|2305 Hours, May 10th, 2552
Arbaoua Mountains, Mamore, Outer Colonies
War was pretty damn stupid.
That was the first thing that Carlos Driscol taught those under his command. You got all sorts in this profession: The psychos, the idealists, the fanatics and the followers. Driscol proclaimed himself to be something of a battlefield philosopher and leader. Others considered him a complete and utter sociopath. Currently, he and the remnants of his Mamorian Infantry Brigade were sheltered amongst the many caves that dotted the planet's mountainous region. Mamore had been a place of uprisings, terror attacks and general discontent for years now. Full-blown battles were taking place in the streets, though after the massacre today, it was clear that the UNSC was winning.
Driscol sat by the small, hydrogen powered heater that gave his soldiers light and warmth, two things critical to surviving a night in the mountains. Even in May, the temperature would drop to below freezing in some areas. There were four others huddled round the generator. As brigade commander, Driscol knew them all by name: Remi Marshall, Franco DeMont, Hideko Asami and Alan Brown. They had all come here as volunteers to fight for the war effort. The media painted them as terrorists and criminals. While that may have been true for some, everyone had a different story, a reason for fighting. It wasn't an easy life, but at the very least it was one that people chose.
It had been a disaster today for the brigade. They had been nearly seven hundred strong at the beginning of the day, and were now reduced to barely a hundred fighters. The plan had been to storm another UNSC-controlled outpost, raid it's armoury and supplies, and retreat into the mountains. Backing them up had even been a few stolen dropships and even a a shortsword bomber that had been hijacked from a shipyard on Harmony a few months prior, being aboard a military freighter at the time. Though the attack had gone perfectly, they had not expected UNSC aircraft to hit them so quickly. A single ship, some kind of new fighter, had obliterated their entire air force in seconds and began bombing them. When Driscol attempted to get a signal to their own freighter in orbit, he was only met with silence. Assuming the worst, the remainder of his forces were able to retreat into these mountains, with plans to hijack another ship when they returned to the city.
Driscol cleared his throat, the men nearest to him looking up at their commander. There was a lot of discontent about the mission today, but what could he have done? They hadn't expected a single spacefighter to decimate them in under an hour. Franco, a lean man with a well-used assault rifle strapped to his back, spoke up.
"Sir, what are we gonna do now? Today was a mess, putting it lightly."
"You're alive, aren't you?" replied Driscol, unscrewing the lid on his water bottle and allowing himself a single sip before stowing it away. "Oonskies got the jump on us, that's all. Tomorrow, we get off this rock and go somewhere else. Jiles will probably take us in." This seemed to pacify the soldier, who sat back, casting a glance to some others huddled around the cave entrance. What they were doing now was no different to what others had been doing for thousands of years; fighting for a just cause. Mamore may have been a godforsaken shithole of a planet with little strategic value, but the UNSC still wanted it. That's why they were still fighting.
"Remi, how ya feeling?" Driscol asked. The soldier was in his late twenties, but had the appearance of someone much older. There were dark circles under his eys, and he kept nervously checking his weapon, as to see if it still existed. He looked up at the brigade commander. "I'm fine, sir. Just a bit shaken up, is all. Didn't expect any resistance at the outpost."
Ah, that was it. Driscol had seen the lad gun down three marines as they ran for cover, allowing his squad to advance. He recalled watching him methodically executing each one; a quick double tap with his pistol ensuring that they wouldn't get up. He had to admit, he felt slightly bad about teaching young Marshall that one. Turning a human being into a soldier-a taker of life-involved destroying much of their humanity. Those who retained their basic emotions-empathy, regret, sorrow, would most likely die or give in. Though Driscol had never been a religious man, he was pretty sure there was a "Though shalt not kill" written somewhere in one of those books. He snorted with mirth at the foolishness of it all, attracting stares from the others.
"We're better than them, you know," he proclaimed.
Asami shook his head. "Not by much, boss. Didn't feel good about blowing up that barracks a few years back, all those boys on their first night of boot an' all. Not good at all."
"Hey, at least we don't bomb fucking kids from orbit, then make it look like we're making all the war orphans." This had come from Alan Brown. From what Driscol had heard, his family had been killed, and he had gone crazy after that. Not that the commander minded. Crazy alone was suicide. Concentrated crazy, pointed at the right target, was nigh-unstoppable.
"Well then" Driscol said cheerily. "What are you boys in it for? The cause, I mean."
"To kill 'em all," whispered Brown. Again with the whole crazy thing.
"To bring down the fascist Oonskies, obviously." That had come from Franco. Such an intelligent and utterly meaningless answer from such a learned and boring man.
Marshall took a few seconds to answer. "I just want my sister to have a better life." It was simple and naive, Brown shooting him a a disgusted look. Driscol rather liked Remi Marshall, to be honest. The kid had talent as an innie, if little else.
"What about you, Hideko?"
The last man in the squad had listened to the others intently, and seemed to me contemplating his own reasons for fighting. He was an older fighter than Driscol, in his early fifties at least, and had seen his fair share of death. He sighed, and spoke, his voice as calm and levelled as it had ever been.
"When the Covenant glassed Hat Yai, my wife and children were killed. The UNSC couldn't protect the planet, so we fell back to another colony, then another when the Covenant attacked that one. Sure, all we hear are victories in the news, Admiral Cole wins this, blah blah blah. Went on for a few years, felt like I was sleepwalking through it all. Then, we ended up penned in on Charybdis IX. Remember the big riots there?"
A few of the others could vaguely recall what had happened. Hideko took a sip from his water bottle and continued. "I saw what happened. ODST's dropped in and started gunning down anyone that was in the street. Sure, there were a few there after oonskie heads, but most just wanted food and stuff, that's why I was there. Saw the soldiers throwing grenades into the crowd, killing people trapped in alleyways. Made me sick. Woke me up. I left on a stolen ship that night and joined up then."
Remi let out a low whistle. Even Brown seemed a little shocked. Driscol eyed him apprehensively. "Well, why did you join up then?"
"I joined up because I can't support the side that is shooting unarmed people. Can't condone it. Never will. I know the Covenant must be beaten, but I can't fight for the UNSC. I'm hoping they'll beat the Covenant for us, but where will that lead, even if we win? Anarchy isn't people shooting each other and looting because there are no laws. That's the idiot's idea of it. I suppose it's closer to what the Koslovics wanted to achieve, albeit without placing a dictator in charge. Once the Covenant are beaten, we'll see."
Brown seemed slightly confused. "Wait, so you want the goddamn oonskies to win?!"
"No, Alan. I want them to defeat the Covenant, so that people like you and me can bring them down, keep us free. The URF can't win against the Covenant, it's as simple as that."
This pacified Brown, while the others sat thinking Asami's story. He had never shared that much about himself with anyone, Driscol included, in his many years of fighting for the Insurrection. Driscol briefly wondered why before his COM began to buzz, snapping the others to attention. He activated it, but could only hear heavy breathing for a few seconds before a staccato of gunfire cut through. It was close, likely coming from the outer sentries they had posted by the edge of camp. Grabbing their weapons, his soldiers jumped up and looked to their commander for orders.
"Get out there! Set up a field of fire, night vision on!"
The three or four other squads in their cavern were moving out as well. By the sounds of fighting outside, the UNSC must have sent half a company after them. At least his boys had the high ground. Driscol picked up his weapon, a customised BR55 Rifle, and slapped another magazine into it, replacing the other one he had half-spent clearing a room of marines earlier. The COM had gone dead. As he reached the cave mouth, he caught sight of a small black object flying past, and swore loudly before a blinding flash and a deafening bang hit him. Driscol staggered back, hitting the wall and slumping down while waiting for the effects to wear off. He then fired a few bursts for good measure.
As his eyes slowly recovered, and the cave came back into focus, he could see that his soldiers had been disappointingly unsuccessful in stopping the enemy. Several lay dead at the cave mouth, ripped to shreds by bullets. Hideki Asami lay a little further in, a gaping hole in his head. Franco DeMont, wounded in the leg, attempted to crawl behind a rock, and was hit by a burst of fire from outside. He slumped forward, and was still. Alan Brown backed into the cave, reloading, and was struck in the chest by an armour-plated fist. He flew back and hit a nearby wall, screaming in pain. Then, he saw it.
It was a Spartan. The UNSC's magical super-soldiers, apparently invincible fighting machines that had been the scourge of the URF since Robert Watts had been taken by them many years ago. Apparently, Driscol's brigade had warranted Spartan deployment against them. He was rather flattered to be considered that much of a threat. Then, he noticed Marshall edging around the side, rifle in hand. The kid was going to die, sure as hell.
From the corner, Driscol noticed Brown fumbling with a syringe, before injecting it into his arm. The Spartan, who was casually killing everyone else, didn't seem to notice the wounded soldier slowly getting up. It had to be Brown, out of everyone else, who was keeping some rumbledrugs stowed away. The brigade had never thought that they'd encounter any Spartans, and had disposed of theirs. Marshall fired a burst from his assault rifle at the Spartan, and missed by inches. Before their armoured enemy could return fire, Brown let out a roar and leapt forwards, wrenching the rifle from the Spartan's hands and kicking it back.
This seemed to be a huge surprise to the enemy, who backed away a few steps before slipping into a combat stance. Brown gave a single look towards Remi Marshall, who looked terrified. "RUN!" he screamed, before jumping into the fray again. He was going to die, there was no doubt about it. As he struggled with his enemy, trading blows and taking hits that would kill a normal man, the usual fire that burned in his eyes was gone. He seemed at peace. Good for him, thought Driscol, a second before an uppercut broke his neck and sent him toppling back.
Carlos Driscol threw his rifle down, gaining the attention of the Spartan, who immediately marched towards him. He expected a single hit would do it; that or a shot to the head. Instead, the Spartan took out a small pad, and scanned it. Then, he (or she, Driscol couldn't tell with the darkness and the armour) showed it to him. It was a picture of him, dated a few years back, with a long list of supposed 'crimes' against the UNSC. This was worse than death: They had come for him. Driscol had one hope of getting out of this.
"So, was that you in the fighter earlier, the one that killed my boys?"
A nod. Nothing more.
"Fine. Didn't get me, as you've noticed. You come alone?"
Another nod. At least Remi Marshall had a chance of escaping then. Maybe, just maybe, he'd come back for his old commander.
"Okay then, I get it. You're good. But did you expect me to go down without a trap? Now!"
As the Spartan quickly looked round for the non-existent ambushers, Driscol's hand shot for his holster, pulling out his pistol and firing it thrice in the Spartan's face. Nothing happened, only the brief shimmer of energy fields. The Spartan stamped on the gun, crushing it, and several of his fingers into the ground. Driscol cried out in agony, feeling the bones breaking under what must have been half a ton of metal. He then found himself facing the business end of an M6D Pistol. That wasn't good. Then, the realisation hit him. He spat at the Spartan's feet, calling out in spite of the pain.
"Oh, I get it. Dead or alive, huh?"
A single nod. That was it. There was a brief flash, and then nothing.