect, but I knew it saw the sparking mass at its feet and ran.

      "Wot, waaaaaahhhhhh!" The elite yelled as the grenade exploded near to it. I crept around the corner. There was a crater in the floor, and I there was elite blood everywhere, even on the ceiling to the hallway. It dripped down into the pit as I got on my knees. I stuck my head around the corner so that only my eyes showed, the Elite was on the run, with a strong limp. I slid around the corner and fired off about 10 rounds at its back, watching it escape. I looked around and saw the Jackals body lying near to lifeless on the ground, cling on to the last strands of life that it had. Its shield lie next to it and its gun was no where in sight. I walked over to it and stood by its body. I put a foot on its chest. I aimed the rifle down at the Jackal and fired the remaining 30 or so rounds into its chest. The Jackals arms twitched with every shot and when the magazine was expended the furious clicking of the firing mechanism did not stop. He was one of the ones that had gunned down my comrade, and he would pay, as he did.

      The marines were just staring at me, terrified of what I had just done to the dieing Jackal. "Come on, let's get moving, we can't wait for them any longer, we have to take them all down and reactivate the defenses!" I slid the other magazine I had into the gun, popping the other out the bottom of the rifle where it clattered to the ground. The rest of the Marines fearlessly advanced through the hallway. Skip looked at me, and reluctantly turned to follow the rest of the group. I looked at the Jackal; its chest was ripped to pieces, its head nothing more than a bowl of blood, its face shot into its skull. The bottom of my pant legs were splattered in Jackal blood, and my gun was splattered is small amounts of blood, speckling it with the life fluid of my enemy. I looked away and set off down the hallway following about ten paces behind the Marines. Around the next corner lie the Elite and Grunt, I knew it. "Stand clear Marines!" They lined up on either side of the hallway. I walked through them. I slid around the corner, gun first. The Grunt mumbled something, I fired. I hit the Grunt with a quarter my magazine, missing him with half my shots. The grunt turned up at me, breathing its last breath and it threw a plasma grenade in my direction. The elite ran over the fallen Grunt into the next hallway while the grenade arced towards me. I was frozen in terror, a Plasma grenade thrown at 10 feet was nothing to be proud of, and it would probably frag me. I held up my arms in defense, ready for the burn of a plasma grenade, but felt none. I looked down; it had clipped to my gun. Screaming I quickly whipped it away from me and threw it down the hallway. It impacted the floor twice then spun to a stop. I bolted behind the corner as the blast blew up my gun. Chunks of the floor and wall slammed up against the nearby wall, and fell to the ground leaving delicate smoke trails. I lie there covering my head on the ground, two cuts on my arm from the blast, still pumping adrenaline through my body. I could feel every heartbeat.

      Skip stepped around the corner expecting to find me as he new wallpaper of this hallway, and was surprised to see that I was fine. He fired a round down the hallway in celebration, and then got on his knees to me. He tapped me on the back and I sat up on my knees. It was then that I noticed a searing pain in my leg. My right leg across the upper leg there was a large plasma burn from the Grunt. I hadn't even noticed yet that I had been shot, which amazed me, but I was sill better off now than I was.

      "Here, let me handle that" he said, addressing my leg wound.

      "Ok, I said, here, do you need medical stuff?" I reached up for my back pack, which contained a few rations and a medic kit.

      "No, I got my own, all you need is a painkiller and a bandage right?" he said, opening a compartment in his leg armor producing some bandages and a jar of painkillers.

      "Yeah, just fix me up quick. We can't let them get away, they might begin to destroy the control room!"

      "Relax; they already know we are here."

      My vision blurred and I placed two of my fingers on the side of my head. "Whoa..." I wobbled a little and my vision sharpened again, soon blurring though. I collapsed to the floor and I heard Skip saying that I was going into shock and felt them begin to lift my feet. I awoke a minute later with my leg bandaged, a numb feeling to it. Three of the members of the squad were gathered around me.

      "Where are the others?" I asked as soon as I awoke.

      "Oh, they went on, they are going to try to stop the Covenant from destroying the control room."

      "Wait, on their own?" I said, hoping that reinforcements had come.

      "Yes sir, but the control rooms is that door right there" he extended his arm pointing down the hallway to a door about halfway through.

      "Well I'll be damned. I got so close."

      "Yeah sir, You got lucky sir. A wound this size would have, and probably should have required that amputation of this leg. Also I really doubt it, but you kept these bandages on your arm way too long, you wanna get Gang Green of something? A miracle you are still working I guess."

      I was quick to reply "I don't believe in miracles, I am the only person in control of my life." I wasn't planning on giving religion a chance any time soon.

      Skip cut in saying "One of these days man, soon we'll get ya. Bible and all!" He hit his heart area twice reminding me of the bible he carried.

      "Not a chance. Destiny is for people who are too lazy to make their own decisions." I was waking up now, and was ready again to fight over religion.

      "Ok, fine, but you have to admit though; you have to have a reason to hate religion. What is it? You can tell me."

      "I don't need a reason. I just don't like it." I did have a reason, though I was embarrassed over it, it was almost cowardly that I didn't want to fight, and this war was over religion, right?

      "Alright, well, lets get a move on, are the others still in the control room?" I asked. The two bystander Marines picked me up by my shoulders. I was a little taller than them, so they dragged my foot along the ground, which was painful, but better than walking it out.

      "No, they moved on to clean up the rest of the Covenant in this facility. Turns out on the way in we killed most of em. If only we had the luck to come in the other way..." The Marine supporting my right side claimed, probably knowing what was going on." He spoke with an English accent, maybe from Earth. Earthside people were getting very rare race, all the Earth's people are stationed around home, not on outer rim planets like this. This was a small planet too, about a quarter the surface area of the Earth.

      "Alright, are they all ok?" I asked, concerned over the welfare of my squad.

      "Yeah, no one reported wounded so far." He replied

      "How are the other squads faring?"

      "Status is a mess, we haven't really gotten a good communications network up yet. But it looks like Alpha and Bravo suffered a big loss, Alpha got snuck up on by some Jackals. The counter attack though got the Jackals and no one knows what happened to Bravo. Probably ran away. Bravo wasn't the most valor filled of all the battle groups." He looked serious despite his last comment being sarcastic.

      "Well, how's the peeper network?" I said, asking about the main goal of our mission this time.

      "Well, three quarters of it is up, which is good. Having a few micro sats to image the battlefield will be good for us, might help us count them so we won't encounter any unexpected resistance." He was referring to Micro sats as in the peeper network. Orbiting around the planet was about 400 palm sized spy satellites. They aren't the highest resolution but Covenant couldn't destroy them, sot they were valuable. They were made to be tiny so that they could help us in almost this exact situation. It was kind of sadistic that the Marine Corps were now planning for this occasion, the death of a planet.

      "See, here are the controls to the peeper network" he extended his free arm into the room to our left, gesturing in towards the computers within. There was a large panel on the wall that was the main view screen, on it was a map of Lunar 4 with the orbital path of the satellites were shown. Around it were about fifteen little monitors for the individual controllers. There was again the scent of death in this building, and sitting at two of the chairs were the corpses of some of the computer controllers. One of them had one bloody hand on the keyboard, the other on the gaping wound on his chest. The other was curled up underneath a desk, where he was hiding I guess. A few of the monitors were shattered, a result of the gunfight within the room. A live Marine was sitting at one of the computers, furiously typing, watching intently as the monitor's display changed, he was obviously attempting to find any stray peepers to get a complete network up.

      "Well, can we bury these bodies?" I said as they sat me down in one of the chairs.

      "I would say so, we are waiting for some authorization from HQ, speaking of which, we are now able to speak! We have three pirate radio channels coming in from surviving civilians, all of which are commenting on how many people survived and where they saw Covenant patrols, doing their part to help I guess. Yeah, but e can't bury these bodies unless the family says so. I somehow doubt they will, being that they are on Earth, and if we contact them, to make sure that these bodies are buried right we might give away the location of our home." The anxious Marine said.

      "Can we just bury em now, HQ will give us the ok to bury them for sure." I , knowing that it was unsaid that we couldn't anyway, but like Earth has been since the late eighteen hundreds nothing can happen without hundreds of checks and balances with your superiors. It hindered our early space travel, it hindered our movement to Mars, later to the Moon, and after that other planets. It may never stop, unless the Covenant get to us that is...

      "Nah, desecrating the dead, isn't that a deadly sin or something?"

      "Oh I see, so it's not to continue working alongside them ignoring them?"

      "Well, I could get the UNSC flags, we could at least honor them."

      "Yeah, you do that."

      "Yeah sure, I'll go to the supply room and grab a few." He turned to walk, but I beckoned him.

      "Don't let them touch the ground Private." I said, my way of saying thanks.

      Chuckling of stress rather than humor he turned and paced away. Maybe I should have left off the Private part. Oh well, too late now.

      I peeled the skin tight mask that I had on and laid it out on the desk next to me, if I didn't get some of this armor off I would drown in my own sweat. The static shocked my hair once or twice as I pulled it off, a startling reminder of the zapping that our enemies were committing us to.

      "Relaxing a little? Feel free to, the fight is over. Was for you when you passed out in the hallway and stopped breathing for a minute there" Skip said, having removed his mask prior to my coming to.

      "Wait a second, I stopped breathing? You didn't have to, um.. Do any... Mouth to..." He cut me off.

      "No! We just hit you on the chest a few times!" he yelled disgusted. The Marine who was typing stopped and looked at us. There was an awkward silence.

      "Um... Well this is uncomfortable. But I am glad. Yeah, it's good..." I said, still almost speech impaired from the painful silence. The Marine look for a second longer and eventually turned and began typing again.

      "Well anyway..." Skip began, detached from his statement by my question.

      "I'm back!" the Private that I had dispatched to get the flags came through the door, muttering under his breath a sir. Definitely shouldn't have called him a Private. He set one of the flags onto the table and walked over the Marine who was curled up underneath the table.

      "Why don't you go and lie him out in a less cowardly position." Skip said. I was shocked by the brutality of his statement; he was after all a pretty religious guy.

      "Is that appropriate?" he asked shocked in the same way I was.

      "Well, why not?"

      "Alright" he began to drag the body out from underneath the table. He set it out on the floor. It was a woman; she looked about twenty or thirty. No wonder she hid, she didn't have a chance against them. He set her out flat on the ground on her back and lifted a palm onto her diaphragm. "Good?" he asked Skip who suddenly was the official dead guy specialist.

      "Yeah, now lay the flag over her."

      The Marine unfolded the flag and lifted it up in the air. It billowed, air catching beneath it as it began its decent to her body. It began to accelerate as it spilled air out from underneath it, almost welcoming the memorial wrapping of woman's body to commemorate her life, and her death. The flag was a simple one, compared to some of the old Earth Socialism orders flags. In the year 2223 there were something around one hundred and fifty well known countries, one of which had 51 flags, all divided among its divisions and one that hey all shared in common. The UNSC flag is a vast blue expanse with the Earth in the corner. Speckling it across the banner were stars, each one recognizing one colony. Half of them however were only former outposts, all destroyed by the war. The banner floated gracefully over her body and settled as the Marine looked up at us, to make sure that he had our approval over his methods. We nodded our recognition. He then walked over to the table snatching up the flag and walking over to the other Marine. This one a male with grey hair and a wrinkled, aged face, probably twice the age of the woman we last ceremonially covered. He was probably fifty, and seemed, for an unarmed casualty, very noble in his death. These two deaths showed what toll the genocidal campaign against the Humans had.

      "It think that this is a suiting statement." Skip said, solemnly looking at the bodies. "War is hell."

      "Yeah." I replied

      "Not done yet, and life is a sin" he said, taking a long pause between statements. "When the young must fight the wars that the elders begin, a poem I think, kind of hard to tell actually. We didn't start this, but we will finish it. We are so close to killing the Covenant. Just one nuke. Just on explosion. The war would be over. I just cant take it!" he clutched his head, "Why didn't we do this a long time ago? Just start probing space! Just look for them! And when we find them blast them all to hell!"

      "Just keep in mind man, we will win this. Well, we won't, chances are we wont make it off this planet, but mankind as a whole, will win." I claimed, very sure of myself, I obviously believed that without actually knowing it.

      "I guess you are right. Well, you wanna pack up and get out of here?" He said.

      "Yeah, our work here is done. Lets get back to the APC and report the losses."

      "Right, you know the way out?" Skip asked.

      "Um, no. Why not just follow the bodies. We have a body around every corner from a jackal or a crater. Also shell casings and stuff." Skip looked into the hallway.

      "Yeah, or why don't we just follow the signs?" Skip said, now looking into the hallway and clearly seeing a sign marked "EXIT".

      "Oh. That'll work." I said, disappointed, I thought that I had come up with a great idea.

      We paced back up to the exit of the building, slowly for my limp, where the musty smell of the building faded, giving way to the gentle breeze of a dying planet. It was 15 degrees Celsius warmer now than it was three days ago. It appeared as if it was a normal tranquil day outside. There was nothing fighting on the ground nearby and the only noises were that of the waterfalls nearby and the birds chirping. But if you looked at the sky you could see what was wrong. Towards the north of us, near the bunker there was a gigantic blue line that extended from up in the sky down to the base of the horizon. It was one of the ships. Held in orbit above us firing down upon us, leaving everyone on the planet helpless. We did have a few options, only one of which would get us out of here alive though. We paced around the satellite dish, both observing the ducks flying North again, thinking that summer had come early. Ducks were among some of the animals that were accidentally brought to Lunar 4. Few animals exist on Lunar 4 naturally, and we decided to keep it that way. Lunar 4 has relatively shallow oceans and only one ecosystem, so only a few biological forms were capable of surviving. Common house pets however were introduced to this planet around 2420. Stray Dogs, Cats, Rabbits, Parrots, Lizards and a few others now populated the entire animal world, they had within twenty years killed off all of the normal animal population. Previously only reptilian type animals lived on Lunar 4, those reptiles however were quickly bested by birds, and later larger dogs, causing the great extinction of the indigenous Lunar 4 population. But that was Darwinism, something that may later doom us to defeat. We could see eyes staring in at us from the forest, probably a large dog. They glared at us as if they were a foe, and then faded away as the beast made its retreat into the woods. Seems as if all eyes were dependent upon us, not often a good thing when we are guaranteed to lose in this battle. We arrived at the APC just a short while later, and came to find the pilot sitting in the cabin with his feet up and a 7 inch combat knife, whittling a stick to a fine point while listening to music, rock music plays in the background

      He kicked up suddenly seeing we arrived and fumbled with the radio he had in the cabin, "Just checking some, readouts sir!" He was embarrassed by the music he had been listening to, since it was about 600 years old and was also almost never manly at all, even when it came out. I wasn't just about to say something, nothing like angering a second Marine today.

      "Hey, pilot, hate to tell you this, but that music is crap." Skip said, acting a lot more like Logan that I was used to. He was usually a conservative person that rarely said anything that could later come under fire.

      I jabbed him in the side muttering some curse words under my breath, realizing that this statement was unforgivable.

      "Actually, I have a reason for this music. You really think that I would listen to this crap?" The pilot said.

      "See?" I said, hoping that Skip would catch one of the many cues to shut up that I had sent him and halt his inquisition.

      "Um, no, what is your reason?" He said, continuing to ignore, or not realizing that I was trying to signal him to stop.

      "Well, my reason is..." Hesitation, he was lying, hopefully he could come up with a good reason, "Well, um, ah, that's right, to scare off the animals. Yeah, I think that the dogs don't like the yelling!"

      "A good reason, I heard that was true! Yeah, um, on the channel 137 mind-cast." I said, unsure of what I was really saying, I was just trying to help out an ally in need.

      "There's a channel 137?"

      "Yeah, there was." I said.

      "Oh, well, shows how dated my mind-cast is. I got the tooth model in 2521, an old model." He said, he thought that I was telling the truth.

      "Well, doesn't matter now anyway, pilot, sir, do you know any info on the missions success?" I said, changing the topic to what we had actually intended to talk about.

      "Well, Officer Johnson, preliminary reports suggest a complete victory. Somehow we pulled this off, losing only a dozen men."

      "Oh, yeah, that reminds me. We came here to tell you the casualty reports of our squad. We lost one member. His name was..." I paused while I reached into my pocket and produced his dog tag, still a little bloody from his hand, which was covered in blood that he had coughed up while dying. "His name was..." I read the dog tag. Printed in generic bold fonts was his name. "Ah, here we go, his name was James McNeil. Put him on the list and report him KIA."

      "Alright, you wounded sir, you look like you have a fresh bandage on your leg." He said, while writing the mans name on the sheet of paper that he had waiting on the dash of the cabin.

      "Well, yeah, fill me in as WIA. Make sure you add that I'm fine."

      "Hey, but you're not, you still are walking on a leg that really should have put you on a stretcher!" Skip said.

      "Do you think that I will live long enough for it to get better?" I asked. It was warm out, the invasion was over, it was time for us to die.

      "Alright sir, but hope you don't suffer more than you need to in this war. You could just"

      I cut off the pilot "I could just what, sit back while my allies die? Not me, I am no coward!"

      "Well, with all due respect, we are all on death row, and you don't have anything to prove to us. We saw those Elites last night. You are far from a coward."

      I ran up to him, not walking with a limp, the pain hitting me after I reached him. I grabbed him by the neck of his shirt. "What were you doing while I was out there watching a Marine die?" I asked.

      "I was relaxing. It was my job!" I looked back at Skip, who was staring at me waiting for my next move.

      "I don't have that job. My job is to make sure that my enemies die. My goal is to make sure my allies live. My goal is to never back down unless I am told to by one thing only. Do you know what that is?"

      "You" His statement was incomplete. "Sir"

      "No, that person is death. Unless he walks up, taps me on the shoulder and says, Jacob, you are dead, you can give up now, what do you thing I will do?"

      This time he got it right "You will complete your goals" I released his collar and straitened my own.

      I leaned in towards him. "See this eye?" I pointed to the mechanical one.

      "Wow, you have two different colored eyes, that's rare, right?"

      "No, I lost this eye in our first live fire exercise on Reach." I said, leaning away "They told me to retire, that my career was over, but I wasn't done yet. I won't be until my foes, or I die." I walked slowly, limping back to Skip. The impacts of my statements were settling in, I hardly even knew what I was saying. What was my motivation? I had left that unclear even to myself.

      "Well, you guys can load up if you like, get some rest, you know."

      "Yeah, sounds good" I said beginning to stretch. "I need some good rest right about now." I paced over to the side of the APC and stepped up over the deflated cushion. I placed a hand on the handle to the door. The door was flimsy and I pulled it open with ease though the top and bottom flopped separately as I almost violently pulled the door open. Inside it was warm and muggy, the stench of sweat overwhelming. I slid a hand up my forehead and through my hair as I stepped one foot onto the metal grate floor of the APC. It had a few windows towards the pilot's cabin; however I didn't feel like sleeping near to him being as to that he might be seeking revenge for my grabbing his collar. I have been offending too many people lately. Too mush stress I think. I instead walked over to the back of the APC and clicked on a small light on the back wall of the APC. Its dim glow illuminated only a small part of the back of the APC, hardly enough to see, but enough so that you wouldn't trip or fall on anything that might be left on the floor. I laid down my armor on the back row of seats, folding up a few armrests to lay down sprawled across the seats. I plopped down on my belly and used my arms as a pillow to cradle my head. Forgetting that my arm was burned I accidentally placed my head upon it, quickly reprimanded with the acute pain of a burn. It didn't hurt as much as I had anticipated for, a sign the wound was healing. I quickly fell asleep; my sleep in recent times had been almost nonexistent.

      I awoke the next morning suddenly. I sat up, breathing hard in a cold sweat. I lifted a hand, passing it through my hair as my vision sharpened and I sat up. I rotated my head, peeking at the clock, which said on a friendly display that it was 5 a.m., which was about an hour before the time that all soldiers must be awoken. I shot a glance out the door to the starry sky. Off on the horizon there was a blue beam extending to the ground, breaking the golden moments that I had awoken, before I remembered all my troubles, which now were death and suffering. I had a nightmare about the last battle. It was the first time I was so close to a dying hero. He was not so much a hero in the way he lived as the way he died though, or at least as far as I knew. It is shocking how you won't care about anyone or anything until they are gone and beyond your reach. I was still in the APC, but no one else was, Skip had left. Better that way, I thought, knowing that I didn't really have any special interest in sleeping in cramped quarters near to another man. I stood up and felt my way to the light switch, the room poorly lit by only my clock. I found the switch and flipped it on, illuminating the APC. A moment after I turned them on I realized that I didn't need to turn them on; the exit was illuminated by the starry sky. Fewer stars were showing up, the planet was warming, and as a result the moisture of the ocean was condensing in the sky and blocking our view of the night sky. I was fine with it though, nothing was truly important in the sky. I jumped out of the APC onto the ground, which was wet, coated in the morning dew. Off in the distance I heard the cracks of gunfire. They were coming from the end of the valley; it looks as if the last bunker had fallen. So long ago it seemed my goal, my sanctuary was that very base which was now cut off from communication. We should have the Peepers up today as well as the full extent of the communications network. An explosion blasted off the top of a nearby hill leaving a scar in the land, a pit where something died and a crater that would soon be melted as the onslaught of the invasion continued. I still don't know when they will withdraw their ground forces though. I would be willing to bet that as I slept the past two days those Marines have been fighting, no rest, and no mercy.

      My first move was to get combat ready, I had a feeling that we would get an early start today. Rumors are that yesterday we got more supplies from the base. I put on the arm piece and felt a sharp pain in my arm; I hope that they have some labskin for me, it would cure these wound that I had. Supposedly when in the fight we found a locked door in the back of the structure, something like a vault loaded with tanks, guns, ammo, everything that we would need to fight back besides a second chance. Today though we were thought to have some prisons that were found, Covenant ones. Chances are that we would strike there next, hoping for some new recruits and a good supply of the anger factor. There was also some relative calm around that capital. The capital of our planet is a truly majestic place with 9 sq. mi. of reflective tile surrounding it. The tower in the center is a mile high pyramid stretched vertically. We had also put a few defensive structures near there. There is a large bunker near to the capital and also a cliff edge, valley Gemini, to reduce the area that they had to defend. Most importantly though was a nuclear missile silo underground there. Hopefully it was still intact; a nuke could at least kill them too. I got my gun and went over to the main camp, I looked for anyone that was awake, surveying the camps many scattered tents hoping for someone to talk to. Humans have a very hard time with silence. I sat back near the dying fire and waited for everyone to wake up at reveille time. I leaned up against the sump of a tree that had been cut down near the fire for about a half hour, but I began to think to myself about all the future things that I would be missing and became depressed, so I ran the perimeter of the camp a few times to get it out of my system, mourning my own loss was no good, it was the only death ever that wouldn't affect me. I then moved over to the edge of the forest. One thing that I had always sort of wanted to do was within my reach. I looked up the tree. It was a pine about 50 feet tall, and had a trunk that I couldn't reach all the way around. I took off all of my armor and began to climb. I grabbed onto a low branch and pulled myself up it. I looked up for the nearest branch. I saw it and jumped up to it grabbing the branch with my hand. I pulled myself up. I was like a monkey, scaling the tree at speeds that surprised me. The low gravity of Lunar 4 helped. All my time on the Legacy my body was at 1G. After we left the Legacy we had only to deal with about a half that, at 6/10G. I weighed 200 hundred pounds out in orbit in the Legacy, and here on the planet only 120, the extra carrying abilities allowed us to carry an additional couple of clips on this planet, and lob grenades further. I pulled myself up onto the next branch. I was about 3/4 the way up, and was as high as I was going to go, I almost fell before I reached the top. I dropped down about 15 feet and grabbed a branch easily. I dropped to a stop on the next branch. Why was climbing to the top of a tree one of my goals. I sat down beneath the tree and pondered it for a moment. That goal made me look like a retard. Why that? Was it to... Heighten responsibility? Nah... Why? I was awoken from my thoughts by the trumpeting of the revile. The trumpet blasted its happy noises as many groggy sleep deprived Marines awoke. I stepped over, with my armor on and some of the sharp leaves of the pine tree in my arm and armor.

      "Heh, you idiot, look at you, you're all covered in pine crap. What happened, get sleepwalkin' or something?" The Commander turned looking at me, tired himself.

      "Something like that, I wanted to climb that tree." I pointed at the tree I climbed.

      "You moron, why? Do you think that you would get some pride of other satisfaction?"

      "I was tired... I wasn't thinking clear!" Maybe I was... This could be the explanation I was looking for...

      "Right. Idiot. Surprise the government would even draft you... If you didn't do as good you do in combat..." He stared at me for a second. He likes to do that. I realize that more and more recently as he began to take less time to explain himself and more time to use his mental death ray to stun us into submission.

      "Well, did they get any medical supplies in the raid?"

      I clutched my arm remembering its wound, "No, I don't think so" the commander said.

      A doctor walked out. With his generic field surgeon appearance and emotionless sound. He had clearly had someone die in his lap. "Well, we got some antiseptics, some.." he went on with his list, clearly having it memorized. Why? He finished his list with the words that I had been searching for. Labskin. He looked at my arm. "Do you want some? You can be my first labskin patient ever!" I hesitated for a moment. I peered at my arm, pain. I thought of it being his first attempt. Possible pain... I decided that I would take the risk, dammit, this hurt either way! Where was the old field surgeon?

      "Yeah, I'll do it. Commander, hold the operations, right? I want in on this one!"

      "Right, now you just follow him, he'll fix you all up." I followed him.

      We arrived in the tent and I ducked beneath the low door. Inside he had a bright light set up on a stand and a few crates of supplies nearby. I wasn't to comfortable getting an operation in this room, though it was a little one.

      "Alright, do you want some sedative, um..." he read my name badge "Lieutenant Johnson?"

      "Nah, I can take the pain to go on this mission that's coming up next." I was hoping to find some old friends in this mission, maybe Logan and Mac!

      "Ok, sit down in the chair, make yourself comfortable while I begin the operation." He slid on some crude latex gloves as he allowed me to sit. He looked more like a doctor than a field surgeon actually, now a little bit happier looking. But that could also be that I was watching him move in the shadows now and couldn't see him. He then rolled out some monitors to keep track of my heartbeat and pulse and other things like that. He finally got some labskin from the box along with a puffer within it some numbing agent in it. He handed it to me. "Breath out, squeeze the top, breath in and hold it for as long as you can. Do that twice." Well, so much for the whole doctor thing, he's back to being a field medic type person.

      I followed his instructions at first feeling no results. I blurted out a short comment about how there was no effects and suddenly I felt very numb as the statement was a little under half finished. I laid down the rest of the way as he paced over to my arm with some scissors and a little bag of some green liquid. He set the liquid on a nearby table as he cut off my bandages to reveal the wound. "Oh my, this is no good, look at this wound, did you ever change the bandages?" he sounded a little insane with that statement, no one had talked like that for hundreds of years.

      "Yeah, I just changed it yesterday. I think..."


      "The Commander is right, you are an idiot, didn't the surgeon tell you to change the bandages? "

      "Um..." I thought for a second trying to remember "I don't know."

      "Ah well, it doesn't matter, take better care of yourself."

      I realized that I was drooling out of the side of my mouth, a considerable amount actually. A side effect of the numbing agent I guess. I tried to move my other arm to wipe it up but the field surgeon, not even looking up from his work said "No moving." And I laid my arm back down quickly. He was pretty scary for a skinny type.

      "Right." My talking was a little slurred and more spit fell out of my mouth as I moved my jaw to talk. He then set the scissors down and grabbed the bag of green liquid. He ripped open the top and smelled it quickly, then flinging it away from his face in disgust. "What is that doc?" No reply "What is that stuff!?!" He poured it on my arm. I stared for a second, nothing happened. Then I saw it. It was eating my arms wound away! "What is this crap?" I watched as the numbness was fighting the pain, and losing.

      "A little acid, to burn the scab off." He said it calmly as if it were no big deal, though to me it was. My arm was dripping on the floor! I couldn't tell it was skin by its color, but it was dripping, and my skin, or rather scab was disappearing. Suddenly the pain hit me. It was like no other pain, probably hurting worse than all the pain that that arm had ever given me. "GGAAAHHHH!!!" I screamed thrashing wildly on the table in pain. The pain was unbearable, a pain like being kicked in the crotch or hit in the stomach. Suddenly the doctor poured something else on it and it turned purple. The pain was gone. I looked as the foam turned into a plaster like build up on my arm. He took out a sheet of artificial skin and smacked it onto my wound. I was braced for the pain that the wound would supply me, but it was gone, the new set of skin had no wound! I was cured! Now for the leg...

      I ran out to the briefing room getting lost twice along the way asking direction of the slackers who were not in the mission. I arrived right as the commander said "So, any volunteers." I stumbled in confused and hurt, the leg wound wasn't fixed so well and it burned a little where some of the acid remained in small quantities.

      "I will join!" I said, my words slurred and spit draining itself trough my mouth.

      "And so now we show our true colors Johnson..." He said, joking that I was mentally handicapped.

      "Nah, numbing agent."

      "Didn't work did it" Skip said, "We heard you yelling!"

      "I screamed that loud? Oh well, do you know what they do to you!"

      "Yeah" The large Russian man from before spoke out. "I got a horrible burn on my chest while I was on a boarding party about two years back. They didn't have any numbing agents in the field. So they tied me down, they stuck a belt in my teeth to bite and they poured on the acid."

      We all stared back in silence.

      "Ok, fine that was that other guy on my squad, but I held him down!"

      A mixture of angered grumbling arose as the angered room realized how he had extracted so much drama out of the group. I sat down in the front left corner of the room and listened as the other Marines joined in.

      An hour later we were all loaded up on the dropship ready for departure. "This is Pelican Echo 123, do you copy Delta base?"

      "This is Delta you are primed and ready for launch!"

      Rodger, launching in 3... 2... 1... Launching!"

      We bounced up in the air, some people were lifted from their seats for a second as we hit off a horizontal cable going across the camp. "This is your captain speaking, the seatbelt light is on, we are expecting some turbulence." It wasn't funny. Skip however was really enjoying the idiotic joke.

      "Heh, just like on the--"

      "I know... The Legacy, right?"

      "Hmm... Have you got all the info on what we are gonna do on this one?"

      "No, no one has told me, they all gave me the cold shoulder. Did I do something wrong or what, why are they all avoiding me?"

      "Um... They aren't avoiding you... I don't think... But anyway, we're going on a prison liberation run. We have to hit fast and then get the hell out of there before they get some more back up to the facility. We will be among the first drop group, though we will wait until the Mortar battalion knocks out the turrets defenses. We will be the guard of the rocket squad, that unit will take point while we slip into the base. We are armed a little lightly, as you have notice." I looked down at my pistol and sub-machinegun. The sub=machinegun had a collapsible stock and an eighty round magazine. It had a quick rate of fire, but stopping power was a problem, it was weak against armored units, like Elites. But all the others were fair game.

      "Yeah, well anyway, we will secure a prison group and get them to the drop ship. We will take cover in the base while we wait for the next division to come in then we will take a ride. If all else fails we will have some high speed light APC's ready to pick us up. If there are no prisoners, you have to get outside as soon as you can, because bad Intel could lead us right into the center of an armory or a training camp."

      "Uh, one question, do you think that Logan and Mac are in there somewhere?"

      He sighed. "Hard to say really. I don't know if either would be able to live in a prison camp. Mac is old and weak, but Logan is young. You would think that would guarantee him being there, but Logan isn't one to give up, and unless they dunk up behind him to catch him there is no way that they caught him alive. And if they did he might be dead for disrespecting them. Either way I have my fingers crossed."

      "This is the pilot, get ready for dust off, I want you all to stick to the plan. Just keep heads down and guns firing and maybe you'll get back on this dropship."

      "It's go time." Skip said seriously.

      I pulled out the sub-machine gun and cocked it.

      "Go go go!" We jumped out of the craft and hit the decks. Covenant covering fire was everywhere and we were buried in gunfire. A rocket blast suddenly exploded among their lines as a few bodies flew through the air. The Pelican unloaded the last of the troops as I fired about 15 rounds towards a Grunt. The spray of gunfire killed it and it dropped onto its back leaving a small pile of weapons. The purple building behind me suddenly exploded as another rocket blast nailed it squarely at the top of the wall. A part of it caved in as the excited Marine shouted some victory call. Another Marine popped up with a rocket launcher and fired towards a door into the facility as a few bodies flew out of the entrance landing near to us. Its head pivoted towards me, its eyes open in desperation. The gunfire had near to stopped; just a Jackal remained as it fired a few rounds into the circle of us. One rocket launcher Marine was shot though, so I fired about ten more rounds at the Jackal as I watched the Pelican open fire on it exploding it with gunfire.

      Quickly a few men shuffled towards the door into the building. Myself I grabbed the rocket launcher and flipped it up over my shoulder, slinging my other gun around my neck. I paced forward as the two on the dies of the door swung in and discharging a few shots with the rifles that they had. I trotted casually up to the front of the division.

      "What is that?" Skip said, gesturing to my rocket launcher.

      "I got it from Sergeant Carsons." I said.

      "oh... Well, you know how to use it?"

      "Point and Click Skip, Point and Click."

      "Right" The Marines down the hall yelled that they had found the prison brigs.

      "Coming!" I ran forward to the brig area.

      I bolted around the corner, enthusiastic that we would find some of my friends. I ran to the back of the room and walked up the podium to the controls. "MARINE!!! LOOK OUT!!!" One of the men at the entrance yelled! I looked up. There was nothing.

      "What?" I resumed looking at the keyboard type holopanel.

      "LOOK UP!!! CLOAKER AT 12 O'CLOCK!!!" I looked up in a sharp movement and I saw this tiny shimmer of the light. It was there. It fired a few rounds at me as I jumped behind the control panels podium. I set down the rocket launcher and grabbed the handle of the submachine gun. The other Marines were probing the room for him, firing randomly trying to find him.

      "Cease fire!" I yelled. We were short on ammo. I looked carefully. Where was the beast! I looked towards the left of the room. There was no movement. I spotted something over in the corner of the room and fired a few rounds at it. The bullets hit the wall, no blood, nothing was there. I slowly scanned the room. I saw another spot that I thought it might be, so I fired another few rounds into that area. I still had almost no Idea where it was. "Everybody get down!" I whipped the gun up to a level aim that should hit the Elite no matter what altitude it was at, and expending all my ammo spun around the room firing randomly hoping to hit it. None of my bullets hit home though, and suddenly I realized how trapped I was. I had hastily rushed into this room searching for someone I knew, and now I might die without even seeing my killer. I looked around the front of the room for it to give away its position. I couldn't find it, so I turned round to leave. It was there. Standing behind me I could distinctly see in the shimmer of the armor the silhouette of an Elite. It stared back at me, the expression I couldn't determine, but I can assure you that it was beaming with pride. The monster drew its weapon and prepared to kill me. I reached down to the side of my right thigh where the sidearm was strapped to my leg. The motion was almost automatic though it wasn't at all a reflex, I was basically running purely off adrenaline and I didn't really think to move at all, though I was. I flipped the pistol up in front of me and shot it once in the chest, the Elite was too fast though, and it swung disarming me with a swift blow to the handle of the pistols. The pain in my fingers was so immense, I wasn't sure, but I thought that I had broken a finger or two. Nothing that a little visit the medic couldn't fix though. The gun of mine clattered to the ground about a meter away and spun to a stop about 2 meters distant. It was too far, he would kill me before then. The chest wound decloaked him temporarily, and I was able to catch a glimpse of the look on his face. Suddenly I saw my childhood, not all of it, just the select most important moments. Moments like when I found out about the Covenant, and when my parents died. The Elites face was full of pride and full of glory as he was about to kill the enemy of his religion, perhaps the greatest honor he may ever face. Or not. A submachine gun roared near the door and I watched as the Elites expression change. First it was smug, grinning at my potential death, suddenly it whipped its face to the right, hearing a person move, he may not have seen them or something. Anyway, his eyes flipped to the left, looking at the entrance to the room, and as he saw the rifle aimed at him his expression became the kind that you feel when you're stomach suddenly feels sick as a result of stress. Looking up in disgust it let out a final bellow of defeat as about sixty of the submachine guns ripped their way through the Elite, smearing his blood all over the wall behind him. His body fell limp to the ground and collapsed over my legs. I leaned back and sighed feeling sudden moisture on my shin. I slowly looked down, angered by this. My leg was coated in purple blood. I wasn't the fondest of blood myself and quickly recoiled in shock. The body thumped to the ground as I snapped my legs out from underneath the bulk of the Elite. I quickly jumped up trying feebly to brush the blood off my legs. The two Marines at the door were breathing hard, clearly glad they were able to save me as a tooth smile that crossed their faces was easily visible even from my distance of about 15 meters.

      "Thanks." I was the first to break the silence. They were beginning to return to a normal breathing rate as the other Marines of our group moved into the area near to the brig control. I had nearly forgotten about the prisoners. I stepped up the raised platform near the holopanel and hit a few button like projections on it. About half of the cells opened. The Marine who was on the other side of the panel stepped up behind me and pushed my hand out of the way hitting a few buttons more opening the rest of the cells. "How did you know how to fix that up?" I said, my confidence in understanding the Covenant computer systems reduced. I was amazed that the ease he opened the cells with.

      "Let's just say that I have been on that side of the cell a few times before." He gestured to the cell nearest to us where a Marine was curled up in the corner. I wondered if he were dead or alive. Here I thanked my great luck that I had not been captured, otherwise I would have been put though hell like these people. Stepping into one of the cells I extended a hand to the Marine who was curled up in the nearby corner of the cell. He was either knocked out, asleep, or least desired, dead. I poked him to wake him up however the body toppled off to the side and sprawled across the ground. His chest was burned from electrical shocks and his jaws were clenched tight. His Ears were a little bloody as a result of the electrocution. He was one who clearly hadn't talked when they told him too. Suddenly leaping out of a cell came a familiar figure, that of Logan. The tall figure was bouncing back and forth from left foot to right. Excited to be free he weakly yelled before collapsing of exhaustion or hunger, either way. He lay on the floor twitching a little, the biggest smile a man could have crossing his face. Myself however I had a smile to match, I was sure that I was going to die back there. I stepped up to the marines near the door as about 6 more shuffled by me aiding the prisoners to walk out of the structure. "Who shot him?"

      "It was me." Skip was standing behind them. He was at least twice as far down the hallway.

      "A pretty good shot, aren't we?"

      "Yeah, really, I just got lucky, that's all."

      "Still, thanks for saving my life man, I could have died back there" I gestured to the look stained wall, "I probably should have, but I didn't."

      "Yeah, we know. Trust us, you should have seen the look on your face when you saw him."

      "Ah, well, lets go help some Marines!" I moved off to the back of the room and grabbed a prisoner, slinging his arm over my shoulder. "So, how are you doing."

      He replied weakly, one eye closed, "Ah, just fine. Now that you guys have showed up that is."

      "Well, despite the temptation to think so, we aren't your guardian angels." He moaned clutching his side. "You sure you're ok?"

      "Yeah... GAH!!!" He collapsed onto the ground clutching that side again.

      "Medic!" I yelled as soon as the body thumped to the floor.

      The medic ran over, "What?"

      "Ah, I think he is hurt, a wound to his abdomen area." I was already in his medical toolkit grabbing the field scissors. I cut out a hole in the side of his Marine uniform to reveal a large swollen area. The whole thing was black and blue, pulsating with every heartbeat. It was coated in some sort of shiny coating that made it look scaly and almost scary.

      "Man, we're gonna have to operate on it, he could have bone fragments or shrapnel in this wound."

      "Oh, great, now we are gonna have to cut im open surrounded b the enemy, behind enemy lines, and while hundreds of sick and wounded flow out of this camp. Afraid that it can't be done, load him onto the next Pelican and operate en route."

      "No, could cause more fractures in any potential broken bones he has."

      "Um... Guys..." he coughed up some phlegm, "I am still conscious... Doesn't that mean that I get choice over where my operation is?"

      "Oh... I hadn't noticed." I said slowly and more soft than usually. I was now thinking more of him, I was thinking of a person rather than an inconvenience.

      "Yeah, well, I say to operate right here, whatever it takes." I stood up. Thinking for a second I came up with something, to let the medic handle this one.

      "Ok, I'll let you handle this one medic. Good luck" In all, we freed 416 or so prisoners from the holding cells, about half that number however were found dead. Some people were paired two in a cell, one often beaten bloody and missing teeth, their rations stolen by their cellmate. Our next task was to load the ex-cons into the Pelicans which were now swarming our area picking up tens of prisoners a load, overloaded and working the engines way to hard Pelicans with BAPs in tow pulled up to drag away more prisoners. The engines howled as a Pelican would begin its ascent. Dust and small stones would whip us in the face as we desperately waved our arms signaling for them to lift off. Picking up nose first slowly they would lift into the sky and cross above the tree line with only feet between them and the top of the taller trees. A few Covenant survivors were found, though the remainder forces only caused a half dozen casualties, mainly just burns. We found a door in the back of the facility that was something around 3 feet thick. We would sit there tapping on it, listening for a return however we do not believe that there is anything living in it. We brought in some demolition specialists and they attempted to blast their way through the door however they were cut short only half way through as they began to realize that the door may be sealed for a reason. We didn't know what, but something must have been back there. We stood near it for a while using some sound resonance to determine what was in it, though according to our readings, it was empty. We decided it best to leave it be, we had no reason to go within it, it might just be a bomb shelter for all we knew. The last evac ship came, and we followed the motto of some of the army. "First ones in, last ones out" We were dropped at the camp and we watched the sunset as the Pelicans flew off towards it, ready to dock in the satellite area we had found. We got a dozen Pelicans from the supply and storage bays in the base as well as some Warthogs, a few BAP's and two StarJumpers. StarJumpers were our last chance out. A breed of ships that were created as bombers were actually more useful and more practical as the last line of defense, or rather escape. We were all hoping to damage the space blockade of the Covenant to be capable of the escape succeeding. But only about 40 of us could escape, so chances are that either all of us would escape, or none of us, we have a Marine motto, leave no man behind.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      I put a hand through my hair. My hair was moist, I had been sweating for a long time now, it was too warm out. I had slept through the whole night pretty good, waking up at reveille. The music of the trumpet was playing. Surprising we stuck so close to tradition over time, being that playing instruments became a practice of only those who were supremely dedicated to playing music on an authentic instrument. I sat up hitting my head on a bar that was inconveniently placed above my bed. I rubbed my forehead and slid out of the bed. I stepped outside and looked off towards the horizon. There was a blue pillar extending up into the sky. The first moments of the day were fading and my happiness fleeting as well.

      Skip and I walked over to the tent that was set up to be a cafeteria structure, and sat down near to Jim, who was sitting hunched forward weakly eating food at an incredible rate. We grabbed a tray and walked up to the chef, if you could even call it that. The "food" we got was something that could easily scare someone who didn't know what it was, and almost looked as though I should use my fork to kill it. "What is it?" Skip said. He was acting more and more like Logan recently. These changes must be caused by the stress. I wonder if what caused Logan's seemingly stupid behavior was actually stress.

      "You sure you wanna know?" the chef replied.

      Skip stood for a second thinking, quickly giving in to fear. He nodded a no and watched the glop flop onto his plate. I stepped up to him, and he looked me in the eyes. I must have looked scared, "Don't worry, it tastes half good if you swallow quickly." The chef said.

      "What if you don't?"


      "Ok, don't worry about telling me. Just give me the food."

      I sat down at the table, no interest in eating what I had, a great hunger in my stomach. I hadn't eaten in too long. "Jim." I nodded acknowledging him. "How are you?"

      He was chewing and finished adding in a grunt meaning that he knew I said something. Swallowing he said "Fine now, look at me, I'm a free man!" He quickly shoveled more food into him mouth. I stared confused. Skip was also glaring, no anger of course at Jim. How could he eat that food so readily, I doubt that it's dead myself.

      I grabbed the fork and violently stabbing downwards stabbed the "food" in the center, watching it ripple as a result. It acted as a gelatin would though it showed no signs of being anything that tasted even remotely good. Shivering I pulled out a wiggling chunk and let it slide almost strait down my throat. Military food had never been good before, why would it start now? Actually it, along with front line living conditions had never been improved. Our rifles were more accurate with every model, our scopes more accurate, our magazines jammed less, everything had gotten to become a better soldier, but since about 2100 had a soldier gotten a better mattress or a meal that was even half decent. Jim however was happily swallowing it. That weird thing was that we both hadn't eaten in the same length of time, but he was clearly starving. He finished the plate and leaned back in his chair. "Yeah, glad to be back in society ya know?" I nodded along to show I was listening as I swallowed a second bite of the glop, "To be able to sit in a chair and not be beaten," I nodded again, "and to get to eat! I can't believe the retrieval team was still out during the prison raid though. That means that you probably took more casualties for it." I nodded again, swallowing the garbage.

      "Yeah, but we needed the space anyway" he was about to say something but I cut him off, "I know, it sounds a little, or rather a great deal evil sounding, but you have to understand..."


      "Well, I don't want a bunkmate..."

      "That's sad. You would rather have a man gunned down than get a bunkmate? Besides, I don't think that you need to worry about it, today is the last day."

      I swallowed in surprise choking over some of the slime. "The last day?"

      "Yeah, the last day, the day the Covenant melt us. Well, actually we won't be melted, we will die long before that. See, sometime soon it will get warm enough that we will all die of heat exhaustion. But don't worry, you can probably get some anesthetics to make it a painless death."

      "Still a death" I said, angered. Why hadn't I heard this?

      "Oh well, you didn't think you could avoid it did you?"

      I think that I actually did think that I would escape recently. So much hope had been transmitted to me. But why! If I was to die here inevitably why had they instilled such hope?

      The speaker above us crackled, "All personnel report to the briefing room! It's the last day, and the last few missions."

      I was ready, I stood up half of my food gone and paced to the door, throwing my helmet over my head and wiping the sweat from my forehead. I quickly marched to the briefing room, I had nothing to lose. I watched the Commander stand up at the front of the room. He stared back at us with a reassuring look. The Commander listened to the silence somehow, hearing our despise for today, the day we would all die. Today we were planning as many operations as we could fit into the limited time we have, but by 1800 hours, it will all be over. His voice split the silence like a wedge shoved into a stone as he said, "Alright Marines, men, or rather friends. We are gathered here to witness the last stand of the Humans of Lunar 4. Now listen, before I start this I would like to make sure that no one feels obligated to participate in this operation. Also, I don't want anyone to say sir today."

      A few people grunted in approval.

      "I'm serious. We are going to enjoy this last day. Now listen, here is the mission plan. We want to strike the Covnenat here." He pointed to the map that he had and waved his finger. It was a hit or miss operation I guess. "We have a nuclear facility there, and given we hit it with enough speed we can take over. The good news is"

      "We don't have any nuclear silos left Commander. The Covenant would have taken it out."

      "Not this one. How about if I told you that this one was not made public..."

      "What do you mean by that?" the Marine replied catching his drift.

      "Well, it was made so that knowledge of it was on a need to know basis, and you, did not need to know. The facility looks like a standard mining facility from the outside and the inside too. But we have a network of tunnels that connect the base to another hidden area. A silo. 3 nukes. Powerful enough to destroy a quarter of Lunar 4 each, and when fired into the sun..."

      "Boomie." Cut in the Marine.

      "Exactly. We can take them out too. Its as simple as making it to the controls and hitting the big red launch button. Unfortunately as it happens, a mine would be a great place for defending ourselves. So it was among the first targets hit to prevent a guerilla operation. Something like this one."

      "Ah, great, so how many can we expect?"

      "Well, there is a problem. We don't know. Our peeper network has been compromised almost entirely, they all started dropping. We were supposed to still have at least _ of our network still intact now. But anyway, we could expect strong opposition, so we will be in full force. The shelling won't last too long, chances are they are all inside anyway. So just rush in, guns firing and maybe we will all come out alive long enough to see the ships explode up in the sky. 12 brilliant flashes all over the world... I would love nothing more..."

      "Well, I'm in." I said.

      "You don't need to say that, just get in the dropship if you are coming, otherwise, do whatever you please as long as you don't interfere with the operation." He said with a calm tone. It looks like he has used up all the anger that he had built the past few days. "Alright, lets go!" We all stood up and shuffled out. About 200 of the 450 Marines were on this mission, and about twice the former number of drop outs were among our guerilla forces. More people were done fighting. A bad sign that we would all make it out alive, people were surrendering, giving in to the temptation to leave and live in fear. The sacrifices we make to not have to fight and feel true terror. Skip was among the ones the was staying, but he walked alongside me talking.

      "Well, best of luck to you Jacob. Hopefully you will get back here so we can talk a little. But here, take this." He handed me the Bible. "Take it." He waved it a little to draw my attention to it.

      "You know what I think on these things. I won't take it." I pushed his hand back towards him.

      "What do you have to lose?"

      I was quiet for a few seconds before reaching out to grab it, "Fine." I dropped it in the pocket of my flak jacket that was right between it and my heart. It was just the right size as if the book had been made for that pocket or vice versa.

      "Read it. Skip to the Ten Commandments, you will find that those are the most important. Oh, but the one about murder, skip over that one if you are regarding a Covenant. It's gods will to kill those beasts."

      "Ah, so now we're using their excuse."

      "No! Well, yeah, but we are right!"

      We were at the dropship and a volunteer was handing out weapons. He was a civilian judging by my first glance though he was stronger than most. He easily tossed guns and ammunition into the dropship and to any Marine who was willing to ask. "Gun?" I said asking permission to have one. He nodded and tossed an Assault Rifle in my direction. I leaned forward and grabbed the gun. His throw was a little off. I loaded up into the APC and sat down. I watched as Skip walked off towards the tents. Why wasn't he coming? I finally broke my stare and faced the opposite wall. A Marine was sitting on the other side of the APC with a big smile across his face. It was Logan. Why was he always so happy. He stepped over to the other side with quick steps, the transport was at a slight slant and he was going downhill towards me. He sat down. I was the first to say something. "Why are you so happy?" I didn't look at him as I said that, I just stared across the APC at the wall. I had a bad feeling about this one.

      "I have everything that I thought I was going to miss forever now. I have food, I have friends."

      "Yeah, and you have a whole army of Covenant all over you now. Great... I would pay anything to get out of here." I looked over to him with a surprisingly smug look on my face. "You?" I said asking him a pointless question.

      He sighed, "Yeah, I would." He put his arms behind his head, he was stressed right now. They always had said that humor was great for relieving stress, I think I got my answer as to why he was smiling so much. The eating was a sign of his stress too. "I hate knowing that I will die within a few hours. It's pretty demoralizing."

      "I understand. Logan. I was wondering. In prison, did they torture you?" I asked with a near to unwilling tone. It was inconvenient to keep someone that had been in torment back in that time of pain.

      "Yeah, not me, but just about everyone else. I'll never forget it."

      "You won't forget it because it was so impacting and atrocious?"

      "No, because you don't forget things like that in a few hours."

      "Oh. Well that is probably a good reason too..."

      "Yeah. But anyway, I never saw anyone get tortured, only the before and after of all of them. They would be hundreds of feet down the hallway and we would still hear screams. So many." He clutched his face with his free right hand, the other holding the rifle, "All day long, we would hear screams and the guards would beat us almost every day just for the satisfaction that it brought. They would kill us if we tried to fight back and sometimes even if we didn't. It was truly an embodiment of hell in the prison Jacob." He had used my name to communicate force or power from what I had gathered, that was a sign of just how hard things were.

      "Ah. Well, I'm gonna read this." I pulled the bible from my pocket and held it by the bottom corner and waved it in the air.

      "Ah, Skip got you eh?" he said.

      "No. I got me. Skip helped me." I had a desire to follow something larger and for a long time it had been fate. But now I saw that you are in complete control of your own life. Then once you are done something has to happen, and why not that you go to heaven or hell. The Bible, despite its outward cleanliness was full of wrinkled pages and dust from extensive use. I now regretted that I had not been such a fool before as to ignore religion. I have to put faith in something I discovered. I had to.

      I got pretty far before my eyes became strained, reaching into the triple digits before giving in to the pain in my eye. I got a bookmark to make sure that I wouldn't lose my page and slid it back into my armor. The bible was the only printed book left, all the others are sounds or videos in this day of technology and reading was becoming something that you learned almost solely for writing and the bible. We were passing through the wrecked city or New Missoula, the first city struck in the invasion. A lander set down right here and deployed hundreds of enemies. Dead bodies of both Marines, Civilians and Covenant were strewn all over and flaming heaps were a commonplace in this desolate place.

      "Man, I don't see how any living thing could have survived out here at one time." Jim said looking out the rear window of the APC with one arm up against the wall. It seems as if this place was just a normal city until all of a sudden they saw this bright thing up in the sky." He paused, "and then it was all over."

      I stood up and firmly patted him on the shoulder, "Sorry about your family." He turned to me and started to say something but nothing came out. He was speechless. This is where his whole family lived. Mainly extended family being that he wasn't married, but they were very close in his family. This was one of the most populated place on Lunar 4. Lunar 4 was mainly an agricultural foothold in this system. It was orbiting in a binary star system that meant that most of the year it is light out. It is the second planet in this solar system and the last. The seasons are nonexistent as they are on Earth. Every full rotational cycle we have two summer s and two winters. The Covenant struck as we were on the far side of the colder of the two stars and brought assault carriers in somehow without alerting any of our scouts or our peeper network. No one knows how they got through though. They just crept up on us all at once. Suddenly the ship was sent ajar and flipped up into the air, the left side was airborne for a full second. We were able to regain control but only briefly as we plummeted off of our pillow of air and landed firmly on the ground. Quickly I ran to the front of the ship to look out the canopy, searching for signs of what hit us, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary other than that the pilot was dead. Shards of glass littered the cockpit like confetti for no apparent reason. I looked carefully. There was a bombed out building to our left and then a street running perpendicular to our position. Some slabs of concrete were strewn around, but there was nothing there. I scanned the area quickly. As I began to turn to leave and hunched down to get into the main personnel area some gunfire started to pelt the area where I just was. Now I knew what was going on, it was an ambush.

      The CO of our platoon was the first to speak, "Alright Marines, we've got a little fight on our hands, get to the higher ground and do whatever you need to in order to survive, 2nd squad, follow me, we'll pave the path for you guys and get holed up in that building." I was among the second platoon. It was easy for me to feel confident on this mission because the CO himself was a man who had the appearance of seeing lots of field action. "Johnson" I flinched hearing my name, the adrenaline was rushing through my body, "I need you to go open up the back door for us, the switch is in the cabin, can you handle it?"

      I put a hand firmly on m guns grip and barked out a quick "Sir" before pacing to the front. I slowed near to the cabin, they obviously had armor support to do that much damage, or maybe a Hunter. I slowly peered around the corner ducking back behind it as I saw some poorly aimed Plasma bolts coming in my direction. They filled the cabin with a green glow for a second as I ducked behind the wall again. When there was a break in the fire I jumped over to the switch and hit a series of buttons before ducking and crawling back into the main area of the APC.

      "Alright, I think I got it open, all you have to do is hit the switch to get it open." I reported to the CO.

      "Ok, Johnson, get one of those anti-vehicle guns, drop your assault rifle." I was trained not to question commands, so I dropped the assault rifle and picked up the anti-vehicle rifle. The anti-vehicle rifle was a stationary gun that was our answer to the Shade guns. It sat on two little support large in the front and fired from a large chain of ammunition. It had no need to reload and carried any amount of ammo. It was heavier then the normal rifle and came with a secondary feed to make sure that it wouldn't jam and some add-ons like scope and suppressors. Such things were a great convenience however the 80 pound pack that they came in was not. Luckily most of the supplies were worthwhile and the others were lost or generally pitched out on the battlefield. The CO was busily opening the door with a few other Marines. He shouted a 3, 2, 1, GO and flipped open the door. They shot a nearby Grunt pretty quickly then set up in nearby defensive positions, crouching behind fallen fragment of the building to return some more covering fire to the enemies in the area. "Come on Johnson, hurry up!" he yelled at me. With that I moved at an increased rate flipping the pack over my back.. I heard the crack of distant gunfire from an Assault Rifle about a hundred yards away, then more and more gunfire. Within a few seconds we were in a battlefield. I flipped around the corner and fired off a couple dozen rounds towards the enemy forces, none of which hit, but enough came close to them to cause them to duck while we ran for cover. The CO walked up to me crouching and yelled over the gunfire. "Johnson! You take Logan up there with you and get some high grounds in that building. Give us some cover fire!"

      "Sir!" I waved two fingers at Logan and then tilted them to the top of a building. Jim crouched and ran over to a position near to the door to the building and nodded his head in the direction of the door. The Marines on the ground continued to fire though I had only seen one enemy get struck by a bolt. The 1st Platoon tossed them ammo almost as fast as they could fire it. I ran back to the door of the building and kicked out the glass window to the lobby. The alarm sounded idly as I smashed my way through the rest with the but of my gun. I ducked through and slammed my back against the wall. I looked into the main lobby. It was covered in debris, but other than that there was nothing out of the ordinary, so I stepped in. The escalators were still working, so I hopped up on one and rode it up to the top of the third story. Again I leaned against the wall and crept to the left, careful not to step onto anything. I quickly jumped around the corner. Nothing. The next area was where the elevators were. Suddenly I recognized this building. So far all of the places I had fought at had never rung up this sense of home like emotions. This was the Mall of New Missoula, and it was all looking unusually sad. It was essentially a tower inside of a tower, and it had a tower of buildings in the center, then the outside was a shell of businesses too. The building was one of the places I went to countless times on dates, and as a small child to visit the Santa Claus as he "visited" Lunar 4. So many fond memories of this place... And I took it all for granted! But I had to stay focused. I slid stealth-fully over to the elevators as Logan caught up to me. I pressed the elevator button a couple times and was soon rewarded for my efforts with the bell of the elevator ringing as it hit our floor. I opened the door. Sitting in the corner was a bloody body, that of a woman who was still holding a shopping bag. She wasn't too badly wounded but still killed, possibly just from shock. I stepped into the elevator emotionlessly, I had seen so many dead recently I had become used to it. For Logan however it was no small feat to get inside the elevator however the sound of gunfire awoke him as his sense of duty was recovered. He stepped in as I closed the door. It seemed a little odd going up an elevator with such a commercial setting, especially with the elevator music still playing as we moved into position to attack our enemies. The elevator reached the top floor and I slid out slowly making sure that the floor wasn't occupied. The 49th floor however was clear. I paced over to the window and set up my rifle on the ground with its two supports. I also dropped the backpack as I pulled the pistol out of my pocket. I grabbed it by the muzzle and smashed a hole in the window. The hole weakened it little being that the window was resistant to being smashed by anything. The portion that I punched out had too little an affect, so I turned around to announce my failure when suddenly I heard a yell.

      "LOOK OUT!!!"

      I screamed a reply. Logan had a rolling office desk that he had brought around the corner and was rocketing towards my window. I stepped back as he let go of the desk and skidded to a stop. The desk slammed up against the window and caused the whole thing to spider web, ricocheting backwards. The window began to crack more and more as time went on. The whole window was now weakened, so I took a chunk of plaster from the wall and smashed it through the window. It fell hundreds of feet to the ground below. The window soon followed, it was shattered almost entirely and shard of glass rained down on the street. The noises were now amplified because the sound barrier that the building naturally presented was shattered, the noise of gunshots and death flooded my ears. I grabbed the anti vehicle rifle and moved back to the elevator. If the Covenant were to get us it would be through them. I set up the behemoth at the door to the elevator so I could shoot them and stop their coming up. I then emptied the backpack and began to attach things to the rifle. The first was a box for the chains of ammunition and set it on the ground feeding the ammunition into it. I turned on the winder and pulled out the silencer as it whirred and sucked up some ammunition. The silencer was probably never used and still freshly greased so it spun on with ease. After I was done setting up the gun I gathered some items to create a bunker with. I slid a few desks towards my area and flipped them over on their sides to from a wall and then lined the inside with plaster to give them more armor. Creating the barricade was easy because the entire floor were had chosen to occupy was covered in shards of the walls and piece of equipment. I also sent all of the elevators up to the top floor to stall their advance a little longer. Logan was hard at work plucking enemies off of the nearby rooftops and some of the streets. Our APC had lost most of the people originally occupying it and the remainders of the forces were moving supplies into the building while others provided them with cover fire. I walked back to Logan after seeing this to ask him to go down to help them.

      "Logan, I have to go help them." I said.

      "I was wondering when you would ask. From the sound of it things aren't going good. Go." I wondered when he learned to read me so good, I was just beginning to figure out what kind of a person he was. But I was just beginning to figure out who I was too. I put a hand on the bump that was where Skips Bible was in my pocket. I left and called one of the elevators down to me, then hitting the ground floor button to help out the Marines. As I went down the elevator music became less prevailing, defeated by the noise of gunshots and screams. I grabbed the anti vehicle guns handle and slung it up to fire right as the elevator hit the ground floor. I jumped out and quickly surveyed the room. There were no enemies so far though I heard lots of noise from near where I had come from. I ran down the escalator to the lobby and saw the ammo dump that the Marines had set up. Three of them were frantically dragging ammo back in as I ran up to them.

      "Where am I needed?" I yelled over the noise of gunshots.

      "What?" the Marine pushed his ear forward as a sign he hadn't heard me.

      "Where am I needed?" I yelled a little louder.

      "Oh! The front would be good! Carry that gun out to the gun nest that the CO had set up!"

      "Right, I'll cover you, but hurry up!" I said beginning to shuffle out the door to jump into combat. I came out the door and out into the open and instantly saw how desperate it was outside. I heaved the rifle forward and jumped into an area surrounded by fractured pieces of the wall nearby and bricks. It had to be the gun nest they were referring to, but where was the CO. Suddenly I got my answer, he was wounded. Two Marines had him slung over their shoulders and were limping with him back. I pushed them along on their backs friendlily and then charged the gun nest hopping over the wall upon my arrival. I lay down on my back, my head propped up against the smashed wall and checked the gun to make sure it was all ok. Everything checked out so I flipped up and propped the gun against the top of the barrier and fired at the enemy. The suppressor tried to do its job, but failed horribly anyway because the gun was so noisy. The shell casings were forming a small pile and rolling down the street into the steaming gutter. I hit a Grunt first, it was running between some buildings to move from position to position when I was able to train my sights on it and I shot it to pieces. Another few Grunts ran out and dragged it back but I hit their horde with a couple rounds, so a few were WIA and would soon be incapacitated if nothing else. Unfortunately I saw nothing as to where my gunshots were going, only the damage snap of the shots hitting them. I flipped on tracer fire to let me see the gunshots and watched as the gunshots arced towards the enemy.

      The Marines nearby stood up and shouted something at me pointing to me.

      "What?" I replied, yelling over the gunfire.

      "Behind you!" I heard him crisply this time. I spun around and looked back. A few of the Covenant were running across the street. I opened fire on the mass of them and killed 3 Grunts, wounding a few Jackals and Elites. Suddenly I saw the behemoth that we all feared, a Hunter. The Marine who had warned me of the Covenant was already inside the building running for his life. I too began to run, passing by some of the barrier and grabbing the Marines on the shoulders to alert them. But if they didn't get that it was time to flee they would be pinned down, but not for long...

      I got inside the door and began to catch my breath, "Hey... Uh..."

      "What is it?"

      "Hunters." Fear entered our conversation, "Hunters?" He said.

      "Yeah! Hunters... Two..." I wiped some sweat off my forehead as the other Marines ran in.

      "COME ON PEOPLE! LET'S MOVE!!!" The Marine yelled. Everyone to the roof, I'll call in a transport! We have to hold them off!" I ran for the elevator.

      "This way, follow me!" I ran up the escalator almost tripping at the top but retaining my balance. We were at the elevators quickly, but some Covenant were coming up the opposite sides escalators. I shot a few rounds at the Grunts and killed them, following up with a grenade into the escalator. I disabled it and the fire sprinklers activated, spraying the building with water. They quickly put out the fire on the stairs but the elevator was out of order.

      "Fire emergency. Please utilize the stairwell. Fire Emergency. Please utilize the stairwell. Fire emergency. Please utilize the stairwell. Fire Emergency. Please utilize the stairwell." The mechanized woman voice repeated. I hit the elevator, the elevators were out of order now.

      "Alright people, lets lock and load, we're gonna have to take the stairs!"

      "Damn it! We're sure to get caught now!"

      I looked around, "Not if I can help it. Anyone got a mine?"

      "Here." The Marine nearest to me handed me a trip mine.

      "Thanks." I grabbed the two units and walked over to the wall and smashed the fire extinguisher off the wall and set it against the door frame wedging I in the top corner to keep the door open. I then got a bench and began to drag it over to the door. One of the Marines rushed over to help me, and the rest, understood my plan ran up the stairs. The other helped me to block the door and then ran up the stairs following his allies. I set the trip mine across the doorway and backed up. It was perfect, but if the fire extinguisher were to dislodge the door would close and set off the mine. I turned and ran up the stairs. Our footsteps echoed up the empty room making it sound as though there were hundreds of us. I hit the 49th floor and hopped out into the room for a second, hearing the echo of an explosion come up the stairwell, my trap had worked, and if it all went right the doorframe collapsed and the fire extinguisher blew shrapnel all over. A large scream echoed up the stairwell as I went to get Logan. I grabbed him on the shoulder, "We have to get out of here!" I said.


      "No, you don't understand, Hunters are coming!"

      "Oh. Well, just a second."

      Footsteps began to come closer up the stairwell, "No, we leave now! Come on, they'll leave without us."

      He sat for a second and shot another Covenant who was coming into the building. Then he stood up and moved towards the stairwell. He dragged one of the rolling desks towards the stairs and shoved it down the stairs. It rolled for a while and ricochet off the wall and down the next flight and so one, making a great noise as it rammed all the walls on the way down. About 18 smashes later we heard a loud scream or a Covenant, so we knew that they were close.

      "Come on, we have to get moving, they're right on us!" I heard a loud crash at the bottom of the staircases, they hurled the desk off the edge of the stairs. We ran up as quick as we could and got to the top quickly, slamming the door behind us. Logan was leaning up against the door catching his breath while I ran into the garden on the top of the building. I grabbed a bench and began to slide it over in front of the stairs. Logan came over to help and we dragged the bench against the door, leaning it beneath the handle of the door. Hopefully it would bar their path. I set up the gun on the other side of the door. And braced to fire. "You go tell them I'm here. Come back if you hear gunfire and tell me where I need to go to get aboard the dropship. And bring me some rope."

      "And if there's no gunfire?"

      "I will be dead."

      He nodded and ran away to find the others. I aimed the gun at the door. The footsteps were getting closer, they were almost on the other side of the door. Suddenly the doorknob twisted and pulled back but it was barred with the bench. It was released and then pulled on again. I opened fire on the door and heard screams on the other side as my gunshots went thought the door and blasted some of the enemies away. The door was quiet for a moment and suddenly the banging began again, so I fired some more and heard some screams. I was surprised at their persistence, but the third time they came the door was pulled once and I opened fire on it but heard no screams, something wasn't right. I shot the door some more, but there was no activity. Had I killed them all? Suddenly the door was rammed with incredible force, the Hunters were up the stairwell, I was done here! Logan appeared behind men and handed me some of the rappelling cable the marines used I thanked him and tied it around the trigger of my gun aiming at the door. I then ran following Logan. I could hear the gunfire getting further and further as we came closer to the Dropship. Logan jumped in and sat down. The ship began to lift off, and Logan and the Marine on the other side reached down to grab me A bullet struck the Marine in the arm from my gun, the Hunters might had hit it and flipped it over. Gunfire whipped by me and shot some holes in the tile on the top of the building. My hand finally reached that of Logan as we began to lift off of the ground. Another Marine stood up and grabbed Logan to hold him in as Logan grabbed my hand with a second hand. We took off leaving the building as I flopped in the wind behind the Dropship as we flew over the city at an altitude nearing a thousand feet. I was terrified, if I were to drop I would die on impact for sure, and it would be one prolonged way to die, falling and tumbling through the air. They were able to pull me aboard after a brief struggle and I jumped into the cabin. The ship closed its gate behind me as I looked at the city. Around the bases of buildings explosions echoed and green, blue, and orange explosions encircled the entire city in bright flashes and windows shattered. Dropships were buzzing around picking up few people. We were lucky. I looked down at my chest for a second. There was a bullet hole right over my heart. In a panic I pulled the armor off to reveal no bullet in my chest. I looked in the pocket and there was the bible with a bullet hole through to the Ten Commandments in the book. The bullets last indentation was on the ten commandment printed, "DO NOT LIE" cryptic I though, wondering if this meant anything...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      I put a hand on the back of my neck, that devastating attack had to be an ambush. But there was no way that they could have predetermined we would attack the mines unless we had a traitor among our ranks. But who...

      "Hey Jacob, whats up?" Skip walked into my tent. It was too warm and sticky though we were actually in our coldest winter season. The Covenant did this to us.

      I raised a hand to welcome him in and he stepped from the doorway of my tent to the center of the room that I had. His Bible was sitting on the table that I had set up as a nightstand of sorts. He gestured to it and I looked up to see what he was doing. He nodded towards it and I caught on quickly. Why was there this awkward silence now? I spoke out, "Not much. I owe you one." I tossed him the Bible.

      "Yeah, no kidding. Look at this bullet hole, right through to the commandment do not..." his words trailed off. "Yeah, well you still owe me, had it not been for me you would have died. You owe me your life."

      "No, I owe that book my life. I can't believe that I had missed out on religion for so long. Too bad that on my deathbed of sorts I learned about it. Look at this bruise though." I drew back the shirts neck to reveal a large black swollen bruise above my heart. It beat in rhythm with my heart.

      "Wow, look at that! To think that you'll die with that..."

      Suddenly the speakers called us all to attention. "All personnel, report to the briefing room immediately! We have a code Red emergency!" The alarm followed his voice as we all ran to the briefing room.

      We sat down in the seats of the briefing room. About a hundred of us had to stand up. "As you know, on the last mission we lost hundreds of Marines because we fell into an ambush. That mission was aborted and only 50 of the survivors were recovered. We don't know if one of our own who was tortured turned on us or one of the ones sitting beside you right now is the traitor. But somehow the Covenant found this base, so we are ordering a complete mobilization to the launch station for the blockade runner. Anyone who can point out any traitors among our ranks will get first dibs on a seat aboard the blockade runner. There is no time left, we have to get out of here now! So I want you all to get on a dropship or sit here unarmed waiting for them to come and mop you up. There is no longer any sympathy for a slacker! Come on, go, go, go!" I stood up. I was too tired to go on another mission. All I wanted to do was go and sleep and never wake up again. This was a world of suffering, hurt and death. But this was naturally a mission to escape, so it would be a way to evade this planet, and hopefully evade death as well. I trotted at a quick pace to the area with the dropships. Camouflage nets were draped over them to help them to blend in with the forest but the leaves were drying up and the trees were now the orange colors they were between the winter seasons and summer. The ships looked unnatural in the center of this clearing. I was going to ride in one of the new Pelicans as I had hoped. They were state of the art and were new to the outer fringe worlds like Lunar 4. I was also going to board the escape ship with any luck; I am sure that we can take them by surprise and get a foothold in the capital to launch the escape ship from. I walked again into the supply tent. I remembered this supply tent, it was the first place that I had gone after waking up here, or rather one of the first, and I was sent on my first mission as a result of the suicidal Marine. I still felt bad for him, having to resort to that to escape his problems. Then I slaughtered that Elite in the river and earned myself some more respect around the camp as a result of my brutal killing. I moved over to a familiar crate and grabbed a pistol as my sidearm out of the crate, the Saber Patrol pistol, I always wanted to use one but wasn't able to yet. I got to hold one though, on our raid of the peeper networks satellite receiver. I walked over to the end of a line to get an assault rifle, and I stood idly for a few minutes, too long by my standards. The line however quickly progressed forward and I grabbed an assault rifle, slinging the rifles neck strap on to carry it while I picked up the rest of my armaments. I then stepped outside to the center of the camp, which was still bustling with activity. People were lined up to get grenades, and I was no exception, I wanted dibs on at least 3 of them, and I would use them all, I was sure of it. I was finally up to the front of the line after the long wait and extended a hand for grenades. Since the battles here had begun I had been a little more of a quiet, scary, sadistic person, and almost acted as if avoiding all fun or joy. Two grenades fell into my hand, disappointed I slid them into a pocket on the side of my pants. I stepped into a corner, which had the boxes of ammunition and grabbed half a dozen magazines for the assault rifle and only a few less for the pistol. I clipped off the wrappings as not to have to do it in combat and dropped them into a chest pocket over the right side of my diaphragm. I left the tent and headed for the dropships. People were darting all around this area, and many vehicles were flinging about the camp with perilous speed, attaching themselves to the back of the transport or loading into the modified Long Range Troop Carrier, a belly as long as a football field and as wide as a half of one. The Pelican sat three stories high, and was loading the majority of the Special Forces and Maroon Berets aboard it. The compartments could hold about a hundred marines comfortably, eight large vehicles or artillery pieces, and a dozen light vehicles, such as the warthogs. Unfortunately that also made it a priority target for the Covenant, so everything in it was to parachute from a safe altitude. I wasn't too fond of heights, so getting aboard that ship was something that I wanted to avoid at all costs. I shoved my way through the crowd of Marines gathering the occasional grunt of disapproval or shots of comments like, 'Hey, watch it buddy!' and others like it. I finally made it through and saw the behemoth clearly. We had parked it in a pit to hide it more effectively, the LRTC (the special Pelican I referred to earlier) A file of Marines were marching into it, occupying the bottom floor as a tank rolled just feet to their left up a ramp into the second floor. I quickly focused my attention to the left where a few Pelicans were resting, and a few Marines were quickly running up to as if to grantee their survival. I, joining in on the fad, ran for a Pelican, I arrived at the first and peered quickly around the corner, it was all full. I looked at the other and caught a Marine in the corner of my eye staring at it. We both broke into a run and tried desperately to beat each other to a seat aboard the Pelican. He beat me in the race, and disappointed I darted over to the third dropship which was also full. Suddenly my stomach felt sick, I turned around and saw the group of Marines being marched into the LRTC. Shrugging it off to show to the people in the Pelican that it was no big deal I walked past them, hiding how afraid I really was. But there comes a time when all people have to face their fears, or else they will never recover from it. I walked into the crowd moving towards the LRTC and slid my helmet lower down so that the top of it was right above my eyes to hide my humiliation. I felt someone jab me from the side, and turning over to face them angrily I realized that it was Logan. A brief nod of recognition however and I was already back to worrying about a high altitude mission, my first. However, his persistence showed as he again poked me in the shoulder to draw my attention.

      "What is it?" I said while turning around, my sudden stop causing a few Marines to ram into me, pushed along by the crowd of Marines.

      "Ah, nothing special, I just figured that we could be dive buddies. For the parachuting, we both keep track of each other and help each other out."

      "I guess, lets get aboard, we want to get a seat, right?"

      "Yeah, we better hurry or else we'll be standing, and it could be a bumpy ride."

      We resumed walking along with the horde as I spoke, "Could be? I think you mean will be."

      "You have a point, but who knows, we could make it in pretty easily."

      "Yeah, right." I muttered as we boarded the ship and clamored onto the bottom floor, grabbing a parachute from a Marine who was distributing them as we steeped on. I slid the backpack over my armor and began the slow process of making sure all the straps and buckles were secure while also reassuring myself of my security of jumping from a plane and walking over to the chairs, which were rapidly filling. I slid into the first available seat and heard Logan slip into the one next to me clumsily, a packet of ammo flopping from his hands as he sat down. He was still holding all of the ammo and weapons in two extended arms. He carefully put all of the munitions away and shook a little as we began to take off. I couldn't tell if it was from fear or from the internal rumblings of the gargantuan Pelican as we lifted off. I was too terrified to even tremor, but I wasn't sure if I were more scared of going on a mission that was almost admittedly a suicide mission at best or of jumping out of a plane. The back of the pelican began to cover the openings, which helped me to deal with the heights, however before they closed completely I noted seeing the tops of the trees at least 80 feet below us. We lurched forward suddenly causing a careless Marines gun to clatter to the floor and slide to the back of the ship hitting a few people who were so unfortunate as to have to stand rather than sit. A friendly looking man walked carefully to the back of the ship, which was still accelerating, to grab his gun, then returning it to him before grabbing back onto the cargo net on the ceiling of the Pelican.

      Suddenly announcement, the intercoms crackled, "Soldiers, we have some unfortunate new to present to you. We have just received word from the command plane. They have video uplinks to the peeper network, and they have spotted that one of our Pelicans was captured before it could manage to take off. Luckily, and unfortunately, the crew was only a half dozen, however, that is still many men that will have died as a result of a tiny technical failure. What that also means is that our enemies have captured the base that we had in the..." His voice trailed on though I paid no attention to it. I was preoccupied with planning for my own survival, and also wondering who the traitor was. I pondered it for too long a time, and soon we were at the base, Logan still trembling. That answered my question as to whether he was scared or jarred by the launch. He was clearly terrified even more so than me. A sure looking man progressed to the back of the cramped compartment, his hands always on at least one of the ropes that made up the netting above our heads. He go to the back and spun around swiftly, his very style breathing that of a drill instructor, and his relative aggression compared to his small size was another indication of his dominance. He began to scan the room looking for who would jump first, seeming to come to no conclusions related to who would go first. The back doors began to open, the suction of the wind whipping all of our faces.

      "Its time for you newbies to go on your first jump, are you all ready?" shouted the short man. "You are now about to go on a mission where you must be able to react to any possible troubles with speed and precision, or you will die a horrible death. We have enough slots on the ship to take as many of you as will probably make it, so get you asses out of this ship and plummeting towards the ground, ready to die to save every one of your friends, GO!!!" He grabbed a Marine, dragging him closer to the edge of the open back panel of the ship. "Now listen, when you see the little dial right here," he pointed to a wristwatch like object that was in actuality an altimeter, continuing to speak, "and when this says two thousand, I want you to pull the little cord right here and make sure that you hit flat, crumpling quickly, and don't get caught up in your cords. GO!" He shoved the Marine out the back of the Pelican watching as he whipped out into open air. :GO!!!" he shouted again throwing another man out. By now most of the Marines had gotten the idea and were beginning to line up, ready to jump out into the abyss of nothingness. I checked the altimeter, 35,000 feet, slowly declining. I jumped into the line behind Logan as the line quickly extended behind me. I had a hand on the cord that I needed to pull and the other hanging limp from the ceiling to support my weight. The ship rumbled as we hit some turbulence in the sky. A cloud passed behind the back of the Pelican, a reminder of how high we were, as a few Marines fell over as a result of the turbulence, each one making sure to stand up quickly, knowing that otherwise they would drop out of the ship. Unfortunately we all had to make the jump eventually and it was Logan's turn. Avoiding the stress with some humor, if you could call it that, spun around to face us then flipped backwards out of the plane. I quickly followed breaking into a dash and leaping from the plane. I tumbled through the air, flipping randomly until I was able to gain control of my fall. I looked downwards as I streamlined my body, falling face first. I peered off to my left and saw Logan just a little ahead of me. I waved a friendly thumbs up at him and the quickly resumed looking downwards at the ground which was rapidly rising up beneath me. For almost as far as I could see the ground was a silver color, reflecting the clouds above and the sun in the far corner. This was our capital. It was nine square miles of semi reflective tile and in the center a tower 3 miles high, and a triangular shape. The tower was spewing smoke in a few places though and was clearly the victim of an all out assault, the ground equally charred from plasma burns and craters from Marines defending the building. Suddenly gunfire erupted as we passed the top of the tower. I looked at the altimeter, 15,000 feet and closing. The towers windows were split, most of them basted out, and as we got closer we saw more damage appearing. Gunfire from a hundred or more of the Shades began to pelt us. We were at a safe range for now, and the shots were only a deterrent of an assault, it was too late to call off now. I plummeted towards the gunfire of the Shades, and though it didn't seem to be the smartest thing to do it seemed to be the only option, till Logan got an idea. He wasn't one to look for the hard route out, and he yelled for m, the wind whipping by us making our hearing difficult. I snapped my head towards him, yelling "What?"

      I heard some undecipherable blather.

      "WHAT?" I replied, yelling louder.


      "RIGHT" I yelled back, checking my altimeter, and looking above me. The sky was randomly speckled with a few divers was clear enough, so I flipped so that I was belly down. Logan whipped past me, my declining speed slowed me to far beyond his rate of motion. I reached down to my chest and fumbled with the cord, finally pulling it and deploying my parachute. I was jerked upwards as some flak fire whipped by me some shots shattering a window above me. Tiny chunks rained down on me and a board fell past my parachute ricocheting off the slanted wall a few times before it left my sight. An explosion ensued and flames licked my parachute as I pulled on the side of it to swoop away from the building. As I did a dead Marines body flew by me wearing a parachute, a trail of crimson red following him to the ground. I swung around scanning the building for open windows, finding none. I was heading at the wall too fast so I whipped out my assault rifle and shot out the window ramming into it and smashing in the rest of the way. I tumbled into the room and got cut a few times from the glass and the parachute which also stopped me abruptly and hurt my shoulders a little bit. I wrestled free of the parachute, which was dragging me out of the building and watched it fall limp on our floor. I began to repack the parachute so that I wouldn't later get caught up in it as the window to my left suddenly smashed in, Jim skidding to a much more graceful stop then me. He then easily freed his parachute which floated out the window and drifted to a stop, quickly plummeting down with not weight to guide it as another few Marines drifted in with each landing with ease comparable to mine. He sat down in the room and began to assemble his rifle, I moved for the elevator as he quickly killed a dozen of the covenant in the shades before reloading. It is amazing what a little range can do for you. If I were on the ground fighting them I would be lucky to kill even one, while he was able to kill twelve without breaking a sweat. A banshee whipped by our window running parallel to the windows we were occupying causing all of us to leap in fear. I ran to the window and grabbed onto the pain for support, scanning the skies for the Banshee. It made a wide turn and circled back towards us flying strait at our floor. Gunfire from its plasma cannons ripped through our floor smashing in every window, glass shards flying everywhere settling with a hiss of noise. More gunfire whipped through the floor pummeling its was through the floor destroying everything in site. A few marines were quick enough to drop to the floor and cover their heads before they were killed. I was against a wall and was relatively safe, however more gunfire pelted our floor before the Banshee pulled out of its charge. We regrouped in the short time we had and slid the wounded towards the central elevator shaft. Logan fired off a few shots at the Banshee though their futileness made them into near to warning shots. I ran off to the front area where the Banshee had laid siege to our forces. Gunfire again ripped though our floor, immediately clipping one of the Marines in the face, his body flipping backwards and skipping to a stop, his face a burnt mess. Logan turned from the Banshee as it got closer, the gunfire ripping apart the walls behind him, one shot clipping him in the back of the leg before he got more than ten or so feet from the wall. I began to stand up to run for him when I saw the Banshee was stopping it hail of gunfire until a green bolt ached out from beneath it. The smoke cleared and Logan was gone. I looked out of the building and saw a body plummeting through the air. Enraged I glared upwards at the Banshee which now attacked a tank that was parachuting to the ground. It passed by the tank however failing to destroy it and again picked out our floor, firing inwards and flying dangerously close to our window. As it flew along the floor I began to charge it, dropping a little lower mid rush to grab the parachute, slipping it over my back in case I missed. I jumped out of the window with nothing in front of me, slowly flailing forwards. I looked to the left seeing the Banshee getting closer to me as my arc began to aim downwards. It clipped me with my wing and I grabbed onto its wings. Wrapping my legs around the wing strut I began to slide up to the cabin area. Realizing what was going on the Elite flipped the ship but at the angle I was holding on it only slid me closer to the ship and drew me up to the top of the wings. My face slammed up against the side of the Banshee, the pain almost making me release the wing. My vision was blurred and I made a groaning noise as I began to see straighter and regain control of what I was doing. It flipped back over unsure of that I had fallen as I began to again to clamor up the wing. I got close to the body of the plane and searched for a crack as the Banshee began to turn. The centripetal force through me off a little and I near to lost my balance, however I was able to get a hand inside one of the crevices along the side of the ship and to use it to keep on the side of the ship. Slipping the gun around my neck I placed a second hand on the crevice that I had before me and pried it open a crack, just enough to grab a grenade, pull the pin out with my teeth and roll it in, slamming the cabin shut and leaping off of the plane. I fell side by side with it, the Elite losing control and panicking after I dropped the grenade in with him though his explosion sent him spiraling at a much higher rate than me, especially after I deployed the parachute that I had grabbed. I let the parachute unfurl and decrease my speed. The last of the Shades were being mopped up now, and I arced away from the building, the plane hitting one of the lower floors that arched outwards. I drifted to the ground and hit it with a running speed, landing near a tank, the Banshee exploding behind me a final time inside the building.

      I ran forward, salvaging a few grenades off of a fallen Marines body. A Grunt ran forward through the horde of Marines that were slowly gathering and attempted to get in a turret however it was shot before it could come even close to the gunner seat. I continued forward, a BAP unit struggling to flip over with one leg severely burned. Craters, bodies and bloodstains filled the once beautiful and scenic tiles that made up the capital's surrounding grid of tiles extending a mile in any direction outwards from the sides of the capital. This phenomenon could be seen from a low orbit and was one f the first places struck in the invasion because of its symbolic purposes to the Marines. I, however, did not find my morale to be broken at all by the invasion of the capital. A Warthog drive by me and I shouted out at the driver "WAIT!!!" while waving a hand. He slowed down and turned around to allow me to jump into the gunner seat while another GI filled the passenger seat. I tossed him a magazine of ammunition knowing that he would be needing it more than me. Off in the distance I saw the huge pillar of energy from one of the ships slipping closer to us, it was now within about a half dozen miles of the capitals main tile formation. I braced my chest against the Warthogs turret and wrapped my arms around it, grabbing the trigger. The driver accelerated driving us through the crowd and into the open. As far as I could see Marines were set up sparsely, all moving towards a common goal, the building in the far corner of the capital. Tracer fire ached upwards from the corner of the tiled area and we could hear screams becoming more audible. The Warthog arrived near the door and fell into a crater. The driver was stuck in the bottom of the crater and got out, running before us towards the building, he wanted a seat aboard the blockade runner. I hopped out at about the same time the Passenger did, and as he left he threw my ammunition back to me. I fumbled with it as I caught it, dropping it by accident. A grin crossing his face He crawled out of the crater. A tank shell rocketed over my crater and spiraled off into the distance. I crawled out of the crater and bolted towards the door, a Marine to my right getting shot in the leg and collapsing. I got one of my half dozen grenades and whipped it into the hallway as I saw a bazooka shot fly towards it. My grenade bounced to a stop combusting shortly before the rocket blast collapsing a portion of the ceiling. A few bodies flopped to a stop outside the smoke as I continued to run forward. I dropped low and rolled into the hallway passing through the smoke quickly. A few Grunts were peeking around the corner to I fired a few rounds in their direction, hitting one in the head and killing it as I grabbed another grenade. I through it to them and covered my ears. The explosion ensued and chunks of shrapnel flew around the corner. I came around the corner to find the only surviving Grunt to be rolling on the floor, his ears bleeding. I fired a round into its head to put it out of its misery. Its body flopped limp to the floor. A few more Marines rushed around the corner, peering around the corner only to have their glance returned with gunfire. A few plasma shots hit the wall behind them as one fired a grenade launcher down the passage bouncing it around the corner, exploding it a few seconds later. We all rushed around the corner and killed all the surviving Elites who had only a few non lethal major wounds. Again, popping round the next corner we were greeted with gunfire, this time a grenade. We all ducked back in time but one of the more unfortunate Marines received the grenade and found it clipped to his chest. Screaming he ran towards the enemy forces, detonating along their lines. As the smoke settled another Marine whipped a grenade down the hallway. Following the clatter of the grenade down the hallway came shouts and then an explosion as they realized that there was a grenade by their feet. Instantly after the explosion we began to run down the next corner to the control room. In this room there were some flipped over tables, some sandbags with burn marks and some dead and decomposing bodies behind them, they were clearly the technicians behind the control of this room. This room however was what looked like an ordinary control room for the autocannon defensive turrets of this fortress like capital. The CO of our mob paced ahead of us and hit a series of commands into the computers and a door behind him, which was concealed very well, hissed open to reveal a large hangar, and docked inside it was the last hope of the inhabitants of this planet. The CO stepped in, his footsteps echoing off the walls of the chamber. He stopped and stared in awe at the size of the craft. It sat atop a launch pad, the ceiling more than a football field up. It was mostly high speed booster rockets to get it into orbit before the Covenant could respond. He stepped forward and looked at it again before turning to us. Hew said solemnly, "200 of us will live. The rest will be heroes. I will get a helmet and draw names. Best of luck to you all." His sentences were short and detached, each one a statement of the same emotions, gratitude towards those who were left behind and sadness for the same minority. He grabbed a sheet of paper and tore out 215 pieces for all of us, 200 with an X, meaning that you would get to go aboard the ship, the others blank. He took the helmet and shook it up, mixing the tickets. We began to form a line, all of us grabbing a ticket. Most of the soldiers responses were a variety of cheers, all of them making it and only a small portion of them not getting aboard. I witnessed Skip step forward. He took a ticket. A sick feeling crossed his face, he was left behind. He stepped out of the line and went into a corner where he sat down and sighed deeply, unsure of what to do. I note a strange gratitude on his face, almost as if he had wanted to stay. The line slowly progressed forward as I finally came to draw my ticket. I opened it and looked down. I saw the two distinct lines of an X. The Marine behind me stepped forward and grabbed a ticket. A familiar sick look crossed his face as he looked down at the ticket, he had a blank ticket.

      "NO!!! I wanna live!" he bounded towards the ship a few people catching him and holding him back despite his frantic kicking. I looked down at the small piece of paper that I had and carefully weighed my options. With everyone I knew dead and our survival only temporary I had already accepted death, which was why I had gone on a few near to suicide missions sometimes making it out only based on the assumption that my friends were there to back me. I owed Skip my life, and I would stay with him. I grabbed the frantic Marine,

      "Here, take mine, I don't want it." He turned around confused, his charging stopped.



      "Yeah, you heard me, take mine. I got a ride, but I don't want it. Take it." I waved the ticket at him. He snatched it out mf my hand a smile now spreading across his face.

      "Thank you thank you thank you! My god, I get to live! Here, tell me your name, I'll tell your family what a hero you are!"

      I replied coldly, "I have no family."

      His enthusiasm hampered he said, "Oh, well at least let me have your name, I'll but a great gravestone!" he immediately regretted his statement, it was rude. "Oh, I mean, I will do whatever you like!"

      "Ok, listen, I would like a gravestone that says on it how I died. Tell them why I died, tell them where I died. And live on." I said.

      "Patriotic..." he turned to leave then spinning around, "what did you say your name was?"

      I reached into my armor and grabbed my dog tag, grabbing it by the nameplate and pulling it off violently with a quick motion. I extended my arm and dropped the dog tag into his waiting hand. He nodded and left, he knew I wasn't much into talking about things like this.

      I sat down by Skip who was now recovered from his shocking discovery of his failure to get to live. I grabbed his bible, the bullet hole in it still there and handed it to him.

      He sat staring at the floor and said to me emotionlessly, "Did I ever tell you I stole 340 credits of yours in the ninth grade?"


      "Well, consider that my reckoning. Hear that god?"

      I gave a weak laugh, but it wasn't that funny. "Well, did I ever tell you that I stole your cars sparkplug after that party in college?"

      "Yeah, I think you did. How about I tell you this secret. No one else knows this. Do you know my real name?"

      Even I didn't know that. I didn't know the name of the man who had saved my life. He had always been Skip to me, and I don't think that he had ever told me his real name. "No, I don't think you told anyone about that."

      "Well, I told Mac one day, but now that he's gone I am the only person that knows. It's Charlie."

      I sat still for a second. He had told me his name. It seemed as if he had just revealed his greatest secret, however it was really no act that I shouldn't have discovered on the first day that I had met him. "How did you get Skip from Charlie. Charles..."

      "Hey, don't call me that! Long story short, it came from the Legacy. Before you were aboard, when I was only five or six. We used to play a game. It was called the Long Sword game. We would all sit around with our videogames pretending to be Long Sword pilots when one day someone called me Skip for piloting the ship in and setting a high score. It stuck..."

      "That's stupid. Let's go outside and watch the launch."

      We stepped outside and I looked up into the sky. A blue beam was to the west of us running along the tile area towards the central tower. Creeping over the tower its laser pulsed as it blasted off the top of the tower and eventually a cavity within it. The tower caved in, each chunk of it incinerated as it fell into the center. Explosions sounded throughout the building as the remaining golden tinted windows were blasted outwards by the explosions, fire jutting from every floor of the building. It was much warmer now, and a trail of fire followed the laser as it began to move from the decimated capital building towards the launch area. It was strange that it would lose its position to attack a specific location such as the capital. To them this place held no importance, or at least it shouldn't have. Suddenly the tiles erupted outwards exploding in a series of percussive claps that sounded like the thunderstorms of the great spot over the ocean. A loud roar continued to fill the air as the rocket fired its engines. Skip jumped up, "I have to go, I'll be right back." He walked towards the door of the base and stepped inside. He was acting suspicious lately. Suddenly everything began to fall into place. The mysterious will to stay behind on the mission we were ambushed on. The glad look when he didn't get to go on the ship to escape. The times that he had been nowhere, and the times he had been off duty he never talked to anyone. He was a traitor. I walked a safe distance behind him, shedding much of my armor to escape from the heat. I followed him as the roar of the ship got louder. He stepped out into the woods a little and stood behind a tree his back sliding down it. I approached him from behind as the ship began to lift off. He raised a tiny purple device to his mouth. "Dispraiser?", from what I gathered the Dispraiser was the ship attacking the capital, "Do you read me? The ship is taking off in less than one minute, you need to..." he felt the cold muzzle of a pistol press up against the back of his head.

      He lowered the radio. "So, you caught on. I have no regrets, and will see you in hell. Goodbye Jacob."

      My turn to say something came. "Meanie."

      Within the next two hours all life on Lunar Four was vanquished as a result of the Covenant siege. Take it for what you may of what happened during the next, and last few minutes of Jacob's story as no one was left to document what had actually happened to him or more importantly the traitor, Charlie Morris. The occurrences beyond the launch of the Albatross are undocumented, and will forever be a mystery.

Incoming transmission ID#8976-Channel 7

Incoming................................. 568 of 1028. 796 of 1028. Complete. ID James Williams

Message transmit <Position Alpha orbit of Reach>

Transmission from IP address

To whom it may concern:

      I once knew a man. His name was Jacob Johnson. He left himself stranded on Lunar 4 to save my life, and while I live on I know that he gave his life so that I might live further. I can tell you that he died a painless death, killed almost instantly (Authors note: A lie). Your friend/family member/other was a true hero, and you must all consider him to still be among the living, as I am sure he is, looking over all of us. Your friend/family member/other was a hero, and he died as one. For a soldier there is no greater honor than to die in service of your country or world, and in this case he did just that. Though I had only just met him when he was a few hours from death I know that had I known him for longer he would have earned my respect as good as he did yesterday on Lunar 4. I thank you Jacob, I think you deserve your rank among the saints. Jacob, you will be missed.