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Countdown Earth: Hour Eight
Posted By: Mainevent<billygoat359@netscape.net>
Date: 19 October 2003, 9:12 PM

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      His treads roughed the thicket and bounced roughly over the fence, jarring the passengers. McPherson looked behind him without stopping or slowing down, eager to get back to the airport in one piece. The Light Anting Aircraft Gun (LAAG) attached to the rear was firing her furious barrage. These pilots were unusually good. They strafed from side to side, looped, and rolled to avoid the incoming projectiles. Corporal Lance positioned himself backwards in the passenger seat, a very uncomfortable position with the large metal beam jabbing into the small of his back.

      His weapon had neither the punch nor sustainability of the large one attached to the rear, but any help was better than none. His MA5B was blazing wildly, her shredder rounds splintering the air itself. Tracers were swallowed by the sky, but several landed their mark. The massive jeep hit another hard bump, jolting the Corporal towards the gunner. He shook his head several times, making sure it was still attached, then came back up with the hammer heavy. But nothing happened, his gun wasn't in his hands. Frantic eyes darted across the vehicle's rear section, following the box-like bed. A shimmer in the grass caught his eye, but quickly disappeared as they sped farther and farther away.

      McPherson jammed the butt of his weapon into Lance's side, and he gladly accepted. Cylinders of metallic death sprinted forth aimlessly. A spent shell casing, still smoldering from the chemical reaction that took place only seconds earlier, caught itself on his armor, and wedged itself inside of his shoulder padding. Wincing, he tried to shrug off the pain as long as he could. Those banshees were a bigger threat than the minimal burn he would be inflicted with. One of the airborne demons was finally brought down.

      A succession of ten .50 caliber rounds slammed into the bird's armor, tearing massive holes in it. Sparks darted from the chasis before it finally erupted in a ten meter wide fireball. It spiraled into the ground and skidded for thirty or so meters before finally running out of momentum. His wingman banked sharply to the left, missing all of the rounds lobbed at it. Lance cursed to himself as his borrowed weapon expended it's last clip of ammunition.

      He tossed the rifle onto the floorboard, and unholstered his pistol. Removing a fresh clip from his utility belt, he slapped it in and pulled the slide. His aim was much more careful with the small supply he had, and he lined the vehicle perfectly in his sights. Several trigger pulls later and it was a flaming hulk. The roughly thirty rounds the LAAG had filled her with probably helped bring about the results, but Lance wouldn't admit that to himself.

      He holstered his sidearem, turned in his seat, and slumped heavily down in it. McPherson laughed aloud, and tossed a small package to him. Lance caught it half-heartedly, and examined the contents. "Snowballs" was written on the clear packaging, the bright-pink contents inside looked scrumptious to his stomache. His hunger was overpowering, and he tore into it with abandon.

"Careful son, you're gonna choke on that thing."

"I'm hungry Gunny."

"I know what you are, hell, that's why I gave you the food."

"Well, I don't eat slow, never have, don't plan on startin soon."

"If you choke to death, I swear..."

      The warthog made a bounding jump into the air, and began an unexpected roll. Lance was tossed carelessly out of the spinning machine, and landed with a hard thump. McPherson's seat belt kept him strapped tightly into the seat, but he wasn't sure how much of a benefit that was going to be. The gunner slid out of the small foot harness that held him in the heavy weapon's rotating turret. A blood-curdling snap of bone and flesh was heard, followed by his passing out.

      "Shit McPherson, where'd you get your license?" Lance coughed up a small pool of blood that had worked it's way into his mouth. He grabbed his aching ribs and slowly worked his way onto his feet. McPherson, who was now upside down in the overturned warthog, only returned him the finger. A weak smile the only thing the Corporal could muster up.

      "Charlie, hey Charlie, you there man?" His voice was low and broken through the radio. After several minutes, he tried again, with no success. "Damnit charlie, where are you. Get off your lazy rear and answer me." McPherson had a splitting headache from the blood rushing to his head.

      "Yea Mac, what you want?" The Southern-drawl evident on the speakers voice, he sounded as though he was eating something.

      "We've had a little, accident, up on Airport Boulevard, about a kilometer west of the airport. Can you get any of those guys out here to help us out?"

      "Yea Mac, I'll send 'em down as soon as I can get a hold of 'em. Ya'll alright?"

      "We're in mixed condition. My corporal probably has several fractured ribs, maybe some internal damage, and my gunner is passed out in the dirt, broken leg, and possibly a concussion."

      "Well I'll be.....alright, I'll tell 'em to hurry on over. If I can't get him, I'll request nine one one's help, they aren't marines, but they can get the job done. It'll be a good fifteen minutes though. The Boulevard is a hotspot right now, marines are engaging all over the place."

      "Negative, the Boulevard's out of the question. Two Banshees blew the bridge all to hell, you'll have to take the Route 12 around Citronelle to get here."

      "Damn, alright, hang tough."

      "Roger that, be safe Charlie."

      "Always am."

E.S.N. Capital Building

      "Sirs, regret to inform you that the Magistrate, Cerebrus, and Ghandi are out of commission. FLEETCOM says that it'll still be another hour before those reinforcements get here. The bad part is, that the Covenant have enacted a massive push to take out or orbitals. They aren't going for the power stations this time either, they're trying to take the orbitals themselves out." Taki looked over the Generals once more. Their records were on the screen next to him, an impressive list of achievments spanning several engagements and numerous awards.

      "We've dispatched as many men as we can, and it still isn't enough. How many ground forces do the Covenant have?" Trotson asked grimly.

      "Estimating about three hundred thousand. That was as of 0900 this morning. We can't be sure how many have been deployed since."

      "Alright. Prep the Nautilus, we may have to use her. If it comes to that, then so be it. I'm sure we'll be spared some mercy if the time comes." Relinoir ordered with impunity.

      "The Nautilus, Jack are you crazy?" Troston questioned his equal's orders, putting Taki in a bind.

      "It's our only option, we might have to use it if the time comes."

      "You can't, that's, that's suicide."

      "There are things we must be willing to do for our cause, if you won't be, then I will." Relinoir slammed his fist on his desk.

      "Taki, belay that order, we will not use the Nautilus without direct orders from the Chiefs of Staff of the U.N."

      "Master Sergeant, if you belay that order I will have you tried for blatant disregard of an order by a superior officer."

      "And if you don't belay that order, I'll have you thrown in the brig and replaced by someone who will. Relinoir, we are NOT firing the Nautilus."