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Long Time Gone Part 43
Posted By: grylsy<grylsy@hotmail.com>
Date: 9 November 2006, 12:11 pm

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Long Time Gone Part 43: Back On Your High Horse!

August 31st, 2551, Reach, Hathcock Medical Centre, 1937 hours

       Chris opened his eyes slowly, taking in the all too familiar sterile smell of the hospital.
       "Bloody hell, not again," he moaned; putting his hands in front of his face to block out the all too bright hospital light above his bed. Chris could see the bandages on his body and as if on que, the pain assaulted his senses. Only for it to fade as quickly as it came thanks to the automated anaesthetic dispenser connected to Chris' arm via a needle.
       "Sleep well?" Asked a strangely familiar female voice off to Chris' left side.
       "Michelle!?" Cried Chris without thinking - the incident from the last time he had awoken in hospital came flooding back, filling his mind with images of Michelle's face and the times they had shared.

       "Hmmpf," exhaled the now irritated voice, "you're way off…"
       "Oh, shit… Sorry, Alison…" Said Chris peeking through his fingers at her comically before putting his hands down; a cheeky smile on his face. Alison had been sitting on a seat next to the bed in the otherwise empty lilywhite hospital room, but she now sat against the wall with her arms crossed over her chest with slightly angry face showing. "Oh come on, don't be like that."
       "Well that was a good way to say thank you to someone who saved your life." Said Alison shaking her head as Chris would commonly do to her.
       "Say what?" Said Chris confused, his head throbbed with pain when he tried to reflect on the events of that night. "What happened out there?"
       "You used your head to catch another stun round; I swear to God you must have a magnet or something for them in there because the doctor says you have a minor concussion and according to your growing medical records, this isn't the first time either."

       "No thanks to you," smirked Chris, the thirty day proving battle incident involving Alison washed passed Chris' eyes. "And it probably won't be the last time either," joked Chris as he felt his around his head, a thin bandage was wrapped around the upper portion of his head and he could also feel the gauze bandages wrapped tightly around his left leg and torso. "So what then, does this mean we finished the mission?"
       "I finished the mission," said Alison matter-of-factly, "and then I had to carry your wounded arse back to the bird."
       Chris's pale face broke into a grin, "you carry me? That's a good laugh, so what was Russel doing there?"
       "What!?" Said Alison unexpectedly, "how did you know he was there…"
       "Ah ha! So he was! I was just guessing, as he's the strongest guy I know…" Chris laughed; he had called Alison's bluff.

       "Ooh, you sneaky bastard," said Alison smiling, the past incident forgotten, "just wait until you get out of hospital."
       "What you want to fuck me or something?" Said Chris still laughing.
       "Oh I could find a few undercover jobs for you to do," said Alison with a smirk as she stood up and went to leave the room.
       "What, you just gonna leave me here?" Replied Chris disappointed.
       "I've been waiting six days for you to wake up, Chris, I have to go to the bathroom, that's all." With that Alison walked out of room slowly, looking back on Chris as she left, leaving Chris alone to collect his thoughts.

       "Oh God, Alison, what happened to you out there?" He asked himself recalling Alison's inability to assassinate Major-General Francis Walt. The weight of disappointment fell upon his shoulders pushing his dwindling spirits even lower; Alison was one of the most mentally strong members of his team and if she cracked, who could be next? "I won't let it happen again, to her, or anybody, not ever…" Chris vowed to himself as he saw a shadow looming at the doorway.
       "Let what happen?" Asked another memorable voice, Chambers walked into the room in full combat kit including the classical grin.
       "What? No it's nothing, mate, nothing, you wouldn't understand," said Chris looking away from his best friend towards the window - a signal he didn't want to talk about it.
       "I've heard that before so try me…"
       "No Mike, I'm serious. I don't want to talk about it right now, I'll tell you another time, until then it doesn't concern you." Chris said firmly with a wave of his hand.
       "You know," said Chambers leaning against the doorframe, "in all the time I've known you, you've never called me 'Mike' before." Chris didn't say anything, waiting for Chambers to continue. "Well a lot of things do not concern me but that does not mean I don't want to know, as a somewhat valuable asset of this team, and as you're best friend I demand to know anything that concerns this team!" Put Chambers strongly.

       Alison walked into the room suddenly and caught the look of determination on Chambers' face and the look of stubbornness she had learnt to love on Chris' face.
       "What's going on here?" She asked puzzled.
       "Nothing that concerns me apparently," said Chambers sharply, "fuck this, I'm off, if it was anything important well, I guess Alison would have told me, eh?" Chambers nudged Alison in support.
       Alison looked at Chambers and was about to agree when she saw the concerned look in Chris' eyes, she knew what he wanted to talk about. "Yes, yes of course I would, Michael."
       "Thanks, Alison, knew I could count on you, now I'll leave you two alone. Maybe if you fuck him, he'll lighten up." With a final grunt Chambers left and thuds of his foot steps echoed down the corridor until finally the door slammed shut behind him.

       Alison just looked at Chris for a long second; she was really beginning to dislike their little chats. "Chris, about that night and me…"
       "What got into you Alison!?" Snapped Chris, "You! Of all the people I know, I just cannot believe that you would be one to chicken out, it's unimaginable. How the hell can I trust you to lead our troops if you can't even shoot some bloody General?"
       "Well if you'd managed to shut the hell up and not interrupt, I would have gotten to it already. The answer is I am just sick of it, ok? Plain sick to death of all the senseless killing, too many of us have died needlessly. Henderson, Groener, Herman and not to mention the men and women who make up the tally of our exceptional combat record. It's not right!."
       "Well how many times do I have to say it?" Questioned Chris, "We've had this discussion so many times I just can't emphasise to you enough that what we're doing is for the greater good of humankind. It may take a million Generals, a thousand Hendersons, heck, even you and me might die before we as a race can win this war but you must remember we are in a war of survival. There will be no occupation, no second chances; we have to do all that we can to ensure the future of Earth and human race and the only way I know I can do that is here. The Covenant want to eliminate every single human in existence, man, woman and child, they will not take prisoners. I urge you to fight on, do it for Earth and the Human race, if not just do it for your commanding officer, your lover and your friend."

       Alison didn't say anything; she just stood inside the doorway looking at the man who had almost died six nights ago just so she could get away safely. Regardless of the cowardice she had displayed and the fact that he didn't think any less of her made her want to cry. Alison left the room without another word and Chris didn't say anything, deep inside he could feel what she was thinking.

September 11th, 2551, Reach, Hathcock, ONI Barracks, 1645 hours

       Chris walked into the Barracks with a slight limp, his crutches long since thrown away on the diminutive walk to the Barracks from the Medial Centre. The men and women of teams Alpha and Bravo turned as one as he entered the room without warning.
       "Welcome back Captain!" Said Russel getting up with some of the other men who had been there that fateful night. "Good to see your walking again, put 'er there…"
       Chris shook Russel's hand firmly and nodded at the Sergeant, "it's good to see you too, Russel. Can you believe that I almost missed your sorry arse?"
       "Ha-ha, not at all, sir." Russel gave Chris a slight punch to the shoulder humorously, "good to have you back, sir."

       "It's great to be back, Russ, say, how are your injuries healing up?" Chris pointed at Russel's chest where he had heard Russel had been shot with a S2 AM.
       "It's not without their moments I suppose, the sniper round went straight through my lung and out the other side, it's a bloody miracle the doctors managed to saved it. Especially after old butter fingers here," the Bravo Team Medic's head spun, "with all the bio-foam he put in there, the lunch was almost too far gone to save."
       "Ah shut up," said the Medic with a grin, "I could always have just left you bleeding and coughing on the trip back but you would have given me the shits!"
       Russel turned slightly towards the medic, "boy, one morning you'll wake up and you'll find a surprise in your bed and it won't be a lady I've paid to give you a fuck!"
       "Well it's good to see you're on your feet, Russ," Said Chris before the medic could say anything in rebuttal and gave Russ a pat on the shoulder, "good to see you again, all of you." Chris hobbled into the main area of the Barracks, taking a seat next to Chambers; the event at the hospital had long since thawed between them.

       The men and women of Alpha and Bravo listened intently to Chris' recollection of what happened that night, happy to learn of the story from another viewpoint other than that of Russ and his men as well as Alison's story.
       "Where is Alison?" Questioned Chris after noting her absence from the room; to think of it, Chris had not seen her since several days earlier. "Has anyone seen her?"
       "Sometimes I don't know what is up with her, man," said Chambers, "and you too, neither of you ever go into any detail about the shot, usually that is the thing most boasted from a successful mission, what gives?"
       "Being in command does give me certain privileges in what I want and do not want my men to hear," said Chris smirking as he looked over the now somewhat annoyed faces.

       "Well I order you to tell me, McAllen," said the last voice Chris could have possibly wanted to hear at that moment, Major Wallis Newman.
       "Sir, not here …" Said Chris slowly in a low voice.
       Chris and Newman left the main area of the Barracks and withdrew into Newman's office. "What the hell is going on here, McAllen?" Said Newman immediately after the door was closed. Newman sat down behind his expensive walnut desk inviting McAllen to one of deep leather seats in front of the desk.
       "With?" Asked Chris innocently taking a seat.
       "You know what!" Exclaimed Newman, "what the fuck happened out there?"
       "We snuck into position as ordered, the target was killed as ordered, and we moved towards extraction... as ordered." Said Chris, "oh and I got shot, not part of the plan, honestly."
       "Don't give me that smart arse shit, what really happened out there?" Questioned Newman; banging down on the desk firmly with a slight glint of anger showing across his normally calm face. Chris didn't respond so slowly Newman hit play on his computer and an aerial feed from what appeared to be the 999th Marine Divisional Head Quarters slowly came into view from the holopanel in the middle of the desk. Newman zoomed into an exact area and it was easy to see two bush wrought figures, one of which with a long arm weapon, following a target, after several long seconds the weapon had not fired and a second bush grabbed the weapon from the first, raised the rifle and fired twice in quick succession. The weapon was passed back to the first bush clad commando who then ran off into the thick forest. Whilst the second remained at the position and the position of the bush, this matched Chris' own memory of checking over the camp for enemy activity before running off into the trees.

       Chris looked at Newman, "Now, sir, I know what you're thinking."
       "And what would that be, McAllen?" Asked Newman slowly as he rewound the footage and replaying it.
       "I swear on my mother's grave that Alison did not chicken out, she, ah," Chris struggled to find the words with Major Newman staring back at him, "wanted me to take the shot," Chris tried to look as calm as possible, he could feel his heart leaping about in his chest in panic, God only knew what awaited Alison if she was convicted with cowardice.
       "McAllen," started Newman slowly dropping the voice of anger, "I've known you a long time now and during that time I've learnt to tell when you're lying, besides," paused Newman, "I've read your file, your mother isn't at all dead, not even close."
       "Well what do you expect!?" Snapped Chris unpredictably waving his arms in frustration at his commander, "If you convict her of cowardice in face of the enemy she'll be fucking shot!"
       A long silence consumed the office as Chris and Newman just looked at each other across the desk, neither showing any sign of anger towards one another.

       "She has a lot of respect for you, you know?" Said Newman out of the blue with a smile as he got up from his chair took a seat on the edge of his walnut desk close to Chris.
       "What?" Replied Chris as he stood up and took several uneasy steps around the office before Newman continued.
       "You heard me. I was talking to her the night after you were shot," Newman bowed his head in thought before continuing, "I guess maybe that you were seriously injured and almost died, got to her. She confessed to me what happened with the upmost regret. She said she respected you and you know what, so do I and I understand what you're saying.
       "Alison wants to be punished but I know you wouldn't like it and well, I don't either. Our troops are perfect; they're human beings and I can tell several of them are showing signs of cracking soon. I'm just, well not really glad but relieved somewhat that Alison didn't fizzle out on a mission where we all would be counting on her to do something extremely important."
       "Well what can we do about it?" Said Chris intently.
       "I'm putting forward that the unit be disbanded…"
       "Now, sir, let's not jump the gun here," Chris put his hands up in protest, "merely another break for us away from Reach this time or maybe even just that the unit be transferred to other duties, a change of scenery could do us all good. As really, do you believe the ONI would just let us all go back to our regular duties?"

       "No," said Newman uneasily, "but it is worth a shot, as second in command, I want you to accompany me to a meeting with the council; we have to get away from this death squad posting." Chris nodded his head in agreement, he hated this line of 'work', no matter what the ONI force fed them to believe, they were all nothing but murderers carrying out deceitful assassinations on key UNCS military personal at the ONI's will. But he knew it would be harder for every one of them to come back to the regular services if it would even be possible and not to mention the likelihood of the ONI disposing of them once they outlived their usefulness.
       "You have my support, sir." Said Chris turning to leave.
       "Excellent," said Newman, "as Parker is the next in the chain of command I think you should bring her along as well."
       Chris turned back around slowly, "and what of what happened on the mission?"
       "It never happened…"

September 11th, 2551, Reach, Hathcock, ONI Briefing Centre, The Council, 2131 hours

       "It is good to see you both alive and well, Captains," Said the mysterious voice of the lead member of the Council from the shadows, "for a moment there we thought Captain McAllen was done for."
       Chris' face changed to a scowl, the sudden suspicion that the ONI had watched the whole incident in real time sent chills down his spine.
       Newman cleared his throat. "Honourable members of the Council, it has come to my attention through field reports that several of the members of team are becoming burnt out and starting to show pressure of cracking under these harsh conditions and below the belt assassinations."
       "And?" Questioned the voice, in a more aroused tone after the last remark.
       "I believe they need to be put on extended leave, a very long break from duties at Hathcock and Reach all together or what I would prefer, the unit being disbanded allowing the men and women to return to regular duties…"

       A long silence echoed through the chamber, Chris looked about himself in the chamber as whispers broke out from the shadows; hoarse, barely audible whispers that seemed to be full of suspicion and ill thoughts. Chris looked to his left noticing the worried look on Alison's face, looking right Chris noticed the same look on Newman's face. After several minutes of discussion the Council came to its decision.
       "The unit shall not be disbanded," said the authority figure. Newman's heart sank. "Nor shall there be any leave for the team members; they've become too far involved in the duties of the ONI to be allowed to go home now."
       "But please," said Chris stepping forward out of turn, "surely we could send several of the men home on leave, the bad cases at least and keep the rest on active duty?"
       "No one shall go home," said the voice strongly. Chris shook his head in disbelief at the council's selfishness, "prepare your men for mobilization, Major."
       "Where to?" Asked Newman, a perplexed look on his face.
       "Sigmas Octanus IV…"

October 9th, 2551, Sigmas Octanus IV, one hundred and forty-three kilometres south of Côte ď Azur, 1734 hours

       Chris looked about the freshly cleared and now barren area within the heavily forest area where they were to construct an advance camp for the newly designated, 'Office of Naval Intelligence, Fifth Orbital Drop Shock Troop Group', with only two squads, it was far off the makings of even a platoon.
       The signs of the engineer battalion who had cleared the land's passing were not hard to find, bulldozer caterpillar track paths, sawdust from chainsaws used to fell the trees and litter left by the lazy Marines were all tell tale signs. Major Newman was attending a briefing abroad a UNSC frigate concerning future operations. As such it was now up to Chris to organize the team into putting together a combat base to envy the UNSC Special Forces.
       The exact outlines of why the unit had been posted to Sigmas Octanus were unknown to anyone but Newman. The only bit of information the other troops knew was that they were to establish an advanced Special Forces camp on the normally peaceful planet. Chris didn't care why they were here but he knew the work on building a camp would do them all good after too many days spent lounging around a Barracks back on Reach.

       The layout of the camp was standard UNSC procedure. The area cleared was some nine hundred metres squared with a perimeter of three hundred by three hundred metres, the bases perimeter however would start another fifty metres inside the cleared zone. A command tent would sit in the middle of the camp; on each corner prefabricated bunkers would be brought in and positioned in an elaborate trench system that was to connect to most major buildings.
       The three barrack halls were to be located in the north, east and south corners of the camp, one for officers and two for everyone else below the rank of Lieutenant.
       With time, the short term tent structures would be replaced with prefabricated structures when they were shipped planet side.

       Chris watched Russel hounding several men of Bravo Team to work harder; as they pushed up the first of six large tent poles for the command and mess tents. Looking back over his Alpha Team, Chris watched Chambers and Ramirez uncoiling razer wire fifty metres from the edge of the clearing at Newman's order.
       "Why the hell do we need to prepare defences such as these on such friendly planet like this!?" Bellowed Chambers after he had clenched the razor wire too hard whilst he had been uncoiling the wire; causing the razor-sharp blades to sink into his gloveless hands. "This God damned wire is cutting my hands to shreds!"
       "Oh shut up, Mike," remarked Ramirez next to him, "wear some gloves next time if you can't handle a little pain you big baby…" No sooner had the words left her mouth; Ramirez recoiled in pain as a long gash appeared down the palm of her right hand much to Chambers' delight. But Ramirez was more man than him; she calmly licked the wound clean with her tongue and proceeded to rub the red and salty blood laden saliva from her hand and onto her once clean khaki brown fatigue shirt.

       Several metres off to Chris' right, Jess, Alison and Elliot were slowly digging the start of a slit trench with folding shovels; later that night the engineers were scheduled to return and help finish digging the trench system with heavy machinery. The engineers would also bring with them the first of the prefabricated structures and enough cement to be used as a lining for the trench system.

       "I don't see why we have to dig a trench by hand when the engineers will just dig it for us with an excavator or something," moaned Elliot standing up fully and stretching his back after a long time shovelling.
       "Because your marshmallow ass needs a good work out, Elliot," commented Jess shovelling a small amount of dirt onto Elliot's shoes with a giggle. Elliot merely smiled as he wiped his dirt covered hands onto Jess' shirt before continuing to dig.
       "Why don't you get your arse in the dirt, dear?" Said Alison to Chris with a slight tone of annoyance in her voice.
       "Now, now, I'm not paid enough for that; you should know that by now, Alison, you don't get to the top by digging a lot of holes!" Chris snuffed himself a laugh and turned away, looking towards the sky and noticing the sun's rapid decent towards the horizon.
       "I never really stopped to watch sunsets," he said marvelling at the splendid array of colours dancing in the sky, "yet I can say that these sunsets are far more beautiful then those on earth."

       "That is all fine and dandy but it doesn't help us dig our trench system," said Elliot throwing his shovel to Chris, "you want to watch the sunset, you can dig at the same time, I've got to go take a leak."
       "If you're going to go to the toilet you might want to make one first. So you can go ahead and dig a long drop to fill in the time until the Engineers arrive with the pre-fab structures." With that Chris took of his combat vest and jumped into the now expanding trench system.

October 12th, 2551, Sigmas Octanus IV, Office of Naval Intelligence, Fifth Orbital Drop Shock Troop Group, Advanced Camp, 1353 Hours

       Chris put an arm up to cover his face from the whirlwind of dust thrown up by the landing D77-TC Pelican Drop Ship. Slowly the massive machine touched down on the ground on the landing pad located to the north side of the camp. Major Newman exited the craft via the rear door; Chris gave a sloppy salute to Newman who returned it even less formally.

       "Welcome back, sir," said Chris lowering his salute.
       "Thanks, McAllen," replied Newman taking off his sunglasses and looking about the camp.
       "As you can see, we've been pretty busy while you've been away."
       "I can see that, McAllen," said Newman walking up to the North side bunker and giving it a reassuring whack. "How thick is this concrete?"
       "I overheard one of the engineers saying a foot, why?" Asked Chris walking over and examining the bunker for himself; inside a pintle mounted M2HB-A6 fifty calibre machinegun stood menacingly and had a belt of ammunition hanging out the left side of the receiver from a standard issue ammunition can.
       "Hmm, doesn't seem that thick, does it?" Chris shrugged his shoulders at the comment, "they could be an easy target for a well place rocket or some explosives."
       Chris looked at the bunker, it was seated low into the grounded with only two feet of the structure visible above ground, just high enough for the firing slit. "I doubt it, sir; if anyone does attack with the fifty cals we have enough fire power to stop the most determined assault."
       Newman looked at Chris acknowledging his remark, "I sure hope you're right."

       Chris led Newman around the camp, showing the commander the progress of the camp.
       "How long until it is full operational?" Asked Newman who minded his step as they jumped the slit trench leading to the bunker they had just visited.
       "Still a week until the last of the pre-fabs arrive, Major, as soon as they are in place we're only waiting on something to do while we're in this quiet neck of the woods." Chris turned away from Newman, observing his surroundings. A satellite scan had established that the camp was some fifteen kilometres from the nearest settlement and the nearest military presence was a UNSC garrison located in Côte ď Azur, the closest large populace centre to the base.

       "Well what about the pre-fabs that have already arrived?"
       "The three barrack halls are complete; power was established the first day of construction via a link to the planet's power matrix. The locals were told this was a training centre for UNSC personnel to avoid any questions." Said Chris pointing over towards the power lines that led to the base, "only problem is that if someone knew we were around here, they only have to follow those damn things straight to us!"
       "We can't have everything in our favour, McAllen, what about the command centre?"
       "The tent will have to do until the pre-fab command centre arrives but otherwise it is ready to go at the moment, we have a satellite feed of the planet and an encrypted connection to both FleetCOM and ONI data channels."
       "So the base is pretty much done except for the remaining pre-fabs?" Responded Newman in an assessing tone.
       "Pretty much, sir," responded Chris not liking the Major's tone.
       "Great," stated Newman giving Chris a pat on the shoulder, "then the expansion of the force can go ahead as planned..."