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Retreat is...
Posted By: Mainevent<billygoat456@comcast.net>
Date: 31 October 2003, 3:03 AM

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      "Out of the question McNamera, get your men onto the ridge and get me a look out. So much as a blade of grass moves I want detailed info on how fast, which direction, and theories on what it's thinking. Got it?"
      "Aye, Aye Ace." Outpost CAIL-43's second-in-command responded. The gray-uniformed man turned from his commanding officer and headed for the door, briefly ducking under the swinging flap as he exited.
      "Charleston to Atlanta now Peters." The small base's highest ranking officer ordered diligently of his communications technician.
      "Charleston is busy and Atlanta is empty. We're out of reinforcements, at least for today. We'll have to keep CAIL with what we've got. The most I can offer is a paradrop of supplies and if we're lucky a warthog. Other than that..." The stocky man shook his head slowly, his eyes saying what his lips dared not.
      "What's the weather man predict for today?" The "Weather Man" was actually only the resident intelligence operative. He had earned his nickname from his painstakingly accurate predictions of firestorms to come. His radar outpost and sattelite feeds his only utensils, he was an exacting surgeon.
      "At least ten Phantoms, all packing some serious boom sticks."
      "Can we?"
      "Can we hold them off you mean? Doubtful." He had to be admired for his ability to dole out the brutal truth, but often, that was what was most needed.
      "That's it, general quarters. All hands to battle stations. I want the SAM sites operational five minutes ago. Get all of our towers manned and ready. Make sure the walls are in tact and ready to go. How are the cannons?" His shallow yet demanding voice was frail in the sunlight, a slight wind seemingly able to break it.
      "The cannons are ready sir. We have artillery sighting the ridge as we speak, you'll hear a couple rounds go off here and there, but that's only target practice. You'll know when the real battle starts."
      "Good, good. Get the gauss cannons on the wall cleaned and active. Make sure their turrets hydraulic systems are flawless. If our heavy machine gun nests aren't prepped, they should be."
      "They are."
      "Good, are the vehicles read to go?"
      "The mechanics are making last minute inspections as we speak. As far as I can tell, we're good to go. We may not survive this sir, but we sure as hell will give them a fight."
      "Indeed. A hell of a fight."
      Peters had relieve himself from his stationary position at the radar and repositioned himself before the Major. His eyes were suddenly diverted from the figure before him to a tattered and worn flag sprawled carefully behind him in a heavy glass case. He wasn't able to decipher any of the wording on it from the severe angle he was eyeing it from, but his mind raced with curiosity.
      "Sirs, all men at battle stations. Vehicles have been released and are making their rounds as we speak. The towers and wall are fully manned and functional. A recon picket we sent out called in a sighting about a half hour ago, and said they'd call back in every ten minutes. They called back one time, but nothing the last two times."
      "Where were they sighted last?" Major Robinson asked with the sincere hint of interest in his voice.
      "About thirty minutes from the northern ridge. Which means they should be here any minute."
      "Well then, sound the alarm. I want us on priority Alpha. Reroute our sentries to guard stations, send out two warthogs up to the ridge. Have them report what they see, and then come back. Nothing fancy, no attack, not so much as a cursory glance, just move up, and report back."
      The young private nodded and then backed out of the half open doorway he was standing in. Major Robinson laid his pencil carefully on his desk, and then promptly stood up. He tugged his jacket taut, plucked his cap from his desk, and grabbed his battle rifle by the top-mounted grip. A quick thwap insured that his head regalia was indeed on, and the click of his weapon's bolt seemed to echo endlessly on their ears.
      "Men, today is the day we kick Darwin in the nuts." Robinson's voice was emotionless, but the humor was abundant in the atmosphere. His men knew that Robinson was a fiercely religious man, and that he believe little in what Darwin had said, despite the clear evidence supporting evolution. His pun was, however, directed solely at his Law of Natural Selection. A hardy laugh sprung from Peter and the returned McNamera, the only respite they would probably see for a very long while, if ever.
      The three men strolled into the brisk spring air, the brilliant rays of sunlight sparkling on the wall's reflective siding. The thick band of trees and foliage that outlined the forest that surrounded CAIL were more of a boundary than a protection. A flock of birds wings fluttered heavily in the silence, catching all of the men off guard. They soared majestically into the air as a single unit, and turned into the wind before floating to a safer location.
      CAIL, which stood for Command and Intelligence Locus, was located quaintly in a small basin, that was really more like a giant crater with one of the sides removed. It was a giant circlular compound, with four main sections: the wall, the towers, the command, and the runway.
      The wall was a twenty foot high, fifteen foot thick barrier composed of concrete and reinforcing rods with a three inch titanium-A protective coating. A narrow walkway ran the center of the facade, with a multitude of small machine gun portals or stationary defense cannon turrets.       Their were six forty foot high towers, built in much the same fashion, spread evenly along the wall. Atop their burly stalks was a deadly flower, bristling with four heavy machine guns, a gauss cannon, and a single rocket launcher pod. They were truly impressive to behold, but anything from imposing against the vast armada of weapons in the Covenant arsenal.
      The Command was a cluster of large tents that comprised the several barracks, officers' quarters, mess hall, and CentCom. The runway was just that, a runway. Spanning a meager seven hundred meters in length, it wasn't large enough for a heavy transport to land on, but it was suitable for the occasional gunship, pelican, or SkyHawk that dropped in.
      Robinson strolled up one of the steel ramps leading to the top of the wall, his feet clanking uneasily on it's metal surface. He watched as troops scurried about around him, either unaware or too busy to care about saluting. McNamera removed the pair of heavy binoculars from around his neck and handed it to the already open hands of the Major, who quickly surveyed the area.
      The three large ridges to the north, south, and east of the base loomed banefully before him. A thin band of gray cumulus was drifting woefully into view. The serene effluvium figures of animals and childrens' toys were replaced with sadistic machines of death as the atmosphere stuttered a thin spark of lightning in the distance.
      A thick dust miasma trailed the recon warthogs on their voyage back to the base, bouncing fruitfully against the earth as they rushed home.
      "They look like they're going a little fast to you Peters?"
      "Actually sir, they do." Peters grabbed the small shoulder mounted walky-talky, and pressed the thin black button adorning it's side. "Towers, cover those hogs. We've got company." A quick reply calmed him somewhat, the mechanical hiss of servos further lowering his heart rate.
      The heavy titanium gate that permitted entrance to CAIL dropped open instantaneously as gravity took control. The heavy clunk of vehicles skidding onto it and into the facility was returned with a succession of clinks as heavy chains struggled to raise the platform.
      "Recon, what's our status."
      "Masses sir. At least six hundred grunts, a group of thirty or forty elites, a band of jackals. They have hunter support, and the Phantoms were still unloading, those spiny beasts' plasma cannons drove us off. Heavy vehicles with air support. I honestly don't know it we can hold this off." Staticked across the communications frequency for all to hear as the frightened driver reported the enemy's status.
      "Stow that shit now son or I'll personally tan your ass after this is overwith." McNamera jumped quickly onto the job of morale control, as he knew well that doubt spread quickly amongst the men. They would need every man they had in top shape and ready to fight if they were going to survive the coming battle.
      A thin black band appeared on the southern ridge, slowly cropping up along the eastern and finally northern ridges. The enemy was at the gates. Major Robinson zoomed in on his adversaries' faces, their bulbous eyes and round head made them appear almost dog-like. The occasional towering figure of a Hunter or Elite disturbed the uniformity, but the overall effect of intimidation was achieved. A metallic pink shimmer reflected dully from their ghosts, shadows, and the ten or fifteen banshees circling like vultures overhead.
      "FIRE AT WILL!" Blared throughout the compound's speaker system, followed by the ear-shattering report of weapons fire. A thick wall of white mist uncovered their origin as snipers systematically targeted the ranks. Robinson was pleased as four Elites garbled from the blood in their necks, assuming they still had their necks, and fell to the ground deceased. Several of the heavy rounds missed their targets, and either accidentally picked off a hapless grunt or whisked harmlessly into the country-side.
      The thick aggregation of enemy troops howled angrily at their foes, and began their mighty assault on CAIL.
      The Grunts bounded on three legs across the lush alluvium beneath them, weapons in hand and ready to fight. Thick red tracer rounds splashed from their muzzles and into the hording mass of attackers. Two foot tall columns of dirt sprayed into the air as bullets missed and zinged into the terra firma. Another wall of sniper rounds thwacked through the air and into a target's skull or chest.
      Scores of plasma fire sizzled through the oxygen rich medium and fizzled harmlessly before reaching the wall; they were still too distant from CAIL. A salvo of gauss rounds drummed into action, turning a squad of Grunts into their genetic pulp. Another volley of the highly explosive rounds sent three ghosts to the little auto-shop in the sky; one spiraling out of control and through a line of brutes before skidding into the ground and erupting in flames.
      The whomp of rockets as they exited their tubular casings led to streaks of mortal fate as they contacted their targets. Four banshees erupted into sparking hulks before falling helplessly into their personalized craters.
      A band of Wraith mortar tanks appeared on the ridge, their heavy plasma cores ejecting the thick white balls of destiny that was to hopefully destroy CAIL. They erupted volumunously inside of the compound, destroying the mess hall and one set of barracks. Automatic weapons fire dropped volumns of Grunts and elites as they charged suicidally against the fortification. Another charge of mortar fire finally landed against the wall, blowing a ten meter wide hole in it. Grunts scrambled over each other to get inside of the vein-like paths that gutted the command center, screams and explosions shaking the heavy concrete foundation to it's core.
      "Get some men down there, we can't let them take the wall." Peters screamed to a Corporal who was sprinting off desperately searching for a few free men. None appeared, so he drafted a small platoon and they ventured into the dimly lit den.
      Another blast rocked CAIL violently to it's being, and a clear path into the base was forged. Several Hunters and Elites rushed into the central courtyard, catching many of the men offguard. Plasma bolts burned themselves into the backs of unguarded marines, who quickly rushed to remove the boiling armor. One of the men panicked and tried to run, a move that proved disastrous as he tripped on the platform's edge and knocked two shocked marines off the edge with him. Plasma swords tinked to life in the hands of their wielders, the elites brandishing them dashed up the ramps and into the crowded formations along the walls periphery.
      Friendly fire arced across the station as men attempted to rid themselves of the horrid menace, but many only resulted in further human casualties. The marines broke into small groups of four or five, who rounded the circumference in search of the sword wielding bastards.
      Hours passed as the battle raged on, with casualties mounting on both sides. The human populace of the base being cornered and trapped at one side of CAIL, with only their assualt rifles and a few heavy machine guns for protection.
      "I'm ordering a general retreat." Peters said without asking permission from Robinson.
      "The hell you are." Robinson slid down the one of the ramps nearest the officers' quarters, and quickly returned with a large American flag. The one he had seen earlier in his case. It was faded and scarred, but flapped merrily in the wind, oblivious to the battle raging around it. He bested the wall's crest once more, and fixed the flag in a small hole that had forged itself during the battle.
      "These colors don't run, and neither will we." Robinson had a fierce determination to him, and his spirit bounded through his men.
      A triumphant war cry boomed throughout the valley, and the men rushed headlong into the charging Covenant forces. Bullets pinged off of shields, but many stuck, as the slaughter raged on. Explosions rocked the earth beneath the warriors as they fought bravely on, never giving up their hard-won land and rightful home.

After all was said and done, and the battle had long been won.
A few good men and a flag waving in the sun.
It's colors may fade, but they'll never run.

Robinson and his men walked away
Always remembering the battle that day
The courage and honor shown in that fray

That they could hold their heads upright
And that they could fight for what's right
That they would go from day to night
Showing the enemy humanity's might.

Homeless and weary, fighting no more
They had grown tired and bored with war
Eager to lay and rest on the shore
With their loved ones beside them in the land of yore

They were laid to peace a year from that day
On a merry hill during the month of May
Always able to stand and say
They fought the good fight at CAIL that day

A few good men and a flag waving in the sun.
It's colors may fade, but they'll never run.

*Hope you enjoyed. The poem at the end was mine, but the following one is not.*

A protest raged on a courthouse lawn,
'round a makeshift stage they charged on.
Fifteen hundred or more they say,
had come to burn the flag that day.

A boy held up the folded flag,
cursed it, and called it a dirty rag.
An old man pushed through the angry crowd,
with a rusty shotgun shouldered proud.

His uniform jacket was old and tight,
he had polished each button, shiny and bright.
He crossed that stage with a soldier's grace,
until he and the boy stood face to face.

"Freedom of speech," the old man said,
"Is worth dying for, good men are dead,
so you can stand on this courthouse lawn
and talk us down from dusk to dawn.
But before any flag gets burned today,
this old man is going to have his say!"

"My father died on a foreign shore,
in a war they said would end all wars.
But Tommy and I weren't even full grown,
before we fought in a war of our own.
And Tommy died on Iwo Jima's beach,
in the shadow of a hill he couldn't quite reach,
Where five good men raised this flag so high
that the whole damn world could see it fly."

"I got this bum leg that I still drag,
fighting for this same old flag.
Now there's but one shot in this old gun,
so now it's time to decide which one...
Which one of you will follow our lead,
to stand and die for what you believe?
For as sure as there is a rising sun,
you'll burn in Hell 'fore this flag burns, son."

Now this riot never came to pass.
The crowd got quiet and that can of gas
got set aside as they walked away
to talk about what they had heard this day.
And the boy who had called it a "dirty rag,"
handed the old soldier the folded flag.

So the battle of the flag this day was won
by a tired old soldier with a rusty gun,
who for one last time, had to show to some,