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Not So Fireproof
Posted By: kabu<will36@gmail.com>
Date: 13 October 2008, 4:34 pm

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Well, darn.
This was not in the plan.
First of all, the valley was supposed to be clear.
Second, we expected to find a pair of warthog transports hidden in the gully, not a booby trap.
Third, UNSC equipment is supposed to be fireproof.

The bottom of the gully had actually been pretty crowded; there were plenty of big old rocks, a few trees, and a bubbling little stream meandering its innocent way through. But after the 'hogs, field radio, med kit, two Privates and the Corporal had vanished into a sunrise of plasma, the shockwave had done a pretty thorough job of clearing any debris, rocks, trees, water, and marines out of its way. Not wanting to be outdone by the initial explosion, burning chunks of UNSC un-burnable material had tried their very best to mop up what was left. So now it's me, Hopkins, two rifles, one pistol, six mags, one grenade, and a large pile of slag left to face... well, presumably a hoard of hideous aliens that want nothing more than to claw our faces off. I had been in worse situations. In fact, it's pretty depressing to think of just how many worse situations I'd been in. There was that time, for example, about twenty minutes ago, when the encampment had been blasted to shrapnel. And the time two days before that, when the lieutenant tripped over a tree root while priming a grenade and took out half the squad (there are much, much worse ways to die in or out of combat, but not many are quite that stupid). "Think positive," I said to myself. "At least this time your not alone. We even have air support!" A Pelican had been shadowing us for pick up at the emergency LZ.

"Okay. Um. Hopkins, you okay? Hopkins?"
"Uh… no. Sure. You okay?"
"What just happened?"
"I think we just got blown up."
"What now?"
"Um. Maybe we should find some cover?"

      We took a moment to assess the situation. We had maybe two minutes before the Covenant troops noticed their trap had gone off. We didn't have much in the way of supplies, cover, or leadership and we needed at least two of the three to make it out of this really, really bad day alive.
"I'll see if I can salvage anything," Hopkins said as he stepped gingerly towards the wreckage.

Then the ammunition from the 'hogs chainguns started to detonate and the party really got started.

      So now I was alone, in hostile territory, with one rifle, two mags (one was left intact on what remains of Hopkins' torso) and no grenades. And I was fairly certain that the billowing smoke trail in the sky headed in my direction at an entirely unnecessary speed was that Pelican.

      Well, at least I wasn't alone anymore. The Pelican had done a good job of flattening the grunts who were in the process of sneaking up behind me, and the third explosion in as many minutes had added a nice, high pitched musical tone in my inner ear to keep me company. My helmet was doing its best to hold my face in the mud, which was not its job. My backpack had stopped quite a bit of shrapnel on its own, which was technically not part of the job description for a UNSC Marine Standard Individual Carrying Case Type 0043/B-1 (backpack) either. It felt like there were around two or twelve bits of metal sticking into my back, but my body armor had lived up to its job and kept them from tearing me to shreds. The flame-resistant interior paneling of the Pelican was burning quite merrily, and the surrounding flora was keen to join in. The methane tanks strapped to the little grunts backs were doing their part with great enthusiasm. At some point I noticed that my leg was on fire, but the creek was beginning to flow again and took care of that for me.

      After what my brain said was four thousand years and my visor (which was in inexplicable perfect working order) said was ninety seconds, I sat up. My brain very quickly informed me in no uncertain terms that it would not be putting up with this sort of nonsense and laid me right back down again for a couple millennia.

Things got a little hazy at this point.

      The next thing I remembered was a very comfortable hospital bed and a Colonel mentioning something about a Purple Heart and a Silver Star and a promotion to Private First Class and a fifty kilometer trek through hostile territory to Alpha Base and a few other things that were drowned out by the happy little morphine drip in my arm. I heard the words "hostile territory" quite a lot, actually, along with "only survivor," "heroism" and "great honor." In our day and time, I thought to myself, this was really not a bad way to end a military career. I could go back to the farm and visit the kids if I had a wife or a farm in the first place and the Covenant hadn't been busy glassing all the farm worlds. But hey, I had a few medals, all my arms and legs, and the military was probably not going to let me retire for a few more decades anyway, so at least I could look forward to a traumatic death somewhere along the line. And I'm going to give up smoking.

That reminds me. I need to talk to someone about fireproofing the equipment.