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Long Time Gone Part 39
Posted By: grylsy<grylsy@hotmail.com>
Date: 25 February 2005, 7:29 AM

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Long Time Gone Part 39: Tools Of The Trade

August 22nd, 2551, Reach, Camp Hathcock, ONI Personal Quarters (Above Ground), 2353 Hours

       Chris stumbled into his room and fell into bed exhausted; the entire Kill Team had just done a five hour debriefing of the mission. After having just getting off the ship they were already dead tired but they had to sit through the meeting none the less, it was procedure. They outlined the methods and tactics the team had used to accomplish their objective.
       The one thing they didn't talk about was Henderson; everyone had shut that image out long ago.

       The hard drive from the Prowler was a different story though. Important information FleetCOM had been seeking was on it, mainly Pirate strongholds that wouldn't exist in about two hours after the Shiva nuclear warhead tipped missiles that would be fired on them were through.

       Chris crawled under the covers after unenergetically stripping down to his fatigues. He was just about asleep when someone else into bed, it was Alison, they had shared their bed since they were in the same unit. Everyone had been assigned separate rooms but Chris and Alison used Alison's designated room for storage.
       She threw off her boots and went to sleep on top of the covers still in her armour without a word spoken, normally she would have talked him to sleep but tonight was different.

       "Good night," he whispered to her, closing his eyes again and allowing his mind to drift off into Never Land.

August 23rd, 2551, Reach, Camp Hathcock, ONI Personal Quarters (Above Ground), 1133 Hours

       Chris rolled out of bed, first noticing that it was 11.30 in the morning and he had just gotten out of bed.
       He looked back at his bed and saw Alison - still dressed in her combat gear (minus the helmet) - lying snuggled up against the spare pillow on the bed.

       "Lucky bastard of a pillow," he muttered walking off to the shower block.

       He collected a towel and walked through the main area of the Quarters assigned to Alpha Team, everyone else was still in bed.
       Chris snuck a peek into Chambers' quarters but stopped when his eyes came across a brassier and some other underwear on the floor.

       Chris continued his sleepy march, shaking his head, another room saw a similar event, a lot of his Troops had relationships with one another or had their boy or girl friends with them, and the only person alone it seemed, was Flemings.

       Jess Flemings came unexpectedly out of her room just before Chris passed, taking him by surprise, she wore a long face, her eyes were bloodshot and traces of tears could be seen around her eyes but she didn't seem as upset as she was a few days ago on the trip 'home'.

       "Hey Jess," said Chris keeping his eyes above her neck, she was only wearing her underwear, "is it cold in here or is it just me?"

       "Sorry about that, sir" said Jess walking back into her room and putting only a shirt on and walked back out, "hi, by the way."

       "Sleep well?" Asked Chris, he continued his march, Jess followed.

       "Yes I surprisingly did, but the dreams are getting more consistent," she paused for a second and then recovered the lost step in a longer stride.

       "What were they about? I don't think I heard," Chris stopped and turned, intent to see whether Jess was coping with Henderson's death.

       "It's one of those dreams where you're falling," her green eyes shifted around Chris' face, desperate to find an emotion to relate to, but his face was closed up, he was too tired to be emotional, "I wake up just before I hit the ground but here's the weird part. At the start of it, Henderson is the one who pushed me. Out of what, is anyone's guess, I can't remember it, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

       "Uh-huh," said Chris, "I never put much thought into dreams so; damned if I know what it means, you probably should go and see a shrink?" Chris offered a warm smile, "Not saying you're crazy or anything, just don't want my star Medic in a bad way."

       Jess' face blushed at the praise. "Thanks, sir, I'll go find one soon as I get dressed, bye." Jess turned around and walked back to her room, Chris was tempted to turn and look at her but he fought it with the knowledge that he loved someone and they felt the same way towards him.

       Finally Chris had his shower, feeling better and dressed in a cleanly pressed Black ONI set of fatigues he walked out into the compound.

       The first thing that greeted him was Newman sitting down out the front of Bravo Team's quarters, a beer in hand and a cigarette hanging limply out of his mouth, he offered a smile and greetings.
       "Hey, McAllen! Come join me for a beer?" Chris walked over to Newman and sat down on an old folding chair that had seen better days and took the beer he was offered.

       "So how's it going, sir?" Asked Chris popping the top of the beer, it foamed a little spilled onto the dry ground next too one of his spit shined boots.

       "You can drop the formal crap, McAllen, Newman will do," Newman finished his beer and put the empty bottle down by the side of his chair; there where a few empties there and he then took a long drag of his cigarette.

       The absence of the rest of Bravo Team got Chris wondering. "Where is everyone?"

       "The slackers are still in bed; most of them got hoes and shit with them, what about yours?"

       "About the same, why the hell is it almost midday and we're like, not doing anything?" Newman sat up in his seat.

       "We're waiting on some new gear," Chris' eyes lit up.

       "New gear? But we still haven't figured out to use some of the last stuff," some of the electronics they had received had been a little complex for the understandings of even people like Henderson.

       "I don't know really, it's due in sometime around lunch, fresh of the production line, meant to be some sort of combination rifle but I don't have the slightest clue other than that." Chris nodded, taking it all in.

       "Should be good then, what, give the men training after lunch?" Newman nodded.

       "When they decide to get out of bed that is, but if they don't get out by lunch time we'll go get some flash bangs and wake them up, you with me?" Newman's face broke into one of mischief, Chris smiled, this could be fun.

       "Sure, I wouldn't mind giving Parker a good fright!"

August 23rd, 2551, Reach, Camp Hathcock, ONI Armory (Underground), 1435 Hours

       Unfortunately for Chris and Newman the Team had gotten out of bed well before 1300 and they were all dressed in Black ONI fatigues in the underground armoury.

       They waited patiently around the doors of the armoury. Chris went to stand next to Alison but she moved away, he didn't bother trying again, didn't seem too interested to be there. Then a Technician opened the door with a smile.

       "Ha, I thought you guys couldn't wait to get your hands on these babies!" The Techie walked over to a row newly installed wall roller lockers, the roller covers were locked down, concealing the weapons.

       The Team converged on the new lockers, like cats to the prey, waiting for the Technician to open them.

       "Now I should warn you, after your last gear these might seem a little..." The Technician opened the roller doors, racks of MA5Bs greeted them, "... primitive."

       "What the fuck?" Said Newman, "they said we were getting new gear, not regular issue weapons that have been in service for years."

       Chris picked up the MA5B weapon and checked it over. "The '5Bs aren't a bad weapon, guys, I like them."

       The Techie cleared his throat and took the weapon off Chris. "Ahem, this isn't a '5B , it's a '5D . The 'D' stands for 'Defender.'"

       "What the hell you been smoking?" Asked Hornster, "they're '5Bs alright, not what ever you said they are."

       "Can a '5B do this?" The Technician moved both his hands to the forward grip and held in four circular buttons placed at the front, back and sides of the grip. With a click, the grip separated from the weapon.

       Hornster did a slow clap, refraining from seeing the importance of removing the forward grip. "Bravo, what else is different?"

       The Techie passed the weapon back to Chris; he held it one handed as the forward grip was still in the Techie's hands. "I got a big surprise for you!"

       "How big of a surprise?" Asked Alison, she leant over Chris and examined the weapon in his hands but didn't return his gaze into her eyes, she backed away to the edge of the group, after looking at the weapon.

       "Oh, say, somewhere between 8"5 Gauge and ten millimetre slugs?" The Techie opened up more roller locked doors and pulled out something from the first one. "Pass me that '5D, please." Chris handed the weapon over and the Techie brought the 'something' into the light.

       The 'something' seemed to be a M90 shotgun, but only the forward proportion of the weapon, everything that should have been behind the front of the trigger guard wasn't there anymore.
       With a click, the M90 attached itself to the bottom of MA5D.

       "Don't say anything yet," said the Technician, he put the modified MA5D against the wall and took another one from the rack. He removed the grip and walked to the remaining roller locked rack.
       He came back over to the group with something that looked like a regular MA5B's forward grip but with a barrel protruding several inches from where the flash light would usually sit. He clicked it into place and passed it to Newman.

       "Hmm, looks dangerous, I like it," stated Newman as turned the weapon over in his hands, looking at the attachment.

       "You guys just follow me to the target range next door and we'll go over the two, ok?" Everyone nodded at the Techie who picked up the under slung M90/MA5D and walked through a connecting door.

       The Techie finally introduced himself.
       "It will be easier if you know my name I suppose, in case something goes wrong you know who to blame right?" He looked over the battle hardened troops. "I'm not saying something will go wrong but in any case, I'm Richard Fable." Chambers extended his hand.

       "Shake my hand, Fable," he joked as Fable took his hand and shook it vigorously.
       Some of the men laughed at the comment but stopped when Fable turned back to the range.

       "Time to have some fun," he walked over to a table covered in magazines and grabbed an ordinary MA5B magazine and loaded it up. "They take the same magazines as the '5Bs so ammunition shouldn't be a problem, nearly the whole universe uses '5Bs."
       Fable turned to a target and let loose a burst, it sounded the same as a MA5B and looked the same except for the under slung shotgun.

       Fable grabbed several shotgun shells and turned the rifle onto its left side and just in front of the trigger guard he inserted four shells into the right side of the weapon, and then he did the pump action.
       "It only holds four, five if you already got one down the spout, and it's limited to four because the overall length of the barrel is shorter than the base model so the same goes with the tube magazine."
       He moved closer to the group and pointed to where the safety would be on an ordinary MA5B.

       "This is the weapon switch, ok? Right now it is set on Assault Rifle mode, you can see it here," he pointed at the ammunition counter, "it has the letters 'AR' and I doubt the shotgun would hold forty-seven rounds, don't you? Anyhow, flick that and..." he flicked the catch, "...presto," the Ammunition Counter changed from 'AR' to 'SG' and the amount of ammo dropped to four. "You can see it still displays, somewhat small, the ammunition still in the assault rifle, see, forty-seven rounds, right there..." he pointed to a small number in the bottom left hand corner of the display.

       Fable turned and fired the shotgun, ejected the empty cartridge with a hefty clunk and fired again. He then placed the shotgun down on the bench and walked over to Newman and took the Defender he was holding.

       "Now this is a ten times one-oh-one millimetre automatic rifle under slung on your '5D. It holds five rounds in a special magazine; it's easier to see it in action than to explain, so let's move up to the next table."

       They moved up to the next table and they watched Fable pick up a cluster of five shells held together by a thin strip of metal. He rotated the gun onto its left side and inserted the clip in the same spot as the shotgun shells on the M90 shotgun variant. With a cling the breech closed automatically with the clip inside.

       Fable took aim at a solid sheet of steel cut out in the shape of a Covenant Grunt, complete with orange armour and purple skin.
       With a loud bang the rifle went off and an inch wide hole appeared in the steel sheet, through the fake Grunt's forehead, the bullet continued through the target and dug itself deep into the solid cement walls of the armoury. The cartridge ejected out of the left side of the weapon and hit the ground.
       Fable then shot off three more rounds and hit the grunt in various places then stopped.
       "Alright, pay attention to this part, guys," said Fable he raised the weapon again and fired the last shot.
      Instantly after the fifth and last shot - which still hit the target - the now empty magazine self ejected itself with a harsh ping - easily heard over the echo of the gun shot - it hit the ground limply as Fable produced another clip and rammed it home with his thumb.

       "Locked cocked and ready to rock again guys, simple really," with the safety on, Fable put the weapon down on the bench. "Any questions? Oh and all the Defenders come with two times ACOG Scopes so come see me when you get them and I'll put them on."

       No one wanted to waste anymore time, they wanted to have some fun...

       Everyone got a new MA5D 'Defender' 7.62mm Assault Rifle with M90 U/S Shotgun and ten millimetre U/S Auto-Rifle attachments.
       But a few of the Kill Team, mostly members of Bravo Team and Hornster, would keep their BR-55s but they would get the option of having a 40mm grenade launcher attached.

       The MA5Ds with the new ACOGs made for an extremely efficient infantry weapon. This gave the user an option for close range fire power with the shotgun or medium range, heavy penetration with the automatic rifle attachment.

       Chris practiced with one with an under slung shotgun firing rapidly, getting a feel for the modified weapon.
       Chris stopped and put the weapon down, deciding on the shotgun over the automatic rifle, the majority of the users chose this as well, but the automatic rifle attachment would be in their Barrack Armouries if they decided to change their minds.

       Fable walked back into the other room leaving the ODSTs with their new weapons.

       "You'll never get me back on a '5B, not in a million years," said Hornster examining one of the rifles.

       "How many times do they have to say it? These are '5Ds!" Said Alison, obviously annoyed and slinging her new rifle as she walked for the door.

       "What ever, Lieutenant, same shit, different bucket." Alison grunted in frustration as she left the room.
       Chris left the room with several others, but the majority - including Newman - stayed back and tried to get a feel for their new weapons.

       Chris caught up to Alison's frustrated strides, they made a bee line for the door but Fable stopped them.
       "What gives?" Asked Alison, clearly wanting to get to the surface.

       "What's your problem?" Asked Chris, "don't tell me it's that time of the month ag..." A firm smack from Alison's left hand hit Chris' cheek, "... ow!"

       Fable chuckled at the two. "You're the lead sniper aren't you?" He asked ignoring Chris' attempts to get an answer for why she was angry.

       "Yes, I am, why?" Said Alison sharply.

       "I got some thing that should interest you and any other snipers in Alpha and Bravo," Fable motion for her to follow him into another room branching off.

       "What, should I come with...?" Said Chris to no one in particular, then noticing Jeebs had left the Defender range, "Jeebs, that guy has some new sniper stuff, better check it out I reckon."

       Chris and Jeebs walked into the room Alison and Fable went in. They entered a large underground complex, the size of a large air field hanger.
       Sand bags and mats littered the end same part of the room as the door. Another set of roller locked lockers lined half of the wall on the door end.

       Fable had been in the process of opening a locker when Chris and Jeebs walked in. Alison stared at Chris, but not the kind he was used to, this type was angry...

       "Sup?" Asked Jeebs innocently.

       "Just showing the Lieutenant here, a new sniper rifle, its an advanced issue, not meant to be out until after Christmas, so I think you lot are pretty lucky," Jeebs' eyes lit up - he had little love for the heavy S2 AM despite it was his preferred sniper rifle - the opportunity of getting a better rifle had him hooked on every word Fable said.

       Chris stood back as Jeebs walked over to Fable and Alison, trying to get a good look at the new weapon.

       "Whoa, that's pretty snazzy, Cap'n, come have a look," said Jeebs waving a hand.

       Reluctantly Chris wandered over and stood next to Alison who ignored him, he felt like saying something but held it back, knowing he would only lose a battle of words with Alison.

       The rifle in question was strange .
       The first thing Chris noticed was that it was bolt action, strange for a weapon of this age. A large scope of fifteen times magnification with the large letters 'TZ' inscribed on the adjustment knobs.
       The second thing he noticed that it had no rear stock; Fable reached in the locker and pulled out one of the rifles. He then opened a folding stock with an adjustable cheek pad from the left side that was hidden from view by the way it had been hung in the locker with the right side facing outwards.
       The folding stock seemed awfully flimsy but the strong metal alloys of the time were the strongest available to the UNSC.

       "Meet the TZ-52, fifty-two as in the year it is meant to be issued in. Sixteen by one-five-five millimetre, bolt action snipers rifle," Said Fable.

       "Well someone has been rehearsing for this, haven't they?" Joked Jeebs looking at the rifle, "what's the specs ?

       Fable's face changed to one of thought, "um, 4,307 feet per second, max range of 1500 metres, SABOT rounds give it the ability to pierce, God, what was it, seven and a half inches of standard UNSC Marine armour up to a quarter mile."
       Jeebs gave a low whistle, "sounds alright to me, anything else we should know?"
       "Yeah," said Fable handing the rifle to Jeebs, "the bastard kicks like a mule..."

       Chris looked at the barrel of the weapon; it was extremely short for something to claim 1500 metre accuracy.
       Chris grabbed two of the rifles, and handed one to Alison, she took it but said. "I can get one myself, you know."

       Chris shook his head as Alison turned and followed Jeebs and Fable to a shooting point. "What the fuck is her problem?" He muttered giving chase to the trio.

       Jeebs stood at a mat, waiting for Fable to fetch some ammunition for them to use.
       Chris stood short of the rest of them, feeling like the loner, the black sheep of the group... again.

       Fable fumbled with a small sealed box of ammunition, he ended up prying the lid off with Jeebs' knife.
       With one hand, Fable reached in the box and pulled out a handful, well he only got three bullets out, but they were huge...
       Fable took Jeebs' rifle and pulled the bolt back, placing one cartridge at a time in under the scope and pushing it down into the internal magazine.

       "They only hold three in the clip, but they will put what ever you shoot it at down on their ass, maybe even you too if you're not properly prepared for the shot. If you want to unload it for some obscene reason do this."
       Fable pushed a button on the inside of the trigger guard in and the bottom of the internal magazine fell away on a hinge and the three cartridges fell onto the ground. Fable closed the magazine and reloaded the weapon.

       Jeebs' took the rifle back and lay down; he extended a sturdy bipod positioned in front of the forward stock and under the barrel.
       The targets in the massive space were 800 metres down the 'range', hundreds of large bullet holes poker dotted the wall. Jeebs made sure the safety was off and adjusted the cheek pad so his eye was inline with the optical scope.

       "Fingers in ears, please," said Fable putting his hands over his ears.

       Jeebs fired, the loudest gunshot Chris had ever heard echoed through the enormous space, it seemed to go on forever until his ears were numb.
       The target in question got absolutely hammered... The sixteen millimetre round ripped through the steel target in the shape of a Grunt and blew the whole head section off before lodging itself in the wall with a crater the size of a basketball.

       Jeebs' eyes were wide, he slowly moved his arm and did the bolt and put his head back down for another shot.

       "Ah, not again, Jeebs..." Moaned Chris pushing his hands tight against his ears.

       Another shot rang out, this time hitting the first Grunt target low on the stomach section, the upper body of the target flew away and clanged as it hit the wall several metres away and leaving another bullet impact.

       Chris watched Jeebs do the bolt a second time, the action was noiseless, or was that because Chris was temporarily deaf from the previous shots?

       Chris turned back towards the door and saw a glass cabinet full of.... ear muffs!

       Chris moved to the cabinet and retrieved four sets; rushing back to everyone, he threw one set to Fable and threw another to Jeebs. Chris placed his own pair over his ears and threw the last pair at Alison's feet.
       She turned and looked at him, not saying a word as she bent down and picked up the ear muffs and put them on.

       Chris continually shook his head walking for the ammunition; he grabbed fifteen bullets, as they were so big he had to put them into five separate pockets.
       These bullets will be hard to store in standard issue pouches, I'll need to arrange some custom ones , thought Chris noticing the tips of the bullets protruding from his pants' pockets as he walked to the opposite side of the range, getting away from the other three.

       Chris took up a position on a mat and loaded the rifle, one bullet at a time and closed the bolt, not deploying the bipod as he wrapped the sling tightly around his arm.
       Chris put his head down to look through the scope; the factory settings on the cheek pad were perfect.

       Chris leant heavily down on the mat, breathing deeply as he looked down the range, bringing one of the Grunt targets into his field of vision. It was only a purple and orange dot through the scope.
       The scope's current setting was two times magnification, Chris flicked through the different magnifications until he reached fifteen.
       Now the Grunt was in full view, Chris could make out the beady eyes panted roughly on the metal. Chris' crosshair swayed by metres with the slightest motion in his breathing. Chris flicked the safety off, and took first pressure on the trigger.

       Chris recalled his training, it was so long ago but it was still fresh in his mind as if it was yesterday. He had taught people for six months how to do this; it would be a piece of cake.

       He remembered that when he breathed in, the weapon would rise and when he let the breath out it would lower. It was half way between letting the breath in and out that the crosshair crossed the Grunts forehead; exactly where he wanted to plant his shot.
       Chris inhaled, his crosshair raised over the Grunt's head, he slowly let it out, the crosshair edged downwards towards the target. It crossed the forehead...

       Chris held his breath and the crosshair stopped momentarily over the Grunt's forehead. It was all Chris needed; he squeezed the trigger and felt the most monstrous weapon recoil in his life and he had used nearly every weapon in the UNSC arsenal. It pushed him back on the mat by a good half a foot.

       Slowly Chris repositioned himself and used the weapon's scope to check the target. The Grunt's head was missing; jagged metal remained on the lowest point of the bullet's impact.
       Chris gave himself a low whistle. "Not bad at all," he said, taking note of his voice, the ear muffs making it sound so far off.

       Chris did the action and ejected the smoking cartridge; he pushed the bolt forward just as another shot went off. It must have taken Jeebs' awhile to convince himself to shoot the weapon again.

       Chris kneeled up, curious to see if he could hit a target kneeling. The surrounding area phased out as he took aim for another shot. He brought the crosshair to bare on another target, keeping the magnification low until he had zeroed in on his chosen target.

       With a determined grunt, Chris zoomed in on the target and started his breathing; his hands were shaking uncontrollably, nothing he couldn't compensate for though.
       The scope swayed all over the place, jolting with Chris' shakes, he held is breath roughly as the target entered the crosshair and tested his ability to hold it. He kept the crosshair on the target but his shakes made the shot placement erratic, near impossible to hit the Grunt in the head.

       Chris' mind leapt back to when he took the shot at the African Rebel leader, the bitter cold wind assaulting his face, the disorienting glow of light from the city below, the experimental sniper in his hands, the car speeding towards him. Then he remembered what he said to himself...

       "Nothing is impossible," he repeated, firing the TZ-52 at the target. He had been prepared for the recoil this time and didn't move an inch on the mat. Chris kept his eye inline with the scope and brought the weapon back down after the recoil and looked at the target, the upper forehead of the Grunt had been blown clean off. Still a headshot, still a kill shot though, phew...

       Chris did the bolt and ejected the empty cartridge, suddenly becoming aware of the spare ones in his pockets, he removed them and placed them on the ground next to the mat, they rolled back and forwards on the slightly uneven cement floor.
       Chris sighed heavily closed the bolt and went back to a lying position, he deployed the bipod much to his own disgust and took aim at the foreheadless Grunt, intent on finishing that target off.

       But he stopped, feeling the urge to check what everyone else was doing, he looked and saw Jeebs and Fable joking as they left the room, Jeebs had the rifle slung over his shoulder happily. He had a clear view of all the firing mats down to the door; strangely no one else was shooting. Where did Alison go then, God, what the hell is her problem?

       Just then, someone kicked the back of his boot gently, Chris turned his head back and saw Alison standing behind him. She was looking down at the ground and scuffed her left boot back and forwards on the cement.

       "How long have you been watching?" He asked, remembering he hadn't looked back once.

       Alison, looked up at him, but looked back down at her feet after she made eye contact briefly. "After you shot the first target I came over..." Her voice was a quiver, barely audible, even in the silence, this side of her baffled Chris.

       "Well did you get a good look?" Chris offered her a smile but she didn't see it. But she did snuff a laugh, though it didn't make Chris feel any better for her, it lacked energy and her sad features were killing him softly inside.

       Alison finally found the strength to look up and look into his eyes. "We need to talk..."