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Afternoon Nap - Bad Days, Chapter 3
Posted By: kabu<will36@gmail.com>
Date: 23 November 2008, 6:35 am

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I like to think of myself as an introspective person. I enjoy sitting quietly with my thoughts, or perhaps reading a good book on my bunk. I often take the time to reminisce about past experiences. I've always thought of my reclusive habits as perfectly normal, but it transpired that a lot of my squadmates thought I was either a serial killer or a paranoid schizophrenic. That doesn't have to do with what I'm about to say at all, I don't know why I brought it up. My point was that I think about my past a lot. I'm not crazy. Seriously.

What I'm trying to do is explain a peculiar incident in my past that seemed relevant. When I was twelve years old I saw a squirrel fight a crow. The squirrel was jumping and yelling, the crow was diving and cawing, and eventually they parted ways. Since that day, I've always wondered what was happening. Was it a territorial thing? Were they fighting over acorns? I think there was an acorn involved. Do crows even eat acorns? Maybe it was just a pissed off crow or something. For years I had pondered the nature of this confrontation in my own quiet, obsessive way. Anyway, I was pondering like I'd never pondered before as the plasma bombardment went into its third hour.

So one hundred and eighty nine minutes earlier, I had just finished my mid-afternoon check of the smoke detectors in Outpost 4. The little red warning light on the alarm in munitions locker 3 was blinking and a little chime was sounding, indicating a mechanical problem. I was on my way to Sergeant Major Rendelle's office to report the situation, ducking under some low-hanging electrical wiring, when big red warning lights and loud klaxons started blaring to life. I flung myself to the floor, earning a hefty whack on the head in the process. Lying there, a little dazed, I observed that the blue-white blossom of plasma that had inexplicably replaced the office and hallway in front of me was actually very pretty. Quite tasteful, really, a nice solid flare that fades into an almost liquid wave of blue light and heat. The Covenant, say what you will about the genocide and whatnot, certainly have an eye for style.

While I was being dragged by the arms back to the center of the compound I had ample opportunity to reflect back on my aforementioned ornithological observation. The crow, I decided, was the Covenant, swooping down to steal an acorn (Earth, maybe? I was a little concussed at the time so my memory is hazy). The squirrel was us, chittering uselessly at the bird's dive-bombing.

Lots of people were running around with various bits of equipment and weaponry. I heard people say things like "sneak attack," and "wraith mortars," and "surrounded the base," and "oh Jesus fuck we're all about to die." I spent another few minutes putting together these phrases in my mind until I had a coherent idea of the situation. Apparently, the sentries on duty had radioed in as scheduled at four 'o clock, saying that all was well. It transpired that those two Privates were, in the words of a Corporal whose name I cannot recall, "high off their tits." Consequently, the observation of the invading force was largely overshadowed by a large quantity of powerful amphetamines. I could sympathize; we've all been there a time or six.

Now that I think about it, my pet cat was also involved in the past squirrel/crow contest. Perhaps the bird and rodent had been spooked by the approaching feline and had run into each other by accident. In that case, the cat could symbolize the ever-present fear of oblivion or some such, and the squirrel (humans) and crow (bloodthirsty aliens) were not locked in a conflict of conquest, but a sort of primitive reaction to... fear or something? I was still working out the kinks in the theory.

After a few more hours the bombardment had settled into a nice rhythm. Every ten seconds or so there was a sort of "whoosh" noise, and then a sort of "ksrshsh" noise, and then a big shock wave knocked the dust off the walls. A cursory examination of my surroundings revealed that I was underground, which made me feel a little safer and let me get my head back into gear. By this point my mind was beginning to reconstitute itself like freeze-dried bananas transforming back into a delicious, nutritious treat. It occurred to me that once the plasma bombardment stopped, we could expect a large influx of alien ground troops waiting to do various horrible things to our bodies. Emboldened by a sudden rush of fear, I attempted to stand up and fell flat on my face. Looking down, I had another pang of concern when I realized that my leg was rather nastily broken and covered with a whit-ish and red-ish substance that bore a strong resemblance to blood-soaked gauze. I then saw a needle in my arm attached to a bag labeled "UNSC-MC/M DS/AN 7-A con. 3," a title every marine recognizes instantly as a nice dose of morphine and dextrosaline. Feeling a little better, I noticed that some heavy gun emplacements were being hastily bolted down by the door, covering all the possible attack vectors. There were a couple of people lying down next to me, each with a line from the good ol' AN 7-A. With a little strength restored, I lifted my head enough to notice that there was quite a bit of open flame on this floor. I passed out again.

I just realized that I've forgotten some details in the squirrel/crow/cat contest. It was possible that the squirrel and crow were not actually fighting at all, and that they simply happened to be going about their business in the same general area, and that Misty (my cat was named Misty) was in another part of the yard entirely. So that means that the Covenant were... not attacking? Or that we were just looking for acorns or something? The more I think about this the less sense this metaphor makes. Seriously, it was just a crow and a squirrel. I guess having a good concussion and a dose of morphine put me into an even more introspective state than usual.

The roar of Longswords overhead awakened me and drowned out the noise of the plasma mortars, and a volley of missiles put and end to the bombardment. A few minutes later, a screaming alien hoard was cut to handy bite-size pieces by chaingun fire. A few Pelicans landed to pick up the fourteen survivors of Outpost 4 and carried us away to central command. Purple Hearts were handed out, the nice soldier who had dragged me out of the line of fire was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, and I spent a few weeks with my leg wrapped in plastic. In the end, I felt confident in the knowledge that I, while battered and bruised like the squirrel's hypothetical acorn, was ultimately left peacefully, quietly, alone.