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Long Time Gone Part 40
Posted By: grylsy<grylsy@hotmail.com>
Date: 3 March 2005, 11:46 AM

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Long Time Gone Part 40: It Hurts To Be Honest With Those You Love

August 23rd, 2551, Reach, Camp Hathcock, ONI Armoury (Underground), Long Range Weapon Target Range, 1547 Hours

       Chris looked into Alison's eyes; he saw her confusion and frustration. She took a step back, as if afraid of him.
       "Go ahead," said Chris slowly standing up and folding the rifle's bipod and stock back then slung the weapon over his shoulder, taking note that they were all alone.

       Alison bit her lip, trying hard to find the words she had rehearsed to herself so many times but had lost when she saw Chris. "I want to apologize for how I've been acting," she paused for a second, looking Chris up and down before continuing, "I want to apologize for hitting you." She motioned at the red mark on his cheek where she had slapped him.

       "Err, no harm done I suppose, just don't do it again?" Chris ran a hand over his face in annoyance at his lack of confidence around her. Why the hell am I nervous! It doesn't make any God damned sense!

       "Don't you want to know why?" She asked. Chris was pulled from his thoughts and shrugged, not sure if he did.

       "Might as well," he commented, noting the look on her face. Alison shook her head as she looked him squarely in the eye.

       "You could at least sound interested, Chris." Chris felt his blood boil for a second.

       "Well interest has a funny habit of going out window when you're ignored for a fucking day, doesn't it?" Alison just continued to shake her head. "Yeah, you wouldn't know would you...?"

       "God, just settle down, take a breath," Alison stopped shaking her head.

       "I am settled, don't say that, it shits me up the wall," Chris felt untold annoyance towards her.

       "Calm down, now you're the one doing all the harm," Alison took a step closer to him.

       Chris shook his head, breathing deeply and clenching his fists open and closed. "I'm sorry," he said in a low voice.

       "Pardon?" Alison's face had a wide smile on it, Chris noticed her smile.

       "I said sorry, sheesh, you make it seem like the first time I've said it... Hey! You're the one meant to be apologizing..." All signs of frustration vanished from his face at the sight of her smile and he smiled himself.

       Alison's smile vanished when she knew she had to face it. "Alright, do you remember when you met me for the first time?"

       "Ah, it'd be like what, almost one and half years ago, two years tops. When I got off the plane at the base back in the Congo, you were outside the Officers' mess."

       "Really?" Asked Alison, "I don't remember that, I thought it was before our first patrol?"

       "God, that's rich, you ask if I remember when we first met and you didn't know. But sure I remember before that patrol, it was my first patrol ever, you know, I was scared shitless but we didn't see anything."

       "Oh be quiet!" Joked Alison, "well I really don't remember the Officer mess, sure we talked?"

       "Oh you mean met and talked...." Chris offered a sly smile.

       "Of course I mean met as in talked and introduced ourselves," Alison smiled at Chris' bad judgement.

       "Well then it was on our third patrol, then."

       "What? But we talked before the first patrol, I'm sure of it."

       "If you call, 'hold my rifle while I go to the bathroom' introducing ourselves." Chris snuffed a laugh.

       "Oh well that's not important, I just wanted you to use that as an example for how long I've been in the military." Alison looked down at her feet; she was getting to the point of her story.

       "Uh-huh, I see, go ahead." Chris brushed dirt and various things from the floor off his fatigues.

       "I have been in the Military eight years coming up next month, ok?" Chris' eyes widened.

       "Eight years! But you're only twenty-six, what the hell?" exclaimed Chris.

       "Soon as school was finished I didn't know what to do so I just joined the Corps, went to Military College state side for two years. I am not missing that I assure you, that bastard commandant. Do you know how hard it was for me to get into that place?" Inquired Alison.

       Chris shook his head. "No I don't, how hard was it?"

       "Hard enough, that commandant, oh what a sexist bastard he was, there were only three other women there, three! He hated me the most; he had something against women who were good shots, ones that were better than him were the ones he picked on the most. I bet him with a sniper rifle, which got me into Sniper Command. It was published in the College's news paper, so he couldn't deny it, over three thousand cadets had a copy each, I graduated as a Lieutenant, Junior Grade and Sniper Command offered me a chance to be a sniper and I took it, anything to get away from that bastard commandant."
       Chris stood there and looked her in the eye; he didn't say anything but his look assured Alison he was listening.
       "Sniper Command wasn't much better, they weren't sexist but I was the only woman in my class of thirty and they had little respect for women. Even the fact that I ended up finish second in my class after two years, didn't give me any more respect from my peers. But I did it didn't I? Then I was posted to sniper training in Europe for a year where I taught cadets over there how to shoot. So yes, I know the feeling of teaching idiots how to shoot like you were doing it at Hathcock last year. But they still thought I could use training from you, don't know why, I'm the better shot..."

       Chris ignored the last statement. "But that still doesn't explain why you acted the way you did," said Chris moving over to the wall and leaning against it.

       "Because I haven't finished yet, have some patience," implied Alison, "then after Europe, the fighting in the Congo broke out and I got transferred, ending up in a mixed squad of Marines and Coalition soldiers like you."

       "Hey, I was a Marine they just had me under Coalition personnel, or I used to be before all of this," said Chris tugging at his ONI fatigues.

       "Then you know the rest, except the Shock Trooper training I suppose but that isn't important now."

       "It isn't?" Asked Chris, Alison shook her head. "Well then, I suppose I can tell you this now that it doesn't matter then," Alison tilted her head to the side, slightly confused. "Remember you saying about that guy with the K48 el-em-gee? "

       "The one who used the guy I hit's sniper rifle and a smoke grenade to get me?" She asked.

       "Yeah him, well..." Chris paused, then deciding it was too late to go back, "...that was me."

       "You!?" She cried, " you shot me... again! Jesus, you wouldn't want to make a habit out of it would you?" Alison's face full of surprise with a hint of anger.

       "No, that was only the first time and you shot me too!" Chris put his hands up in innocence.

       "Well," Alison's voice was calm, "it seems fitting we only got killed by each other and in same moment, hmmm, I must owe you a good stunning then, you've got me twice and I only got you once."

       Chris pointed at himself sheepishly. "Not if I can help it, Alison!"

       "Just you wait, you ruined a perfect score for me," Alison cursed under her breath, "I ruined yours too didn't I? Guess we're even for that then."

       "Yes I say we are, anyhow, back to the story?"

       "Alright, you know the back ground now so let it be known, I am not very happy..." Chris grinned, she had been rarely happy since she joined the unit and they usually blew off some steam in the bedroom. "...With you..." his grin faded instantly.

       "What have I done now?" He asked annoyed.

       "Like come on, you've been in the Service how long?" She put her hands on her hips; her facial expression was also of annoyance.

       "I dunno, coming up two years, I had only just completed basic three weeks before I put in for transfer to the Congo."

       "Wait, slow down, you put in to be transferred there?" Alison moved her hands from her hips and crossed them over her chest.

       "Well it seemed a good idea at the time; it was either that or get posted here even sooner and with no combat experience at all. It wasn't that bad. Besides I met you..." Alison blushed slightly at the remark.

       "If you didn't, we might not have met?" Asked Alison.

       "Yes, I suppose so but you'd be happy if I didn't. You wouldn't have gotten dragged into this mess, probably none of us would have, who knows. It is a bit late for could haves and what ifs, I'll just say destiny brought us together."

       "I'm glad we are together," she paused, "but destiny also seems to be on your side for promotions," remarked Alison in an unexpected angry tone.

       "What?" Asked Chris, puzzled by her tone.

       "After your first combat experience you got promoted to Corporal and posted off planet to Reach, that's pretty lucky." Alison had dropped the tone.

       "What, wasn't that your first combat mission too?" Asked Chris puzzled.

       "No, I had seen action before that numerous times, I got my transfer papers the day before we went out on that patrol, I didn't say anything to anyone except the Captain who had put in for my transfer; he said it was a waste of my talents to be holed up on Earth."

       "Well I'll agree it was just luck then," said Chris, turning to leave the room, he needed to organise the ammunition pouches for the new sniper rifle.

       "Hey I'm not finished," she barked at him.

       "Well what then?" He answered back with a look that could kill.

       "When I last saw you on earth, you had Corporal bars on, and then at the Ceremony for Proving Battle you had Sergeant Stripes."

       Chris raised an eyebrow. "So you did take notice..." Alison ignored him.

       "Then, after I met you during training, I went back to the Quail. Then I saw you down at that Outpost incident, at least I thought it was you, I heard your voice when you talked on the radio. You had Lieutenant bars then and then you got promoted to a Captain for Christ's sake. A Captain because you got me to join and you had to be in command..."

       "Well I could have always demoted you to a Sergeant. What's wrong with all that?" Asked Chris.

       "I spent two years at Military College, working my ass off to become a Lieutenant, Junior Grade no less and you get become a Captain in less than that and in command of a highly skilled group of assassins. It's not fair!" Alison's face was full of anger.

       "What do you want me to do? Give you my Captain's bars, step down and let you lead? Sorry but that won't work, ONI put me in charge because I could be trusted. You're only here because I didn't want you to be killed and they let you join because we were two men down after our first mission."

       "I never asked to join." Said Alison coldly.

       "Never asked? For fuck's sake, it was that or die and you don't seem to be one who is big on dieing."

       "Maybe I would have preferred to die rather than dieing slowly inside from doing this line of work."

       Chris closed his eyes in frustration, not wanting to look at her. "So, you're mad because I get promoted and you don't?" He said summing up her story.

       "To put it bluntly, yes I am."

       "Doesn't seem much of a reason to ignore me all day."

       "Well, God, it's just like Military College all over again, the men getting all the attention and promotions whilst the women are ignored and rarely get acknowledge for anything we do."

       "Well sorry to rain on your parade but I say you'll just have to live with it. Like if it was like that on Earth, of course it's gonna be like that here, we all came from Earth sometime, maybe not ourselves directly but our ancestors. For as long as there are men and women, there will always be sexists and assholes like your commandant." Chris let out the breath he had been holding in since he started that sentence.

       Alison stood with one of her hips higher than the other, her arms still across her chest. "I am just getting so damn tired of sexist bastards though, it's just not fair..."

       "Life ain't fair." Said Chris at first then he smiled, "but hey, where else can you shoot guys and not get in the shit for it?"

       Alison smiled, lightened by the comment. "You're right about that, thanks." Alison calmed down and she gave him a brief hug.

       "You're welcome, come on let's go find something else to do and that is an order young lady." Joke Chris as he led them out to the elevator and hit the call button. He turned to face Alison.

       "What is it?" She asked genuinely.

       "Come on, it is that time of the month isn't it?" He said with a laugh.

       "I could tell you, but it's more fun to make you wonder..." She replied getting on the elevator.

August 25th, 2551, Reach, Camp Hathcock, ONI Barracks (above ground), 1634 Hours

       With the issues of command finally behind them, Chris and Alison decided to share the command even more rather than Chris being the main force behind the decisions.

       The Kill Team had been told to report to the Briefing Centre by 1700 hours for a new mission.

       Chris walked around the barracks for Alpha, checking up on his troops, he was annoyed somewhat that they still hadn't gotten word on a replacement for Henderson.

       "Everyone good to go?" He asked the squad as a whole, they sat around on couches and seats in the living area of the barracks.

       "Yes, Captain," they replied as one, they were disciplined when they needed to be.

       "Alright then we'll get going I suppose then?" He said. Just as Newman walked into the barracks.

       "Not so fast guys," said Newman coming up and standing next to Chris. "The boss' only want McAllen and Parker for this one, rest of you guys can come over and join my team for some entertainment, some of the boys found a keg..." No sooner had Newman said the word 'keg' had Alpha team piled out of the barracks, both men and women.

       "Why only us?" Asked Alison coming out of shower wearing only a towel and drying her hair with another.

       "Yeah, what have we done?" Said Chris.

       "Fucked if I know," grunted Newman, "they only wanted you two, so must be some serious shit then, good luck to the both of ya'," Newman turned on his heel and left the barracks.

       "I really wonder what they're going to say today..." said Chris walking into their room and throwing Alison a clean set of fatigues.

       "Maybe they only want us for a mission?" She asked.

       "Hmm, two people, sounds suicidal..." Chris rubbed his chin and stop when he noticed Alison changing in front of him...

August 25th, 2551, Reach, Camp Hathcock, ONI Briefing Centre (Underground), 1659 Hours

       Chris and Alison walked into the room together and came to a stop in the centre of the spot light.

       "Makes me feel like dancing," joked Alison looking at her arms under the bright light.

       "You would," said Chris as the committee begun.

       "Good evening Captain McAllen, Lieutenant Parker, or should we say Captains McAllen and Parker now?" Alison's eyes lit up and she turned to Chris.

       "I slipped in a good word yesterday morning before you got out of bed..." Chris gave her a wink and motioned for her to turn back to the front.

       "You're probably wondering why only you two have been summoned here. Believe us we wanted to have a full team for this mission but it is too high profile. We need a sniper for an assassination."

       Alison felt all eyes in the room fall onto her; she swallowed heavily and felt a light trickle of sweat run down her forehead and off her nose onto the floor.

       "What say you Captain Parker?" Asked the head of the board from the shadows, "Will you be that sniper?"

       Alison turned her gaze to Chris, he smiled at her and nodded and said "I won't let anything happen to you as long as I am with you..."

       "I'll do it," said Alison.

       "Good, you and Captain McAllen here will be your spotter and you two will form a two man sniper unit. It is going to be hard for you two to get into position by yourselves, two squads would have been impossible."

       "To where, sir?" Asked Alison.

       "A Marine Divisional Headquarters, two hundred kilometres north of here..."

       "Who is the target, sir?" Asked Chris.

       "This man," said the voice, a picture of an overweight man in his late fifties with grey hair and deep brown eyes appeared on the holo-projector. "Major-General Francis Walt of the 999th Marine division."

       "Do we get to know why we have to kill him?" Asked Alison, she really needed reasons to be killing people she knew nothing about.

       "We cannot reveal that to you, but it is a worthy cause I assure you, your drop ship will leave at twenty-one hundred hours at the landing pads behind your barracks."

       "Yes, sir, thankyou sir," said Alison.

       "That will be all, remember to travel light, dismissed." Chris and Alison saluted sharply before turning leaving the room.

       On the elevator Alison grunted. "Worthy cause my ass!"

       "Oh I wouldn't bet something that good..." he joked putting an arm over her shoulder, "just think about it, me, you, alone up the boonies and all we got to do is put a bullet into some guy's head..."

       "Yeah, it could be nice..." said Alison, "except for the fact after the shot a whole division will be down on us! Maybe you were right, maybe this is a suicide mission?"

       "I hate being right... sometimes!" Chris leant close and whispered into her ear, "might be why they agreed on your promotion so easily but hey, we'll just have to prove them wrong..."

August 25th, 2551, Reach, Camp Hathcock, ONI Barracks (above ground), 2033 Hours

       Chris and Alison were just about ready to leave. Chris chose the proper armament for a spotter, a BR-55 with 40mm grenade launcher, silenced M7 submachine gun, his M6C service pistol with a silencer, grenades, night vision equipment, extra sniper rifle ammunition and all the required optics for range finding.
       Alison had one of the new TZ-52 sniper rifles with thirty spare rounds, a silenced M7 submachine gun, her H&K USP with silencer attached and normal issue equipment such as grenades and night vision gear.

       Both were dressed in normal ODST BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) except their helmets were replaced by balaclavas and they wore hoods which in turn were connected to the guile suits they both wore over their armour and other equipment.

       Chris felt stupid in the guile suit, its bulk affecting his movement but he would learn to live with it, when he got on the ground he would remove the vegetation he retrieved around Hathcock and replace it with more natural foliage from around their target.
       Alison tightened the last strap on Chris' guile suit, turned and he did hers.

       "Oh before I forget," said Chris reaching through his guile suit and into his pocket, "here are your Captain's bars..." Alison bowed her head somewhat as Chris removed her Lieutenant bar and replaced it with Captain's bars.

       "Thanks!" She said hugging him tightly, but the combined bulk of their guile suits and equipment made it hard for them to put arms around each other.

       "Alright, let's go kick some ass!" Said Chris walking out of their barracks' 'ready room' - also known as the armoury, it is where the team got ready before heading off to the drop ships - and into the main living area, the entire Kill Team was there waiting for them.

       "Good luck, guys..." said Newman then noting Alison's look, "...and girls."

       "Good luck Captains" said all of Alpha and Bravo as Chris and Alison walked out of the barracks and around to the back then they saw their drop ship...

       It was a drop ship like no other, it was completely black, it was the same size of a Pelican but this one was black and the somewhat smooth edges of the Pelican gave wave to sleek pointed edges. Under the stubby wings on each side sat four air to ground missiles and was equipped with a forward mounted thirty millimetre cannon. It looked dangerous...
       It was one of the ONI's new drop ships, a P-96 Dark Avenger.

       Chris and Alison walked up to it and had to state their name and serial number to the two edgy ONI guards waiting for them. Also in the drop ship was an ONI Major, he was to complete their briefing in flight.

August 25th, 2551, Reach, in transit to 999th Marine Divisional Head Quarters via Dark Avenger P-96 Drop ship 2123 Hours

       Chris locked a magazine into his BR-55 and released the bolt. He then pushed the underslung grenade launcher's grip forward whilst holding in the release clasp and loaded a grenade and slammed the grip back into position.

       Alison sat next to the ONI Major; he was explaining their evasion plan after the target was down.

       "We'll be watching from over head by satellite and we'll confirm the target is down, you'll then need to make it back ten kilometres so you'll be out of range of any artillery they might bring to bear on you two." The Major wiped the sweat from his brow and continued, "it won't be easy, we'll be dropping you five clicks from the base, watch out for patrols too, they will be in force as they are training for night operations tonight. I know, we should have chosen another night but General Waltz is leaving the planet tomorrow morning."

       "Any idea when he'll appear?" Asked Alison, handing her rifle to Chris after he tapped her shoulder a few times. Chris loaded the TZ-52, folded the stock and shouldered it for himself.

       "He'll have to leave his tent for a toilet break sometime; you might have to wait until the morning when he goes for breakfast. But remember, as soon as we confirm the target is down you need to get the hell out of there, ok Captain?"

       Alison nodded. "Consider it done, sir."

       Touch down in three minutes!" Called back the ONI pilot.

       Chris gave Alison the thumbs up and passed her rifle back. The red lights turned on inside the Dark Avenger, giving everyone an angry appearance.

       "Just stay on my ass, I'll lead..." Said Alison much to Chris' surprise.

       "Aye, aye, Captain!" Joked Chris, making sure the safety on his weapon was on.

       Slowly the Avenger lowered to the ground in a small clearing on a grassy knoll surrounded by pine trees.

       "Good luck," said the Major as Alison leapt from the rear of the craft and landed on the grass. Chris turned and smiled through his balaclava and jumped himself.

       Chris was alone in the darkness, he quickly felt around his webbing and found his night vision goggles and fitted them to his head, tightening the band around his head and flicked his head forward, sending the goggles down over his eyes. Finally with his free left hand he turned them on.
       A grey wash image of Alison waving her arms to him from the tree line assaulted his eyes. She already had her goggles on and was ready to get to the job at hand.

       "Get over here!" Cried her voice in his ear.

       "I'm coming," he said limply as he ran over to her.

       "According to the map, the pine tree forest stops just over a kilometre from the camp..." Chris put his hand over the map.

       "What the fuck? They built the base in a gully!?"

       "It looks that way, and this forest surrounds the base on three sides except that side," Alison pointed off to the east.

       "Should be pretty easy to get into position, ONI is just being assholes and not giving us any back up." Chris shook his head and tested that his goggles were still firmly in place.

       "We better change the foliage on the guile suits," said Alison.

       "Just use the pine needles," said Chris grabbing a handful of dead needles from the ground, they were several layers thick.

       Chris and Alison worked together and changed the vegetation and foliage off each other's guile suits and replaced them with the dried pine needles that littered the forest.

       Alison led the way with her submachine gun as Chris followed behind and looked behind them every few steps.

       They walked quietly for an hour before Alison declared a rest and they sat down.

       "Should only be a little bit further until the camp," said Chris fumbling for his canteen, taking a drink and looking around the forest. It all looked the same, long rough shafts stretching up into the sky which couldn't be seen through the combined leaves of the pine trees.

       Chris raised his goggles and motioned for Alison to do the same, he felt the strain lift from his eyes immediately but his vision fell into darkness.

       "Ah, that's better," said Alison rubbing her eyes and smiling, "I hate using these for ages."

       "Yeah, they can make you feel pretty bad after awhile." Said Chris to the area of darkness he knew Alison was sitting.

       "I hope this all goes smoothly," started Alison, "think they will come to get us after the target is down?"

       "I know why they want us ten clicks out when they pick us up, so we'll be outside of any sensors. They dropped us off at five because they must have had clearance to fly over."

       "So they'll com..." Chris put his hand to Alison face, or he thought it was her face in the darkness.

       Chris slipped his night vision gear back on and Alison did the same, he put a hand to his ear and pointed off to the left. Alison nodded and did the bolt on her rifle, a slight noise echoed through the forest.

       Chris slung his rifle, with the butt facing upwards and the barrel pointing to the ground and drew his silenced submachine gun and released the bolt slowly.

       Chris and Alison took positions lying on the ground and tried to bury themselves in the pine needles on the forest floor.

       Chris saw them first; it was half a Marine squad on night manoeuvres, they all were wearing night vision and his were heading their way...